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 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 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.
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!
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