Should I Get A German Shepherd Or A Golden Retriever?


German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are two of the most popular dog breeds.

In this short guide, we look to provide some differences between the two  breeds for you to consider.


(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)


Should I Get A German Shepherd Or A Golden Retriever?



Overall, both breeds are popular for good reasons.

Golden Retrievers are probably a better dog for people who want a ‘people’s dog’ because of their friendliness and tendency to show love and affection/enthusiasm to basically everyone they meet.

German Shepherds can also make great family dogs and can also be very loving and loyal, but some may also have a tendency for aloofness with strangers and other dogs (they can make good guard dogs for this reason).

German Shepherds also come in the high drive East DDR and other lines that can make fantastic working dogs for different applications.

German Shepherds are therefore probably a more versatile breed.

It’s worth noting, even though each breed has a stereotype of what they are like, ultimately, each dog will offer something different based on their genetics, their parents, their individual personality and characteristics, and so on.

It’s very important to know as much as you can about the breeder, parents, and other littermates (as well as medical and other history and information) if buying from a breeder.

When adopting or rescuing, the shelter should have information on the general nature of the dog and any other information you need to be aware of. You might take the dog home for a test period (if the shelter or rescue allows it) to see if the dog is a fit for you and your lifestyle.

See a dog in person before you buy or adopt if you can.

Understand that a dog is usually a 10 to 15 year commitment – don’t bring one into your life unless you can give them the necessary care and they fit your living arrangement and lifestyle.



German Shepherds

The reality is that the different lines of German Shepherds have diluted a fair bit throughout time – there are far less professional and serious breeders left in the world that actively look to breed for line based traits and features (although there are some very good ones).

Read more about the different German Shepherd lines in this guide.


Golden Retrievers

There are Canadian, British and US line Golden Retrievers.

Each one traditionally has small differences in their body structure/composition and coats (color and texture).


Appearance & Coat Colors

German Shepherds

Traditionally have a gold, black and cream coat. But, there are other colors such as black, white, sable and more.

German Shepherds are known by their ears that stand up and their athletic looking bodies, with a curved back (although some lines have a straighter back).


Golden Retrievers

Generally come in a gold/creamy color, but some goldens are darker (almost a browny color).

They tend to have floppy ears and curly tufts of fur on their chest and stomach in particular.


Size & Physical Traits

German Shepherds

A large sized dog

Can be anywhere from 1 foot 10 inches, to 2 foot 2 inches in height

Can be 75 to 95 lbs in weight

Can live 10 to 14 years




Golden Retrievers

A medium sized dog

Males are 23 to 24 inches tall and weigh 65 to 75 pounds. Females are generally 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall and 55 to 65 pounds

Lifespan is generally 10 to 12 years





German Shepherds

German Shepherds can be wary of strangers, but tend to be incredibly loyal and obedient to their owner.

Having said that, some German Shepherds are incredibly loving and don’t have any of that aloof or standoffish nature that harder drive GSDs might have.

GSDs with more working drive can be very focussed, disciplined and obedient.


Golden Retrievers

Goldens tend to have an unbridled friendliness about them – essentially showering everyone they meet with love and affection.



German Shepherds

Generally one of the smartest and most trainable dog breeds.

The working line GSDs are arguably the most obedient and trainable dogs in the world.


Golden Retrievers

One of the smarter breeds – should have no issues training and teaching obedience to.


Daily Care, Grooming & Exercise

German Shepherds

German Shepherds tend to shed a lot – particularly when they are blowing their coat.

Be ready for a lot of hair in your house if you don’t brush them regularly and vacuum.

German Shepherds do well with at least half hour to an hour’s worth of exercise a day.


Golden Retrievers

Very similar to German Shepherds – can shed a lot. So, be ready to brush and vacuum.

Also need half an hour to an hour’s worth of exercise a day.


Suitability As A Family Dog

German Shepherds

Can make fantastic family dogs that are very loyal and protective.

ALthough, make sure you get a GSD with a stable and not skittish or unstable temperament.


Golden Retrievers

Generally seen as one of the best family dogs along with Labradors.


Health Problems, Conditions & Concerns

German Shepherds

Hip and elbow dysplasia can be a common health problem to look for in GSDs – it’s why good breeders offer hip certifications.

Degenerative myelopathy can be another condition that occurs.

Read more on GSD health problems at


Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers might put on weight easily as they age or if they are fed too much – so this is something to watch out for.

Read more on Golden Retriever health problems at


Cost To Buy Or Adopt

German Shepherds

Will be looking at anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to buy.

The East DDR and other high pedigree GSDs can be very expensive when bought from the best breeders.


Golden Retrievers

One of the most expensive dog breeds in general.

Will generally cost at least in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for a healthy puppy.


With both breeds, when adopting, shelters or rescues need to charge a fee to cover their time and expenses, and also to screen out unsuitable owners.

Some guides for buying and adopting in general that might help you are:

Things To Consider When Adopting or Rescuing A German Shepherd

Where To Find A German Shepherd Rescue or Shelter Near You

What To Look For When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy: Ethical Step By Step Guide

Where To Find The Best German Shepherd Breeders Near You


Vet Costs & Ongoing Care Costs

Generally a similar cost for annual vet care, food, and other supplies.


German Shepherd Golden Retriever Mix

Read more in this guide about GSD Golden Retriever mixes.



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