The choice between a Golden retriever vs German shepherd dog is sure not an easy one.
Both of these dog breeds have a long and noble lineage of living and working side by side with “their” people, which means that whichever dog you choose, you will be welcoming a wonderful new canine companion into your family.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd: Which Pet Should You Choose?
Because the choice is so challenging, it can be helpful to compare the Golden retriever vs German shepherd on a point-to-point basis, which is exactly what we have done in this article.
What Is the Difference Between Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Dogs?
In this article, we are going to take a look at some wonderful similarities as well as some key differences between Golden retriever vs German shepherd dogs.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Size
The Golden retriever stands 21.5 to 24 inches (paw to shoulder) in adulthood. This dog can weigh anywhere from 55 to 75 pounds.
The German shepherd stands 22 to 26 inches (paw to shoulder) at maturity. This dog can weigh anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Shedding and Grooming
Many prospective dog owners today are quite concerned about managing dog shedding to control pet-related allergies. You will find that the Golden retriever and German shepherd dogs are quite similar when it comes to coat shedding.
Golden Retriever Shedding and Grooming
Golden retrievers have thick, wavy, double layer, water repellent coats of a lovely golden wheat color. These dogs hail from a long line of water-loving retriever dogs (hence their name). The top layer of their coat is the water repellant layer, and the undercoat is the insulating layer.
Both coat layers need to shed out on an ongoing basis to ensure each layer of the coat can fulfill its job responsibilities. As well, Goldens will “blow coat” (shed out profusely) at least twice annually when the seasons change.
These dogs will need a brushing once or twice per week to keep their shedding under control.
German Shepherd Shedding and Grooming
German shepherds also have a double layer, water repellent coat, although theirs is shorter and straight. Here again, the top coat layer is the water resistant layer and the undercoat is softer and designed to keep the dog insulated against the elements.
Like Goldens, GSDs will “blow coat” at least twice annually with the changing of the seasons. They, too, will need a brushing once or twice per week to help control shedding.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Temperament
According to the American Kennel Club, the Golden retriever is currently the third most popular (out of 194) pet dogs in the nation. The German shepherd currently occupies the number two spot on that same list.
Clearly, you couldn’t go wrong with either of these wonderful, popular and beloved dogs.
But let’s take a closer look at each dog’s general temperament so you can pinpoint which breed might be the best choice for your family.
Golden Retriever Temperament
The Golden retriever is a top pick for service dog and therapy dog work. These dogs have never met a stranger. They are unphased by the appearance of newcomers and are always eager to make new friends.
Outgoing, trustworthy, faithful, friendly, merry, eager-to-please and playful are just a few of the many positive adjectives used to describe the Golden retriever.
It is worth mentioning that the Golden retriever is an active, energetic dog, especially during the puppy years and early into adulthood. These dogs live to romp, run, play, fetch, swim and just live life to the fullest.
German Shepherd Temperament
The German shepherd is a top pick for military and police work. These dogs have proven again and again that they will lay down their life for their comrades, human or canine. As befitting such noble and self-sacrificing work, the GSD can be somewhat aloof with strangers. They pick their friends with care.
Noble, courageous, loyal, confident, steadfast and steady are just a few of the many positive adjectives used to describe the German shepherd.
Like the Golden retriever, the German shepherd is an active working dog breed that craves and thrives on lots of activity and exercise. If you’ve ever wanted to participate in agility training or tracking training, your GSD will be an eager participant in these types of sports with you.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Eating
Golden retrievers can be eating machines. Like with new friends, a Golden rarely meets a food he doesn’t like. So you may need to monitor portion sizes, treats and feeding frequency. Balance it all out with sufficient exercise and activity to avoid having an overweight pup on your hands. Your vet will be a great resource here.
German shepherds rarely struggle with issues of being overweight, mostly because these disciplined and driven dogs are highly self-regulating. However, take care to ensure your GSD is taking in sufficient calories in the right nutritional proportions for healthy bone, joint, organ and brain development. Your vet can help with this.
German Shepherd or Golden Retriever Guarding Tendencies
Because so many people and families today are interested in choosing a family guard dog, it is worth it to take a moment to look at Golden retriever vs German shepherd fight instincts and guarding tendencies.
Golden Retriever Guarding Tendencies
It makes no sense to beat around the bush here. The Golden retriever does not make a very good guard dog. This is on account of how friendly this dog breed is.
Golden retrievers would be just as likely to wag and lick a thief as they would a family member, so if you’re looking for a dog with strong guarding tendencies, this is not your breed.
German Shepherd Guarding Tendencies
The German shepherd dog, on the other hand, is one of the finest guard dogs you could ever choose.
The challenge with a GSD puppy is to ensure your dog is sufficiently well socialized so that she can tolerate newcomers and detect the difference between a friend and a potential foe.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Training
On account of how different these two dog breeds’ temperaments can be, each will need consistent, ongoing training, but in different areas.
Golden Retriever Training
The Golden retriever is very intelligent and has a high drive to please people. However, Goldens can also be easily distracted, especially when they are younger, which can require patience during ongoing training sessions.
The main focus of your training with a Golden retriever puppy will be to teach appropriate socialization skills–as in, inexplicable as this may be, not every new person will delight in being bowled over and licked to death as a greeting.
German Shepherd Training
You won’t have to worry about your GSD puppy trying to lick anyone to death. In fact, you are likely to have the opposite issue in trying to teach this more naturally reserved dog breed that it is okay to just hang out and be part of the family instead of guarding everything in sight.
The main focus of your training with a German shepherd puppy will be to help her know when to switch the guarding tendencies on and off. The same holds true if your GSD pup is destined to be a true working dog.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd Family Dog
While it may sound like the Golden retriever is more well suited for life as a family dog, the German shepherd is actually equally well suited for this role, especially if you are looking for a dog with strong guarding tendencies to watch over your family and home.
So here, it really will boil down to a matter of personal preference in terms of which dog breed you select.
Health Problems: Golden Retriever Compared to German Shepherd
As with so many purebred dog breeds today, both the Golden retriever and the German shepherd dog breeds have some known heritable breed-specific health issues.
You can research the latest test recommendations for each breed at the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC):
Golden Retriever Health Problems
The Golden retriever can live 10 to 12 years. The major heritable health issues that can impact the Golden include hip and elbow dysplasia, and heart and eye issues.
Other health concerns to watch out for include eye issues, allergies, skin problems, cancer and thyroid dysfunction.
German Shepherd Health Problems
The German shepherd can live seven to 10 years. The major heritable health issues that can impact the GSD include hip and elbow dysplasia.
Other known health issues to watch carefully for include epilepsy, back issues, digestive disorders, blood disorders and allergies.
Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd: Which Pet Is Right for Me?
With information on guarding tendencies, health, temperament and familial habits, we hope you have found the information you need to choose between the Golden retriever and the German shepherd.
References and Further Reading:
“About the German Shepherd,” K9 Services German Shepherd Rescue
Chase, J.C., 2015, “Health Statement,” The Golden Retriever Club of America
“Health Issues in the German Shepherds Dog,” Les Anges Gardiens Kennel
Schultz, J., “Health Statement,” The German Shepherd Dog Club of America
“Should You Own a Golden?” Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida