Photo of Hemi and Piston of Victory Shilohs

Basics of the Shiloh Shepherd: Breed Traits and Background

Welcome to our About the Breed page! Here you’ll find general information about Shiloh Shepherds. We’ll be expanding the links off of this page as we develop our site.


The Shiloh is a big, family-friendly companion shepherd that’s based largely on German shepherds. Other breeds, such as Malamute, were added to improve breed health in a process called outcrossing. The Shiloh is large, calm, and easier to handle than many working shepherd breeds. They are highly intelligent and protective of their family and home.


Tina Barber started out training German shepherds for personal protection dogs in upstate New York in the mid-1970’s. Early on, though, she saw that many of them were too difficult for the average family to handle. Tina wanted a shepherd that could be trusted with, and safely handled by, a small child. She also discovered issues with hip dysplasia in her lines, and started to get some ideas about how to reduce it.

This began her quest to create a dog like the ones she remembered from when she was a child in Germany: big, healthy, family-friendly shepherds.

Tina was our breed founder, and Shilohs separated from the AKC and became their own rare breed in 1991.


The Shiloh Shepherd is a well-rounded breed notable for its intelligence, empathy, and gentle temperament. The Shiloh is not an aggressive breed, and is not suitable for protection or bite work. They can be protective of their homes and families, but their sheer size and big bark is usually a sufficient deterrent--for those who don’t know about the heart of gold beneath that impressive bearing, anyway!

Shilohs excel in therapy and service dog work. Their incredible intuitiveness leads them to serve in specialized roles as diabetes and seizure alert dogs. The breed also participates in dog sports such as rally obedience, agility, tracking, dock-diving, trick-training and even lure-coursing. Even with such diverse potential, Shilohs are truly happiest when they are hanging out with their families.


The general Shiloh temperament is social, human-focused, and gentle with children and other animals. That said, there is a range of temperaments and energy levels within the breed. There are pups born that have the independence and energy to do Search-and-Rescue work, the aloofness to be a good working Service dog, or the nimbleness and drive for Agility.

Shiloh people love our breed’s versatility. Our ISSA Licensed breeders perform extensive temperament testing on their litters at eight weeks, to determine each pup’s base aptitudes and drives. We then use this information to help YOU get the best pup for your family!

Read more in-depth about the Shiloh Shepherd temperament here, in our Temperament Guide!


One of the key goals of our breed founder was to reduce hip dysplasia, and after four decades of work the Shiloh does indeed have better hips! We focus on other programs and health initiatives as well, because hips are only one part of getting you a healthier dog.

As we continue to develop the site, you’ll be able to read about our other health initiatives, including our Holtering program and the health testing we mandate on all ISSA breeding stock.


“Do they shed?” Yes, yes they do. If shedding is a deal-breaker, then the Shiloh is probably not the breed for you. However, the two coat types shed very differently, and require different levels of grooming commitment.

The smooth (shorter) coat sheds a bit throughout the year. Twice a year it will “blow coat,” at which times you will bless the people who invented the Furminator. However, it’s a very wash-and-wear coat, easy to care for. It requires only a quick brushing here and there to keep looking nice, and it’s generally simple to keep clean since dried mud and other debris brushes right out! We only find it necessary to bathe our smooths a couple times a year. This coat does well during the hot summers and is still thick enough to block winter cold. It’s very similar to a traditional German shepherd coat; an all-purpose coat for all weather.

The plush (long) coat sheds very little throughout the year, but will “blow coat” twice a year and it can be epic. The longer coat will “catch” the shedding hairs, so you MUST brush during these times or the coat will matt.

Otherwise the long coat is easier to care for than it looks, doing well with a brisk brushing two or three times a week. It does seem to require a bit more frequent bathing than the smooth, generally every 2-3 months depending on how much stuff your dog gets into! This coat is not so good in the hotter summers (your dog will typically become an A/C-seeking-missile when the mercury rises above 80 degrees) but can adapt to heat if you work up to it. The plush coat LOVES the cold. You may experience this, when it’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit and your plush Shiloh refuses to come inside!


Most Shilohs have a definite “off switch” and many are downright couch potatoes. One good walk a day or other equivalent exercise session is usually adequate.

Remember to also exercise your Shiloh’s very active brain—obedience and trick-training can be super fun and rewarding for both of you, and a treat-dispensing ball or puzzle is a good way to engage your dog when you’re otherwise busy.


If you are a person who as a kid dreamed of having your very own Rin Tin Tin, Lassie or Littlest Hobo, this could be the breed for you! A few things to consider:

Shilohs bond tightly to their people and are so intelligent that sometimes you’d swear they’re trying to read your mind! Because of this attachment to their family, they aren’t happy being chained out in the yard all day away from their people. They want to be with you wherever you go, and involved in your life.

Their sensitivity and intelligence mean that socialization at an early age is NOT optional for this breed! If you want a dog that will be comfortable everywhere, you’ll want to start exposing your pup to positive experiences with new things right away, continuing weekly throughout their first year.

Because they’re so smart, a Shiloh puppy will learn early on how to wrap you around their little paw! They’re adorable, and it’s easy to be permissive, but (gentle) firm ground rules are a must from 8 weeks on. Remember, this dog may be well over one hundred pounds when they’re full grown. The earlier you establish rules of acceptable behavior, the less chance that you’ll be frustrated down the road.


Maybe! For now, though, we want to keep a tight control on our breed's health and development while we work on expanding our gene pool and gaining a bigger following.

© 2016 International Shiloh Shepherd Alliance, Inc.