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Looking for a wolf-like dog? Do you want a large canine as a companion? You should get an American Alsatian.
These rare hounds may look like wolves, but they are gentle and friendly creatures.
They also have a great origin story leading to their present appearance, wonderful temperament, and excellent health.
What else is there about this mysterious beast? Read on to find out more about the Alsatian.
What is an American Alsatian?
The American Alsatian (pronounced AL-SAY-SHAN) is a large breed developed for companionship.
Usually, companion dogs are small. So it’s rare for a massive canine such as the Alsatian to take on a similar role.
Where did they come from?
It all started 30 years ago with the Dire Wolf Project.
American Alsatian History: The Dire Wolf Project
During the rise of interest in wolfdogs in 1987, Lois Denny (now Lois Schwarz) wanted a wolf-looking canine without the wolf blood since the hybrids proved to be difficult pets.
Schwarz specifically chose the dire wolf to create a wolf-like companion dog, hence the name of the project. The real dire wolf is prehistoric and is known to be one of the biggest wolves that ever existed. They were extinct during the Pleistocene Epoch – that was 11,000 years ago!
In 1988, Schwarz produced the first litter by mixing an Alaskan Malamute and German Shepherd – originally naming the breed, North American Shepalute. Years later, she decided to add the English Mastiff and the Anatolian/Great Pyrenees mix.
She chose these dogs so the American Alsatian will have the:
- Alaskan Malamute and German Shepherd’s head size, body, muscle, feet, short tail, and temperament (rarely barks).
- English Mastiff’s large head and full round bone.
- Anatolian and Great Pyrenees mix’s skull, muzzle, height, short tail, colors, and temperament (intelligence).
In 2004, the breed was renamed to Alsatian Shepalute – Alsatian from the former German Shepherd name ‘Alsatian Wolfdog’, and the Shepherd and Malamute mix.
Six years later, since this dog is being developed as a purebred, they decided to give the breed a more appropriate name by dropping the Shepalute and changing it to American Alsatian.
Major kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) still do not recognize this breed. The Alsatian is only registered in the National American Alsatian Registry.
But this dog has its own kennel club, the National American Alsatian Club (NAAC), that has been in charge of the Dire Wolf Project since 2004.
According to Schwarz, outcrossing into another breed helps maintain good health. It mixes things up and brings recessive health issues back down.
That’s why she has outcrossed the Alsatian into other dogs such as:
- Irish Wolfhound for its skull, height, wire coat, intuitiveness, and emotional intelligence.
- Labrador Retriever for its feet, short tail, colors, and intelligence.
- Samoyed for its oval eyes, short tail, and friendliness.
- Akita for its head, ears, body, short tail, and girth.
After all that crossing, the Alsatian doesn’t have his parental breeds’ temperament and appearance. So what makes them different?
Comparing the Alsatian with their foundation stock dogs
Canines that are used to develop a new breed are called foundation stock dogs. For the Alsatian, it was the Alaskan Malamute and German Shepherd.
With this Shepalute mix, Schwarz thought they still looked too similar to the German Shepherd. She decided to outcross to more breeds, giving us the American Alsatian we have today.
American Alsatian vs. German Shepherd
Compared to the German Shepherd, the American Alsatian is larger and heavier. They have a longer coat which needs more maintenance, but they can tolerate the cold weather better.
Alsatians are also healthier and have a higher range of lifespan. They require less exercise and have a lower activity level. So if you prefer a more active dog, German Shepherds are the better option.
American Alsatian vs. Alaskan Malamute
For the other parent, American Alsatians are bigger than Alaskan Malamutes. They have a longer coat which also requires more grooming, but Malamutes can tolerate negative degree weather.
The Alaskan Malamute is more stubborn than the American Alsatian. Even if the Alsatian is healthier, the Malamute has a longer lifespan.
What does an American Alsatian look like?
You might think the dire wolves from the popular TV series Game of Thrones is an Alsatian, but they are not.
American Alsatians have a specific appearance and size that makes them more similar to the real dire wolf.
This canine has rounded, triangular ears that are perched on top of their broad and sloping head. Their almond-shaped eyes can be small or medium-sized and have a color between yellow to light brown. The Alsatians have a black nose, but their dark muzzle may sometimes be cream or white.
This massive dog has a muscular and long body ending with a wide, tapered tail. The Alsatian has a thick and dense bone structure combined with a broad back and chest.
The American Alsatian has two types of coat, neither are hypoallergenic.
The thick winter coat is a double coat with a coarse and dense outer hair and softer undercoat. It has a medium length, giving a bit of wooly look to this canine.
The summer coat is thin and short with all the undercoat shedding out, leaving just the outer hair.
This hound has multiple coat colors, with silver sable as the most desirable one. The American Alsatian also comes in:
- Wolf gray silver/sable
- Gray sable
- Golden sable
- Tri sable
- Tri sable golden gray
- Tri silver sable
- Black silver sable
- Solid cream
When getting an American Alsatian puppy, don’t be worried if they don’t show any of these colors. They are born with a soft dark brindle coat which lightens to a cream.
They will have their rougher adult coat around the time they turn 1-year-old.
How big are the American Alsatians?
The Alsatian is a large or giant-sized dog where males can grow around 26 to 32 inches (66 to 81 cm) tall and weigh between 90 to 110 pounds (41 to 50 kg). The females range about 25 to 28 inches (64 to 71 cm) in height and have a weight of 85 to 105 pounds (39 to 48 kg).
American Alsatian puppies reach their full-grown size when they reach the age of 3, and can still fill out until 9-years-old.
With their massive size, they won’t be comfortable living in a small apartment. It’s best for this breed to live in a home with a spacious yard.
A Gentle Giant Companion
Even if this breed looks like a wild animal, they are as meek as a lamb. It’s because Schwarz wanted the Alsatian to have the temperament for companionship.
Let’s see how this hound turned out.
Got the wolf’s looks but the lamb’s personality
They look dangerous, but they are not aggressive or wild. There’s no need to fear them since the American Alsatian is friendly and approachable, but this dog can also be aloof to strangers. They need proper socialization to know which strangers are friends or potential threats.
Bred to be a great furry confidant, it’s no surprise that this canine fits in with families. Alsatians are mellow hounds that can get along with children really well, minus the exuberant trait of other breeds. They prefer relaxing on the couch with their loved ones.
They also get along with other dogs and pets because they do not have a high prey drive.
Big hound but silent as a mouse
If you want a quiet dog, this canine is an excellent choice. The American Alsatian rarely barks, whines, or howls. The downside – you can’t count on them to be guard dogs.
They aren’t hostile or aggressive creatures. But their massive size and striking features are enough to make most threats go away.
They can’t be a watchdog, but they are exceptional as a service or therapy dog.
The Alsatian is a calm breed, allowing them to work as a mobility brace or epilepsy detection dog and assist people with PTSD, hearing loss, and autism. As long as it’s not rough work, they can handle it.
Your homebody buddy
The American Alsatian tends to be territorial and prefers staying at home. Compared to other huge breeds, this pooch does not wander and run away from home. So despite their size, you won’t find your wolfy canine jumping over or digging under your fence.
If you go for this breed, you’ll be getting a clingy dog. This dog is known for the term Alsatian ‘bonding’, which means if their owners are missing, they will quickly set off to find them.
These loyal dogs will stick close to their masters as much as possible. Prepare yourself for a 100-pound lap dog who wouldn’t let size get in the way of cuddling or sitting on you.
Perfect for less active owners
If you want a laid-back dog, this breed is the right choice! Even if they look like they can go on a hike, they aren’t fans of moving around too much. Compared to other large-sized breeds, they have lower energy levels – but they will still need to workout.
American Alsatians would have to exercise for at least an hour a day. They will enjoy a stroll around the neighborhood or a round of fetch in the garden since they’ll get to spend time with you.
The best time to exercise or train an Alsatian is when it’s cold. They are most active during the late afternoon until evening and early in the morning.
They might overheat when it’s noontime due to their double coat. So when the sun is out, expect them to be sleeping inside or sitting in a cool spot.
Easy to train
This breed is intelligent, so you’ll have an easy time training them.
Start with obedience training and housebreaking, especially if they’ll be living inside your home. With their size, they have to learn at an early age how to behave themselves.
Avoid punishment whenever you’re training your American Alsatian. Set yourself as a loving alpha, strict but provides treats and encouragement.
As with any dog, consistency and positive reinforcement will help them learn faster.
You can see in this video how Alsatians are trained in doggy boot camps:
How to take care of your American Alsatian?
After learning about the Alsatian’s temperament, it’s time to know how to take care of them.
Since the Alsatian is a large breed, they’re also high-maintenance, especially during their shedding period.
American Alsatian grooming schedule
When summertime comes, usually around March to April, Alsatians will shed all of their inner hair into their summer coat.
Since they only have their outer coat to protect them from the sun, it’s best to keep your canine indoors or under the shade to prevent him from getting dehydrated.
Without the undercoat, it’s normal for your dog to appear darker or thinner around this time. The Alsatian will feel itchy, so help him out by brushing his coat with a wide tooth steel comb. Do it once a day or every other day during the shedding period. After it all blows out, they will be shed free.
That also means your vacuum would face a lot of work since the shedding process takes around a month. By September, their undercoat will start growing back.
Outside their shedding period or when they have their winter coat, it’s fine to brush your Alsatian at least once or twice a week. Their beautiful hair is also odor-free and repels dirt, so they will only need a bath when necessary.
At least once a month, check their ears for any dirt or globs. Avoid infection and clean them with a damp cloth during or after every bath. For their nails, you only need to trim it once a year.
Feeding your Alsatian
Give your American Alsatian two cups of premium-quality kibble per day. You can add dog supplement powder for vitamins and minerals.
Why not top their dish with cottage cheese, gravy, and shredded cheese to add flavor? Sometimes, add a slightly cooked chicken in one of their meals. They’ll surely love it!
For younger Alsatians, provide three to four cups of dry puppy food per day. For their first meal, feed them only kibbles. For the following dishes, you may also add gravy with blended meat, cottage cheese, or chicken and rice to entice them to eat more. You could continue with this diet until your puppy turns 1-year-old.
Make sure not to free feed your dog since they may gain excess weight. Let them get used to proper feeding time, so your canine will get the right amount of serving and all the nutrients he needs.
Does the American Alsatian have any health problems?
Currently, there should be no health issues. One of Schwarz’s priorities in developing the Alsatian is for it to become a healthy breed. They did this by continuing the line with dogs who aren’t sick. But there were still some dogs that experienced health issues.
Here are the diseases found in this breed over the years:
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Despite all that, you’ll get to spend a long time with your American Alsatian since they have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. The Dire Wolf Project is still working on enhancing their health and longevity. They want to give this breed an average life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, similar to wild wolves. If they succeed, your dog can be with you for 6 more years.
How do I get my American Alsatian?
You’ve learned all about the Alsatian – now it’s time to know how much and where to get one.
Since they are a relatively new breed, this rare canine won’t come cheap. American Alsatian puppies have an average price range of $2,000 to $3,000.
In a litter size of 5 to 12 puppies, they will have different appearances and temperament which would affect their price. Depending on the breeder, location, and quality of the breeding stock to get a certain kind of puppy, some Alsatians can cost as much as 10,000 dollars.
Reputable American Alsatian Breeders
To help you find your Alsatian, here is a list of reputable breeders acknowledged by the Schwarz and the NAAC.
- Schwarz Kennels (Oregon)
- Dire Wolf Dogs of Vallecito (Washington)
- Dire Wolf Dogs of Fennario (Colorado)
American Alsatians needing a home
Because the Alsatian is a new and rare breed, they are difficult to find in adoption centers or shelters.
If you’re looking to adopt or rescue one, check Am. Alsatian Rescue, a non-profit rescue organization, if there are dogs available.
American Alsatian vs. Other Similar Looking Breeds
When getting a dog, it is essential to consider whether they will fit in your family or lifestyle. You have to be able to commit to their grooming and exercise needs as well.
So if you’re still not sure if the American Alsatian is the right companion for you, here’s how they compare to other top wolf-like breeds.
American Alsatian vs. Shiloh Shepherd
The American Alsatian is smaller than the Shiloh Shepherd. They are less active and will require less exercise than Shilohs. If you have other pets, get an Alsatian since Shiloh Shepherds aren’t pet-friendly.
The Shiloh can take on more types of jobs such as a herding dog or watchdog. They also tend to bark; so if you want a more quiet dog, it’s better to get an American Alsatian.
American Alsatian vs. Native American Indian Dog
The American Alsatian is bigger than the Native American Indian Dog (NAID), but they weigh almost the same.
Alsatians have a longer coat which requires more grooming. They also have more coat color options.
The NAID barks more, so if you prefer a quieter dog, get the Alsatian. NAIDs are also perfect for people with an active lifestyle since they can be hunting and fishing companions.
Both dogs are healthy breeds, but the NAID has fewer health issues and lives longer than the Alsatian.
American Alsatian vs. King Shepherd
The King Shepherd is a mix of the German Shepherd, Shiloh Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, and Great Pyrenees. Despite having all these large parent breeds, the Alsatian is larger than this crossbreed.
King Shepherds are better suited for work, specifically herding and droving. They can also be a guard dog since they bark frequently. If you want a silent breed, the Alsatian is a better option.
Is the American Alsatian the right dog for you?
If you’ve always wanted a large canine for a companion, the American Alsatian is a great candidate. Another bonus is they have low to medium activity levels, perfect for those who love to relax in their homes.
This breed is easy to train, making them a great choice for first-time dog owners. They are also a healthy breed, so you don’t have to worry about those veterinarian visits.
If you live in a small apartment, keep in mind that this dog is massive and will take up a lot of space. Alsatians are best suited for spacious homes such as those with a backyard or rural areas.
The Alsatian is a high-maintenance pet, so you will have to commit more time to their grooming needs. These shedders aren’t suitable for those who have allergies, and those who can’t handle dog hair all over their house.
They might look like a wolf, but they are friendly and mellow creatures. You’ll surely love having this gentle giant at home.
Are you planning on getting an American Alsatian? We would love to hear about your journey. Let us know in the comment section below.