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German Shepherds and Rottweilers are both large dogs with similar personalities. Their size, stance, complemented by their confident nature can make both these dogs seem threatening to some people. However, those who’ve had plenty of experiences with them will attest to the fact that they’re both affectionate delightful dogs to own.
If you are looking at getting German Shepherd or Rottweiler this article will break down the key differences between the breeds to help make your decision easier.
Why Compare German Shepherds and Rottweilers
Rottweilers and German Shepherds are among the most common shelter dogs across the United States. Their prevalence in animal shelters is typically caused by the inability of their previous owners to provide the structure and leadership these dogs need to be the excellent companions they can be.
If you’re up for the challenge of caring for a large, energetic, and intelligent dog, the GSD and the Rottie might be options you would consider.
Whether you’re looking to rescue one from a nearby shelter or buy one from a reputable breeder, it’s critical that you understand the similarities and differences between the two to select the right breed to welcome into your life. The more compatible your dog is with you, the more enjoyable your relationship will be.
German Shepherd vs Rottweiler Size
German Shepherds and Rottweilers can sometimes appear to be the same size from a distance, but don’t let that fool you! Rotties are much more muscular and stocky, and so they weigh much more than German Shepherds.
Here’s how they both compare in terms of their build:
|German Shepherd||24 – 26 in.||22 – 24 in.||65 – 90 lbs.||50 – 70 lbs.|
|Rottweiler||24 – 27 in.||22 – 25 in.||95 – 135 lbs.||80 – 100 lbs.|
German Shepherd vs Rottie Appearance
The most obvious difference between German Shepherds and Rottweilers is their coat type, despite both being double-coated breeds.
The Rottweiler’s undercoat is sparse and often appears only around the thighs and neck, especially when they live in cooler climates. Their outer coats are composed of dense, medium-length hair that lays flat and close to the skin. In terms of color, all Rottweilers are predominantly black with either mahogany, rust, or tan markings.
On the other hand, the German Shepherd has a dense undercoat and a fuzzy outer coat that ranges from short to long. Their colors are more varied as some are combinations of black and tan, red, silver, or cream, while others are solid-colored black, white, blue, gray, or liver. Sable is also a common coat pattern, especially among working line dogs.
The Rottweiler’s head is also rounder and larger than the German Shepherd’s. Their muzzles are shorter and their triangular ears flop forward when relaxed, which is unlike the GSD’s perpetually alert ears. Their tails are of similar length and shape. However, tail docking is common to the Rottweiler breed and so many of these dogs have tails with only a vertebra or two.
German Shepherd vs Rottweiler Strength
At 328 psi, the Rottweiler has a much stronger bite than the German Shepherd’s 238 psi. The Rottie also has a build more suited to pulling and carrying. Even so, they’re both equally useful working dogs for heavy-duty tasks.
GSD vs Rottie Speed
At full sprint, German Shepherds can reach speeds of up to 30 mph. Because of their heavier and more muscular bodies, Rottweilers tend to run more slowly at top speeds of 25 mph. This is consistent with their heritage as working dogs.
German Shepherds were mainly used to herd livestock, which involved circling herds to drive them through gates or to adjacent pastures. On the other hand, Rottweilers mainly drove cattle down long roads at a moderate pace. So, they weren’t really bred for speed and agility.
German Shepherd vs Rottweiler Health
All breeds have some genetic predispositions. For German Shepherds, the most common health concerns involve bone and joint health. Among the health issues, responsible breeders screen for is elbow and hip dysplasia as well as a serious spinal cord disease called degenerative myelopathy.
Additionally, GSDs tend to be prone to digestive issues and have been known to suffer from life-threatening bloat.
Presumably because of their size and weight, Rottweilers are also predisposed to hip and elbow dysplasia. They’re also prone to certain heart conditions and eye diseases.
However, the American Rottweiler Club requires dogs to undergo a stringent examination of their hips, heart, and eyes before they can be used for breeding.
These genetic predispositions don’t necessarily affect every dog but it helps to be familiar with your dog’s bloodline and breeder’s reputation. Plus, putting them on a high-quality diet and taking them for frequent vet examinations will help them lead long and healthy lives.
GSD vs Rottie Lifespan
According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd has an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, while Rottweilers generally live between 9 and 10 years. It’s important to note, however, that many dogs live way beyond the averages known for their breed.
Rottweilers were actually the first dogs to be studied for the Exceptional Longevity Database for canine pets. For the study, researchers tracked down over 140 Rotties in America that lived to be at least 13 years old.
German Shepherd vs Rottweiler Temperament
German Shepherds are Rottweilers tend to have similar personalities in terms of being confident and playful. They are both also intelligent, loyal, and obedient dogs. Also because of their alert and defensive nature, they both make excellent watchdogs.
In terms of sharing a home with cats and other pets, both do well with proper socialization. GSDs tend to be more affectionate but some prefer only to be in the company of their handler or family. Even so, they are better at welcoming strangers than Rotties. GSDs also tend to be better with young kids as well as the elderly.
German Shepherd vs Rottie Trainability
In the intelligence ranking of dogs by canine psychologist Stanley Coren, both the German Shepherd and Rottweiler rank at the top tier. The Rottie ranks 9th, while the GSD ranks 3rd.
At these levels, dogs are considered the brightest and most intelligent thus both breeds are easy to train. They will fail to follow commands no more than 5% of the time. Additionally, it takes only five exposures or fewer for them to learn something new.
Types of Work
Both Rottweilers and German Shepherds excel as service and therapy dogs. Their size and build are especially useful for people with limited mobility. Both are also excellent options for property and personal protection.
GSDs, however, are preferred over Rotties for military and police work. This is especially true of detection as well as search & rescue. On the other hand, Rottweilers are better for drafting and cart pulling.
GSD vs Rottweiler Grooming
Although Rottweilers also shed and blow their coats twice a year, they have shorter hairs and relatively sparse undercoats. That makes their upkeep nowhere near as challenging as the German Shepherd. Nevertheless, coat maintenance is definitely manageable as long as you brush regularly and you’re armed with a reliable vacuum cleaner.
Other grooming requirements are similar for both breeds. They need frequent tooth brushing and regular nail clipping. For Rotties, you’ll need to pay more attention to the ears as they’re more prone to infections since they’re folded over.
Living Conditions Needed
Because of their size and energy levels, it’s no surprise that both the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler will thrive best in larger spaces. However, they can easily adapt to apartment living as long as they’re given plenty of time to exercise and decompress.
In terms of climate, the Rottie does best in average to warm temperatures because their short coats don’t provide enough insulation in very cold weather. On the other hand, German Shepherds can tolerate both warm and cold temperatures.
Exercise Requirements for German Shepherds and Rottweilers
The combination of intelligence and energy levels of both the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler can quickly turn into mischief if they aren’t given ample opportunities to tire themselves out.
Both will need at least an hour of exercise per day, while the GSD will need additional time for independent play and mental exercises.
Both the Rottweiler and the German Shepherd are recognized by the American Kennel Club. In fact, both dogs consistently rank at the country’s top 10 most popular breeds. The Rottie ranks 8th while the GSD is much more popular at 2nd.
Breed restrictions are the subject of much contention from dog lovers because they generalize and stereotype based on breed regardless of the individual personality of the dog, owner responsibility, training, and socialization.
Whether or not it’s fair, however, they do exist and they’re something you need to check before you decide on a breed.
For example, here are states known to have either statewide or citywide laws that restrict ownership of these two breeds (X = Restricted, ✔= Not Restricted):
Apart from city or state laws, you need to check with your insurance provider as well as your landlord before you commit to a dog. In many cases, these large breeds are either banned entirely or will involve higher bonds or premiums.
Costs of owning a German Shepherd vs a Rottweiler
If you’re looking to welcome either a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler into your life, you can get one from your local animal shelter or rescue or from a breeder. Buying either dog from a breeder will cost you more.
German Shepherds for sale can range from $450 to $1,900, with most ads listed at the $800 range. On the other hand, Rottweilers for sale range from $600 to $2,000 and average at around $1,150.
Prices are generally influenced by bloodline, breeder reputation, and general conformation. Some training and additional medical certifications will also push prices higher.
In terms of upkeep, Rottweilers will cost around $4,390 in the first year. After that, they will cost around $160 per month. German Shepherds are more inexpensive to care for as they will cost you around $3,815 in the first year and around $147 per month. The difference in monthly costs between the two breeds is mostly due to the difference in food consumption.
Which Breed is Best for You?
German Shepherds are an excellent option if you’re on a budget. But if costs weren’t an issue, either of the two would make a good choice. If you don’t want to deal with too much shedding, you should definitely go for a Rottie. Just know that they tend to drool much more than GSDs.
Either way, their energy, intelligence, and work ethics are similar and they can both be remarkable household companions with proper training and socialization.
If you’re adopting and choosing between these two breeds, the best way to make the right decision is to spend some time with each individual dog.
Ultimately, it is not the breed’s general characteristics that will determine which will be a good pet but the personality of each dog and the connection you make with each other.
Both the German Shepherd and Rottweiler are awesome dogs, but whether either breed is right for you is a personal decision based on what you want in a companion.
If you’re still not convinced that either the GSD or the Rottie is right for you, check and see how the Australian Shepherd, Husky, or Doberman stacks up to see whether either breed is better suited to your lifestyle.