Cross a Labrador retriever and a German shepherd, and you've got a friend who will probably share your life for the next 10 to 13 years. That's the life span of both breeds, but it's possible a mixed breed will live slightly longer because of hybrid vigor. Both breeds are prone to certain genetic conditions that could shorten their life spans. Providing your dog with a high quality diet and keeping him current on vaccinations, heartworm preventive and parasite control can also extend his life.
Appearance and Size
Your "Sheprador" or "Labrashepherd" -- a blend of the top two breeds in popularity, as of time of publication, according to the American Kennel Club -- may strongly resemble either parent or really look like a combination of the two breeds. Both German shepherds and Labrador retrievers are relatively prepotent, meaning their offspring take after them.
Male German shepherds mature to a height of between 24 to 26 inches tall at the top of the shoulders, with females slightly smaller at 22 to 24 inches. The male Lab stands 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall when full-grown, while the female Lab stands 21.5 to 23.5 inches high. While the Labrador retriever breed standard calls for a male dog to weigh between 65 and 80 pounds and a female to weigh between 55 to 70 pounds, there is no weight standard for the German shepherd. Most adult German shepherds weigh between 50 and 90 pounds.
Regular exercise helps keep a dog in good health, and your Lab/German shepherd mix is likely to be quite active. Both breeds are smart and thrive on training. Your dog should make a wonderful companion for long walks, or company while jogging or cycling. Don't forget the mental exercise, whether in the form of obedience class or other canine activities. Both breeds make good therapy or search-and-rescue dogs. While some dog activities -- such as showing -- don't allow mixed breeds, sports like agility generally do. Your Lab/German shepherd mix should excel in open competitions.
Labrador Retriever Health Issues
Labrador retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, or malformation of the hip joint. Seriously affected dogs require surgery to correct the disability. Elbow dysplasia, a similar problem affecting the elbow joint, also occurs in the breed. Another orthopedic issue, osteochondrosis dissecans, afflicts the shoulders and elbows.
Eye issues often occur in Labs, including cataracts in aging dogs and progressive retinal atrophy -- which causes blindness -- in younger animals. Other diseases common in the breed include epilepsy, skin allergies and the heart condition tricuspid valve dysplasia. The latter may have little effect in some Labs, while causing the death of others.
German Shepherd Health Issues
German shepherds are also prone to hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Cardiac issues plague German shepherds, including enlarged heart, murmurs and valvular problems. Degenerative myelopathy, a condition particularly found in German shepherds, affects the spinal cord and eventually causes paralysis. The breed also suffers from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a hereditary disorder that eradicates digestive enzymes, making digestion and food absorption difficult, if not impossible. Fortunately, lifelong supplementation with digestive enzymes can control EPI.