German Shepherd vs Labrador

german shepherd vs labrador

Stacking up the German Shepherd vs the Labrador as a potential pet is a challenge. The Labrador and German Shepherd are large dogs with thick double coats and a strong sense of loyalty. They are intelligent breeds that are relatively easy to train, and very active. However, they have plenty of differences too and not just in terms of ear position and coat colors. One is much more outgoing and excitable, the other more protective and calm.


German Shepherds are working dogs that do not take loyalty lightly. They require more training and socialization, and you will need to pick the parents carefully in terms of temperament as well as health. Some GSDs may not be suitable for households with children or other pets, but that is certainly not the rule.

Labradors also have excellent hunting and working behaviors, but may be a little more distracted by scents that they’d like to pursue or people that they’d like to meet.

Both breeds have dense double coats that require weekly grooming. German Shepherds, with their longer coat, need a lot more grooming that than during shedding season. Especially the longer haired varieties. There are some health problems with each breed, and regardless of which you choose you will have to find a breeder who health tests.

Finally, as both Labs and Shepherds are active breeds, both will need space for play and self-exercise. Providing open space can help to keep them occupied when you’re away, and when you’re home, you can enjoy playing and interacting with them.

Labrador Retriever vs German Shepherd friendliness

When it comes to getting a dog, it’s best that you do not select one simply because you like the looks of it or because it’s a member of a popular breed. Dogs are individuals with their own unique characteristics and personalities.

German Shepherds were bred to be the ultimate working dog. Their oldest ancestors were used as sheep herders and guard dogs. They were tough enough to withstand all kinds of elements, and to loyally protect both the herd and the property from harm.

The fiercely loyal personality has been retained in today’s German Shepherds, but instead of being used for protecting livestock, it has been put to use in police work and guarding important buildings and/or people. Unfortunately, its common line of work has given the German Shepherd somewhat of a bad reputation when it comes to being an aggressive or easily roused breed.

Since they have an ingrained need to protect their family, a GSD may attack what it perceives to be an “intruder,” be it human or animal, if they feel that their home or owner is in danger. This type of behavior is what makes the GSD better in some situations than others.

German Shepherd guarding tendencies

Due to their tendency to guard, a GSD may not be suitable in homes that have small or rambunctious children, or that have many visitors from friends or acquaintances. It’s thought that around 50% of dog bites are in children under 12 years old, and one of the most likely canine culprits is the German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd breed has been shown to be second after Pitbulls when you look at bite fatalities. You may not be able to keep one in the same house as other dogs or cats, either. Let’s stress, this doesn’t mean GSDs are inherently dangerous. This doesn’t rule out German Shepherds for families. But there is an increased importance when it comes to reducing the risk of guarding and picking the right puppy.

Meeting both the parents and making sure they are friendly is vital. Thorough socialization from the time they arrive home will also make a big difference. Labs on the other hand are very social creatures. Although you will occasionally get a Lab that guards or is aggressive, this is rare. Socialization is still recommended, but there is less pressure and you can have more confidence that your pup will still grow into a social adult dog.

german shepherd vs labrador

German Shepherd vs Labrador temperament

Both German Shepherds and Labradors can be destructive when left alone for long periods of time. They are not suited to homes where the family works full time, as they crave companionship.

Remember that they are both intelligent dogs that thrive on exercise and having a job to excel in. When comparing the German Shepherd vs Labrador this is where we need to separate the Labs into two categories.

Although there is only one breed of Labrador Retriever, there are two informal Lab types. The American Labrador and the English Labrador. While it sounds like the American and English Labradors are differentiated by their location, they are actually distinguishable by their build and temperament only.

The American Lab is what’s referred to as the “working” strain. They will have a greater need to carry out jobs and work co-operatively with their handler. The English or show variety will be in general more chilled out when it comes to activities, but may also exhibit a level of ‘silliness’ you might not find in a working Lab or GSD.

Lab vs German Shepherd size

Both Labradors and German Shepherds are large breeds. German Shepherds can be anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds, depending on their sex (as a rule, females tend to be smaller), and reach anywhere from 22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder.

Labrador Retrievers may mature to anywhere from 55 to 80 pounds (same rule about females being smaller), and may reach 21.5 to 24.5 inches tall at the shoulder. As we mentioned in the previous section, English Labradors are heavier and often shorter dogs than American Labradors.

german shepherd vs labrador

German Shepherd vs Lab coat

Both Labradors and GSDs have double coats – a soft undercoat that is beneath a rougher top coat. But when it comes to German Shepherd vs Labrador coat colors, there is a big difference.

Labs come in three colors, brown (chocolate), black or yellow. Although these are seen in many shades, they are all solid. German Shepherds have patterned coats as well as plain coats, and these come in varying length.

All Labradors have a short and thick coat, while German Shepherds have a short or long coat. If you are looking for dramatic fur, then a longhaired German Shepherd is probably going to be more up your alley. But he will also need a lot more grooming.

Grooming and shedding

The Lab’s and GSD’s double coat requires a weekly brushing at minimum. During shedding season, Labradors might need a biweekly brushing. Or even more. But the German Shepherd’s longer and shaggier coat will require grooming several times each week during peak shedding times.

Long haired GSDs will require even more work, and maintenance. Neither dog is great for homes that object to fur flying around sometimes!

German Shepherd vs Labrador health problems

As purebred dogs, both Labrador Retreivers and German Shepherds may be at an enhanced risk of developing common canine ailments. These include hip dysplasia, eye diseases, allergies, and skin irritations, to name a few.

Unfortunately, both German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Another major issue with GSDs related to their spinal and pelvic structure is degenerative myelopathy, or paralysis of the hind legs. Shepherds with a “banana back” (a sloping top line structure that forces them to stand with their hind legs overly crouched) are want to develop this condition.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

In addition to hip dysplasia, Labradors are also prone to obesity, which tends to aggravate, if not speed up, the onset of hip and/or elbow dysplasia. They may also develop progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), otherwise known as gradual vision loss. Whichever dog you choose, you will need to find a breeder that health tests their stock.

Black lab vs German Shepherd intelligence

Both German Shepherds and Labradors are highly intelligent and easily trainable dogs. Either dog will make a wonderful partner in the show ring or the workforce. Labs of the working strain may be even easier to train (especially if you want to make use of their retrieving instincts), thanks to their hunting breeding and willingness to please their master. This eagerness (and their keen nose) makes them excellent service dogs, especially.

Due to the German Shepherd’s history, his instincts and innate trainability make him a willing and capable partner for someone who is looking for a show or working dog. As we mentioned earlier in this article, their devotion to their master is legendary – they will work tirelessly to please and protect their master. In short, you can’t really go wrong with a Labrador or German Shepherd as far as intelligence and trainability are concerned!

German Shepherd vs Labrador, which is better? - Dog breed review.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. I have a German Shepherd and a yellow Lab and they are both amazing dogs. We’ve had them since they were puppies and the shepherds now 12 and the Lab is 10. They are both 90 lbs. Both are wonderful with people and kids but the Lab can’t get enough of the grandkids. He follows them everywhere and sleeps in their room when they are visiting. The shepherd will always check in on the kids and then goes about his business. We would not trade either of them for anything else. Neither of our boys have showed any aggression towards anyone. We Love ❤️ Our boys!

  2. I have had GSD, a golden retriever, and a lab. I had to be careful when my kids’ friends came over with the GSD. He was too protective of them. He was beautiful but looked menacing and scared the neighbors. My golden retriever and lab were good for a bark and a sniff at strangers and adored kids. They were more affectionate and loving, and hated being left alone. My lab’s emotions are easiest to read of the three but he obsesses over food. I prefer retrievers over GSD.

  3. I just recently got my German Shepherd puppy( only 2 months) and hes learnt alot of the commands: sit, stay, come etc. Very smart breed that hogs attention lol. everytime i leave the room the guy starts whining and later follows me. EXCELLENT BREED. labs are great too

  4. Why pick when you can have both! 😜
    After having German shepherds all my life and being a huge fan of the breed, We have now added a working line male yellow lab puppy to our household. (best decision ever!)
    Our current gsd is an 11yrs old female, and they have become the best of friends 😍

  5. I have a 10 year old black lab and a 3 year old gsd (both female) and they are both great and get along really well. I also have 2 cats who often curl up with my dogs. I was bought up with both breeds and absolutely love a gsd’s loyalty towards their owners, although I would say that they are a bit more needy and get stressed out more easily (but who doesn’t love a gsd sitting on their laps in the vet waiting room!!) We live a hectic life and have many visitors and other dogs come to stay plus young children. I have never encountered any problems apart from the odd scuffle over a toy or if one sticks their snout in the other’s food bowl. They both love exercise, ponds, rivers and the sea. In fact, I don’t think it needs to be one versus the other as they complement each other perfectly!!

  6. Getting gsd but all here negative we are desperate need of therapy service dog for my 17 year old daughter we have 3 cats so are doing right or wrong we getting her the 4 th September I wanted a l.j ab but she wants a gsd so confused

  7. We couldn’t choose so we went with shepador we have the best of both worlds. Her temperament is excellent. She is both friendly and a great guard dog.

  8. I know this is a Labrador site so it’s is going to be slightly biased, but come on. That was far too one sided. I’ve owned both breeds for over 30 years. The only main difference is German shepherds like a job/responsibility. Dog fur is irrelevant, if you are that bothered by it, you wouldn’t even be getting a dog. Aggression? It isn’t in their genes. They are not bred to be aggressive aggressive either. They are herders hence the working lines.
    You mentioned the different ‘types’ of Labrador which I can say I’ve only ever been aware of two so I have learnt of something today! Gsds also have multiple different types wether it be czechslovakian, West German, American, working lines, show lines, straight backed, slopped back, long hair, short hair etc etc

    The ‘type’ of gsd greatly determines its attitude and personality, the same with Labrador. So comparing all GSDs to fatality bite cases in the US is ridiculous.

    If you would like a family pet that utterly relies on human interaction and lazes about in your sofa, choose a Labrador. If you would like a dog that enjoys its food far too much and doesn’t k ow when to stop eating, choose a Labrador. If you also want a dog to be great with kids, choose a Labrador.

    If you would like a dog that can benefit the family in other ways such as fetching the post in the morning and brining it to your lap, choose a gsd. They LOVE jobs when you train them correctly.


    PS MY 2 year old is also present with both a gsd and lab in same room

    Thank you for reading and allowing this post ! Great website

    • Your post made me feel sooo much better!!..we just got a German shepherd 2 months ago he was 3 months old. I met the parents they were not overly friendly but walked up to me calmly smelled, let me pet them a bit then left. I have a 5 year old son who is a typical boy..hyper and random full of life..and reading this site it made me fearful that my gsp would not be a good choice for him.

      I chose this dog knowing it’s protective nature..I want him to be protective of my son..but not harm him. The dog I’ve had recently is a pug-chi mix, and she is the meanest little thing everrr! I always grew up with big dogs so that through me off.

      I Had a pit bull boxer mix as a kid.
      He was a great dog!..but very protective..didn’t like strangers but had a soft spot for a stray kitten we brought home. So I’ve never been fearful of big dogs..but having a son it all makes me nervous. But I’m glad to know that like everything it’s how they are brought up.

      What do you recommend as far as keeping him kid friendly and social?

      • I grew up with German Shepherds and I am sure that you have found that they are great with kids. I feel like as a little guy my Shepherds almost treated me like they were a parent. Great dogs. I love labs too, my wife had one when we met, but my personality is more GSD as I am rather hyperactive. Currently I have a GSD and a Lab mix and they love to play a game that I call “Oh Shit”. Essentially, I take them to the basement, yell out the name of the game, and we run around and growl and roughhouse.

  9. I have a 2 1/2 yr old blonde lab I cannot say enough aBout her. She is gently sweet trained easy, Friendly. I have never had a problem with her getting along with anyone or any other dog.
    When she was a puppy she did like to eat gold toe socks. And steal dinner from on top of the stove. But to be perfectly honest.
    Perfect partner

  10. I want to take a puppy …..i’m also confused among them the lab & GSD….i fall in love with GSD…labs are also very good .can anyone suggest me what should i go for???

  11. German Shepherds are great, but Labs are just perfect – and they have a sense of humor, too, on top of being gentle, kind and intelligent. Mine has different jokes with different people, and he keeps them straight! I love to see his laughing face, and when he grins, it just melts my heart. (Especially since he has a slightly worried expression in repose – well, maybe “soulful” is a better word.) I couldn’t have found a more compatible friend anywhere, and it was love at first sight for the entire family. I never have to worry that he’ll get into a fight with another dog, or knock a small child over in his exuberance – he’s cheerful, good-natured, sweet-tempered and patient – I wish everyone were like him!

  12. My labs are socialized with my neighbors had. Great fun goes on. My neighbor has had gsds in the full spectrum from sweet to almost fierce.
    My labs have been American (edgier) and English style. All good retrievers though by current American is a spectacular retriever. Either breed is good but one must manage both.

  13. I actually have both a female 6mth old lab and a 5yr old female German shepherd, both girls get on really well. Love them both

    • Brilliant! I have a 7 year old German Shepherd which is trained for my PTSD I have been advised its time to get another dog for her to train and assist with the process. I have been looking at getting a lab and this has encouraged me to do so. I live on a farm so plenty of exercise and we swim twice per week.. so time for me to jump in. 🙂

  14. German Shepard,, best dog I’ve ever had,, he’s so smart and silly,, he loves everyone, he’s an attention hog…. he’s amazing with my grandkids and the 5 pound dog i already had. He was over a year old when i got him,, he was kept in a much to small crate most of his life before i got him.. i have never crated him since.. i love this dog so much, he’s perfect in the house,
    In the car,, I’ve taught him hand signals to sit, come, down, stay, drop, shake, and search, i take him everywhere i can with me,, he’s not mean or aggressive,, but his look and size is intimidating, which i like because i live alone, alsothe job i do, i sometimes have to go into buildings at night to clean, i wouldn’t be able to do these jobs without him,, perfect all around dog.. couldn’t live without a GSD now . absolutely amazing breed.

    • Thanks. I am very close to adopting a 3-5 year old GSD. I am an older bachelor who lives alone with no other pets.

  15. My family ended up with a pup whose dam is a black American Lab (from field trial stock) and sire is a GSD (police dog). The litter wasn’t planned, but both patents had excellent health backgrounds. Our 3 1/2 year old is very sweet-natured and affectionate with cats, small children, and anyone else. He is extremely energetic and loves learning new skills. One aspect of his personality that I particularly appreciate is that he doesn’t show any interest in stealing food – never any “counter surfing” or trying to help himself to snacks on the coffee table. He is an amazing swimmer, with a narrow rib cage, so his stamina and bursts of speed in the water are spectacular. I think we got the best of both worlds.

  16. Lab for me red fox colour. 20 months old lovely dog approx 60lbs was destructive … toys and bedding mainly …. when tiny but much better now. Lovely temperament and VERY inquisitive ????????