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The American Alsatian is a fairly recent breed of dog and pretty difficult to get hold of. With looks that could grace a Game of Thrones film set, combined with a friendly and loving disposition, we are going to explain why the American Alsatian makes a wonderful family pet.
In this guide we will be unveiling the history of the breed, looking at the appearance, feeding and grooming needs, and personality of this fantastic breed. We just know you’re going to love it.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Overview
With a history of just thirty years, and already with three different names under its belt, the American Alsatian is still a bit of an unknown in the dog world. A large breed of dog, they were bred to combine the looks of not just a wolf, but a dire wolf, with an amenable and delightfully friendly and loving personality.
The American Alsatian is most definitely not a working dog. While they are highly intelligent and inquisitive, they do not like too much physical activity and are pretty quiet so unlikely to bark at intruders. So apart from the fact that they are large enough to deter a potential thief, they aren’t good as a guard dog either.
In fact, the American Alsatian is an ideal companion dog. The best kind of work they would be helpful for is as an assistance dog, where their intelligence and loyal nature, combined with their strength would make them an ideal helper for a disabled person.
Mostly though, they are an ideal family pet, perfect for a large home with somebody at home most of the time and a yard big enough for them to stretch their legs. They like company, get on well with children and other animals and if they can get away with it, would happily spend most of the day cuddled up on the sofa with you.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Vital Stats
Height: 24″ to 28″
Weight: 75 lbs to 120 lbs (females lighter)
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Alternative Name: Alsatian Shepalute (previous name, changed in 2010)
American Alsatian Dog Breed – History
The history of the American Alsatian is actually pretty short and began back in the eighties, when there was a bit of a trend for dogs that looked like wolves. Inspired by this and realizing that many of these wolf-dogs had poor temperaments to be pets, a breeder named Lois Denny began something called the Dire Wolf Project.
You may think that the Dire wolf is a fictional creature from Game of Thrones, but in fact it was a real animal that went extinct around 10,000 years ago. The Dire wolf was related to modern gray wolves, but larger and heavier and with a larger head.
Lois Denny (now Lois Schwarz) never intended to bring back the Dire wolf. What she hoped for was to create a dog that looked like a dire wolf, but with a friendly and calm temperament that made it suitable as a companion dog and family pet.
Right from the beginning in 1987, she set out a breed standard that she intended to achieve (now the breed standard description listed in this article under “Appearance”) and began breeding. While she was hoping for a dire wolf-look and therefore focused on large dogs, her priority was always on the temperament and character.
The first generation in 1988 was a cross-breed between the Alaskan Malamute and the German Shepherd, and because of this, the breed began with the name Shepalute (a combination of Shepherd and Malamute).
Over subsequent generations, the following breeds (all with friendly temperaments, and intuitive intelligence) were added into the mix to add particular physical characteristics:
- English Mastiffs added larger bones and heads, shorter tails and shorter muzzles.
- Great Pyrenees dogs were added for their stockiness, large size and long body.
- Anatolian Shepherds contributed a good height and a large head and
- Irish Wolfhounds added more height and a wiry coat.
Take a look at some of these very large breeds here.
In each generation, the puppies with the best health, temperaments and strength were selected to continue in the breeding program.
In the Year 2000, this new breed was unveiled to the American public and the breed standards created in 1987 were shared.
In 2004, the name of the new breed changed from Shepalute to Alsatian Shepalute, as it was thought that the wolf-like looks were indicated by the Alsatian name.
In 2010, the Shepalute part (which seemed to suggest a crossbreed rather than a purebreed) was dropped and the name was changed to the American Alsatian. At this point the North American Shepalute Club also became the National American Alsatian Club.
Currently the Club only recognizes two American Alsatian Breeders in the USA, but this popular, good looking and friendly dog is becoming more widely known and popular.
American Alsatian Dog Breed
Appearance and Size
The best way to describe the appearance of the American Alsatian is to describe the breed standard set out by Lois Denny in 1987, as these standards are what the breeding program is always aiming for.
First, this is a large, or even a giant, breed of dog. Females are generally between 25 and 28 inches tall and weigh at least 85lb. Males are even larger, with height between 26 and 32 inches and weighing in at least 90lb.
The American Alsatian has a broad back, broad chest and thighs, heavy bones and strong muscles. Their bodies are longer than tall, and their necks are thick and powerful. They have large, heavy feet with slightly splayed toes. The tail is black-tipped and hangs down to touch the pasterns.
Heads are large and broad, with a black nose and strong, dark muzzle. The ears stand upright and are triangular with rounded tips. Eyes range from light brown to yellow and are almond shaped – the wolfish stare is evident. Hair on the face is shorter, lengthening by the neck.
The coat of the American Alsatian is very striking. It’s a thick, double-layer, slightly woolly coat. Coloring can vary. The most popular and sought after is the silver sable, which looks most like the wolf, but you will also see golden sable, tri sable and black silver sable. Other colors less commonly seen are tri sable golden gray, full silver or cream.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Personality
The American Alsatian was deliberately bred with temperament in mind. In fact, throughout the breeding program, temperament has taken precedence over looks when selecting dogs to continue breeding. The result is an extremely friendly and calm and placid dog, not fazed by anything and happiest in your company.
This breed is known for forming strong bonds with their family. They are more than happy to include and spend time with children and other pets and they like to stay close to home. They are sometimes a little unsure of strangers, but never fearful or aggressive.
When out and about they are quite happy to walk with you and are very unlikely to run off to play with other dogs or chase other animals. They are not bothered by loud noises such as thunderstorms or fireworks.
At home, as long as they’ve had enough exercise, they are settled and quiet, and won’t initiate play unless encouraged. They are very quiet with little barking or whining.
They really are an amazing gentle giant. In fact, they are happiest chilling out on the sofa with you and the family. Because of their devotion to you, they won’t like being left alone for too long, and if they are lonely may display some separation anxiety behavior.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Grooming
Despite their long, thick and fluffy coat, the American Alsatian is pretty low maintenance when it comes to grooming. The thick double-layer coat sheds dirt easily and is pretty low-odor, requiring a good brush a couple of times a week to keep it clear of mats and looking good.
Every Spring though, your grooming routine (and house cleaning routine) will go into overdrive as the dog sheds the thick undercoat. You will need to brush at least once a day at this point to help them shed this fluff, and they will leave a trail of hair wafting around in their wake wherever they go.
You’ll also realize how much hair they had as they will begin to look considerably thinner without their winter layers!
In addition to brushing their fur, you will need to maintain a regular cleaning and grooming schedule on other areas of the dog, such as checking and cleaning the ears, brushing the teeth and trimming the nails.
In addition, it’s important to keep flea and worming treatments and vaccinations up to date.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Feeding
The most important thing when thinking about feeding your American Alsatian is that they should have a healthy and balanced diet, with a particular focus on protein and fat, as these are where dogs should get most of their energy.
Puppies should be fed four smaller meals a day, using whichever food brand their breeder was using. Gradually, as they grow, you’ll be able to reduce to two meals each day, and phase into adult food. As adults, they will generally eat around three cups of kibble every day, though of course this will vary based on the individual and their energy levels.
Most American Alsatians will be happy with any commercial large dog food, though it’s worth bearing in mind that cheaper dog foods tend to be bulked out with cereal.
Your dog will enjoy his food more if you are able to supplement their normal dog food occasionally with meats, eggs, gravy or other ingredients that are healthy for dogs.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Exercise and Training
You may think that a dog of this large stature must require a lot of exercise, but the fact is that the American Alsatian is pretty chilled out and prefers a sedate stroll than a run or a hike up a mountain.
While they don’t require as much exercise as, for example, a German Shepherd dog, they do require a daily walk of around an hour. However, they won’t want to take part in active sports such as agility or other high energy games and prefer to move at a slow and lumbering pace.
When walking, the American Alsatian is usually fine off the leash as they prefer to be close to you and aren’t that interested in boisterous play with other dogs, so they won’t stray far.
They also have quite a low prey instinct so are unlikely to go off chasing squirrels without any notice. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that some other walkers may be nervous of large dogs, and may be happier if you keep the leash on, even if only for appearances.
Training your American Alsatian is pretty easy, as they are very intelligent and are also keen to please you. Heel and Come will be the easiest commands, as the dog won’t want to be far from you anyway, so you will be allowing them to follow their natural instinct. Lots of positive reinforcement and judicious use of healthy dog treats in training will meet with quick success.
Socializing is very important, and the more people you allow your dog to bond with, the better. As they form such a strong tie with the family, it can be difficult for them to form relationships with other people, for example extended family or a pet sitter, so the more opportunity there is for this, the better.
As American Alsatians are so calm, and not particularly energetic (except as puppies), they don’t need a lot of games and toys. A few favorite soft toys or chews and perhaps an interactive feeder will be more than enough to keep their interest.
American Alsatian Dog Breed – Health
Generally, though it’s a little early to tell yet in such a recent breed, the American Alsatian appears to have very few concerning health issues. This is partly because there has been a good mix of breeds involved in the formation of this breed.
As always with large breeds of dog, there is a high likelihood of hip and elbow dysplasia, so it’s certainly worth checking whether the parents suffer with this, and is something to keep an eye out for as your dog grows.
Due to their thick, heavy, double coat, they can get very hot in warm weather, so when the temperature rises, ensure that they have access to good shade and plenty of water and might consider a cooling mat.
A couple of issues to watch out for, which have been seen very rarely in this new breed may be:
- Epilepsy, which manifests as seizures
- Enlarged heart and
Overall, this appears to be a very healthy breed. Average litter size is between five and twelve puppies, and the lifespan is pretty good for a large dog, at between twelve and fourteen years.
Frequently Asked Questions about The American Alsatian Dog Breed
Where can I buy an American Alsatian?
As a new breed, there are only two recognized official breeders – Schwarz Dogs and Vallecito Alsatians. This is to ensure that the breed standard is being adhered to. There is currently a high demand for these dogs so you would most likely be put on a waiting list for a puppy. There will also be a few checks on you, as both breeders are quite particular about who they let their puppies go to.
It will cost you between $1,800 and $3,000 to buy an American Alsatian pup – the more “wolf” looking puppies commanding the higher prices.
Are American Alsatians good guard dogs?
Not really. While their size might be a good deterrent to a potential invader or trespasser, the American Alsatian is unlikely to cause many problems for an intruder. They tend to be quiet, calm and friendly, and although aloof with strangers would be very unlikely to even bark or whine, let alone show any aggression to somebody on your property.
Is this breed recognized by the American Kennel Club?
Not yet. The American Alsatian is a fifth-generation purebred dog, the result of previous crossbreeding. The National American Alsatian Club is confident that they have a breed of dog which is consistent in looks, temperament and health, and keep their own register of dogs bred.
Is an American Alsatian good with children and other pets?
As with any dog, good socialization with children and other animals at a young age is important. However, the calm and easygoing temperament and the low propensity to chase or play rough make the American Alsatian an ideal family dog. They are cuddly and gentle and will be a loyal and steadfast friend to your children and other pets.
Can I work full time and still own a happy American Alsatian?
American Alsatians have a calm, even temperament and are not prone to anxiety in general. However, because they develop such a strong bond with their family, they will become unhappy if you go out and leave them alone for long periods of time and may develop some separation anxiety behaviors.
Your American Alsatian will be much happier if at least one member of the family is around most of the time.
Final Thoughts: Is an American Alsatian Dog the Right Fit For Your Family?
That just about wraps up our look at the American Alsatian. Although they aren’t all that well-known yet, they are a fantastic breed, with such a wonderful temperament and no negative points at all.
There are only three reasons not to get an American Alsatian:
- If you live in an apartment – because they are very large and need space to move around.
- If you live in a hot climate – they have a thick, warm coat and wouldn’t be very comfortable.
- You are out all day – they form a very strong bond with their family and would be unhappy without you.
However, if you have a reasonable size of home for this large dog, you’re reasonably active but not overly adventurous and somebody in the family will be at home most of the time, then this dog is definitely worthy of consideration. You will not regret choosing an American Alsatian to join your family.