German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are among the most recognizable working dogs. They’re both categorized under the herding group and are best known for their guarding instincts. But these two shepherds are actually quite different from one another.
If you’re thinking of welcoming one of these breeds into your home, understanding the differences between the German Shepherd vs. Australian Shepherd will help you make the right decision.
Why Compare German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds
If you’re looking for a large, energetic dog to put to work or engage in plenty of activities with, German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are likely going to be among your choices.
Before you decide between the two, you should first understand what makes them different from one another. Doing so will enable you to determine whether the Australian Shepherd or the German Shepherd is most compatible with your needs, preferences, and lifestyle.
German Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd: Points of Comparison
Although they’re often lumped together in the same category, the Australian Shepherd differs from the German Shepherd in many different ways. Their physical characteristics make them easy to distinguish from one another. Their abilities and temperament also vary in slight yet significant ways.
When you’re faced with the decision on which to get, here are your most critical points of comparison:
GSD vs Australian Shepherds Size
Both German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are categorized as “Large” breeds. However, GSDs are much larger than Aussies. Here’s how they compare in terms of height and weight:
|German Shepherd||24 – 26 in.||22 – 24 in.||65 – 90 lbs.||50 – 70 lbs.|
|Australian Shepherd||20 – 23 in.||18 – 21 in.||50 – 65 lbs.||40 – 55 lbs.|
You might also encounter a type of dog referred to as the Mini Australian Shepherd or, more commonly, the Mini Aussie. However, that breed is actually recognized by the American Kennel Club as the Miniature American Shepherd. This breed resembles the standard Aussie but stands at only 13 – 17 inches tall and weighs only 20 to 40 pounds.
An even smaller standard Aussie look-alike is referred to as the Toy Australian Shepherd. It stands at only 10 to 14 inches tall and weighs approximately 12 to 17 pounds. However, reputable breeders as well as the AKC don’t recognize this breed.
German Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd Appearance
German Shepherds are not only larger than their Australian counterparts. Their bodies are also more robust and well-muscled. Aussies have smaller frames and are generally leaner.
But apart from size, the difference between the two is actually most apparent in the appearance of their coats. The iconic German Shepherd color is a combination of black & tan, but their official colors include black, bi-color, black & cream, black & red, black & sliver, blue, gray, liver, sable, and white.
On the other hand, the quintessential Australian Shepherd has the distinctive red or blue merle coat. However, Aussies can also be black, red, tan, black & white, or red & white. All these coat colors conform to the AKC’s Australian Shepherd breed standard.
Other than color, their coats differ in terms of texture. Both don a double coat with the Aussie’s hair being wavier than the GSD’s typically straight hair. In terms of length, the Aussie’s is normally longer, although there are GSD variants that have long to medium-length hair.
Another distinct difference in the appearance of these two breeds is how their ears are set. The German Shepherd is known for its large, pointed ears that stand erect while the Aussie’s ears are hairier and are folded over.
German Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd Strength
The larger size, heavier weight, and more muscular body make the German Shepherd the stronger of the two breeds. Still, Australian Shepherds are strong enough to be effective working dogs. Additionally, what they might lack in muscle strength they make up for in their incredible agility and stamina.
GSD vs Australian Shepherd Health
Being large dogs, it’s not surprising that both the German Shepherd and the Australian Shepherd are predisposed to elbow and hip dysplasia. Nevertheless, the risks for these health concerns are minimized when you get dogs from reputable breeders.
It also helps to keep your pup from doing high-impact exercises like jumping and climbing until their bodies are fully developed. Additionally, giving your dog a high-quality diet and keeping their weight in check will also minimize their risk for bone and joint problems.
Between the two breeds, GSDs are more prone to digestive issues like bloating and gastroenteritis. On the other hand, Aussies are more prone to eye issues like cataracts.
In fact, the US Australian Shepherd Association requires its member dogs to undergo annual eye evaluations by a recognized canine ophthalmologist. The organization also highly recommends breeders to test their breed stocks for hereditary cataracts (HSF4) and a congenital condition called Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA).
German Shepherds vs Australian Shepherds Lifespan
German Shepherds generally live from 7 to 10 years, whereas the Australian Shepherds typically live for between 12 and 15 years. Even so, many dogs far outlive the recorded average lifespans for their breed.
Check out Abby the German Shepherd visibly aging at 20 but still up and about.
At 15 years old, Pockets the Australian Shepherd was just getting started. Her early life was tough, having had to live through abuse and severe health issues. But after being adopted into a nurturing family, her dad recognized her potential and trained her to take part in the American Kennel Club’s Rally Trial and actually brought home the Rally Novice title.
German Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd Temperament
German and Aussie Shepherds generally have even temperaments. They are both adaptable and can be trained for most work and living situations.
However, it is important to consider that both breeds tend to dislike irregularity. They thrive in households that follow a daily routine and dislike noisy homes with frequent guests.
Both breeds can be affectionate, but GSDs will show a preference for one handler rather than the family as a whole. Aussies are also more sociable and open to welcoming guests. Nevertheless, they are both protective of territory, property, and members of their family.
Although they both tend to interact properly with children and other pets, GSDs are generally more mouthy. They love to interact using their mouths and are more likely to play-bite and nip than their Aussie counterparts. When you have small children at home, this is something you might need to train carefully for.
German Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd Trainability
As working dogs, German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are commonly used for jobs that require them not only to follow commands but also to make decisions independently based on the situation at hand. That makes them both intelligent breeds that are trainable to a remarkably high level.
However, according to a dog intelligence ranking, GSDs are actually much more intelligent that Aussies. GSDs rank as the 3rd most intelligence breed and fall within the first tier of intelligent breeds. That means they can learn a new trick within 5 seconds and are able to obey the command at least 95% of the time.
On the other hand, Aussies rank 69th and fall within the fourth tier of intelligent breeds. That means they can learn a new trick after repeating it 25 to 40 times. Additionally, they obey at least 50% of the time. Nevertheless, highly trained Aussies always prove their capacity to do their jobs effectively.
Type of Work
In terms of herding and farm work, GSDs and Aussies perform equally well. However, German Shepherds tend to perform better in a number of working situations.
For example, their protective instinct and loyalty to their handlers make them better for personal protection. Their drive and remarkable scenting ability also make them better dogs for detection and search & rescue work. Additionally, their superior intelligence and even temperament also make them better therapy or service dogs.
Grooming Needs of Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds
Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds are both double-coated breeds. Although they don’t need much effort to groom, they both shed.
GSDs tend to shed more than Aussies, but both blow off their coats twice a year when they both go through some heavy shedding. When they’re not shedding, however, all they need is some regular brushing (daily to three times a week) and bathing (about once per quarter or as needed).
Other grooming requirements are also generally the same for both breeds. Ideally, you’ll brush their teeth daily and clean their ears once a month. The frequency of nail clipping will depend on the speed of growth and the surfaces they walk on. Generally, their nails will need clipping once a month.
Because they’re active working dogs, both GSDs and Aussies thrive when they have plenty of living space. They’re best kept in farms or homes with fenced-in yards. Nevertheless, they can still be happy and well behaved in smaller homes and sometimes even larger apartments as long as they get plenty of daily exercise.
In terms of climate, German Shepherds are more adaptable than Australian Shepherds. While GSDs generally tolerate both cold and warm weather (40 to 85°F), Aussies thrive in average to cold weather (30 to 80°F).
Exercise Requirement: German Shepherd and Australian Shepherd
Both German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds need to be active. Always keep in mind that they were bred for herding, which is a physically and mentally exhausting job.
No matter which of the two you decide to get, you need to be ready to provide lots of opportunities to expend their energy and also stimulate their minds. Generally, you should aim for an hour of physical activity per day and a regular effort to reinforce training or learn something new.
The American Kennel Club recognizes both the Aussie and the GSD, and has full breed standards for both. Both breeds are also a common sight in their shows and sporting events. However, GSDs are much more popular ranking at 2nd out of 196 AKC-recognized breeds. Aussies rank at 13th.
Breed restrictions are either city legislations or policies set by insurance companies and property owners. These attempt to regulate dog ownership by banning certain breeds. It’s essential for you to check on laws and property rules where you live before selecting a pet.
German Shepherds appear on more breed restriction lists than Australian Shepherds. Most likely, this is because they aren’t as common and aren’t typically used for protection work, Aussies don’t have a reputation for being aggressive. So, they are not often the subject of bans. When they are, it’s usually because of general sized-based rather than breed-targeted restrictions.
The cost of buying either a German Shepherd or an Aussie can vary greatly, with GSDs having a much larger variance in price. Depending on the reputation of the breeder, the dog’s pedigree, coat color and markings, and a number of other factors, a GSD pup can cost anywhere between $450 and $1,900 while an Aussie can cost $400 to $1,500.
On the first year of dog ownership, GSDs tend to cost more because supplies for larger dogs are generally more expensive. While a GSD’s first year will typically cost around $3,815, an Aussie’s will cost about $2,725.
In terms of maintenance and daily living, German Shepherds cost slightly more at approximately $147 per month than Australian Shepherds at about $129 per month.
One of the most significant reasons is that GSD’s average food consumption is larger at approximately 3 to 4 cups per day. Because of their smaller bodies, Aussies only need 1.5 to 2.5 cups of food per day.
Which Breed is Best for You?
German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds have the same even temperament, work drive, and exercise requirements. They are so similar that you can practically choose one or the other without pondering too much on your decision.
However, consider that Aussies are smaller, less expensive to maintain, and ownership is generally unrestricted. On the other hand, GSDs are more intelligent, more suitable to a wide variety of jobs, and are more adaptable to different climates.
The general characteristics of each breed definitely help in determining whether a dog might be suited for your requirements, personality, and lifestyle. However, every dog will be different.
Ultimately, either a GSD or an Aussie may be the perfect choice for you because of their individual personality and temperament, which allows you to form a strong bond regardless of their breed.