Hear the word “alsatian” and you may be picturing a German Shepherd dog in your mind, but have you come across the American Alsatian breed before? This pure-breed large dog can only be described as a gentle giant, making it a real contender for a great family pet.
This dog has an interesting history behind it, with multiple breeds being added into the breeding mix throughout its generations. It was always bred to be a giant sized, but gentle, companion dog, based on the look of the long-extinct Dire Wolf (you might recognise this name from the TV program Game of Thrones, which is the pet that the Stark children favoured).
But could the American Alsatian be the giant dog breed for you? We will share everything you need to know about this dog in the following sections of this guide. Soon you will learn how the American Alsatian came to be, and the dog breeds that have been introduced into the mix over time. You will also discover more helpful facts and tips, such as to do with how much exercise your dog will need, how much to feed it, and its temperament. This could be the first step for you before you decide to find an American Alsatian puppy from a good breeder.
What is an American Alsatian?
The American Alsatian dog is effectively the 5th generation after a succession of cross breeds, bred for a desirable mix of traits to make a companionable pet for households. Interestingly, this dog is now considered a pure breed giant dog as it has been some time since the last crossbreeding took place.
Whilst it is not recognised (or a member of) any major Kennel Club, there is a breed standard created by the first kennel to breed this dog, and there is also a National American Alsatian Breeders’ Association, which is an ideal way to find a puppy where you can trust the quality of the pup you are interested in.
The History of the American Alsatian
You know there is an official National American Alsatian Breeders’ Association, and you know that there is some history behind this breed, but what exactly is the story of this loveable giant dog? In the following section, we will help you to understand the origins of this companion dog, including some of the names it is (or has been) referred to over the years, and the breeds that have been introduced during previous generations.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
The origin of the American Alsatian dog
The current name of this pure breed giant is “American Alsatian”, however it has had other names over its history. Back in 1988, it was known as the North American Shepalute (this will make sense when we introduce the breeds that were part of the mix!), before becoming the Alsatian Shepalute in the year 2004. The current naming convention came to be in 2010, and stays the same today.
So why has the breed been added to and adapted over time? It all started with Lois Schwarz (then Denny) in 1987 when the Dire Wolf Project was born. The idea was to have a dog that looked similar to the extinct Dire Wolf (a close relative of the Grey wolf) but that had the right characteristics to be a superb domesticated dog. Namely, to be adaptable, mellow and gentle.
The First Litter
In the year of 1987, Lois produced the first litter of puppies of Schwarz dogs, by mating an Alaskan Malamute with a German Shepherd. She had long been thinking of how to achieve a breed standard for a large dog that would also be well mannered and stable. This first line of Alsatian Shepalutes met her expectations for the mellow temperament she was looking for, but she believed that the look of the dog wasn’t exactly right. Her feeling is that there was still too much similarity to the German Shepherd in appearance.
At that point, she bred the offspring of these Alsatian Shepalutes with English Mastiffs in the attempt to work on the size and stature of the breed, taking it further away from the likeness of the German Shepherd. It wasn’t until 2002 that Lois made further changes; she added a mix of Anatolian/Great Pyrenees, which is noticeable in the offspring you will see of the American Alsatian puppies you see today.
If you get an American Alsatian puppy through one of the breeders in the National American Alsatian Breeders’ Association, you could expect to pay in the region of $2000 (USD) for the peace of mind, and for a healthy pup.
American Alsatian Characteristics
With a mix of large breeds being added into the makeup of the American Alsatian over time, you may be wondering how this is reflected in the characteristics of the breed. We will share what we know in the sections below, and will cover everything from the physical appearance of the large dog, to its behavioural traits too.
We are sure you will be able to get all the information you will need to decide whether this gigantic doggo is the one for you. Spoiler: it probably won’t meet your expectations if you are looking for a guard dog, as this cute canine is bred to be a companion, not a worker!
American Alsatian physical features
Would it be a cop out if we described the physical features of this breed to be like a Dire Wolf? Probably, but it is truly the best description, based on the history of the Dire Wolf Project which is where the origin of this breed started.
Lois, the first breeder of this wolf-like dog is still not fully satisfied with the appearance of the American Alsatian, as she had the Dire Wolf in mind for the perfect looking pup. Yet she has always kept her standard for the dogs’ temperament and personality over appearance (the Schwarz kennels still exist!), which we will come to shortly.
To state the obvious, this is a big dog. But they can actually appear larger than they really are, due to the large bones in the dog’s skeleton. They are broad, and bulky with muscles (underneath all of their fur!). This is a strong breed of dog, so will still plenty of power to be wary of with younger children around.
At its withers (where it is common to measure the height of dogs; it’s a ridge between the shoulder blades) a male American Alsatian adult dog will measure up to 33 inches, whereas females will be up to 30 inches in height. Minimum weights also differ between dog sexes. Males should weigh no less than 100lb, and females should weigh no less than 90lb at adult maturity.
The lifespan of an American Alsatian
It is impossible to know exactly how long any dog may live for, as there are many factors that can affect this – both before and during the life of the dog. Whilst recognised breeders will be trusted for the quality of their puppies, there can still be underlying health issues associated with the breed, or conditions that simply occur through natural causes.
Yet, in the best possible scenario, you could be getting a pal for a good chunk of years if you choose an American Alsatian. Their average life expectancy is between 12 and 15 years, which is helpful information to have if you are making long-term life plans, such as where you will live, and whether your family size will change over that time.
American Alsatian coloring
Remember that this breed was imaged around the extinct Dire Wolf, closely related to the Grey wolf. For that reason, the most favored color of this dog is a beautiful Silver Wolf Grey. But that isn’t the only coloring you will find for this breed. There are other beautiful outer coats that will be gold wolf grey, black or cream.
Just like their ancestors long ago, the American Alsatian has a thick and coarse coat to keep them warm over the winter months, but it is thin and short in the hotter summer months. This breed has a double coat, which effectively means there are shorter hairs as an undercoat, underneath the longer top hairs (guard hairs).
In order to keep your pet looking its best, you will need to spend time doing regular brushing. Doing it regularly will make it easier to keep the coat looking silky smooth, and can also be a way to bond and relax with your dog.
Known health issues
As is the case with many pups, the Lois Denny new breed Schwarz dogs can also present with health conditions that are sometimes seen with their breed. It is true that extra care has been put into this large variety of dog by the selection of breeds that have been entered into the mix over time, but that isn’t to say they are immune to any issues.
Like all big dogs, the joints can become an issue in American Alsatians. Whilst breeders part of the National American Alsatian Breeders’ Association must score the hips and elbows of their mating pairs, it can still later result in hip or elbow dysplasia in puppies (sometimes both elbow and hip dysplasia can occur).
Other associated health issues include Panosteitis, which is particularly common with German Shepherd dogs as they grow rapidly from puppies. This condition causes inflammation in the bones of the legs. Other large dogs may also develop arthritis at some point due to rubbing within bone joints.
Away from the joints, there may also be a link to American Alsatians and epilepsy. This is a condition where a seizure can occur through uncontrollable bursts of electrical activity in the brain of the dog.
In order to better your chances with a healthy dog, it is advisable to seek a DNA test when looking for a puppy, to make sure that your purebred has been tested for any genetically inherited diseases.
American Alsatian dogs and their temperament
You won’t be getting a guard dog if you chose an American Alsatian to bring into your family home. You would instead be getting a wonderful companion that could become a real puppy pal for you to all enjoy.
The temperament of an American Alsatian can be described as “laid back” which is why your dog won’t have a bad habit of noisy barking. But you will still need to train your puppy to get a well-rounded and stable dog, and ensure it is socialised from a young age to be friendly around people and other pets alike.
It is important to note that in the progression of this breed, dogs that demonstrated “negative” traits were kept out of the breeding pool. So if your dog showed signs of shyness, hyperactivity or excessive barking, it would be a good idea to seek out the thoughts of a veterinarian. They aren’t known to have a hyper activity level like other breeds.
Whilst the American Alsatian isn’t a working dog, they have still been bred to be calm, alert and intelligent. This can make training more enjoyable than with other breeds which can be a long and awkward process.
Training your American Alsatian
Most dogs respond best to positive reinforcement and rewards when training them, and this breed doesn’t stray away from this concept. The idea is to avoid causing your dog stress, which could occur with other methods (such as punishment during training).
Ideally, you would develop a consistent training routine for your American Alsatian, giving your dog time to practice new commands and behaviours. When your dog shows you these skills, you can praise and reward your large dog with healthy snacks.
Socialisation is also key if you want to end up with a gentle giant. This means introducing your puppy to new people, environments, noises and events from a young age.
Much of the previous section should give you a good insight into how daily life will play out with this dog, but you will find further information below which may be helpful for you. Let’s start with your dog and their diet.
American Alsatian meal time
As an adult dog, an American Alsatian will likely have two meals per day, but could be double this amount as a puppy. You will want to avoid over-feeding your pet, which can be detrimental to the development of bones, and lead to insufficient calcium. Some people do supplement large breeds of dogs with additional calcium to avoid health problems.
If you are concerned about the specifics of your dog’s diet, you can discuss meal times with your pet’s vet.
Your American Alsatian and exercise
Due to their large size, it is a natural fit for an American Alsatian to have a large home and garden at their disposal. Yet the breed is surprisingly “low energy”, meaning that 60 minutes or more of exercise is actually enough to keep your dog healthy and happy as a family companion.
You will find that your dog will probably enjoy walking with you, but it’s a good idea to keep it on a leash so other dogs and people don’t get nervous as you approach. Not everyone is aware that American Alsatians are gentle giants!
Is an American Alsatian your perfect match?
If you have plenty of space in your home and yard, and you also have room in your heart for a companion, then an American Alsatian could be just the dog for you. It could also be the perfect pet if you have your heart set on a Dire Wolf, but are aware that they went extinct a long, long time ago! You could live out your Game of Thrones fantasies, as well as making an excellent pal for the long haul.
- Would an American Alsatian make a good family dog? With the right training and socialisation, this is a good breed for singles, couples, and families.
- Is the American Alsatian a crossbreed dog? This a fifth generation purebred dog, which is the result of previous crossbreeding.
- Is an American Alsatian a Dire Wolf? This breed is based on the looks of the long extinct Dire Wolf.
- Can I take my dog off-leash for walks? Your dog will have the intelligence and temperament to return to you if they are off-leash, but it is recommended to keep your dog on-leash as their size can be a bit unnerving for other people and dogs.