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German Shepherd vs. Doberman Pinscher: Breed Differences & Comparison

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: May 16, 2021 | 8 min read

German Shepherd vs Doberman Pinscher

If you love big dogs, you might consider getting a German shepherd or 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 #17. Does that mean that Dobermans aren’t as family-friendly? Do they make good pets?

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.

Breed Differences

German shepherds and Dobermans were both bred to help people. However, although you might think that they’re both working dogs, they’re not in the same category.


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.

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 Doberman, but they think that it may have genes from the following canines:

This dog 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 “Devildogs” during that time. As the war came to a close, though, German shepherds superseded Dobermans as the most popular military dog.

Herding vs. Working Group

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. A Newfoundland was originally bred to help fishermen because it is such a good swimmer.

German shepherds were developed from various breeds of sheep-herding canines. Dobermans were bred as protectors.

Dobermans aren’t natural herders. However, they are so intelligent, loyal and protective that they can be trained to herd other animals.

Physical Differences & Similarities

When it comes to physical characteristics, these dogs have just as many similarities as differences. We have broken them down in the list below:


  • Both are medium-sized dogs that range from 65-95 pounds and stand about 26-27 inches tall at 1 year of age.
  • Both shed regularly, although the Dobie’s coat is easier to maintain, as you’ll read below.
  • Both have a tendency to bark. Teaching them the “Quiet” command may make your life easier and allow them to bark only when they’re protecting you against intruders.


  • Dobies have short coats that require little maintenance; shepherds have thicker, medium-length, double-layer coats that shed more and require more grooming.
  • 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.
  • German shepherds have an average life expectancy of 7-10 years, whereas Dobies tend to live for 10-12 years.

Health Comparison

Because of inbreeding, both breeds have an inclination toward certain ailments. However, this is an issue for all purebred dogs.

The main health concerns for German shepherds are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Cataracts

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.

Personality Differences

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 list of top 10 most intelligent dogs. Dobermans are number 3 on the list.


  • Need companionship – Dobermans are incredibly loyal, which makes them great protectors. Their loyalty often has them compared to other loyal dogs as family companions. They may latch on to one member of the family, though. Socializing them early can prevent them from being shy or snappy.
  • Require daily exercise—A leisurely stroll isn’t enough for these athletic dogs. You should be able to take them for a brisk walk or all-out run at least once a day.
  • Need mental stimulation – Because they’re so intelligent, these dogs want to work. You can use advanced obedience training methods or agility work to prevent them from getting bored.
  • Can be stubborn – 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.

German Shepherds:

  • Learn quickly – These dogs usually aim to please. They learn commands quickly and tend to repeat them consistently.
  • Are playful – 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.
  • Have a lot of energy – German shepherds need daily exercise. If they can’t get their energy out, they may become anxious or nervous.
  • Like to work – These dogs enjoy working because it lets them work their minds and bodies. A bored German shepherd can get destructive or antsy.

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.

This loyalty makes them great family pets. Although German shepherds are often considered to be 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 that they are seen as leaders of the pack instead of puppies or enemies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Dobermans Called Pinscher?

In the U.S., these dogs are often referred to as “Dobermans,” whereas in other countries, they’re called “Doberman Pinschers.” The term “Pinscher” may come from the fact that German Pinschers were probably bred with other dogs to create this breed.

Do German Shepherds or Dobermans Have Any Typical Problematic Behavioral Traits?

Some people say that 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.

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.

Can German Shepherds and Dobermans Be Left Alone During the Day?

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.

Do These Dogs Shed?

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.

Both breeds should be brushed regularly. However, neither are prone to matting issues, and they don’t require professional grooming.

Do You Have to Crop Their Ears?

Most people recognize the Doberman’s wedge-shaped heads and tall, pointy ears. They’re born with long, floppy ears, however. Many owners and breeders crop Dobermans’ ears. This practice began to improve the protective dog’s hearing. Now, some argue that it helps the breed look fierce or allows it to be recognized as more than just a goofy canine.

German shepherds’ ears are naturally erect and pointed. They may appear floppy when the dogs are puppies, but the ears will stand permanently once the cartilage has developed properly.

Are Dobermans and German Shepherds Dangerous?

Although Dobermans and German shepherds 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.

Dobermans have been said to have a bite force of 600 PSI, but most experts agree that it’s closer to 245 PSI on average. German shepherds have a bite force of about 238 PSI. No dog has a mechanism that allows it to lock its jaws.

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 they have been trained to use their teeth.

If they’re bored, however, they can chew up your clothing, upholstery, and furniture fairly quickly with their strong jaws. Still, both of these dog breeds are loyal and loving. Training or neglect usually create dangerous dogs.

Which Breed is Better Suited for Apartment Living?

Because of their size and energy levels, neither a German shepherd nor a Doberman should live in an apartment unless they can run or walk on a leash several times a day.

Which Dog Consumes More Food?

The German Shepherd needs a high-quality dog food that can support their activity levels. Dobermans need the same, but Dobermans also need food that can support their rapid growth levels.

Final Thoughts

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 a giant stuffed animal. 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.

Leave a Comment



October 11, 2019 at 11:31 pm

I love Dobermans and learning about them is just amazing ????❤️

Kelly Wilson (Author)

October 14, 2019 at 3:38 pm

We love them too Richard!


November 3, 2019 at 4:38 pm

I've had both breeds and prefer Dobie, purely as less housework for shedding fur but love them both.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

November 5, 2019 at 11:02 pm

We love both as well, thanks for the reply Bob!

Lauren Wright

November 10, 2019 at 12:09 am

We love Dobermans as well but it is important to know that as a breed they suffer from a genetic heart disease, Dilated Cardiomyopathy. It's a huge problem with the Dobes and nobody should rescue or buy a Doberman Pinscher, however well bred, without first doing research into this genetic disease that is causing such havoc in the breed. Just a warning from a Doberman owner who knows. I adore the breed but will never own another, sadly.


November 11, 2019 at 11:15 pm

I love GSD's and learning about them made my heart flutter!!

Kelly Wilson (Author)

November 13, 2019 at 12:45 am

Thanks Vivian, we love them too!

Kelly Wilson (Author)

November 13, 2019 at 12:48 am

Thanks for the reply Lauren! We own Mastiffs who also suffer from lots of health problems due to the size of the breed - but it's definitely something to think about when buying any dog!

Ron Chukes

November 26, 2019 at 12:03 am

My Dad brought a puppy Doberman home when I was 5 years old in1974. What a great dog he was. Very smart and strong. My favorite breed to this day. I remember watching 2 great movies about Doberman’s in the 70’s.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

December 12, 2019 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for commenting Ron!


December 16, 2019 at 8:05 pm

Great article, and I see you actually answer people's comments! I am just in the process of choosing between German Shepherd or Doberman. I have been a dog owner of four different breeds since 1986, most recently pitbull and Boxer.

Would you give your opinion:

I live alone on 100 acres with my horses but also with two household cats. I have small nieces and nephews, many friends, workers, and family that visit, some with dogs. I do not wish an aggressive dog but I do want somewhat of a guard dog. I mostly work from home - Lisa.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

December 17, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Hi Lisa! Since you are at home, you have plenty of choices. Both the Doberman and German Shepherd need to be trained firmly but with love. It's a good idea to avoid both breeds if you are a first time owner, but since you have experience with many different breeds either breed should be fine!

You'll get a lot of different opinions here, but I would say the GSD gives you lots of versatility, especially if you plan to have other farm animals. We'd also advise to look at the Anatolian Shepherd if you want a larger breed. They are headstrong like mastiffs, but do really well in space. We have family that owns 5 acres and they have 2 Anatolians and they love them. But with these two options, I'd lean towards the GSD since they like to guard the flock.

Nicole Rubio

February 20, 2020 at 12:07 am

I agree with your assessment of these two breeds. We adopted a cute puppy from the Humane Society who is a Doberman-German Shepherd mix. Our puppy, Bruce, is now a handsome three year old, and he has brought us so much joy! He does require two walks a day of at least a mile each time. So, we are getting plenty of exercise!

We are first time dog owners, and training him has been a challenge because we are sometimes inconsistent. Bruce is a large dog, and I am not as strong as him, so I am very serious about ongoing, proactive training of appropriate behavior, especially on walkies. Bruce likes knowing what is expected of him and being praised for being a good boy.

Bruce is very intelligent and has found ways to trick us into giving him extra treats. Sometimes he exhibits negative behavior just because he knows he’ll get a treat when he stops! Who is training whom here?!

Seriously though, Bruce is a loving and loyal member of our family, but he sometimes doesn’t want to be petted. He likes to give kisses and sometimes lets us give him belly rubs. He welcomes members of our extended family but barks like crazy at door-to-door salespeople. One article I read about German Shepherds said that they’re not a pet, they’re a lifestyle because of the commitment it takes to be a good dog mom to them, and I think the same applies to Doberman Pinschers.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

February 20, 2020 at 4:30 am

Thank you for adopting Nicole! And thanks for taking the time to share!


August 2, 2020 at 2:08 am

Between a Doberman and a German Shepherd, which dog do you think is better suited at protecting at the owner family?

Kelly Wilson (Author)

August 4, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Hi Christian! It really depends. Both breeds are excellent as family guardians. Every dog is going to be different. German Shepherds are known for being extremely attentive and quick to train, while Dobermans can be a little more headstrong. Ultimately, I'd say it's best to visit breeders of both breeds, meet the parents, and get a feel for each dog to see which is better. I've owned a German Shepherd mix before, and have had close friends that have owned them and might be slightly biased. Good luck!

James Smith

February 1, 2021 at 7:16 pm

Thank you for this article! My partner and I currently have a Boston Terrier and a long coat German Shepherd. Before he left for boot camp we discussed adding another fur baby to our family and I casually mentioned a Doberman.

While reading your article I discovered that the name "Devil Dog" came from Dobermans which I did not know. Since my partner is currently becoming a US Marine I think it would be fitting to add a Doberman to our family!

Kelly Wilson (Author)

February 2, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Thanks for stopping by to comment James! Sounds like it would be a great addition to your family!

Lynn Basa

March 21, 2021 at 12:26 am

Very informative. I adopted a Doberman Shepherd and still learning about his characteristics.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

March 22, 2021 at 5:28 pm

Glad you found the article helpful, Lynn! Thanks for stopping by to comment!


April 24, 2021 at 8:23 pm

I have 1 of each German Shepherd and Doberman. Personalities are so different.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

April 25, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Hi Jani! Yes, both breeds can be so very different! Thanks for sharing your experience with our readers!


May 21, 2021 at 7:18 pm

I worked in canine Military Police for 20years. Solely with GSD. Extremely intelligent and loyal and very protective. Obviously trained to bring out the protective nature. Presently I have 11week gsd female being potty trained and crate trained. There’s been a few potty accidents, that are gonna happen as she’s a baby.

As for commands she’ll come, sit, stay, down and fetch(bring)Wr practice commands 3times a day.I have 3 kids with a fenced-in backyard, she gets all kinds of exercise. Her father is 110lbs, mom is 80lbs, GSD is the way to go with a family and protective instincts.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

May 22, 2021 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for the comment, Jay! Appreciate you sharing your experience with the GSD!


May 26, 2021 at 9:57 pm

Unfortunately, movies have given Dobermann’s a name for being aggressive dogs. But in reality, they are extremely loving and gentle. They are great with children. But they will protect their family fiercely if the need arises. Most of the time, they are happy goofballs.

Stubborn, but incredibly quick learners. They need companionship, which means, they need to be with you. They don’t do well being left out in the yard day after day. They need to be close to you.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

May 27, 2021 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for commenting Jeremy, we agree! They are definitely misrepresented in the media!


May 30, 2021 at 10:06 am

I have a GSD and my uncle always had a Doberman. My GSD seems to be more business. He needs to know where everyone is at all times and the Doberman was always extremely playful. My GSD never gave me a moment's trouble even as a pup. The only thing he's ever chewed was my daughter's dolls (when he was loosing his puppy teeth).

I was thinking about getting a Doberman next time only because of the crazy amounts of shedding from GSDs. After reading this article, I believe I will stick with GSD.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

June 1, 2021 at 7:27 pm

Thanks for commenting, Brandon! Glad you found the article useful!