Various recognized breeds of dogs are categorized into 7 main groups by American Kennel Club. Of these groups, one is called herding or shepherd dogs.
Just like shepherds take care of their livestock, the shepherd dogs do the job of watching the flock and keeping it safe from predators and intruders. That is why their primary instinct is to lead and protect.
Almost all parts of the world have dog breeds that have watch-and-protect instinct. Since protecting functions require a dominant personality, strong biting force, an elevated sense of danger or threats, and an extremely caring nature, almost all shepherd dogs are found with these traits.
German Shepherd dog that we all know so well is actually a herding dog. However, German Shepherds are not the only Shepherd or herding dogs. This list contains those herding dogs that are quite similar to Germans Shepherds in appearance and temperament, apartment-friendliness, training needs, etc.
Popular Types of Shepherd Dogs
1. Australian Shepherd
Height: 18-23 inches Weight: 40-65 pounds Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Though called Australian Shepherd, this dog breed originated in the Western United States. It is a medium-sized puppy breed, having a high affinity for activities and games.
It is a working dog by instinct but performs well as a shepherd dog when assigned the job of protecting the flock. This breed easily tolerates extreme weather conditions. They are very easy to train, however, they need watching as their wanderlust potential is high.
2. Swedish Vallhund
Height: 12-13.5 inches, Weight: 20-35lbs, Life Expectancy: 12-15 years, Year of Origin: 1943 when Swedish Kennel Club recognized it as a breed.
Swedish Vallhund is a prime member of the herding dog group. This dog is a highly intelligent and active breed. It can be trained easily and shows exceptional readiness for playful activities.
The sense of alarming danger is quite prominent and can attack without alarming if the fellow pets or family are in danger. It is an overall healthy breed but needs frequent checking for retina-related ailment.
3. Dutch Shepherd
Height: 20-25 inches, Weight: 45-70 lbs, Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Many Shepherd dogs are known for being obstinate. They need to be trained from the puppy stage to follow instructions, else they tend to not listen to their trainer. Dutch Shepherd is one such herding dog. It is overall healthy and agile. You can expect it to manage on its own and do not display separation anxiety.
The Dutch Shepherd is quite active and alert and can be used for multiple services like a watchdog, farm guard, and a police dog. Its unique characteristic is its brindle that keeps it distinguished from other breeds. These are family-friendly and adapt suitably to apartment living.
4. Carpathian Shepherd
Height: 25-30 inches, Weight: 70-90lbs, Life Span: 12-14 years
Carpathian Mountains of Romania are the point of origin of this shepherd dog or livestock protector dog. This dog is extremely loyal and devoted to the livestock and its owner. It is easy to train, obedient, and has a tendency to please.
The dog requires minimal grooming, except for brushing about twice a week. They are prone to bloating and ear infections. This breed scores low on apartment-friendliness and should be brought home only when there is an open but fenced space to provide. They may show attacking tendencies on sensing danger.
5. English Shepherd
Height: 18-24 inches, Weight: 35-65lbs approx., Life Span: 12-15 years
English Shepherd is quite an old breed, with a time of origin somewhere in the 1800s. These make loyal companions and fierce protectors. They are dedicated workers and love to please the owner with high-quality work. These are low maintenance dogs with minimal grooming needs and good health.
English Shepherds are highly energetic and cannot be kept idle and confined indoors. These dogs make reliable farm dogs, and suitable pets for families because of their gentle and loving nature. This breed does not have specific food choices, about 3 cups of kibble a day or 1200 calories can be enough for it. Slipped kneecaps, hip dysplasia and cataracts are common health problems reported in English Shepherds, but they are mostly healthy.
6. King Shepherd
Height: min 27 inches, Weight: 90-110 lbs, Life Span: 10 -13 years
King Shepherd is a mixed breed developed by breeding German Shepherd and Shiloh Shepherd. The breed is developed to have a German Shepherd-like Dog minus the health problems usually found in it.
This dog has an impressive height and sturdy body. Its coat can be of various patterns having twitches, spots, different colors, etc.. Its extremely friendly and sweet nature comes as a surprise to people who think big dogs to be bullies. The natural instinct of this dog is to protect; hence, it makes a reliable watchdog.
Since it does not befriend guests easily, it needs early socialization training. Brushing required often; bathing once in two weeks. A daily diet should provide them 1200-1500 calories. Overall, very healthy dog, the problem of hip dysplasia requires paying attention
7. Croatian Sheepdog
Height: 16-21 inches, Weight: 29 to 50 pounds, Life Span: 11 to 14 years
Croatian Sheepdog is Croat’s herding dogs that they used to protect their sheep flocks. It is believed to have existed since the 7th Century B.C. This dog shows exceptional love and attachment for one parent and tends to become territorial for the family.
It shows high energy levels and needs lots of activities to spend their energy on. However, it needs resting too, as it tends to overwork sometimes. The dog is a heavy shedder and so needs frequent brushing. Bloating, whelping, and retained testicles are usual health problems you should check for in this dog.
8. Finnish Lapphund
Height: 18-21 inches, Weight: 30-50 lbs, Life Span: 12-15 years
Finnish Lapphund is a medium-sized dog breed. It is an active dog, always energetic and ready to play. Though usually friendly, it stays alert around strangers and in unknown places. This dog is quite submissive in nature and is trained to watch and attack with continued reinforcement training. So, it makes a good companion to put with families.
The dog needs minimal grooming, but long and intense working out sessions to keep energy in check. It adapts well to apartment living just like German Shepherds and is friendly to pets, other dogs, and kids.
9. German Shepherd
Height: 1 ft 10 inches – 2 ft 2 inches, Weight: 75-90 lbs, Life Span: 10-14 years
At the top of the Shepherd dog breeds, is a German Shepherd. This dog is kind, gentle, protective, and fiercely loyal. It is a fast learner, always ready to please and a bit clingy to the parent. The dog’s energy levels are substantially high, and so needs lots of exercising and long playtime. It cannot be left indoors alone.
The dog requires protein-rich food and some carbohydrate content to meet their calorie needs. The general health of GSD is overall good and requires minimal grooming. Because of trainability and devotion, this dog is used as a service dog, military dog, and sometimes, therapy dog too.
The list of Shepherd dog breeds is much more enriched than this. The above dog breeds are the closest to German Shepherds in the virtues like behavior, health, ease of training, loyalty, and obedience, and offer workable alternatives if you cannot find a GSD to pet due to any reason.