Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd

Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds represent two of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Because they are both such beloved dogs, how is it possible to choose one to adopt?

Before you decide, on looks alone, you need to compare their temperament, training, nutritional needs, and health. Having a balanced picture of each breed and comparing them will help you choose the right dog for your family.

Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd

Understanding the History of These Two Popular Dog Breeds

By learning about the history of these two dogs, you can discover more about them and what makes them behave in particular ways. Now, let’s examine these two breeds in detail to learn more about their personalities.

German Shepherds

As their name suggests, German Shepherds were bred in Germany. These dogs are meant to be sheepherders. Many people mistakenly think German Shepherds were bred to work with the police.

In the late 1800s, a breeder by the name of Max von Stephanitz purchased a German Shepherd at a competition. He instantly began breeding to maintain the discriminating features and high level of intelligence of German Shepherds. With his work, we have the German Shepherds we know and love today.

Later, people began realizing how very intelligent and loyal these dogs are, so they became respected members of police forces and the military. German Shepherds became increasingly popular after the hit movie K-9.

pair of german shepherds

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers were first discovered in Scotland and England. Gamekeepers developed this breed in the 19th century because they wanted a dog for hunting waterfowl.

These breeders worked to develop a dog that was highly intelligent, yet gentle enough to collect a waterfowl without causing any bodily damage.

The early 20th century is when Golden Retrievers first began arriving in the United States. In the 1970s, then-President Gerald Ford had a beloved Golden Retriever named Liberty. Immediately, people began seeking out this breed.

golden retriever

Distinguishing Attributes of Both Breeds

Before you choose a breed, you need to learn about the attributes that distinguish German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. Consider the following.

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Each breed is undoubtedly different in appearance. German Shepherds have pointy ears, a long muzzle, and medium-sized eyes.

These medium to large breed dogs have long, bushy tails and a medium-length coat to keep them warm during the winter. During the warmer months, German Shepherds shed their undercoats to better handle the heat.

Male German Shepherds typically weigh between 66 to 88 pounds. The height of their withers is around 24 to 26 inches.

german shepherd laying on pavement

Golden Retrievers are also medium to large dogs. The average weight of a male Golden Retriever is between 65 to 75 pounds. These dogs have an average wither height of 21.5 to 24 inches.

Golden Retrievers have a wavy and water-resistant topcoat that tends to shed moderately. Because these dogs love to eat, they are more likely to become overweight, so care must be taken to manage their diets properly.

golden retriever in grass


There are some notable differences between the temperament of German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. The one you choose will depend on your family dynamics.

Golden Retrievers are one of the most loveable dogs on the planet. They never know a stranger. Although they love people, they can also be good guard dogs because they will bark to let you know someone is at the door.

German Shepherds, on the other hand, do not warm up quickly to strangers. These dogs are fiercely protective and make excellent guard dogs.

If you own a German Shepherd, it is essential you socialize them with other people and dogs to ensure they do not become overly protective.

If you have small children or frequently entertain guests, Golden Retriever dogs are likely to be your best choice. Those that want a truly protective guard dog would do well to choose a German Shepherd.

children petting a golden retriever

Physical Activity

There are also some similarities and differences in the exercise level of these breeds. German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers both need at least thirty minutes a day of exercise. Exercising up to an hour is ideal.

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Both breeds have the tendency to become bored and destructive when they do not get the exercise they need. It is important to note that both dogs enjoy playing with toys, only different kinds.

German Shepherds will need very strong toys that are durable and will hold up well to their intimidating jaw strength. Golden Retrievers, bred for their gentle jaw biting, prefer soft squeaky toys to keep them entertained.

Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd - Which One Should You Get?
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When it comes to intelligence, German Shepherds are rated #3 in dog breeds. Golden Retrievers are just under this rating.

While both dogs are people-pleasers, Golden Retrievers are more likely to become distracted, especially as puppies. German Shepherds are the easier of the two to train.

These dogs will learn your commands easily, and you will find you do not have to repeat them frequently.

training a german shepherd with ball


Both of these dogs are more likely to remain healthy when they live active lifestyles. This means making sure you walk them and offer plenty of running playtime.

Because both breeds are large, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are prone to developing joint issues, including hip dysplasia. Arthritis is common in both breeds.

It is important to note that Golden Retrievers are more likely to develop cancer. About 60% of US breeds will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes.

Which Is Best: Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds?

If you want a family-friendly dog who is personable and good with strangers, the Golden Retriever is a top choice. However, if you want fierce loyalty and protection, German Shepherds should fit the bill.

No matter which of these breeds you choose, you are sure to fall in love instantly. Both of these dogs are highly popular in the United States.

pair of golden retriever puppies

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