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The Rottweiler vs. The German Shepherd: Breed Comparison & Differences

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: March 23, 2020 | 8 min read

German Shepherd vs Rottweiler

Whether you’re looking for a family pet or a dog to protect your business, you may have considered adopting a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd Dog. Both of these large dogs can intimidate people and animals. But don’t be fooled by their athletic build or the myths that surround these canines.

Although they’re strong, powerful dogs, they can melt into mush when you pet them. They can be your kids’ best friends. They’ll protect your family and work hard to please you if you raise them properly. If you’re in love with the working dog breed, you might have trouble choosing between these two dogs because they have similar characteristics.  They also make a popular cross breed.

Do you want to know what it’s really like to own a Rottweiler vs. German Shepherd? Keep reading to learn more about these outstanding purebreds.   Many of  our readers have strong things to say about each breed and how their families have been impacted for the better.

They Love to Work

One of the first things that you should understand about these dogs is that they love to work. Rottweilers come from a Roman lineage. These dogs were used to maintain the herds that fed the armies as they moved around the continent.

As they bred with local dogs, farmers began using the strong canines to drive their cattle to the marketplace. Rottweilers protected the butcher’s offerings and pulled carts to deliver the meat. They are named after the town of Rottweil, where they were used extensively.

Once clients purchased the meat, it is said that they put the money in purses that they strapped to the dogs’ necks for safekeeping. For this reason, the Rottweiler has been called “the butcher dog of Rottweil.”

By the time of the industrial revolution, cars and trains moved market supplies around. The dogs were no longer needed. However, in the early 20th century, people bred canines for their looks, personalities, and attractive qualities. Even though Rottweilers continued to be used as police and service dogs, they weren’t as active in the military as some other breeds.

German shepherds, on the other hand, have had plenty of military experience even though they’re traditionally herding dogs. They were used in World Wars I and II as scouts and sentries. Shepherds and Rottweilers have also acted as service dogs over the years. Both were some of the first dogs to assist blind people.

Keeping a Working Dog Happy

Whether you have a Rottie or a shepherd, you have to know what it means to own a working dog. Both of these dogs have a lot of energy.

While exercise is important for all dogs, it’s even more crucial to the happiness of Rottweilers and German shepherds. Rotties should get at least one hour of exercise per day. They enjoy long walks if you have the time.

If you think that’s a lot, consider that the American Kennel Club recommends that German shepherds get at least two hours of exercise per day. Families that don’t have time to give that much attention to a dog might consider getting a Rottweiler instead of a shepherd.

When you’re not actively exercising with your dog, make sure that it has plenty of mental stimulation. Wild dogs spend about 80 percent of their time looking for food. You can set up the same kind of routine with your dog.

Instead of just putting the food dish down, try training your dog and offering the food as a treat. You may think that this is exhausting, but your Rottweiler or German shepherd is bound to love the regimen.

If you don’t give these dogs something to keep them busy, they’ll come up with their own entertainment. That often involves digging in the yard or tearing up your carpets.

Comparing The Breeds

These breeds have distinct differences.  Both breeds are typically not recommended for first time owners.  German Shepherds are working dogs and require a lot more exercise than other breeds.  When they aren’t exercised properly, they can become destructive.

Rottweilers on the other hand were bred as guardians and protectors.  They may not require as much exercise, but they can be dominant dogs and quite stubborn when they are being trained. Let’s look at some of the differences in a bit more detail.

Temperament Differences

As mentioned, Rottweilers and German shepherds have fairly similar temperaments. They’re self-assured dogs that will quickly designate themselves as the leader if you don’t show that you’re the alpha. You can’t let them walk all over you.

If you let them walk all over you, they will become destructive and could possibly become dangerous.  They need a confident leader that will spend time with them.  Each breed was bred over the years for different purposes, so you need to give them jobs they were bred for in order for them to maintain their true nature.

Size Differences

Rottweilers are bigger than German shepherds. The average Rottie male is between 110 and 135 pounds. Females are smaller and range from 75 to 110 pounds.

Male German shepherds are closer to 65-90 pounds. Females generally range from 50-70 pounds. Size shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. A gentle Rottweiler can seem smaller than a rambunctious German shepherd.

Personality Differences

Both types of dog can be aloof and easygoing. They can also snuggle in your lap if you let them. But for the most part, both breeds are confident and courageous. They tend to be rather fearless unless they’ve been neglected or mistreated, in which case they may become shy, anxious or snappish.

Rotties and German shepherds have territorial instincts, which can work for you if you want to protect your home and your family. Like any dog, these canines can be taught to attack. Some people worry that Rottweilers are likely to turn on their owners. If your dog is raised and treated properly, it’s not expected to do that. Dogs of various breeds have turned on their owners. It’s not a breed-specific problem.

Neither dog is particularly friendly with strangers. That’s because Rotties and German shepherds can both be territorial and protective. They have to warm up to someone new before they understand that that individual is not a threat. Socializing the dogs adequately can prevent antisocial behavior. Bringing them out around strangers frequently, especially when they’re younger, can keep them friendly.

Many Rottweilers are known for being completely goofy and lovable at home with the family. German shepherds are playful. Both dogs can be extremely good with children, and many families swear by each breed as being the best they’ve ever owned.

Training Differences

Rottweiler owners should commit to training their dogs correctly. Because these animals are so large and muscular, they can overpower you more easily than a smaller German shepherd. Still, shepherds are powerful dogs.

If you own either of these breeds, consistency is key with their training. If you become sloppy, your dog won’t know what to expect. When you give dogs structure, you help control their environment. You should learn to walk them properly. They’re both just as likely to bound after a squirrel on your afternoon stroll.

Rottweilers may be more food motivated than German shepherds. In fact, Rottweilers are considered to be greedy dogs. You can use treats to motivate your dog’s behavior while keeping its belly full.

On the other hand, German shepherds are more likely to be motivated by play. Therefore, your training sessions should probably include commands followed by a good game of fetch. Both dogs are highly trainable, which is why they’re often used in search-and-rescue missions, as therapy dogs, and in police work.

A Rottweiler is probably more likely to look for a loophole in your rules, though. Therefore, you have to be strict with your training. Never let misbehavior slide or your Rottweiler will learn how to manipulate you.

German shepherds tend to be more straightforward when it comes to following commands. Once you teach them to do something, they’ll be steadfast. Still, every animal is different. Dogs’ breeds don’t always predetermine their personalities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even though you’ve read the information above, do you still have some questions about a Rottweiler vs. German shepherd? We have the answers.

Q: Do Rottweilers Make Good Service Dogs?

A: Rottweilers often get a bad rap for being bullies. Rottweilers are intelligent and loyal and can be trained to service their owner or handler. Some of the ways that Rottweilers can work as service dogs are:

  • Aiding people with mobility issues
  • Helping people with poor balance
  • Bringing objects to their handler
  • Doing physical tasks, like turning lights on and off or opening doors

The main problem with using a Rottweiler as a service dog is that many people are afraid of them. This could become a problem if you need a service dog to assist you in public places. However, it could work for you if you don’t want people approaching and petting your service dog.

Because Rottweilers are so big, they can also be cumbersome to bring to tight spaces. If you have mobility problems, you need to arrange for the dog to get plenty of exercise somehow.

Q: Could I Be Giving My Dog Too Much Exercise?

A: Because Rottweilers and German shepherds are both herding dogs, they should be able to run for hours without a problem. However, overbreeding has created certain health problems, including hip dysplasia, in both dogs. Make sure that you take your canine in for regular exams, and ask your veterinarian about the ideal amount and type of exercise for your pet.

Q: Do Rottweilers Growl all the Time?

A: Rottweilers tend to make a low rumbling sound in their throats when they’re content. If you feed into the hype about this breed being dangerous, you might get nervous. Watch your dog’s body language. Is it’s tail wagging? Are its ears perked up? Does it sound more like talking, grumbling or groaning? Then your dog is probably just being friendly.

If your Rottie is stiff, snarling or putting his ears back, he may be growling. If your dog ever snaps or growls at you, you should talk to a licensed dog trainer or professional as soon as possible.

Q: How Do I Train my Dog Not to Be Aggressive?

A: Although Rottweilers and German shepherds can look fierce, they’re usually quite gentle. You can reduce a dog’s tendency toward aggression with training. There is no one-size-fits-all training method. But aggression is often a behavioral problem that comes from lack of exercise or boredom. You can use obedience training to help control your dog and stimulate its mind. In fact, avoiding training is not an option for these working breeds.

Take your pet for walks or runs, playing as you go. This can tire out a dog, which produces a calm state. Redirecting aggression into an appropriate form of play can also work. Pulling out a rope and playing tug of war gives your dog an outlet for releasing aggressive behavior.

Some experts say that you can use a deterrence collar or spray bottle to link negative consequences with aggressive behavior. However, if your dog develops a fear around these tools, it could lash out unpredictably. Positive reinforcement training can curb aggression without making the problem worse.

Q: What Should I Look for When Getting a Rottweiler or German Shepherd?

A: Whether you’re buying a dog from a breeder or adopting it from a rescue or shelter, you should look for signs that the dog has not been raised in an aggressive manner. Make sure that the kennel and surroundings provide everything that the dogs need and that there are no signs of neglect. Check that the dog that you take home as well as the others in the facility are clean and don’t have signs of disease.

Ideally, you would want a dog that’s not skittish or anxious. A scared dog can be aggressive. If all of the dogs in a facility are frightened, there could be something wrong with the way that they’re being treated.

Spend some time with the dog before bringing it home. If you have children at home, consider bringing them to meet the dog and seeing how the animal responds to them. Talk to the breeder or facility managers about the dog’s temperament to get an idea of how calm and happy it is.

Final Thoughts

If you want a big family pet that will be loyal to the end, a Rottweiler or German shepherd would be perfect. These dogs aren’t ideal for a small home or an area without a large yard unless you’re planning to take it for several long walks a day. But if you have space, you may find a fulfilling relationship between you and your intelligent, fearless pooch.

Your dog will naturally protect its territory, making it an excellent guard dog. But these breeds are gentle enough that they’ll usually cuddle with you when they’re not on alert. As long as you give your pet what it needs—lots of exercise, training, chances to play and mental stimulation—it should reward you with loving companionship.

Leave a Comment


Cindy Davies

August 9, 2019 at 8:59 pm

I fell in love with the Rottweiler breed after studying up on them and I currently own two Rottweilers I absolutely love and understand the Rottweiler reading your article about German Shepherds having similar traits as Rottweilers I have learned to love the German Shepherd too.

M Quiros

August 20, 2019 at 11:32 am

We got our first ever Rottweiler about a year ago. “Harry” has then been an indispensable member of our family. He is not the aggressive uncontrollable monster that’s usually portrayed on TV. In fact he is an adorable, sweet, well behaved clown. However, he has also shown no hesitation and no fear when it comes time for protection if he perceives a threat. Super smart, easily trained and consistent. You can 100% anticipate what he’s going to do.

He has bonded beyond believe with my wife to the point that I can’t even play with her a little bit without him letting out a bark or two. After having experience with many other breeds including GS, labs, heelers and shepherds at this point in time, best dog I’ve ever owned.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

August 20, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Thanks for commenting and sharing your story! We love Rotties too! Our Mastiffs are the same way, big goofy clowns.

Iyke, C. O.

September 4, 2019 at 7:13 pm

That's very good piece, explaining the root comparisons and advantages. I had GS that suddenly died, yesterday night. He was 3 years. Very caring and protective. He was bleeding through the nose while we were out. My little son called and inform us his sudden health condition of bleeding. We told him to give him Vitamin K and apply ice on the head and lie him on his bed. Which he did. But later the dog gave up and left the family crying and mourning him. When we came back in the evening, he was weak.

A nurse fixed drip on him but no result. He died. May his gentle Soul rest in perfect peace and blossom of God Almighty. Till we meet again. Please is it better to pick Rottie as a puppy or adult. Somebody want me to pick his 10 months old Rottie. Pls I need your help. I want a dog urgently. Thank you!

Kelly Wilson (Author)

September 5, 2019 at 2:00 am

Hi Iyke - Very sorry to hear that your pup crossed the Rainbow Bridge. That's a difficult time for everyone and our prayers are with you.

As far as getting a Rottie as a puppy or adult, each has advantages. We adopted one of our dogs as a puppy, but two others were rescues, and both were about 10 months old. The rescues are amazing dogs and we got so skip the puppy biting periods, which was great! With that being said, you'll also inherit some bad habits like we did, that we had to correct like jumping up on people and begging for food. We always encourage you to adopt and not shop! Hope this helps!


October 7, 2019 at 5:01 am

We recently found a beautiful rottie walking about in the street and got her... We reported to the police for anyone looking for her but no one came and we decided to look after her... We are in love with her just as we love our jack russell. The rottie is still a puppy and in very good health. Thanks for the information as we were scared keeping a monster.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

October 7, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Sounds like you got a great dog Edward - Rotties can be incredibly loyal and friendly dogs!

Kimberly Gomez

April 8, 2020 at 2:05 am

I have had both and they were and are the best. Only problem is my German Shepherd is getting older and we have decided to get him a baby sister. What to get a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd? Thank you for all the information You hit the nail on the head about my German Shepherd!

Kelly Wilson (Author)

April 8, 2020 at 3:44 pm

Hi Kimberly! I think either breed is fine. The only question will be matching energy levels. When we adopted our Mastiff puppy (female) and had our older lab (also female) they didn't get a long right away. Partially because the energy level of our Lab was low, and the energy level of our Lab was high. It took us adopting an Alpha male dog to bring balance to the pack and keep the younger puppy entertained away from the older Lab.

The older lab still maintained pack leader status in most situations, which made it balance out nicely. If your older GSD is submissive, you may be just fine bringing in a new puppy, no matter the breed. Good Luck!


August 21, 2020 at 2:40 am

I have owned GSD'S for many years and always found them to be an honest dog as I am sure Rottweilers are if trained properly, however Rotties tend to attract a certain type of owner that being in some cases is a problem because the temperament of the owner is either two weak or too aggressive, similarly owners of GSD'S can also be a problem as they can be smart and arrogant, (not smart in an intelligent way) also because a well trained GSD is a real joy to own some owners under estimate just how much training is required to create that joy. Weak minded people will purchase a smart dog thinking that makes them also knowledgeable and smart quite often the opposite is true.

Both these dogs in the right hands are fantastic dogs in the wrong hands they can be a disaster for the dog and owner. In the hands of an owner who thinks his/her dog is exactly the same as their child will destroy every effort put in by a good breeder to ensure good temperament in the breed. People need to understand themselves and decide if they have the discipline to own a dog like these, as the owners temperament, to be honest is more important than that of the dogs as the dog is and should simply be an extension of the owner. Good owner good dog.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

August 21, 2020 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for the comment, Michael! Very insightful and we agree!

Bill Evans

March 28, 2021 at 11:28 pm

I have had German shepherds over the years even competed in the sport of shutzand with them. After losing our last German Shepherd to cancer we went about 8 or 10 years without having a dog in the house. When we decided to bring a dog into our home we decided that we would do a rescue looked around and came upon a Rottweiler shelter and took a liking to the breed.

Got a female who was one month shy of 4 years old brought her home and it was tough at first. We had to have a leash on her to go outside, otherwise, she was gone. We had to be really careful with any treats or toys with her she was ready to snap at you to take them away from you or not let you get them.

Thought that she had something that was worth the effort though. It took about 2 years before she trusted and adopted us we have had her for about three and a half years I can take a raw bone away from her, look at it, and give it back to her. I can take her outside off-leash no matter where I go I turn around and she is there.

She has turned out to be the sweetest nicest dog that we have ever had in our home. Now, if anyone comes near the house even an animal outside in the yard a deer or whatever we definitely know it's there. She is very very alert and appears to be very protective.

Kelly Wilson (Author)

March 30, 2021 at 4:38 pm

Thanks for stopping by to comment, Bill! Sounds like an amazing dog you have, and glad to hear from someone else that's owned both breeds!