Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd
by Jessi Larson
If you’re in the market for a new furry addition to your household, you may be considering both the Australian Shepherd as well as the ever-popular German Shepherd. When it comes to the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd, how do they compare?
There’s little question that both of these breeds are excellent choices for families with children. And both share similarities in their keen intellect, watchdog ability and their potential to be great, loyal companions.
Although they’re both technically named “shepherds,” you’ll find there are striking differences when evaluating the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd.
When selecting the right dog for your family, it’s important to know the differences between these two breeds so you can make an informed decision that’s right for you as well as your new four-legged friend. Here’s what you need to know.
Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd
To fully understand how the two breeds compare, we’ll review their appearance, temperament, training and grooming needs, and overall health.
This will give you a full picture of the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd.
When it comes to appearance, Australian Shepherds are noticeably smaller in size and weight compared to the sturdier German Shepherds.
The Australian Shepherd – affectionately called an Aussie – measures in at about 18-23 inches from paw to shoulder, while the German Shepherd can grow from 22-26 inches.
Aussies also weigh less than German Shepherds, which can be anywhere from 50-90 pounds. In contrast, Australian Shepherds tend to grow to about 40-65 pounds.
As with many breeds, female Aussies and German Shepherds may be smaller than their male counterparts.
The two breeds also vary in their ear and tail shape. The German Shepherd tends to have standing, pointed ears, while the Australian Shepherd’s ears are longer and floppy.
The Aussie’s tail is also routinely cropped in the United States and many other countries, while the German Shepherd will have a longer, fluffier tail.
As far as coat goes, both breeds can have quite the kaleidoscope of color. Aussie fur colors include blue merle, red merle, black and red, with or without various markings. The German Shepherd coat comes in a whopping 13 different colors, with a black and tan combination being the most popular.
Another differentiator is eye color. While the vast majority of German Shepherds have brown eyes, the Aussie eye color can vary greatly.
The breed is one of a few dogs that commonly have two different colored eyes. They could have any combination of brown, blue, amber, hazel or green eyes, and may even display more than one color within the same eye.
There’s no doubt that both of these dogs make for great human companions. The German Shepherd, for instance, is currently considered the second most popular breed of dog within the United States., while the Aussie comes in at a notable 14th place, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
German Shepherds are known to be alert, courageous and loyal to their owners. They have a bit of an aloof personality at first until they get to know someone and won’t give away their affection to just anyone.
This breed is highly intelligent and curious as well as watchful. When provoked or faced with danger, the German Shepherd does have a chance of acting out unless properly trained.
Aussies tend to be very active and friendly pets. They are loving and affectionate toward their owners and others.
With a long history as a herding dog, the Aussie displays its herding instincts by trying to round up people and other pets. They need a huge amount of exercise every day and aren’t a great choice for more sedentary dog owners.
Both of these breeds are highly adaptable and make for great watchdogs. They’re also great companions for families with a kid.
Both of these intelligent breeds are highly trainable and often used for search and rescue operations.
German Shepherds are renowned for their work as service dogs and therapy dogs and are widely used to assist in police and military operations.
The smaller, lighter Australian Shepherd are preferred in avalanche rescues for their portable size, since rescue personnel often have to carry the dog to the rescue site.
Extremely intelligent and eager to please, both breeds are considered easy to train. And with their strong breed tendencies, training is essential.
There isn’t much difference in terms of grooming between the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd.
Both breeds have a double layer of coats and will require an average amount of grooming from their owner.
In terms of shedding, however, the German Shepherd does have a tendency for heavier shedding than the Aussie.
As with all dogs, they’ll need regular baths and nail trims as well.
There are a number of differences when it comes to the health of these two breeds.
On average, the Australian Shepherd lives 12-16 years while the German Shepherd has a lifespan of 9-13 years.
Overall, the Australian Shepherd is an incredibly healthy breed. If they do have health problems, they tend to be issues with their joints or eyes.
While still a sturdy breed, the German Shepherd has more health challenges due to its size and indiscriminate breeding practices throughout the years.
Some of these health conditions include:
- Chronic Superficial Keratitis: This disease causes changes to the dog’s eyes that eventually result in blindness.
- Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency: This serious condition prevents the dog’s pancreas from being able to digest most nutrients through food.
- Panosteitis: A wandering leg bone that tends to affect larger dog breeds.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: An incurable disease of the spine, which can often turn fatal.
Conclusion: Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd
When considering the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd, it’s important to remember that no one breed is better than the other.
Instead, we hope you consider these characteristics about the two breeds to help you select a choice that’s right for your family and living situation.
While both of these breeds make for wonderful family companions and great watchdogs, the Australian Shepherd is much more friendly and outgoing to everyone they meet, whereas the German Shepherd is more reserved.
The Aussie also requires a huge amount of exercise and activity. In comparison, the German Shepherd has more moderate needs.
Another difference in these dog breeds seems to be their predisposition to developing health issues. Because they are a newer breed and smaller in size, the Aussie is an incredibly healthy breed and less prone to health problems.
Both breeds are also extremely trainable and require about the same amount of effort when it comes to grooming.
German Shepherd vs Husky Bonus Tip: How to Pick the Right Dog
When you’re looking for a dog but don’t know what breed to get, these nine easy questions can help quickly narrow down your search and find a four-legged friend who perfectly fits your lifestyle.
This guide will help you in the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd debate and give you a clearer idea of which one is for you.
1. Why Do You Want a Dog?
First things first, let’s talk about why you want a dog. This will guide you more than you realize!
For example, do you love cuddling up on the couch and want a furball to curl up in your lap and keep you company? Or do you want an energetic and enthusiastic dog who fits your active lifestyle?
Stop for a minute, close your eyes and think about it.
2. What Type of Dog Did You Have Growing up?
Believe it or not, the dog (or dogs) you grew up with often have an impact on what type of dog you want when you’re older.
That’s certainly not to say you couldn’t pick a different type of dog by any means. It’s just that people often have a comfort level with the type of canine they were conditioned to growing up.
3. Do You Have Any Allergies?
Dogs can be awful for allergies. But fortunately, there are many hypoallergenic dog breeds that make it easier for allergies sufferers.
Always learn more about the breed before bringing it into your home.
4. Who’s in Your Household?
Another important thing to think about is who is in your household.
Is it just you? Or do you have a partner? Roommates? Children?
This is incredibly important to consider. Especially if you have little ones in the household.
Fortunately, in the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd debate, both are good dogs in different ways.
5. Where Do You Live?
As you think about which dog breed is right for you, where you live is incredibly important.
It goes without saying that certain breeds just aren’t cut out for small spaces. For example, a Great Dane in a tiny apartment would be a disaster!
Also, certain dogs, including both the Australian Shepherd and German Shepherd, need space and a yard to run and exercise.
6. How Much Time and Energy Do You Have?
Dogs are A LOT of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But some dogs require much more effort than others.
Potential pup parents should always make sure they have the time, energy and resources to care for a dog, no matter what the breed. But that level of care can increase depending on the dog.
Before making a decision regarding the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd, make sure you understand their instincts and how much mental and physical stimulation they’ll each require.
7. What is the Dog’s Temperament?
Just like appearance, a pup’s temperament can vary greatly by breed. And it’s absolutely critical to find out how a dog will act based on their breed instincts.
Both the Australian Shepherd and German Shepherd have great personalities. The German Shepherd is more aloof and calm, while the Aussie is outgoing and has higher energy.
8. How Much Does the Breed Cost?
Owning a dog isn’t cheap, but some breeds are more expensive than others. Especially for some of the rarer canines.
Cost is a consideration, and it’s always a good idea to understand the full picture before making a commitment.
Things to consider include the initial expense, vet bills, food, grooming and other expenses like daycare or boarding.
9. Breed Finder
And finally, try out our online breed selector and get a list of the best breeds for you and your lifestyle.
It allows you to enter details like where you live, who’s in your house, your climate, what size of dog you’re looking for and more. You’ll receive a list of breeds that will work for you.
This could settle the Australian Shepherd vs German Shepherd debate once and for all.