The German Shepherd has long been prized for its working ability. Police, military, search-and-rescue teams, and families alike have loved and used this intelligent and obedient dog for a variety of tasks.
And the Border Collie is known as the smartest dog breed in the world. What happens when you put these two dogs together?
Let’s find out! In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the characteristics of the Border Collie German Shepherd — Shollie — mix.
Shollie (Shepherd x Border Collie) Main Characteristics
As a cross between two intelligent working dogs, you can expect the Shollie to be a smart, energetic pup. These dogs are great for active families where they have space to run and receive adequate exercise each day.
Their size can vary since German Shepherds tend to be larger than Border Collies. However, Shollies usually stand between 20 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 70 and 90 pounds.
Both parent breeds come in a few different colors and Shollies can have quite a variety of color patterns. However, one thing is for sure. They will have a thick double coat that sheds twice a year — six months in the Spring and six months in the Fall.
History of the Shollie
The idea that crossbred dogs are inferior to purebred dogs has been waning in recent years. In fact, the popularity of designer dog breeds, the hybrid cross of two purebred dog breeds, has been spiking rapidly.
One of the most well-known designer dog breeds is the Labradoodle. This Labrador Retriever Poodle mix set off the whole Doodle dog craze of crossing all sorts of dog breeds with Poodles to create more hypoallergenic versions of dogs.
That and the fact that the crosses end up looking somewhat like adorable teddy bears have made these crossbred dogs extremely popular.
From there, interest has been piqued in crossing other purebred dogs to create “better’ hybrid versions of popular dog breeds.
It is unclear who decided that crossing a Border Collie with a German Shepherd would be a good idea or why. But the resulting hybrid has been making a splash in the dog community.
What Does a Shollie Look Like?
Both Border Collies and German Shepherds have a thick double coat that sheds a lot, though the Border Collie’s hair is usually a little longer and shaggier. Thus, the Shollie ends up with a similar double coat, though the hair is usually longer than a German Shepherd’s.
Border Collies are usually black and white and German Shepherds can come in a wide variety of colors though they are commonly black and brown. The Shollie can have black, brown, fawn, sable, or white hair and are almost always a mix of at least two colors. Many have an intriguing mottled pattern.
Their bodies tend to be lean and athletic and they are fairly large dogs. Despite their size, they are gentle and loving and tend to be good with kids.
Most Shollies have brown eyes, though they can also be hazel, blue, or amber. They usually have black noses with long muzzles. Their triangular ears may stand up like a German Shepherd’s or flop over like the Border Collie’s.
Both parent breeds were bred as working dogs and needed energy and stamina for this purpose. This makes the Shollie an active dog that requires at least one hour of vigorous exercise per day.
These large dogs love to run and walking around on the end of the leash isn’t always going to meet their needs. They will love having a large yard where they can run freely. If this is not available, access to an off-leash dog park would be ideal. You simply won’t be able to run fast enough to please a Shollie!
Just make sure they have access to plenty of water so they don’t overheat under all that hair!
Are Shollie’s Easy to Train?
Border Collies top the charts of Obedience and Working Intelligence. This measure looks at both how many repetitions the dog requires to learn a technique as well as how likely they are to obey a known technique. The higher their score, obviously the more trainable they are.
German Shepherds are well known for their trainability. That’s why they are so commonly used by the military, police, and others for a variety of applications.
Though there is always some unpredictability with crossbred dogs, you can bet a child of these two breeds will be easy to train. Since both parent breeds are super intelligent with an eager-to-please attitude, the resulting hybrid ends up the same.
Thus, if you’re looking for an obedient dog who would love to learn new tricks with you all the time, the Shollie is a great choice.
But owning an intelligent dog comes with a responsibility. They won’t be content to sit around all day. They need a job to do or some other form of mental stimulation. Otherwise, they will find something to entertain themselves in their boredom — which may spell disaster for your furniture!
Luckily, they enjoy mental stimulation in various forms. Learning new tricks, participating in agility or canine sports, puzzle toys, playing with your kids, and even exploring areas of your large backyard count.
If you have to leave them alone for a long period of time, leave them with a puzzle game or toy. This will help give them something to do and keep their mischievous streak at bay until your return.
All in all, the Shollie is a fantastic dog when it comes to training and obedience. They’re a great choice even if you’re a new dog owner. There’s no stubborn streak to control and they won’t fight with you for dominance, so they don’t require an expert training hand.
Are Shollies Independent?
Some dogs are content to sit at home awaiting your return from a long day at work. The Shollie is not one of them. They are loving, sociable animals who will give you their whole heart. In exchange, they expect a certain amount of love and affection.
It only makes sense, right?
Thus, Shollies don’t do well at home alone for long periods of time. If you live alone and work outside the home all day, a Shollie may not be a good choice for your companion. They can become anxious or depressed and this will often come out as bad behavior like digging or chewing up shoes.
On the flip side, Shollies are wonderful for families. They love playing with little children and will adore living in a household where there is almost always someone around to offer them an ear scratch.
After a long day working or playing, they love nothing more than to cuddle with you on the couch (or at least curl up at your feet) while you relax in the evenings.
They can get a little protective of their families (especially their little people). So that’s something to watch out for when having guests visit. If they feel threatened at all, they may display territorial behavior — even if that means protecting their little charges from Grandma!
Meet the Parents (German Shepherd and Border Collie)
To really get a feel for the likely personality and characteristics of a mixed-breed dog, it’s good to study the parents. Once you get a feel for how the parent breeds act and respond, you’ll have a good idea of how their crossbred child is likely to act.
Surprisingly, there is one man and one dog to thank for the development of the German Shepherd breed. Max Emil Freidrich von Stephanitz dreamed of becoming a gentleman farmer. However, he was pressured by his affluent family into joining the military instead.
During his time as a cavalry officer in the German countryside in the mid-19th century, the incredible sheep herding dogs caught his eye. He was impressed by their intelligence and responsiveness and distressed by their dwindling numbers.
As modernity approached, the need for sheepherding dogs was waning, but Von Stephanitz decided to do something about it. Thus, he bought a large estate near Grafath in Bavaria and set out to find the right dogs to create his formal breed.
The right dog turned out to be one dog that he bought at a dog show in April of 1899. The four-year-old dog, Hektor Linksrhein, had a wolf-like appearance and demonstrated superior intelligence and depth of character.
Von Stephanitz renamed the dog Horand von Grafrath and used him to sire innumerable pups. Virtually every German Shepherd living today can be traced back to this dog.
And von Stephanitz did things right. He bred carefully, looking to cultivate both beauty and brains (in a time when they were mostly concerned with brains). His quest ultimately created a dog that is handsome, intelligent, obedient, and loyal. Not to mention both loving and easy to love.
The Border Collie is an energetic pup with origins along the border between Scotland and France. This medium-sized dog is descended from the old Roman sheepherding dogs and the Spitz-type herders of the Vikings.
They’re also quite bright — so bright in fact, that they top the list of the world’s most intelligent dogs. They routinely performed well in informal competitions among sheepherders back in the 1800s.
Eventually, official sheepdog competitions started running in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Border Collies have consistently dominated these competitions over the years.
These dogs are energetic and capable of holding their own for over 50 miles in a day. Their rough, shaggy coats protected them from the elements when they spent days on end outdoors with their charges. Even the white markings on their coats serve the purpose of making it easier to spot them in the dark.
As they grew in popularity, they began being exported from Great Britain all over the world to people who were looking for good working dogs. But in America, they caught the eye of obedience exhibitors. In 1940, the North American Sheepdog Society was formed with the purpose to promote and protect the breed.
Overall, the Border Collie has impressed generations of farmers with their smarts, energy, and willingness to please.
Should I Get a Shollie?
Now that you know a little bit about Shollies and their parent breeds, your interest may be piqued. Who wouldn’t be interested in such an interesting and intelligent dog?
However, as with every dog, they require the right type of home and living conditions to be happy. Here are a few things to ask yourself to help determine if your home is the right environment for a Shollie.
Do You Have an Active Lifestyle?
Shollies like to snuggle with you while you watch TV, but only after a long day of hard work or play. Remember, both parent breeds were developed as working dogs that needed enough energy to traverse dozens of miles in a day. The Shollie’s energy level is comparable.
Thus, Shollies require at least an hour of vigorous exercise each day. A quick walk around the block once a day isn’t going to keep these pups happy. They need lots of active time and attention.
They’ll love playing fetch, going on hikes with you, or even running errands at the local farmer’s market. However, they won’t love sitting still all day or even being cooped up in a house.
These dogs can manage in a home with a tiny yard, but only if there’s an off-leash dog park or something similar nearby where they can go each day to run. They need to stretch their legs at top speed and you just can’t go fast enough to keep up with them.
Thus, a home with a large yard or a farm is a more adequate home for these pups. And they will love spending time with people who are active and on the move. The nice thing about adding a dog like this to the family is that they help encourage being active!
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Do You Spend a Lot of Time Outside the House?
Even if you have a large yard, if you’re inside all the time while they are outside running around, it might not work out too well. Shollies are very sociable, which means they want to spend time with their families.
If they don’t get the companionship they need, their frustration may come out in bad behaviors like digging or tearing up furniture.
Are You Committed To Training?
Just because they are easy to train doesn’t mean that it happens naturally! You still need to spend time with your Shollie teaching them what is expected of them and how they are to behave.
But beyond the basics, you should continue to spend time training your Shollie. They love the mental stimulation of learning new tricks and they are so smart that they are the perfect dog for this.
It doesn’t take much, a few minutes here and there and you’ll have your dog performing all sorts of incredible feats. And it’s fun to show off their skills when guests come over!
Do You Have Allergies or Asthma?
This is a big one as Shollies have a lot of hair. If you or someone in your home has allergies or asthma, this could be a big problem. Both parent breeds have a double coat, which means there is a soft undercoat for warmth and a longer protective coat over the top.
Translation — the dog has a lot of hair and they will constantly be shedding it.
You can control their shedding somewhat with regular grooming sessions. But you will never get it all. If you’ll be having one of these in the house, you’ll have to accept a certain amount of dog hair and it won’t mix well with anyone who has allergies.
Are Shollies Aggressive?
Shollies are a little reticent of strangers. They love their families and can be a little protective if the occasion calls for it.
However, they are not aggressive or violent by nature. They may not enthusiastically make friends with strangers (like a Golden Retriever, for example) but they will be reasonably friendly with newcomers if they don’t perceive any threats.
The Verdict on Shollies
So, is a Shollie right for your family?
It all depends on what you’re looking for in a dog. If you are an active family, have a large yard, and are willing to spend time training and stimulating your dog, the Shollie will make a fantastic companion for your family.
If you live alone in a little apartment and spend most of your time at work, a different type of dog may be a better fit for your lifestyle.
For additional pet-parenting tips, head over to TryFi.com's Off Leash blog.
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