The German Shepherd breed is known for a number of desirable characteristics. Because of this, they…
The Dwarf German Shepherd (Explained)
Dwarf German Shepherds are definitely eye-catching. They can be incredibly cute because they’re GSDs that stay relatively small throughout their lifetime. But what causes dwarfism in these dogs and how does it affect their lives?
This article will dive into all the particulars about the dwarf german shepherd such as their lifespan, how big they get, and how GSD’s get dwarfism in the first place.
What Is A Dwarf German Shepherd?
Just like humans, dogs can have a condition called pituitary dwarfism. This is a genetic issue that affects the pituitary gland, which is a vital organ that balances hormones and regulates critical processes within the body.
Among the most obvious effects of this condition is stunted growth.
You can easily tell a Dwarf German Shepherd from an average one because it stops growing at about half of its typical adult size.
However, dwarfism affects much more than size in dogs. Dwarf GSDs often suffer from a variety of serious health issues, which lead to a short life expectancy.
How Do German Shepherds Get Dwarfism?
Dwarfism is not a disease that dogs contract. Rather, dogs are born with the condition caused by the genes they inherit from their parents. This may not be apparent until the lack of growth is observed.
In humans as well as in dogs, pituitary dwarfism is a genetic disorder caused by a recessive gene. Neither parent needs to be a dwarf to produce a dwarf GSD. However, both parents need to carry this gene to produce offspring with this condition.
For clarity, you can use A to represent the dominant gene of a GSD with properly functioning pituitary glands and a to represent the recessive gene associated with dwarfism.
Dogs with the AA combination grow normally and won’t pass on the dwarf gene to their offspring. The Aa combination represents dogs that don’t have this condition but will pass on the recessive gene to their litter.
Dogs that will develop as dwarves will have the aa combination.
See this table for combinations that will produce at least one dwarf offspring:
How Rare Is The Dwarf German Shepherd?
Knowing that this is a genetic defect that can have severe consequences, breeders don’t typically allow dwarf GSDs to reproduce. Generally, they’re rarely healthy enough to do so anyway.
So, dwarf German Shepherds are usually produced by mating two dogs that are carriers of this gene. For this reason, they are, thankfully, not very common.
Can GSD Dwarfism Be Prevented?
Despite the fact that they are not very common, they still do exist and breeders need to take responsible steps to prevent the occurrence of dwarfism in their litters. Doing so can eventually eradicate pituitary dwarfism from the GSD gene pool entirely.
The only way to reliably prevent the production of dwarf German Shepherds is to test both potential parents before they are allowed to mate.
An NAH DNA test will determine whether a parent has the recessive gene. Two dogs with the recessive gene should not be allowed to mate.
How To Recognize If Your GSD Has Dwarfism
Dwarfism could be detected early on through DNA testing. However, it is typically unnecessary, as you will notice the effects of the condition at an early age.
A dwarf GSD will stop growing while others in the same litter experience a growth spurt. Your veterinarian should also recognize the symptoms.
How Big Do Dwarf German Shepherds Get?
Dwarf German Shepherds stop growing at around 2-3 months of age. In contrast, the average GSD grows significantly throughout the first year and continues to grow at a slower pace until they’re about 3 years old.
Because of this stunted growth, GSDs with dwarfism grow to about 30-40 pounds. That’s about the size of a Bulldog or a large Beagle. Without this genetic condition, these dogs generally grow up to 90 pounds, some even over 100 pounds.
General Attributes Of A Dwarf GSD
The stunted growth of the dwarf German Shepherd is its most obvious physical trait. However, this issue goes much deeper than just its size.
They are not merely small but actually suffer from real growth issues like abnormal development of their spine, bones, and joints. Because of this, they are much more likely to experience instability and pain.
Many will also develop some form of paralysis in their lifetime.
Apart from growth problems, dwarf German Shepherds will experience skin and coat issues. They will shed most of their soft puppy coat but will rarely ever develop into their adult coat. Their skin also becomes scaly.
Additionally, the adult teeth of dwarf GSD may grow too late or not at all. Their organs—including reproductive organs—may not form or may form to be abnormal.
Dwarfism affects German Shepherds not only physically but also emotionally and mentally. Many dogs that have this condition are extremely temperamental due to the hormonal imbalance it causes.
In some cases, they develop aggressive behaviors.
Lifespan Of The Dwarf German Shepherd
While the average German Shepherd’s lifespan is between 12 and 14 years, those that have pituitary dwarfism aren’t expected to live past 5 years old.
Throughout their short lives, they are usually treated with artificial hormones and medication that should help manage the symptoms of their condition.
How Much Is A Dwarf German Shepherd?
Because it is such an undesirable condition, it would be difficult to find a dwarf German Shepherd to buy. Most are put to sleep as soon as symptoms become apparent.
Apart from keeping puppies and their humans from the challenges of this condition, most breeders don’t want to disclose they have dwarfism in their breeding pool for fear of reducing the value of their puppies.
Nevertheless, not all people believe that euthanizing dwarf GSDs is the more humane option. Some will try to save them and give them the necessary support so they may have the best possible quality of life until they pass on naturally.
Even in these cases, they are rarely ever put up for sale.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous pet shops that will still sell dwarf GSDs either to unwitting buyers or those who were drawn to the uniqueness of dogs with this condition.
Typically, they will sell somewhere around the lower end of the normal GSD price range, which is $450 to $1,900. Although they might be cheaper to buy, they will cost much more to maintain due to the veterinary expenses they will incur throughout their lifetime.
Are Dwarf German Shepherds Purebred?
Yes, German Shepherds with dwarfism are purebred. Two purebred parents produce dwarf German Shepherds, although they are both carriers of the dwarf gene.
Therefore, all their offspring—dwarf or not—are purebred. However, the dwarf offspring will be undesirable or unsuitable for mating.
Does The AKC Recognize Dwarf German Shepherds?
The American Kennel Club is a registry for purebred dogs. In upholding the breed standards, they are concerned primarily with a dog’s physical appearance and not so much on health.
However, since dwarfism is a condition that significantly affects dogs’ physical traits, these dogs would never win conformation events. Neither would they be healthy enough to excel at canine sports and title recognition programs.
Is A Dwarf German Shepherd The Same As A Mini German Shepherd?
No, puppies typically sold as mini German Shepherds are not dwarves but mixed breeds. Purebred GSDs are crossed with smaller breeds to produce smaller dogs with the general appearance of the GSD.
These dogs generally live long and healthy lives. In contrast, dwarf German Shepherds are purebred but suffer from the genetic condition that severely affects their health and lifespan.
Caring for a dwarf German Shepherd can certainly be challenging. Not only do they require more medical attention than the average GSD but they also live much shorter lives. Nevertheless, because they do exist and are generally unwanted, it’s critical for kind-hearted rescuers to step in and try to give them a good life.
Hopefully, over time, this defect will be wiped out from the breeding pool and no dog would have to suffer from it.
If you’re interested in less severe genetic peculiarities, check out how small changes in their genes can produce liver-colored German Shepherds or even blue GSDs.