German Shepherd vs Australian Shepherd – Breed Comparison And Guide

There is a good chance that most people will have heard of German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds. This is only natural considering that these two breeds are pretty popular and are kept as pets in households around the world.

However, have you ever considered how these two breeds compare to one another? Do they have a lot in common? Or, are they quite different? If this is something you have wondered, then you are about to find your answers below…

The Origins and Classification

Now, when comparing two breeds, you have to start at the very beginning – where the breeds originated from. Now, you would imagine that it is pretty obvious where German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds come from. However, let’s take a closer look at their origins:

German Shepherds are true to their names. Not only are they originally from Germany, but they also belong to the herding group. This is because these dogs were first bred to herd livestock. While the German Shepherds had a single purpose, there was still quite a bit of variation within the breed.

This all changed when Captain Max Von Stephanitz set out with the goal of uniting the breed under a category of specific characteristics. He procured dogs from other owners and crossed different strains from Central and Northern Germany. This produced the German Shepherds you are familiar with today.

The history of the Australian Shepherd isn’t as open and shut as with the German Shepherd. For one thing, these dogs didn’t even originate in Australia! Rather, it is believed that they were brought to the United States by the Basque people. As such, these dogs likely originated from northeastern Spain and southwestern France.

However, in terms of the current breed, most experts would agree that they were truly bred in the Western United States. Of course, this still leaves the question of how these dogs came to be referred to as Australian Shepherds. Well, this was probably because the breed was popular with Australian Shepherds who had migrated to the US.

It is due to these earlier responsibilities that Australian Shepherds are also a part of the herding group. They even tend to retain many of their herding tendencies even though they haven’t had these jobs for a long time.

Although German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds may have started out herding livestock, their roles have evolved over the years. These days, they play significant roles in all areas of society.

Popularity

In terms of popularity, it is difficult to beat out German Shepherds. This is because they tend to find themselves at the very top of the most popular breeds time and time again. For instance, German Shepherds have remained the second most popular breed on the American Kennel Club.

This isn’t too surprising, of course. Back in the day, German Shepherds were used in films, cementing them as celebrity dogs. There is also the fact that this breed is still rather highly regarded due to their roles as search and rescue, police, and guide dogs.

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Now, Australian Shepherds aren’t slouches in this department, either. They are currently ranked as the 17th most popular breed in the world. These dogs are better known for their role as household pets, but may be used as guide dogs.

Physical Traits and Appearance

Now, let’s take a look at how these pooches measure up when it comes to physical appearance.

Size

German Shepherds have an advantage when it comes to size. They are both taller and heavier than the average Australian Shepherd. For instance, most GSD males are around 24 to 26 inches tall, with females being about 22 to 24 inches high.

Australian Shepherd males, however, can be between 20 and 23 inches tall. The females may be around 18 to 21 inches high.

German Shepherd males can weigh around 65 to 90lbs. The females can weigh between 50 and 70lbs. Australian Shepherd males may weigh between 50 and 60lbs, while the females may weigh around 40 to 55lbs.

Appearance

Australian Shepherds tend to be rather proportionate and are only slightly longer than they are tall. Their bobbed heads are also in proportion to their body. The muzzle tapers a little from base to tip and is slightly rounded at the tip.

These dogs have strong necks and backs, perfect for the jobs that they were designed to do. Their chests are well-defined, without being overly large or barrel-shaped.

German Shepherds have rather distinctive heads. They are known for their strong faces with a noble and chiseled tint to it. GSDs have long muzzles and pointed ears. You will often find them with composed and intelligent expressions on their face as well.

GSDs also tend to be more muscular than Australian Shepherds. However, these dogs aren’t bulky – instead, they are known for their long and lean physique. Their thick coat does add some bulk to their frame, however, making them look even bigger.

Coats

Australian Shepherds have coats of a medium texture that may be straight or wavy. They have an undercoat and their top mane tends to be of medium length. Female dogs, in particular, are known for a fluffier mane.

Their coats may present in the following shades:

  • Blue merle
  • Black
  • Red
  • All red
  • Red with white or tan markings

German Shepherds have very thick, dense fur as well as a double coat. The coat is often medium length, with wiry hair that is wavy. The coats may present in these colors:

  • Tan and black
  • All black
  • Grey
  • Sable
  • Red and black
  • Black and Silver

Eye Color

Australian Shepherds can have a wide variety of eye colors. It isn’t uncommon to find these dogs with pale blue eyes. However, they may also have brown, amber, green, or hazel eyes. Many Australian Shepherds have heterochromia – eyes of two different colors.

With German Shepherds, there isn’t too much variation in eye color at all. More often than not, these dogs have dark, brown eyes.

Personality Traits

GSDs may have a reputation as a working dog, but they are just as great as family pets as well. When they are around their human family, they are known for being devoted, loyal, and quite courageous. This breed doesn’t work especially well with other dogs, though.

Australian Shepherds enjoy being around their humans too. It is often advised that you should only get this breed if you can be certain that someone will always be at home. Aussie Shepherds will get lonely if they aren’t with their humans.

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Now, both these breeds tend to be wary around strangers. Since these dogs tend to be rather protective of their families, they may often see strangers as a threat. However, there is a low risk of aggressive behavior.

Nevertheless, it is best to socialize German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds at a young age. This should help to get rid of these negative traits.

Needless to say, German Shepherds need to be trained. They are intelligent and willing to learn. This drive, though, means that these dogs should be tied up with exercising, various tasks, and continuous companionship. Otherwise, they may begin to exhibit negative behaviors.

Australian Shepherds are also incredibly intelligent. This makes them perfectly suited to learning new tasks quickly and easily. These dogs can be rather independent and headstrong as well. This means that they need a capable leader and teacher to ensure that the lessons stick.

Health and Genetic Illnesses

The most common genetic issues associated with GSDs are:

As for Australian Shepherds, the health conditions that you need to watch out for are:

  • Cataracts
  • Persistent pupillary membrane
  • Multiple Drug Sensitivity
  • Epilepsy
  • Colobomas
  • Collie Eye Anomaly
  • Hip dysplasia

As for life expectancy, Australian Shepherds tend to live longer, with a life span of around 12 to 15 years. GSDs, on the other hand, may live up to 7 to 10 years.

Exercise Needs

It is important to remember that German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds were bred to be working dogs. And, although they are largely pets now, they still have significant exercise needs.

It isn’t enough to take these dogs on daily walks. In addition to that, these dogs need to have one-on-one playtime with their owners as well. And, it can’t help to take them to dog parks or somewhere where they can run off-leash.

Ensuring that your Australian Shepherd and GSD gets enough exercise can go a long way in minimizing negative behaviors. If these dogs are left to their own devices with lots of energy to burn, they may become destructive.

Since both these breeds are quite intelligent, they need to be mentally stimulated as well. This could include agility courses and training programs. They are happiest when they have plenty of meaningful tasks to complete.

Appropriate Living Spaces

As a result of their long coats, these dogs manage well in cool or cold climates. It is unlikely that they will be comfortable in regions where it is warm all year round. And, you may need to take additional steps to keep them cool during the warmer months.

Since both breeds are of medium size, they don’t do well in apartments or very small homes. They do need enough space to move around and stretch their muscles. This doesn’t mean that they can’t live in cities, though. However, if you don’t have a backyard, you will need to take them to a dog park daily.

While these dogs love the outdoors, don’t let them be outside by themselves for too long. They love their humans and are often happiest when they can be inside, where their family is.

Grooming

German Shepherds have a reputation for shedding. This is largely due to their thick coat. Also, these dogs have two shedding seasons each year during which, their hair fall gets exponentially worse. The easiest way to get ahead of this is to brush the dogs every few days.

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Australian Shepherds have a single shedding season. And, as long as you brush them once a week with a slicker brush, you should be able to keep the shedding under control. As for baths, you will only need to bathe them when they are dirty.

Training

As German Shepherds have proven, they have a great deal of skill and capability. However, these can only be utilized if they are socialized and trained from an early age. If you want a well-behaved dog who can adapt to various situations, then you should focus on obedience training.

It is also important to keep in mind that consistency is a must with this breed. Thus, you shouldn’t let up on the training until they have mastered a particular task or trick.

Now, Australian Shepherds are trainable due to their intelligence, but they aren’t the easiest breed to train. This is because they can be rather headstrong. As such, they aren’t great for novice owners. Instead, they work better with owners who are gentle but have a firm hand.

Both breeds work best with positive reinforcement. Thus, this is something that you should focus on throughout their training, even during the trickier parts. You will then end up with a well-balanced, well-trained, and happy dog.

Social Function

When it comes to social functions, German Shepherds are a bit better. Now, while Australian Shepherds can be trained as guide dogs, they mostly function as pets these days. This is because their independent nature can make it difficult for them to consistently follow orders regularly.

GSDs, on the other hand, can be trained for:

  • Law enforcement
  • Search and rescue
  • Field training
  • Military
  • Guide dogs
Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding these breeds.

Which is Better – German Shepherd or Australian Shepherd?

There is no such thing as a better breed. Rather, it is more about what kind of dog will fit best with your family. For instance, if you want a great companion, then Australian Shepherds may be a better choice. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more performance-oriented pup, GSDs are a great option.

Are Australian Shepherds Good with German Shepherds?

Well, both breeds have quite a bit in common, including personality and exercise needs. However, GSDs don’t always get along with other dogs. If they are socialized at a young age, though, these breeds may do well together.

Are German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds Good for First-Time Owners?

As long as you lead an active lifestyle and can fulfill the exercise needs of a German Shepherd, they will be an excellent fit for a first-time owner. Australian Shepherds, on the other hand, may not be a great option. These dogs tend to be rather headstrong and need an experienced owner.

Are Australian Shepherds or German Shepherds Better Guard Dogs?

These dogs aren’t inherently aggressive due to their herding instincts. However, since they are loyal to their families, they can be protective of their owners. Due to being big, they are often deterrents to thieves as well. GSDs may make better guard dogs once trained though.

This is how German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds compare against each other. There are just as many differences as there are similarities. One thing you can be certain of is that they are both wonderful breeds that will bring joy to their families.