German Shepherd Vs. Doberman: An In-Depth Comparison

German Shepherd Vs. Doberman: An In-Depth Comparison

German Shepherd vs. Doberman such a tough choice; both dogs are magnificent, and if you’re in love with big dogs, you can’t go wrong choosing either of these two. If you are keen on big dogs and have narrowed your choice down to a Doberman Pinscher or the German Shepherd, then you’ll probably already have a good idea of what their pros and cons are.

If not, this article will give you some valuable information about both breeds, their history, temperament, characteristics, and care needs.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) lists all the dogs registered with them by their popularity in the United States. Both dogs are immensely popular, with the German Shepherd at number two and the Doberman at number 17.

Don’t take those numbers as a reason to choose one or the other dog; it’s good to know that the vast majority of American dog owners love these two dogs, but it’s not the way you should choose the dog you bring into your family environment.

Let’s get into the article, so we can explore the difference between a German Shepherd and a Doberman Pinscher; we’re confident you’ll come away with some fascinating facts you might not have known previously.

German Shepherd Vs. Doberman Differences

Both dogs come from a working background, but that doesn’t make them similar in that respect because their original breeding and upbringing were for different purposes. However, today there is a crossover in their work.

1. German Shepherd Vs. Doberman Pinscher History

German Shepherd History

Today, the German Shepherd is associated with police forces and the military. Still, back in the late 1800s, when Max von Stephanitz (who history credits as the founder of the breed) sought to establish the German Shepherd breed, the dog’s primary occupation was herding sheep.

Stephanitz believed that he should standardize the country’s shepherd dogs in appearance and with specific physical attributes. He was particularly impressed by dogs with a wolf-like appearance and bags of intelligence, agility, sharp senses, and a first-rate work ethic.

German Shepherd

He found the dog he was searching for in the first dog he purchased, Hektor Linkrshein, in 1899. Stephanitz obviously felt he could choose a better name and came up with Horan von Grafrath, and the dog became von Stephanitz’s primary stud dog. In the same year, von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (S.V.) Society for the German Shepherd Dog. The S.V was also instrumental in creating the first breed standard and a breed register.

Due to von Stephanitz’s determination, the S.V. soon became the pre-eminent breed club worldwide. His influence also led German Shepherds into different occupations, including rescue work, sentry duties, and personal guard work. During the First World War, German Shepherds excelled in these lines of work. The German Shepherd became the 60th dog breed inducted into the AKC in 1908. England’s Kennel Club registered the first German Shepherd in 1919.

Doberman History

Around the same time as von Stephanitz was creating the German Shepherd, another German, Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, was also contemplating creating a dog of his own, albeit for very different reasons. Dobermann was a very disliked man in his home town of Apolda, Germany, which is unsurprising because he was the local tax collector. He needed a big fearsome dog as protection.

Doberman Pinscher dog breed

He created this dog by combining several breeds such as Great Danes, the German Pinscher, Rottweiler, Greyhound, and others. You’re probably wondering where this man obtained so many different breeds of dog; well, Dobermann held two jobs at the time, and fortunately for him, his second job was running the local dog pound.

Years of trial and error resulted in an intelligent, loyal, fearless, powerful dog and, when necessary ferocious. This dog became known as the Doberman Pinscher after his creator. The AKC officially recognized Doberman Pinschers in 1908. The dog famously went on to be America’s official War Dog working as a messenger and sentry to the US Marine Corps during the Second World War. After the World Trade Towers attack in 2001, rescue services used the Doberman for search-and-rescue operations.

2. German Shepherd Vs. Doberman – Herding Vs. Working Groups

Today the German Shepherd is designated within the herding group of the AKC. Dobermans, on the other hand, retained their position in the working group. But until 1983, they were both part of the same group- the working group.

Doberman with other dogs

In a sense, if a dog has a job to do, he could be classified as a working dog, but it’s not the whole story. Herding dogs such as the German Shepherd were employed to gather animals closer together to protect them better. So they are more inclined to be more suitable for protection.

The working dog title can cover many occupations; for example, a Husky is a working dog because he could pull sleds to earn food and keep. But that’s as far as you can get from herding. As we mentioned earlier, Dobermann developed his dog to be his protector. So a Doberman Pinscher is a working dog under the auspices of a protector.

3. German Shepherd Vs. Doberman Pinscher Differences And Similarities

Physically both dogs appear to be unlike each other, but there are some similarities and, of course, differences. Both the German Shepherd and Doberman are large dogs, but they differ in intelligence, exercise requirements, and shedding.

Doberman Pinschers Vs. German Shepherd Similarities

  • A male German Shepherd grows to a height at the shoulder between 24 and 26 inches, which is slightly shorter than the Doberman, who grows between 26 and 28 inches. The German Shepherd might be slightly shorter, but he can weigh more than a Doberman at 75 to 90 pounds than the Doberman’s 60 to 80 pounds.
  • Both breeds shed their coats all year-round and during autumn and spring will shed quite profusely. However, the Doberman has the more manageable and less troublesome coat to maintain of the two dogs.
  • Both dogs are renowned barkers and, if not trained appropriately, can tend to bark at their own shadows. So a good idea is to nip the barking habit in the bud when they are tiny. Their barks aren’t anything special at that stage in life, but full-grown Dobies and GSDs have a natural nuisance bark.
German Shepherd cute puppy playing

Doberman Vs. GSD’s Differences

  • Dobermans and German Shepherds are athletic breeds excellent at agility and puzzle sports, and their build supports these abilities. Dobermans have the height advantage but weigh less. Other than the coat, which is the next point, a significant difference is in the spine. The GSD has a spine that slopes from neck to tail, whereas the Doberman has a straight back.
  • German Shepherds have a thicker medium-length double coat, but Dobies have short, sleek coats. GSD coats require brushing two or three times a week and every day during autumn and spring. You only need to brush a Dobie’s coat once a week.
  • Life expectancy figures are different for these two dogs. The Doberman has a longer lifespan, between 10 and 12 years. The German Shepherd, on the other hand, has a lifespan of between 7 and 10 years.

4. German Shepherd Vs. Doberman Temperaments

German Shepherd closeup

Typically herding dogs have the intelligence edge over working dogs. But as you would expect with dogs, it’s not so cut and dried. There are only two working dogs on the top ten list, and one of those is the Doberman. The German Shepherd is also on the top ten list at number three; Dobermans aren’t too far behind at number five. So score one for the GSD, but only just.

5. German Shepherd Vs. Doberman Personalities

German Shepherds

  • Swift learners; they can understand commands and get them correctly the first time trying more consistently than most other breeds.
  • Depends on which line he comes from, there are two distinct lines of German Shepherds, working lines and show lines. Working lines are great if you want a competitive, vigorous dog or show lines if you prefer a softer, milder temperament. Be aware though show lines are prone to be timider or hyperactive, mainly when breeders forget to concentrate on the dog’s personality.
  • German Shepherds are high-energy dogs; they need plenty of top-quality daily exercise. Without the right amount of activity, it will affect them emotionally, and they can end becoming hyperactive or anxious.
  • GSDs need as much brain work as they do physical work. If you leave them without tasks to perform, they can turn destructive or develop other unwanted traits.
German Shepherd appearance


  • Dobermans can be lovable softies with their family and are friendly towards strangers, but some are warier of strangers and tend to be overly protective of their family. If you’re going to choose a Doberman, you should enroll the puppy as early as possible in socialization classes to prevent this tendency.
  • Very similar to the German Shepherd as far as exercise needs are concerned. Dobermans are athletic dogs, and unless you are a long-distance runner and can take your Dobie with you, they must have space to run and burn off their energy. You can’t leave them alone for too long or not give them quality exercise because it will lead to unpleasant behavioral issues.
  • Mental exercise is equally as crucial to the Doberman.
  • Dobermans are not quite the people pleasers as the German Shepherd and can be pretty stubborn when they want to be; this is more prevalent with owners who are not experienced dog handlers who cannot assert authority over the dog.
Doberman Pinscher with cropped ears

Final Thoughts – Doberman Vs. German Shepherd

German Shepherds and Dobermans are large dogs, but they don’t look anything like each other, other than being similar in size. Dobermans are tall, muscular with a sleek coat, and intimidating. By comparison, a German Shepherd looks more like a teddy bear walking on four legs.

Both dogs came from Germany and were each the creation of one man at about the same time, the late 1890s. Dobermans and German shepherds are both exceptionally intelligent, the Doberman being only one of two working dogs in the list of top ten intelligent dogs. Providing you put the needs of both these dogs first and foremost, and you’re not a first-time or novice dog owner, a German Shepherd and Doberman will both make exceptional family pets.