The German Shepherd Dog and the Golden Retriever two dogs that are not easy to confuse with one another, They are very distinct and well-known dog breeds. But, which would make the better pet? Let’s jump in. This choice is not going to be easy?
I won’t spend a lot of time on the histories, because, well, they are completely unrelated and I’ve done complete videos on both dogs. I’ll link to those videos in the description.
But, their histories are not unrelated to how these dogs perform as family pets, so I’ll share a brief history of each breed. Let’s start with the Golden Retriever.
The Golden Retriever was originally bred in Scotland in the mid-19th century. Wildfowl hunting was a popular sport for the wealthy Scottish elite, but the existing retriever breeds were inadequate for retrieving downed game from both water and land.
Retrieving from both land and water was necessary because the hunting grounds of the time were pocketed with marshy ponds and rivers. Consequently, the best water spaniels were crossed with existing retrievers, resulting in the establishment of the breed today known as the Golden Retriever.
In the 1800s northwest Europe (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands) the most common dog used to herd sheep and protect the homes was the so-called “continental shepherd dog”. These dogs all looked very similar at that time, and it was around 1890 that the three breeds (Belgian Shepherd, German Shepherd and Dutch Shepherd) went their separate ways.
During the 1850s, attempts were being made to standardize dog breeds. Dogs were being bred to preserve traits that assisted in their job of herding sheep and protecting their flocks from predators.
In Germany this was practiced within local communities, where shepherds selected and bred dogs. It was recognized that the breed had the necessary skills for herding sheep, such as intelligence, speed, strength and keen senses of smell. The results were dogs that were able to do such things, but that differed significantly, both in appearance and ability, from one locality to another.
The modern German Shepherd Dog descends from the work of ex-cavalryman and former veterinary student, Max von Stephanitz, who believed that dogs in the more industrialized Germany should be bred as working dogs. He recognized the attributes of Germany’s herding dogs, but was unable to find a breed that checked all the boxes for a working dog. With a dog he found at a dog show, he created the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde or Society for the German Shepherd Dog.
As we can see, both breeds were bred to work closely with human companions, but to perform different tasks. But, both breeds have found roles in the more modernized world, the Golden Retriever as a service dog, helping the blind and others with disabilities and the German Shepherd Dog taking up a role in police and military work, after mostly being replaced in Service Dog work by Golden and Labrador Retrievers.
Appearance and Size
There is little chance you will ever confuse these dogs with one another. Their both very distinctly different dogs.
The Golden Retriever, as its name implies is Golden in Color from light gold to dark gold.
A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, and displaying a kindly expression.
The Golden Retriever has a dense coat that is water repellent with a thick undercoat and sheds all year round. It’s fur is long and either straight or wavy.
There should be moderate feathering on the forelegs and underbody on the front of the neck, back of the thighs and on the underside of the tail. These adorable pups have dark, inquisitive eyes and alert ears that hang down to about the outer edge of the eye.
The Golden Retriever stands at 20-24 inches at the shoulder and weighs 55-75 pounds.
The German Shepherd is a more wolf-appearing dog than the fluffy Golden Retriever. Like the Golden, it also has a double coat, which is comprised of a thick undercoat and a dense, slightly wavy or straight outer coat. Its hair, usually tan and black, or red and black in color, is medium in length and is shed all year round. Other rarer color variations include all-Black, all-White, liver and blue.
The German Shepherd’s body is long — generally between 22 and 26 inches — in proportion to its height. This gives the dog strength, agility, elasticity and long, elegant strides.
The German Shepherd weighs between 49-88 pounds.
Who’s got the better personality? That depends on what you are looking for in a dog companion.
Both are intelligent dogs who’ve used their cunning to get to the top of the working dog world. However, they use their intelligence in different ways.
The German Shepherd is very protective and devoted to its family and home, maintaining a suspicious and aloof demeanor around strangers. It can be dominating and assertive towards dogs, though it is normally friendly with other pets in the home. The German Shepherd is an immensely versatile dog, displaying a keen intelligence while dutifully performing its tasks. However, the German Shepherd Intelligence comes with no small amount of stubborness as we’ll find out later when we discuss trainability.
They are quick to bark and are top of the class guard dogs. They also are a bit of a velcro dog. You’re not going to have much alone time with a German Shepherd in your home.
The Golden Retriever is even-tempered, intelligent and affectionate. Golden retrievers are playful, yet gentle with children, and they tend to get along well with other pets and even strangers. Which may give the Golden a bit of an advantage if you are a social person.
These dogs are eager to please, which explains why they respond so well to obedience training and are such popular service dogs. They also like to work, whether it involves hunting birds or fetching slippers..
Golden retrievers are not often barkers, and they lack guard instincts, so do not count on them to make good watchdogs. However, some golden retrievers will let you know when strangers are approaching.
Both dogs are very intelligent and highly trainable, but once again, they are completely different dogs.
As I mentioned earlier, the Golden Retriever is eager to please. Golden Retriever dogs are very fast learners. Even an inexperienced owner is capable of training this breed. Just remember to reward them with lots of praise, treats and kisses when they learn a new command. Unlike many dogs the Golden is forgiving of mistakes in your training style and more lax rules.
The Golden excels at obedience, tracking, guide and assistance, and search and rescue.
The German Shepherd is considered more intelligent than the Golden, at least according to Dr. Stanley Coren in his book “The Intelligence of Dogs.” But, despite being able to learn a myriad of complex commands is not as “user-friendly” as the Golden when it comes to training.
Proper and effective training for a German Shepherd includes firmness, fairness and respect, with consistency and adequate rewards. The German Shepherd can be stubborn and also will find loopholes in any lax rules.
You may also find that toys tend to be a better reward for the German than treats.
Overall both breeds excel at any task they are given, although the Golden is a bit easier for the novice dog trainer.
Energy and Exercise
Both breeds likes to be active. Afterall, neither was bred to be a couch potato.
Golden retrievers are hunting dogs at heart, so they love a good game of fetch or a swim. If exercise is provided daily, golden retrievers can adapt to any type of home, even if it is a city apartment. Overall, their exercise needs are pretty moderate.
When it comes to energy and intensity, the German Shepherd cranks everything to 10. A German Shepherd who’s under-exercised and ignored by their family is likely to express pent-up energy in ways you’re not going to like.
Its energy, intensity, eagerness to play and somewhat strong prey drive make the German Shepherd less adaptable to city living than the Golden. The German needs exercise and lots of it daily.
Health and Lifespan
Over the years, indiscriminate breeding practices of German Shepherds have lead to hereditary diseases such as hip and elbow dysplasia, blood disorders, digestive problems, epilepsy, chronic eczema, keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), and flea allergies. Prudent breeders have started working through these genetic disorders, but they should be noted.
The German Shepherd is also prone to bloat. Bloat is a condition where a dog’s stomach produces excessive gas and enlarges severely enough to cause death without immediate treatment.
Some of the Golden Retriever’s health problems include hypothyroidism, subaortic stenosis, eye disorders, elbow dysplasia, mast cell tumors, and seizures. Osteosarcoma is also occasionally seen in Golden Retrievers. Other major health concerns for the breed include lymphoma, hip dysplasia, hemangiosarcoma, and skin problems. To identify these conditions early, a veterinarian may recommend heart, hip, thyroid, eye, or elbow tests during routine checkups.
Both breeds live about 9-13 years, about average for larger dog breeds.
So, which of these amazing breeds best suits your lifestyle? Do you prefer one or the other? Let us know in the comments.