If you love big dogs, you might consider getting a German Shepherd or a Doberman Pinscher. You’ve probably seen both working with the police or military. But all large-breed canines are not the same.
German Shepherds consistently rank as the second most popular dog breed after Labrador Retrievers with the American Kennel Club. In 2018, Dobermans ranked number 17. Does that mean that Dobermans aren’t as family-friendly? Not necessarily!
In this article, you’ll learn more about each breed. If you’re looking to take in a dog, you’ll have more information to use to make this important decision by the time you’re done reading. A pet is a long-term commitment, and you should make sure that your choice is right for you and your family. Like our other GSD comparisons, you’ll come away with some interesting and useful facts about the different breeds.
- Height 22-26 Inches
- Weight 50-90 Pounds
- Temperament Confident, Courageous, Smart
- Energy High
- Health Average
- Lifespan 12-14 Years
- Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up
- Height 24-28 Inches
- Weight 60-100 Pounds
- Temperament Loyal, Fearless, Alert
- Energy High
- Health Average
- Lifespan 10-12 Years
- Puppy Prices $1,000 and Up
German Shepherds and Dobermans were both bred to help people. However, although you might think they’re both working dogs, they’re not in the same category. They both come from Germany, but are their histories linked in any way? Let’s find out.
Many people associate German Shepherds with police operations. They’ve been used to sniff out illegal drugs and have served in the armed forces. The breed was developed by Captain Max von Stephanitz in western Germany in 1889. Von Stephanitz prized utility and intelligence in these animals. He wanted a canine that was an efficient servant. He also wanted to standardize the herding breed. All herding dogs in Germany were referred to as shepherds, but they didn’t always share the same traits.
The characteristics that they did have in common were intelligence and loyalty. Von Stephanitz also wanted to create a dog with inherent beauty. And after breeding the best specimens from each district, he created the German Shepherd. German Shepherds were used extensively during World War I. Some American soldiers brought these dogs home, and movies like Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart made the breed somewhat famous.
Doberman Pinschers were also developed in Germany, by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann. Like the German Shepherd, the Doberman is also a relatively new breed of dog, as it was standardized at the end of the 19th century.
Dobermann owned a local dog pound, and he mixed a variety of breeds to produce the Doberman Pinscher. No one is sure exactly which breeds went into the creation of the breed, but they think that it may have genes from the following canines:
- German Pinscher
- Great Dane
- German Short-haired Pointer
- Old German Shepherd dog
The Doberman has also been used in the military and police service over the years. U.S. soldiers noticed that their enemies used dogs as sentries and scouts. In 1942, the Doberman Pinscher Club of America was asked to provide canines for the Marine Corps War Dog Training Facility in North Carolina. The Doberman became the official U.S. Marine War Dog during World War II. These animals were nicknamed ‘Devil Dogs’ during that time. As the war came to a close, German Shepherds superseded Dobermans as the most popular military dog.
When it comes to physical characteristics, these dogs have just as many similarities as differences. Both breeds are large-sized dogs that range from 50 to 100 pounds and stand about 26 to 27 inches tall at one year of age. Dobermans tend to be the bigger of the two once fully grown. While both of these dogs have an athletic build, Dobermans are taller and thinner, whereas shepherds are stockier and shorter. Their back also slopes more than Dobies’ spines.
Dobermans have short coats that require little maintenance that come in black and rust, blue and rust, fawn and rust, and red and rust. Black and rust is the most common color combination. German Shepherds have thicker, medium-length, double-layer coats that shed more and require more grooming. their coats are most commonly black and tan, but they also come in solid black as well.
Herding dogs tend to be more intelligent than working dogs. However, Dobermans are one of the two working-class canine breeds that have made it onto the top 10 most intelligent dogs. Dobermans are #3 on the list. They’re almost so intelligent that they get bored with menial tasks and try to outwit you, which can make them hard to train. You need to establish that you’re the dominant member of the pack as early as possible.
Dobermans are incredibly loyal, which makes them great protectors. They may latch on to one member of the family, though. Socializing them early can prevent them from being shy or snappy.
German Shepherds may be more mischievous than Dobermans. Dobermans tend to appreciate straightforwardness when people interact with them. German Shepherds usually become high-strung when they’re improperly socialized.
Both of these dogs score high on a trait called the guarding tendency. They’ll defend their territory as well as their people or animals. But territorial behavior can become a problem if dogs become overly aggressive. Therefore, both of these breeds need to be trained when it comes to protecting their areas.
In The Home
This loyalty makes them great family pets. Although German Shepherds are often considered better with kids than Dobermans, both can adapt to living with a high-energy family. It’s important to train your children as much as you train your dog. Kids should understand how to best interact with these large pets so they are seen as leaders of the pack instead of puppies or enemies.
German Shepherds are part of the herding group, whereas Dobermans are in the working group of canines. But these groups were classified together until 1983. Herders tend to be easy to train and loyal. They gather the people or animals under their protection so that they can keep an eye on them. For this reason, they make great companions and are often used for protection work.
The working group of dogs has fewer specifications. For example, a Husky is a working dog because it can pull a sled. And the Doberman was bred to be a protector. Dobermans aren’t natural herders. However, they are so intelligent, loyal, and protective that they can be trained to herd other animals.
Both of these breeds need plenty of exercise and get bored easily. If you don’t walk them before and after work, they may get bored and exhibit destructive behavior. They may do this anyway if they’re left alone for eight hours at a time! Overall, they both need at least one hour of intense exercise every day. Many owners suggest that they need at least two hours a day! And this is something that you need to be prepared for. Active families only, please!
As working dogs with lots of energy, their exercise needs to be vigorous if you want to wear them out. It’s safe to say that long, tedious walks around the block aren’t going to hit the spot for either of these guys. That’ll be the warm-up!
They both make great jogging partners and love to partake in agility courses, fetching games, and practically anything you can think of! Dobermans rival Labs in their activity levels, and German Shepherds likely will exceed both in the terms of exercise commitment as a dog owner.
They’ll also need plenty of mental stimulation throughout the day to keep them entertained. Be sure to invest in a bunch of doggy toys for both of these guys – look for tough, extra-durable toys considering their strength. Trust us when we say, if they haven’t got a designated chew toy, they’ll find something else to chew that they shouldn’t. Or raid your best sneaker collection!
Although both breeds have been bred as guard dogs, they’re not inherently more dangerous than other breeds. Chihuahuas can be just as dangerous. However, a hard bite from a Chihuahua isn’t as damaging as one from a larger dog.
No dog should be considered a biter because of its breed. Aggressiveness is often a result of improper training or fear. Dobermans and German Shepherds are reactive, but they bark more than they bite unless trained to use their teeth.
Some people say Dobermans aren’t good around children or small pets, but that depends on the dog’s training and personality. German Shepherds tend to be less stubborn and more easygoing around children. Both breeds should do well with kids if they’re raised with them. It’s important to teach children how to behave with dogs and not bother them when they are sleeping or eating.
Because these dogs have guarding tendencies, they may bark at strangers or friends who come to the door. You may have to use specific training methods to curb this irritating characteristic. To teach both the German Shepherd and the Doberman polite pooch manners, they must be socialized well as a pup. Mix them with as many humans, dogs, animals, and environments as possible to increase their confidence. And this will prevent them from becoming overprotective.
Because of inbreeding, both breeds have an inclination toward certain ailments. However, this is an issue for all purebred dogs. German Shepherds have a longer average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, whereas Dobies tend to live for 10 to 12 years.
The main health concerns for German shepherds are:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
They should get regular checkups and have special attention directed to the joints. The main health concerns for Dobermans are:
- Heart problems
- Spinal instability
- Hip dysplasia
Dobermans should have their hips and heart examined regularly. They should also be tested for von Willebrand’s disease, which is directly inherited and can cause serious blood loss from minor wounds.
Being a little bit lighter in weight, the average German Shepherd will consume around three cups of food a day. Compared to the slightly weightier Dobie, who will consume around four cups. How much you feed them will depend on their weight, age, energy levels, and lifestyle. So be sure to follow the package instructions for tailored cup suggestions.
The German Shepherd needs high-quality dog food that can support their activity levels and rapid bone growth. Dobermans also need the same. Kibbles designed for large breed puppies will help to control this rapid bone growth. And by controlling it, the chances of developing hip and elbow dysplasia are minimized. So large breed foods are super important for both the Dobie and the Shepherd.
One of the best things that you can do for your dog is to feed them the best quality nutrition you can afford. The difference between basic store-branded kibble and high-quality trusted brands can be your pup living his healthiest life possible. High-quality brands will also list meat as the first ingredient and offer a protein content of at least 18% in adulthood. And for large, energetic dogs like both of these guys, this is important for healthy muscle maintenance.
These guys are also prone to a life-threatening condition called gastric torsion, also known as bloat. Large dogs with deep chests are the most at risk, and both the Dobie and the Shepherd tick these boxes. Never feed your pooch immediately before or after exercise, and spread your dog’s daily food across at least two sittings.
It’s a common misconception that Dobermans don’t shed. They do, but their fine, short fur may not be as noticeable as the longer strands from a German Shepherd. Shepherds also blow their coats twice a year. Which can leave you with tumbleweeds of fur all over your home as they transition from winter to summer and vice versa. And this is more noticeable in longer-haired Shepherds.
Both breeds should be brushed regularly, and a regular brushing regime is the best thing you can do to manage their shedding. Allow two or three brushing sessions in the week to keep them looking their best. If you have a longer-haired Shepherd, they will need brushing more often to prevent matting.
Thankfully, neither of these guys requires professional grooming, and it is something you can do yourself. It’s also a great bonding time for parents and pups.
The cost of a German Shepherd puppy and a Dobie pup from a reputable breeder will start from around $1,000. If you are looking for a puppy from an award-winning bloodline or a popular breeder, it will likely be a little bit more. Don’t be tempted to buy a puppy for much less than this because it is a sure warning sign that they are irresponsible. Or worse, part of a puppy mill.
It’s important to work with a reputable breeder for any dog breed. But especially for large, powerful dogs such as the Dobie and the Shepherd. The key window for important socialization is 3 to 12 weeks. So paying a little bit more to work with a breeder who will socialize your soon-to-be pup will pay dividends! Otherwise, you’ll probably end up paying much more in behavioral training and liability costs should something happen.
You also need to remember the costs that pile up on top of initial puppy prices. Getting your pup vaccinated and attending puppy health checkups all cost money. Not forgetting food, beds, collars, harnesses, toys, and much more. Although neither of these guys is the most expensive dogs to care for, they are usually higher than the average canine considering their size and needs.
Although German Shepherds and Dobermans are about the same size, they look completely different. Dobermans are muscular and short-haired, and German Shepherds look more like giant stuffed animals. Besides their looks, though, they have many similarities.
Both of these dogs have similar histories and were bred as working dogs that could offer a high level of protection. These smart dogs are loyal and can be trained to follow many commands. Because they are so intelligent, they need to be mentally stimulated.
These dogs want to work all the time. Therefore, they’re always protecting you, even if you’re on a leisurely walk in the park. Understanding this and catering to their physical and psychological needs can produce an ideal relationship between humans and these canines. As long as you’re willing to keep them entertained and give them plenty of exercise, German Shepherds and Dobermans should make great family pets.