Doberman Pinschers and German Shepherds are among the most recognizable large dog breeds. They both can have a strong and sometimes intimidating presence, but to those intimately familiar with the breeds, they’re among the sweetest, most enjoyable dogs to own.
This article will explore the German Shepherd vs Doberman to help give you some insight on which breed is best for you and your lifestyle.
Why Compare German Shepherds and Dobermans
Whether you’re looking for an athletic companion dog or an all-around worker, both the Doberman and the German Shepherd are going to come up in your search. It’s critical that you understand the differences between the two breeds in order to choose the one that best suits your personality, family needs, and lifestyle.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Size
The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the German Shepherd as a large breed, while it categorizes the Doberman Pinscher as a medium-sized dog. However, based on the breed standards of both dogs, the Doberman is actually larger and heavier than the GSD.
Here’s how they compare in terms of size:
|German Shepherd||24 – 26 in.||22 – 24 in.||65 – 90 lbs.||50 – 70 lbs.|
|Doberman Pinscher||26 – 28 in.||24 – 26 in.||75 – 100 lbs.||60 – 90 lbs.|
German Shepherd vs Doberman Appearance
The Doberman’s appearance differs from the German Shepherd’s in much more than size. The most obvious difference between the two is their coat. GSDs have double coats made of dense undercoats and fuzzy outer-coats.
On the other hand, Dobies have thick but short and smooth hair. They do not typically have undercoats, and when they do, it’s usually just around the neck and barely visible.
Their colorings and markings are also different. Dobermans are typically black, red, blue, or fawn with rust-colored markings in specific parts of the body. That includes the muzzle, brows, throat, and chest. Their butt, legs, and feet also have the same markings.
On the other hand, GSDs can be solid-colored but typically don the iconic black saddle and mask. Apart from black & tan or black & red, they can be black, white, sable, gray, blue, and liver. They can also be black & cream or black & silver.
Other noticeable differences in terms of their appearance are their ears and tail. The German Shepherd’s ears are naturally large and erect, while the Doberman’s ears are cropped to get a similar effect. Their long rope-like tails are also docked short, while the GSD’s tail is saber-like and bushy.
Cropping ears and docking tails is now considered a controversial process because the benefits are unclear. In fact, these procedures are generally considered as elective surgeries for cosmetic purposes.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Strength
The German Shepherd and Doberman are both incredibly strong dogs. However, the Doberman’s 245psi-bite strength is slightly stronger than the GSD’s 238psi.
The Dobie is also larger and heavier, with more defined musculature. So, they’re expected to be the more powerful breed. Nevertheless, their comparable strengths translate to similar capacities for work.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Speed
Both the GSD and Dobie are pretty fast and agile dogs. While the German Shepherd is known to run at speeds of 30mph, the Doberman runs slightly faster at 32mph.
In some tests, the Dobie has also been known to reach top speeds of 34.89mph. These speeds enable both breeds to excel at work, canine sports, or leisure activities that involve sprinting or running across long distances.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Health
Like any other breed, both the German Shepherd and Doberman have some genetic predispositions. In particular, GSDs have a tendency to suffer from digestive issues like indigestion and bloating. They’re also more prone to bone and joint issues like elbow and hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy.
On the other hand, among the most common hereditary diseases for Dobermans are cardiomyopathy, hypothyroidism, liver disease, and neck instability.
Although these health concerns can be quite severe, both dogs actually have official breed clubs that help to lower the incidence of these issues.
Both the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) and the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) endeavor to continue improving their breed stocks by recommending specific health evaluations and monitoring adherence to breed standards.
Because of these evaluations and careful monitoring of breed stock, most dogs you’ll get from reputable breeders will probably be of good health and longevity. Generally, however, caring for a German Shepherd will involve more vet visits than your average Doberman.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Lifespan
According to the AKC, German Shepherds tend to live between 7 and 10 years old, while the average lifespan of Doberman Pinschers is between 10 and 12 years old.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that dogs commonly outlive their breed averages. Apart from getting a dog from a good breeding stock, their diet, exercise regimen, and access to proper vet care will all contribute to their life expectancy.
GSD vs Doberman Temperament
Both the Doberman and the German Shepherd are generally alert, energetic, obedient, and intelligent dogs. They’re both also playful and affectionate, especially towards their main handlers. Additionally, they both tend to be territorial and protective of their home and family.
Although their temperaments are similar, GSDs are generally better household pets than Dobies. They’re suspicious of but more accepting of unfamiliar guests and are also more tolerant of children. In terms of sharing their home with other pets, they both do well with proper socialization.
GSD vs Doberman Trainability
Rating canine intelligence is tricky. However, through data taken from hundreds of obedience judges, canine psychologist Stanley Coren was able to find a way to effectively measure working intelligence and rank different dog breeds accordingly.
In his rankings, both the German Shepherd and the Doberman Pinscher appear at the top tier. Although the GSD ranks higher at 3rd, the Dobie is a close 5th. Breeds at this level are considered the most intelligent of working dogs and can learn new tricks within 5 tries. Additionally, they’re among the most obedient since they follow commands no less than 95% of the time.
Given their superior intelligence, they’re remarkably easy to train. However, the GSD is generally more eager to please, which translates to a better learning capacity.
Type of Work
In terms of work, German Shepherds are more suited to a variety of roles. For example, Dobermans need much more training and socialization to work as therapy or service dogs.
GSDs are also much better at search & rescue and detection. Nevertheless, because of their guarding instincts, they both do incredibly well in personal or property protection roles.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Grooming
Because they are single-coated and short-haired, the Doberman Pinscher is an incredibly low maintenance breed. They need baths only every couple of months and will need regular brushing only to maintain a healthy and shiny coat.
On the other hand, the GSD’s coat structure requires more work to maintain. They shed year-round and blow their coats twice a year. Although German Shepherds only need baths every 6 weeks or so, they do need regular brushing to keep loose hairs more manageable.
Apart from coat maintenance, the Doberman and the German Shepherd’s grooming requirements are pretty similar. They both need monthly nail trims unless they are naturally worn down. Additionally, they need frequent ear wiping and teeth cleaning.
Living Conditions Needed
Both the German Shepherd and the Doberman will thrive best in homes with large, fenced-in spaces. However, they will both tolerate apartment living as long as they get ample daily exercise.
In terms of climate, GSDs are better able to adjust to various weather conditions. They can tolerate both warm and cold weather, and can feel comfortable at temperatures of 40° to 85°F.
In contrast, Dobermans are more likely to suffer from hypothermia. They should be watched closely at 55°F and will benefit from a coat for extra insulation when temperatures hit 45°F.
Exercise Requirement for GSD’s and Doberman’s
Both the GSD and the Dobie are known as energetic breeds. Both have the agility and stamina for canine sports, and both generally thrive best when they have large areas they can use for independent play. However, the Doberman actually needs more exercise than the average German Shepherd.
While both breeds need at least an hour of exercise per day, Dobermans will benefit from more intensive physical exercise to tone their muscles and maintain a good physique. On the other hand, German Shepherds will need mental exercises on top of their physical exercise.
The Doberman Pinscher and the German Shepherd were both recognized by the American Kennel Club as early as 1908. Both breeds were classified under the Working Group until 1983, when the AKC separated certain breeds to form the Herding Group.
Today, the Doberman is still classified under the Working Group and is consistently listed as one of the most popular dog breeds, ranking at #19. The German Shepherd forms part of the Herding Group and consistently ranks as the 2nd most popular breed in America.
Breed restrictions are controversial because they typically stereotype breeds as aggressive based on poorly trained and inadequately socialized cases. Nevertheless, breed-specific legislation does exist, and it’s something pet owners need to contend with.
Apart from laws, property owners as well as insurance providers could set breed restrictions. So, it’s always a good idea to check before you settle on a breed.
Because of their massive size and protection roles, it’s no surprise that both the German Shepherd and the Doberman are the subjects of many breed-specific legislation.
For example, here are states that are known to have city laws that restrict ownership of these two breeds (X = Restricted, ✔= Not Restricted):
|State||German Shepherd||Doberman Pinscher|
Remember that these are only the most commonly known states with city laws that prohibit or restrict ownership of these breeds. Always double-check with your local government, community, landlord, and insurance company.
German Shepherd vs Doberman Costs
Although certain bloodlines of German Shepherds have given the breed a reputation for being expensive, Doberman Pinschers are actually a more costly to buy.
On average, GSDs cost around $800 but could range anywhere from $450 to $,1900. On the other hand, the average Doberman for sale costs around $1,000 but ranges from a low $500 to an astounding $2,250 per dog.
Like any other breed, prices are generally affected by bloodline, pedigree, and breeder’s reputation. Factors like build, markings, and coat color are other factors that influence price.
Dobermans also tend to cost more in the first year. Supplies, puppy maintenance, and veterinary costs will total around $4,225 for a Dobie, while GSDs will cost less at approximately $3,815.
After the first year, however, maintenance costs are practically the same for both, averaging $146 for Doberman Pinschers and $147 for German Shepherds.
Which Breed is Best for You?
As long as you’re ready for a large, intelligent, and incredibly energetic dog, either of the two can make a good choice. However, the German Shepherd is better suited for most types of work and varying living conditions. On the other hand, Dobermans have much more manageable grooming requirements and generally live for longer.
So, if you want a better chance of enjoying your pet for longer and you want to avoid the work involved when you have a constantly shedding dog, the Doberman may be a good fit for you if you don’t live in an apartment because of the breed restrictions.
However, if you’re looking for an all-around worker or the perfect household companion, the GSD could be a better option. Only you will be able to make the ultimate decision as to which breed is best for you.
Although general breed characteristics will help determine compatibility, remember that each dog will have their own unique personality and temperament.
No matter the breed, the best way to ensure that you enjoy the dog you get is to put in the work not only to make sure they’re properly trained and socialized but so you can also form a deep bond that helps you communicate with each other better.