Life Expectancy for a German Shepherd/Black Lab Mix

What do you get when you cross the first- and second-ranking breeds of the American Kennel Club's top 10 most popular dogs in America: the Labrador retriever and German shepherd and, specifically, a black Lab, the most popular of the three Lab colors? One sweetheart of a dog, that's what!

Black mixed-breed German Shepherd posing with silly face
Life Expectancy for a German Shepherd Black Lab Mix
credit: Shelly Bychowski/iStock/GettyImages

A German shepherd/black Lab mix puppy, also known as a German sheprador or Labrashepherd, will grow into a large, solidly built, gorgeous dog with soulful, dark eyes, who is intelligent, affectionate, easily trained, and loyal, but as far as a wholly predictable outcome — not so much. Like Forrest Gump's "life is like a box of chocolates" analogy, "you never know what you're gonna get." That goes for their life expectancy as well.

A splendid mix of genes

From the Lab side of this hybrid mix, black is a dominant color, so most puppies in a litter will be black while others perhaps black and tan or sable. Will they have erect ears like a German shepherd or small, hanging ears set rather far back and close to the head like a Lab? As they grow, will they reveal the protective nature of the German shepherd or love everyone they meet like the Labrador retriever? One thing is sure: Your Labrashepherd will be a great dog with remarkable character and charm given his splendid mix of genes.

Excellent therapy dogs, friendly to people and other pets, and born soulmates, Labs bring so much to the table, although they are not generally regarded as watchdogs. Add in the nobility, confidence, and protective instincts of the German shepherd, and you have a recipe for success. Your German shepherd/black Lab mix is a melange of extraordinary characteristics — the best that dogdom has to offer!

Above all, you may wonder: Is a German shepherd/black Lab mix healthy, and how long will your best friend be around to share your life? Taking a look at the life expectancy of the parent breeds and associated health issues helps narrow it down a little. Aside from genetics, there are so many other variables to consider.

Labrador and German shepherd life expectancy and stats

Wondering which breed of dog lives the longest — the German shepherd or Labrador retriever? What would be a reasonable estimate for the lifespan of your German shepherd mix when mom or dad is a black Lab? Keep in mind a dog's life expectancy is not determined solely by breed. Other considerations are the individual's genetic disposition, quality of care, and nutrition over a lifetime; however, the average life expectancy can be guesstimated based on characteristics of breed genetic dispositions.

The two breeds have much in common, but the German shepherd has a shorter life span than the Labrador retriever, according to the AKC. However, many other sources indicate that both breeds have about the same life expectancy. A blend of the two breeds may live longer than either parent due to what's known as "hybrid vigor," explains Carol Beuchat, PhD.

According to her hypothesis, "Inbreeding increases homozygosity that results in inbreeding depression, with negative effects that we can loosely refer to as 'loss of vigor.' Heterosis or hybrid vigor is the reversal of the loss of vigor that defines inbreeding depression as a result of an increase in genetic heterozygosity." Bottom line: Your German shepherd/black Lab mix may be healthier and live longer than either one of his parents. The following are the life expectancy, key traits, AKC group, and AKC breed standards for sizes of the purebred mom and dad of a German shepherd/black Lab mix.

Labrador Retriever

  • Height: 22.5 to 24.5 inches (male), 21.5 to 23.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65 to 80 pounds (male), 55 to 70 pounds (female)
  • AKC Group: Sporting Group
  • Key Traits: Naturally active, alert, and well-rounded companion with superior instincts in water and woods
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

German Shepherd

  • Height: 24 to 26 inches (male), 22 to 24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65 to 90 pounds (male), 50 to 70 pounds (female)
  • AKC Group: Herding Group
  • Key Traits: Instinctual ability to control the movement of other animals, sharp intelligence, courageous with high trainability, loyal
  • Life Expectancy: 7 to 10 years (AKC). Other sources, such as VCA Hospitals, suggest life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.

German shepherd/Labrador mix life expectancy and stats

Purebred dogs are bred to meet specific standards for the breed and will generally possess many of the same characteristics and appearance as their parents, notwithstanding individual idiosyncrasies in temperament, personality, and a difference between the sexes. In hybrids like the German shepherd/black Lab mix, not every dog will share the same temperament, and although they may have a similar appearance, it won't be predictable to the same extent as purebred dogs.

With this in mind, considering the breed characteristics, the following example of a German sheprador, according to Dog Breed Plus, makes perfect sense due to its broad range and gives you a general idea of the size, traits, and the German shepherd/black Lab mix life expectancy:

Labrashepherd/German sheprador

  • Height: 20 to 27 inches (male and female)
  • Weight: 50 to 100 pounds (male and female)
  • Key Traits: Energetic, easy to train, and multitalented with skills in police work, tracking, agility, guarding, search and rescue, and retrieving
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Lab versus German shepherd health

Either blessed or cursed, every living creature inherits certain positive and negative traits, appearance, and health from the parents. As a hybrid or crossbreed, your German shepherd/black Lab mix will inherit genes from both parents. No one of the parent breeds are considered healthier than the other. Each has its issues that may or may not plague them during their lifetime and be passed on to their progeny.

Reviewing the common health issues of each breed gives you a good understanding of the conditions that may impact your German sheprador. Recognizing the symptoms and clinical signs of a disorder or condition aids in early detection, diagnosis, and treatment. Of course, any of these conditions or diseases can impact the quality of life, and ultimately, the life expectancy of your dog. However, many disorders are treatable and not life-threatening and even resolve on their own, like panosteitis.

German shepherd health concerns

Due to the popularity of the German shepherd, indiscriminate and unethical breeding practices throughout the years have burdened the breed with hereditary issues, usually associated with bone structure, although there are others. One out of every five German shepherds will experience some form of hip dysplasia.

  • Canine hip dysplasia: CHD occurs when there's displacement between the hip joint and thighbone, which is characterized by inflammation and often excruciating pain. Symptoms are lameness, difficulty walking, and abnormal gait.

  • Elbow dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia occurs when there's displacement in the elbow joint. Symptoms include lameness and difficulty walking as the dog struggles to shift the weight of the affected leg.

  • Perianal fistula: Occurs when the skin around the anus cracks and drains, causing diarrhea and bloody stool. This can be extremely painful. Signs are a foul odor and obvious pain.

  • Bloat: Like all large, deep-chested dogs, bloat — gastric dilatation with or without volvulus (twisting of the stomach) — is a potential problem. It is the abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach. Contrary to popular opinion that elevated feeding prevents bloat, studies have shown it actually may contribute to bloat.

  • Panosteitis: Pano, also known as "wandering lameness," was once known strictly as a German shepherd disease. It occurs in large, fast-growing breeds between the ages of 7 to 18 months. It can remain in one long bone of one limb from two days to two months and can occur in another long bone in the same or another limb at the same time or after the first has healed. Although causing pain for the dog and much consternation for the owners, panosteitis is a self-limiting disorder, which means the affected pup will grow out of it and live a normal life.

Lab health concerns

With his strong, heavy-built body, Labrador retrievers have inherited joint and bone-structure issues like the German shepherd.

  • Canine hip dysplasia

  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD): Canine elbow and shoulder dysplasia

  • Bloat

  • Panosteitis

  • PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) blindness

  • Ear infections: This is due to the intrinsic structure of their ears and sometimes lifestyle. Symptoms are shaking or pawing and rubbing the ears.

  • Obesity: Labs are prone to weight gain, which has a negative impact on their health. A fit Lab should have a trim, hourglass shape, according to PetMD.

Labrashepherd health concerns

Since both parent breeds have hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia in common, there's bound to be some offspring who inherit bone-structure problems. Consequently, as your German shepherd/black Lab mix ages, she may experience joint health issues like one or both of her parents.

According to Dog Breed Plus, another of the Labrashepherd's most common health concerns is a high tendency to "get fat." The pressure exerted by excess pounds also wreaks havoc on the hip and elbow joints, among other issues caused by obesity. Maintaining an optimum weight will enhance your Labrashepherd's life and keep her active and fit.

Other common health issues of a German shepherd/black Lab mix are:

  • Degenerative myelopathy: DM is a progressive spinal cord disease with typical onset between 8 and 14 years of age. Symptoms are lack of coordination in the hind legs and dragging of the feet.

  • Eye problems

  • Epilepsy

  • Joint dysplasia

Happiness is your German shepherd/black Lab mix

Provide your German shepherd/black Lab mix with a nutritious diet, sufficient exercise, play time, mental stimulation, and love, and you'll have a happy canine pal for many years. Labrashepherds are eager to learn and love to please their owner. They excel in obedience trials, agility, and other fun dog sports. Their tracking skills make them fabulous search and rescue dogs, and they are equally adept at police work.

Happiness is your German shepherd/black Lab mix. His favorite pastime will be spending time with you. Whether walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or rugged hiking, your Labrashepherd is up for it all. Keeping him as fit as he can be will prolong the time you'll share together.

Twice-yearly vet checks are recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This, along with yearly dental exams and regular weigh-ins, will give you peace of mind and add immeasurably to your best friend's longevity.

Where to find a German shepherd/black Lab mix

Although you may find people selling German shepherd/black Lab mix puppies for anywhere from $200 to $600, there's likely a Labrashepherd in a rescue somewhere or maybe even at your local shelter waiting for someone to give her a loving home. You should check both German shepherd and Labrador retriever rescues, which often have adult crossbreeds needing homes.

Also, Best Friends Animal Society is an excellent resource to help you find your new family member. Don't forget that senior dogs make wonderful pets, too.