Due to their size and appearance, German Shepherds and Pitbulls are generally considered intimidating dog breeds. But those intimately familiar with these breeds know they’re also some of the sweetest and most affectionate dogs. If you are looking to welcome one of these breeds into your life, you may want to analyze German Shepherds vs Pitbulls to decide which is better for you.
Should you choose a Pitbull over a German Shepherd? Before you make that decision, consider what a Pitbull really is and why you’re choosing between these two breeds. Also, it’s essential that you examine key differences to see which is most compatible with your needs and lifestyle.
Clarification on the Pitbull Dog
The name Pitbull is generally used to refer to dogs that exhibit a certain set of characteristics. The typical Pitbull is a medium-sized dog with a short coat, a broad chest and a well-defined, muscular body. They have a thick neck, a flat yet broad skull, a deep muzzle, and characteristically almond-shaped eyes.
The American Pit Bull Terrier is the breed most commonly referred to as the Pitbull. Although it is not recognized by the AKC, it was first registered by the UKC in 1898.
The American Bully is another breed with Pitbull characteristics and unrecognized by the AKC. Among those registered as official AKC dog breeds are the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Why Compare German Shepherds and Pitbulls
Pitbulls and German Shepherds are some of the most common breeds in animal shelters across the United States. In many cases, they are given up by their owners because they have specific care requirements that the humans are unable to address.
For example, because they are both intelligent and energetic, they need humans that can provide firm leadership, mental stimulation, and ample daily exercise. Otherwise, they will inevitably display the unwanted behaviors that often lead them to end up in shelters.
When you’re looking to adopt a dog, you’re likely going to come across these two breeds at your local animal shelter. It’s critical that you understand the differences between the two in order to judge which one will be best suited for you.
German Shepherd vs Pitbull: Points of Comparison
Although Pitbulls have the same general qualities, this comparison will mainly cover the features and characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier. Both the American Pit Bull Terrier and the German Shepherd are known as strong, intelligent, and energetic dogs.
This section will help you look at some key characteristics of each dog so you can see how they compare to one another.
German Shepherd vs Pitbull Size
German Shepherds are significantly larger than American Pit Bull Terriers. Pitbull females reach between 17 and 20 inches in height while males reach up to 21 inches. Female GSDs, on the other hand, reach between 22 and 24 inches while males can grow up to 26 inches tall.
Although Pitbulls are generally stocky, they’re still considerably lighter than the average GSD.
German Shepherd males weigh 65 to 90 pounds while their Pitbull counterparts weigh only 35 to 60 pounds. The females of both breeds are lighter at 30 to 50 pounds for Pitbulls and 50 to 70 pounds for GSDs.
German Shepherd vs Pitbull Strength
Misinformation regarding the Pitbull has given it a bad reputation, with some claiming that these dogs can have up to five times the bite force of the average dog. In reality, its bite strength is only 235 psi, which is slightly weaker than the GSD’s 238 psi. Nevertheless, that’s pretty strong compared to other breeds.
For example, the Golden Retriever has a bite force of only 190 psi. But that’s the reason why the GSD and Pitbull are better suited for some types of work than others.
The Pitbull is also known for its incredible pulling strength. In fact, the American Pit Bull Terrier often dominates weight-pulling competitions. While GSDs can also handle up two three times their body weight, they’re not often subjected to such work because their bodies are better built for agility rather than pulling strength.
In more practical terms, both GSDs and Pitbulls are strong enough to make walks difficult and even dangerous. Both breeds will need training for proper leash manners to make walks pleasant and safe.
German Shepherd vs. Pitbull Speed
Both Pitbulls and German Shepherds are incredibly athletic. Admittedly, GSDs are much more common in agility tournaments, but perhaps that’s only because American Pit Bull Terriers can’t compete in most AKC events.
Nevertheless, American Pit Bull Terriers are also remarkably agile and can run just as fast as GSDs at up to 30 miles per hour. The Pitbull group is also commonly represented by the Staffordshire Bull Terrier at flyball competitions where GSDs also often participate.
German Shepherd vs Pitbull Health
With proper care and nutrition, both the GSD and Pitbull can lead fairly long and healthy lives. However, they do have genetic predispositions you need to watch out for.
Both breeds are more prone to bone and joint issues than others. The most common problems include elbow and hip dysplasia. For heart issues, American Pit Bulls Terriers are predisposed to congenital heart defects while GSDs are more prone to cardiomyopathy.
German Shepherd vs. Pitbull Lifespan
Pit bulls tend to live longer than GSDs. While the life expectancy of the typical German Shepherds is 7 to 10 years, American Pit Bull Terriers live between 12 and 14 years. That’s similar to the lifespan of the average Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier.
Nevertheless, with proper care, nutrition, and exercise, dogs can live beyond their breed’s standard life expectancy. Just check out how active Abby the German Shepherd is at 21 years old and how vivacious Poe the Pitbull is at 18 years old.
German Shepherd vs. Pitbull Temperament
Both GSDs and Pitbulls are playful and affectionate. They tend to be loyal and eager to please. However, they both tend to have a high prey drive. So, it’s critical for them to be socialized at a young age. With proper socialization, training, and leadership, both breeds can be good with kids, babies, and other pets.
The personalities of German Shepherds and Pitbulls also differ in some ways. Pitbulls tend to be more sociable, while GSDs are more aloof and suspicious of strangers. That’s why GSDs are better for personal and property protection.
German Shepherd vs Pitbull Trainability
The German Shepherd is listed within the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds (at #3). That means the typical GSD can pick up a new trick within 5 seconds. Additionally, the will obey a command 9.5 out of 10 times.
The American Pit Bull Terrier doesn’t appear on the list, perhaps because of its AKC status. However, the American Staffordshire Terrier is listed in the 3rd tier of most intelligent dog breeds (at #45). That means it takes the average AmStaff 15 to 20 repetitions to learn a new command and can obey it at least 7 out of 10 times.
Despite these rankings, you’ll find that both are fairly easy to train because they’re so eager to please. Apart from obedience training, both breeds excel at canine sports and demonstrations. With proper leadership and handling, both breeds will prove to be incredibly smart.
German Shepherd vs. Pitbull Grooming
German Shepherds have a double coat composed of a straight outercoat and a woolly undercoat. They shed daily and blow off their undercoats twice a year. Depending on whether your own GSD is long or short-coated, you’ll have to brush them daily to at least thrice a week.
On the other hand, Pitbulls have short coats composed of smooth hair. They’re not only easier to bathe but will also require brushing no more than once a week.
Apart from brushing, the grooming needs of the two breeds are pretty much the same.
Both full-grown Pitbulls and GSDs will need at a minimum 1 hour of daily physical exercise. Since they’re both prone to boredom, it’s a good idea to mix up their activities.
You can play fetch one day, swim on the next, and go running on the other. No matter what you enjoy doing, switch it up from time to time to keep them engaged. Better yet, do some mental exercises with them to keep them from getting bored.
On the other hand, neither the American Pit Bull Terrier nor the American Bully is recognized by the AKC. If you want to be active in AKC activities with a Pitbull, your best options are the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Breed restrictions are either city legislation or private property impositions that prohibit the ownership of specific dog breeds. These are supposedly a matter of public safety, as some breeds have been unjustly labeled and generalized as aggressive.
You’ll find the German Shepherd on the restricted breeds list of several cities across the United States. You’ll find that Pitbulls are completely banned from some localities and properties.
Although these restrictions might not be fair, the reality is that you need to determine whether you can even own these breeds. Make sure you check with your state, city, and even your landlord, if you’re renting.
GSD vs Pitbull Costs
The cost of dogs varies greatly depending on the reputation of the breeder. Nevertheless, German Shepherds are generally more expensive to buy than Pitbulls, mainly because of higher demand. But both these breeds are prevalent in animal shelters where it would cost the same (or practically nothing at all) to adopt them.
In terms of general care, it might be slightly more expensive to own a German Shepherd, mainly because of their size and grooming requirements. Their larger bodies will require more food.
Many veterinary procedures, vaccinations, and medicines will also be more expensive simply because they are larger. Additionally, maintaining their coat will involve more costs for washing, grooming, and supplementation.
Should I Get a German Shepherd or Pitbull?
When choosing between a German Shepherd and a Pitbull, you really need to take a good look at your lifestyle. While the two are very similar in terms of general health and exercise requirements, there are significant differences that you need to consider.
A Pitbull will be smaller, which might work out better if you have a smaller space. They’re also easier to groom and generally less costly to care for. However, they are banned in more places and some specific breeds will keep you from participating in AKC events.
On the other hand, even if German Shepherds are more costly, they’re welcome in more places, and having one will allow you to participate in more shows and canine sports. If you’re looking forward to teaching tricks and various activities, the GSD also makes for a better option as they’re significantly more intelligent.
If you’re still torn between the two, you can always decide by spending time with each dog and see which you have the best connection with. At the end of the day, the personality of each individual dog will make the most difference when it comes to becoming a real part of your home and family.
Both Pitbulls and German Shepherds are energetic and easy to train, yet loving and affectionate. Of course, it’s useful to consider their size, care requirements, and temperament before choosing between the two. Ultimately, however, both breeds make excellent companions as long as you have the time to fulfill their socialization and training requirements.