Shiloh Shepherd: The Gentle Giant

Shiloh Shepherd
John Walton
Written by John Walton

While plenty of people prefer small pooches, there are those of us who yearn for giant dogs. Giant dogs are great pets for the right owner. If you are one of those people looking for a gentle giant for a pet, then this article about the Shiloh Shepherd might just be what you’ve been looking for.

The Shiloh Shepherd is a massive dog that certainly takes up a lot of space. However, contrary to what their appearance suggests, they are gentle and friendly. The Shiloh Shepherd has a loving heart. Resembling German Shepherds but a little bigger in size, these dogs are incredibly loyal and can be aggressive but only when necessary.

If you have often wondered what the Shiloh Shepherd is all about, you are welcome to read this comprehensive guide on this fascinating breed. If you seek to know this breed in detail—their exercise needs, grooming, and care requirements—we provide all these and more. We have all the answers to any questions you might have before you decide to open your home for this dog.

Breed Characteristics

Shiloh Shepherd lying in snow

  • Adaptability: Good: although they enjoy growing up in a home with a large yard, they can also be perfect for an apartment provided they are well exercised

  • Trainability: Good: they quickly grasp new commands and tasks, and they are also eager to please

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate: they shed a lot all year round

  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate; although they are not high-energy dogs, they require daily exercises such as long walks, hikes, or swimming activities

Dog Breed GroupHerding
HeightMales: 28-30 inches
Females: 26-28 inches
WeightMales: 100-140 pounds
Females: 80-120 pounds
Lifespan12-14 years

The Shiloh Shepherd is a giant dog that is very similar in appearance to the German Shepherd Dog (GSD). However, this dog is bigger, with better-developed hips and with a gentler temperament compared to the GSD.

This breed is still rare, and their development was recent. In 1974, a woman referred to as Tina Barber crossbred the German Shepherd with an Alaskan Malamute and the majestic Shiloh was born.

The Shiloh has a heavy appearance with a broad and masculine body. The breed comes in plush and smooth-coated varieties. Both varieties do shed. Thus, new owners should be prepared to vacuum their homes regularly.

The Shiloh is an excellent companion for families. These dogs get along well with kids and pets. However, early socialization is essential to help them learn how to react to different situations.

They have moderate exercise needs and thrive on inclusive activities and companionship. They require daily walks and hikes to keep them physically stimulated. They can be good dogs for apartments if well exercised although they do best in a home with a large yard where they can roam freely.

Main Highlights

Shiloh Shepherd running

  • The Shiloh Shepherd is from the United States

  • It was developed in 1974 by Tina Barber who was an active breeder in New York

  • Barber sought to breed a dog that was a gentler version of the GSD and did not suffer from hip dysplasia problems that are common in the GSD

  • Despite that, the Shiloh still tends to suffer from large breeds health conditions such as hip dysplasia and bloat

  • The first Shiloh Shepherd to be developed was a cross breed between the German Shepherd and the Alaskan Malamute

  • The Shiloh Shepherd looks very similar to the GSD in appearance except they are larger in size than the GSD. Shiloh Shepherds are giant dogs weighing more than 100 pounds

  • Shilohs come with either a smooth or a plush coat, and smooth-coated Shilohs are more suited for colder climates

  • Both varieties of the Shiloh shed a lot all year round

  • The Shiloh Shepherd has been known to be a lot calmer and easier to handle than the GSD

  • These dogs come in a variety of colors including beige, black with a tan, cream, or reddish color. You can also find a solid black or white Shiloh with a white patch on the chest on rare occasions

  • This dog makes an excellent family. They also make excellent guard and watchdogs as they are very courageous and protective of their families

  • These intelligent dogs are easy to train, but they require a firm trainer

  • Due to their strength, these dogs can be used to carry luggage, backpacks, and sleds

  • They are hardy dogs that do well in both warm and cold climates

  • They are also used as military dogs and in search and rescue among other service tasks

  • A Shiloh should always be kept mentally and physically stimulated since when left idle, they can develop behavioral issues and will end up very unhappy

  • The Shiloh’s littler size is 6 to 12 puppies, and their lifespan is 12 to 14 years

  • The Shiloh is yet to be accepted as part of the American Kennel Club although they are registered in other registries such as the American Pet Registry, the Shiloh Shepherd Registry, and the Dog Registry of America.

Breed History

Shiloh Shepherd standing

The origin of the Shiloh Shepherd dates back to 1974 when a woman called Tina Barber began to breed these dogs in New York. Tina who bred German Shepherds and who was an active member of conformation shows sought to develop a dog that was both intelligent and a great family companion.

She wanted a gentler version of the German Shepherd. She had noted that some GSD were too hard for families to handle as they had temperament issues and were more prone to suffer from hip dysplasia.

Barber set out to breed a dog that was gentle, loyal, reliable, and intelligent. Although there is little documentation of the crosses used in the development of the Shiloh Shepherd, it is believed that the breed was as a result of a cross between the GSD and the Alaskan Malamute.

The main foundation for the breed was the GSD, which is considered a strong, smart, and motivated dog. Malamutes, on the other hand, are considered as social, intelligent, strong, and resourceful dogs.

In the 1900s, Barber came up with a book titled a Breed Standard on the Shiloh, which led to the development of the Shiloh Shepherd Dog Club in America. The Shiloh Shepherd Registry, Inc. was incorporated in 1991 to help regulate this breed. The Shiloh Shepherd is yet to be registered as a pure breed by the American Kennel Club although the breed is under consideration for achieving the AKC registration.

After Tina Barber’s death in 2001, her daughter Lisa Barber has continually advocated and developed this breed. Today, the Shiloh Shepherd is preferred by many as a family companion and used in military and police work. They are also known as great workers, and they are used to herd, guard, and guide.


Shiloh Shepherd on a leash

Shilohs are giant dogs weighing 100 pounds or more. With a height of 26 to 31 inches, these dogs will not fit in your compact vacation car.

They have a heavy appearance and a muscular body. They have a broad head that is slightly domed and proportional to the rest of the dog’s body. The muzzle should be predominantly black with the length being equal to the length of the forehead.

This breed has a broad, strong back. The accepted eye color is dark or light brown. The dog’s tail is long and covered with dense hair. It hangs down like a plume. The lips of this breed are black. The ears are moderately pointed and become erect when at attention.

Personality and Character

Just like the GSDs, this breed is very intelligent and courageous and will not hesitate to protect their family. They make great guardian and watchdogs, although they are not aggressive when unprovoked.

In addition to being wonderful family companions, they offer great assistance services such as herding, search and rescue, therapy work, and police work.

The Shiloh has a high learning ability. They learn fast and are easy to train. Their intelligence and eager to please personality make training a breeze. This is why they are preferred for military and search and rescue training.

They require a firm and loving hand during training. They also need to be kept busy since they can be destructive and restless when bored.

Health and Potential Problems

Shiloh Shepherd outside

Shilohs have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years, a little longer than the German Shepherd. Just like other large breeds, Shiloh Shepherds may experience some health problems such as bloat and hip dysplasia among other skeletal diseases. Owners are advised to feed this dog a consistent diet that is nutritious from a young age due to their sensitive stomach.

Although developers claim to have eliminated hip dysplasia in this breed, breeders confess that this is still a concern in these dogs. However, the problem is slightly reduced in this breed as compared to their German Shepherd ancestors. A gene-focused breeding like what Barber did reduces the prevalence of the condition but does not eliminate it entirely.

In addition to hip dysplasia and bloat, there are other health problems common in this breed as discussed below.

#1: Canine Hip Dysplasia

Canine hip dysplasia is a crippling disease common in large dogs. It causes weakness in the legs and leads to arthritic hips. It is considered a genetic disease. It occurs when your Shiloh’s femur does not fit right into their hip socket.

Hip dysplasia symptoms can be noted in puppies as young as six weeks although signs of dysplasia are usually noted in dogs during their senior years.

Some of the common symptoms of this condition include difficulty when walking and running, struggling to stand up from a prone position, reluctance to play, abnormal gait, and hopping or limping.

Although hip dysplasia is a genetic condition, other factors can cause the disease including obesity, poor nutrition, poor muscle development in the dog’s hind legs, and injuries to your pooch pelvic.

The good news is that hip dysplasia can be treated if detected early in your Shiloh Shepherd. Options include adding the appropriate supplements in your dog’s diet. Exercise is also an option and surgery is also considered in severe cases. Before buying a puppy, ensure that the family has no history of hip dysplasia.

#2: Bloat

Canine bloat is a common disease in deep-chested dogs and large breeds such as Shiloh Shepherds. This is referred to as gastric dilatation-volvulus whereby blood is trapped in the stomach and blocked from returning to other body vital organs such as the heart. This will send your dog into shock.

Bloat can also cause reduced blood flow to the heart and stomach lining. A tear in the stomach wall can also occur.

Bloat happens very quickly, and it can kill your dog in hours. It is recommended that you take your Shiloh Shepherd to the vet once you notice symptoms associated with bloat. These include restlessness, drooling, a swollen stomach, and your dog’s attempts to vomit that does not yield anything.

As the dog’s condition deteriorates, they might collapse, be short of breath, have pale gums, feel weak, or even have a rapid heartbeat.

Although your vet might not be sure of the real cause of bloat, there are some things you can avoid to reduce the risks of your Shiloh suffering from bloat. You should not give your dog food from a raised bowl; you should also give your dog more than one meal a day and avoid playing after a meal.

See Also: Bloat in Dogs

#3: Panosteitis

This is a short-lived but painful health condition common in young Shilohs between the age of 5 and 18 months. It is characterized by lameness and limping. The condition will affect your Shiloh’s bones in the legs. Sometimes the condition affects more than one limb, which makes it difficult for your Shiloh to move around.

The best news about this condition is that it can improve with treatment. Treatment involves the reduction of the inflammation, allowing your pooch to gain full recovery.

#4: Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

This devastating disease affects the spinal cord. It is not painful, but the effects of the condition are devastating. It begins with the loss of coordination on the hind limbs of your dog, which is characterized by the dragging of the hind legs or wobbling while walking.

As the condition progresses, the limbs will become very weak, and your dog will have a hard time standing or even walking, eventually becoming paralyzed. The dog’s health will deteriorate such that they won’t be able to control their bowels, eventually losing control of the upper half of their body. The degenerative process can take from six months to three years.

Ongoing research on the condition suggests that it is an inflammatory autoimmune disease. Some neurologists compare the condition to multiple sclerosis in humans.

There is no treatment that can stop the progression of DM, although your vet might use his or her skills to improve the quality of your Shiloh’s life. Some other recommended interventions that can help include acupuncture, diet, and exercise.

#5: Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is the inability to produce enough pancreatic enzymes for the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. This leads to weight loss because of the inadequate absorption of nutrients despite an increased appetite in the dog.

The condition is characterized by fatty stool where the feces is pale in color and has lots of fat. The dog might also exhibit chronic diarrhea, occasional vomiting, and weight loss over a period of months.

This condition often affects young dogs. It can be inherited or caused by an injury affecting the pancreas. The vet will look at blood and feces samples from your dog and make a diagnosis.

It is possible to treat EPI although treatment will be given to the dogs for the rest of their lives. Highly digestible low-fat diet and pancreatic enzyme replacement are successful treatment options used to stabilize the condition.

Care Features

Shiloh Shepherd lying on grass

Shiloh Shepherds are not high-energy dogs. They are fondly referred to as slow and steady companions. They often prefer strenuous, consistent activities that are provided together with some exercises.

You should take your Shiloh for long walks and hikes. These dogs prefer homes that have a large yard although they can be kept indoors provided they are well exercised. If you do not give your Shiloh their daily dose of exercises, they can become bored and even destructive.

Shilohs are intelligent dogs, and they need both mental and physical stimulation. This can be achieved through the use of obedience training, giving them a job to do, or trick training. An activity that these dogs thoroughly enjoy is swimming. If you have a pool, your Shiloh will love it when you take them for a swim.

See Also: DIY Dog Pool

The intelligence and the willingness to work in the Shiloh Shepherd tend to make this breed easy to train. They will easily pick up commands and a new skill. They are also eager to please, but it is recommended that you teach your Shiloh to be respectful by providing firm boundaries during training.

Socialization is also vital for this breed. From a young age, socialize them with different animals and people. Shilohs have rather soft temperaments, which means they love people and can be very open and welcoming to strangers or even new animals. They will only attack when sure there is a real threat.

Grooming is vital for this breed as they shed a lot all year round. Both the plush-coated and the smooth-coated Shiloh Shepherds need frequent brushing to keep their coats clean. You should be prepared to vacuum your home frequently when you have a Shiloh.

Feeding Schedule

Shiloh Shepherd's head

Feeding your Shiloh a nutritious meal is a great way to keep them fit. For a Shiloh puppy who is 4 to 8 weeks old, we recommend that you give them three to four meals per day. After nine months, you can reduce the meals to twice a day.

Provide your dog with more natural sources of food rather than dry food that might be loaded with harmful chemicals. You can also give them high-quality dry food mixed with cottage cheese, cooked eggs, fruits, vegetables, and canned food.

Ensure that you provide plenty of clean water for your Shiloh together with proper shelter on both hot and cold days.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Shiloh Shepherds of different colors

The Shiloh Shepherd sheds a lot. Whether yours is the short-haired or long-haired variety, they all shed all year round. Short-haired Shiloh Shepherds actually shed more hair compared to the long-haired variety. This is because the long hairs can be brushed off easily, but plush-coated Shilohs have very fine hair that can mat easily.

Plush-coated Shilohs need more frequent regular grooming compared to the smooth-coated variety, but a quick daily brush is recommended for both varieties if you do not want lots of hair in your home. Both varieties of the dog should rarely need to be bathed, maybe twice annually.

See Also: Dog Shedding Tool

You also need to brush your Shiloh’s teeth daily as these dogs can suffer from dental problems. Brush your Shiloh’s teeth at the same time daily, making this a routine activity. You will also need to check for ticks and fleas if you live in a warm climate. Ensure you clean your Shiloh’s ears and eyes too to prevent any health problems due to infections.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Do not let the Shiloh Shepherd’s size intimidate you since these dogs are great family pets. They will try to fit in the family and are great playing companions for children of all ages.

They are also not overly territorial with strangers. This will see these dogs welcoming even children they have been brought up with. However, remember that although this dog is not hostile, they will not hesitate to protect their family.

The Shiloh is also friendly to pets in the home, but early socialization is needed to enable this breed to relate well with other dogs. If not well socialized, this dog can be aggressive to same-sex dogs since they love to dominate.

Wrap Up

Shiloh Shepherd's puppy

The Shiloh Shepherd is a gentle and good-natured breed that will get along well with your children and other home pets. Furthermore, this exceptionally loyal dog will not hesitate to protect their own.

However, they do need plenty of attention including long daily walks. You must also be prepared to constantly groom them and vacuum your home since they are heavy shedders.

If you are willing to take care of a gentle giant that thrives on companionship and will have heads turning during your morning walks, then this might be the dog for you.

So, would you be willing to open your home to this gentle giant or you would prefer a less intimidating dog in terms of size and looks? Maybe you have this wonderful dog in your home. Let us know your opinion in the comments section below. If you need to come up with a name for your new Shiloh, check out our list of big dog names.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.