Labrador Retriever vs. German Shepherd

*. And the first and second prizes go to… these two! According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog breed in America, and the Labrador Retriever tops the charts at number 1 out of 193 recognized dog breeds. These two breeds are worth mentioning!

Both of these breeds have similar backgrounds in that they come from different working environments, one from hunting and the other from protection. Both are intelligent and have a lot to do. They must be exercised and entertained.

Due to their diverse work backgrounds, they have different personalities. The Labrador can be social with strangers, but the German Shepherd is more cautious around strangers. Let’s take a closer view to discover why these dogs are so popular.

Labrador Retriever vs. German Shepherd

Breed History

These two winners clearly have something going on, so let’s take a look at their pasts.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever’s journey began in the 19th century, but he is a Canadian canine. He is from a working background, but more traditionally worked on the water collecting ducks and fish for his fisherman colleague.

When visiting English nobles saw this beautiful pup, they took him back to Britain. They named him the Labrador Retriever. But ironically, he is actually Newfoundland-born and not Labrador. The breed was refined by English breeders upon their return. They are now one of the most loved dogs in the world.

The Labrador is famously known for being the face of the brand, Andrex, and many people refer to him as the Andrex dog. They are now more popular as either family dogs, assistance dogs for the blind, as well as therapy dogs for the ill and elderly rather than being used for hunting purposes.

Because of their even temperaments, labs make the perfect breed to make a big presence in the designer dog niche, crossing with breeds like the siberian husky, mixing with the Mastiff, or crossing with a great dane. Mixing with the Rhodesian Ridgeback to create the Rhodesian Labrador is also a newer crossbreed.

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd (also known as the GSD) is perhaps the most well-known service and protection dog in the world. He was trained at ‘Shephard School’, rather than the Police Academy, and that is what his name implies. The GSD was engineered by the German’s in the 19th Century by breeding the best sheep herding dog from each district.

The GSD was used during the First World War to transport supplies to German soldiers. His popularity plummeted immediately after and during the war due to his association with the German Nation. The Americans changed his name to Shepherd Dog, while the British called him the Alsatian. In 1931 the AKC reverted his name back to the GSD.

During the latter part of the 20th Century, the GSD became popular again in America when he began appearing in pop culture, such as ‘Rin Tin Tin’, I am Legend as well as many other police films. The GSD is still the most popular military and police service canine choice across the globe.

Appearance

Although the GSD and Labrador look very different, their only commonality is their sizes. The GSD is slightly taller by a few inches and measures up to 26 inches from paw to shoulder, whereas the Labrador reaches 24.5 inches.

The GSD is also slightly weightier, with his maximum average weight being 90 pounds, whereas the Labrador is 10 pounds lighter. To put that in perspective 10 pounds is the average weight of a holiday turkey.

The GSD comes in 11 recognized color varieties, whereas the Labrador Retriever comes in three colors. The GSD is most famous for its black and tan color, and the Labrador is most famous for its yellow color.

The GSD’s outer fur is medium in length, compared to the Labrador’s short outer fur. However, their undercoats are the same thick, protecting them from the elements while they’re out in the field.

The GSD’s muscles are defined, and he is longer than he is tall, and it is this that gives him a more powerful and stronger look compared to that of the Labrador. GSD’s speed and ability to tackle any criminal is due to his long gait.

The Labrador is also sturdy in appearance, but he does not share the GSD’s authoritative aura. The Labrador is more approachable and friendlier for those who don’t know the breed.

The GSD puppy is well-known for his large ears which are too large for his head. There are many videos online that show this. Although he does eventually get his ears, he is still gorgeous. The GSD’s face becomes more intelligent as he matures, while the Labrador retains his super happy smiley expression throughout adulthood.

Temperament

Surprisingly, the GSD and the Labrador are more similar in their temperament than most people think. They are both able to please and serve their masters, which is what makes them so similar.

They will always be there for you and help with the most basic tasks, like cleaning out the windows or taking out the trash. This is a slightly different contrast when comparing the GSD with the Golden Retriever.

The GSD is known to be more of a ‘one-man’ dog, in that his loyalties are clear to be seen with the one who he regards as his main master or caretaker. Often compared to other herding breeds, German Shepherds are quite intelligent and prefer to have a job to do.

The Labrador is not as picky, and will choose to spend his time with the family member who gives him the best belly rubs.

They are also both very sociable and love nothing more than to muck around with the family and join in with all of the games. They are great with children and other animals if they are socialized from a young age. This is why they are both loved as family pets.

Because they are such sociable creatures they can both suffer from separation anxiety if left on their own for too long, so be sure to tire them out before you leave them and leave them with a treat-filled puzzle toy.

Where they do differ the most is that the German Shepherd is naturally more protective of his family and will warn and alert you to any strangers or danger that he feels is coming your way.

The Labrador isn’t very protective. He is more likely to play with strangers than chase them away. This also means that the GSD is also more likely to bark than the Labrador and will let you know if he is suspicious of something or someone.

Exercise

The GSD has a moderate energy level, in comparison to Labrador’s which is high. The GSD needs around 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. While the GSD is happy to play a few balls on top of his daily walks, he also enjoys taking a few breaks throughout the day. He needs to keep his energy up to help his family at night.

The Labrador is much more energetic and boisterous and often doesn’t grow out of his puppy phase for at least three years compared to the GSD who matures at around 18 months.

Not only will he need at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, but he will also need regular interaction with his humans in the form of playing fetch or tug-of-war. If Labrador is left alone for too long, he can become bored and will destroy all your possessions to entertain himself. You may be able to cuddle him if you are able to tire him out.

Training

Both the GSD and the Labrador are incredibly intelligent and eager to please their master, which makes these two dogs a dream to train! The GSD is used in military, protection and search and rescue. They are quick to pick up commands and they can also remember them!

Of course, it is important to socialize all pups from a young age but because the GSD has natural protection and guarding tendencies it is particularly important for him. GSDs need to learn from an early age that animals and humans are safe and not dangerous to them or their pack.

The only way that this can be achieved is through socialization, and positive reinforcement training makes this process much easier; rewarding him with plenty of verbal praise and a small treat will ensure that he will want to do it again soon!

Health

The health of the GSD is average compared to other breeds, and he is required to be tested for fewer health issues compared to that of the Labrador. The National breed club for the GSD recommends testing this guy for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. A condition in which the hip and elbow joints are abnormally formed. This can lead to painful joints and severe arthritis.

A new issue in the GSD community is that their back has been affected. This health problem is believed to have been caused by breeders intentionally breeding GSDs with a sloped back to make them appear more powerful and streamlined. However, this has only made the pups more painful and difficult to walk. Reputable breeders will not breed GSDs in this manner.

The health of Labradors is also average. The National breed club for the Labrador recommends the following health tests for him:

Hip and Elbow Evaluation

An evaluation of the hip and elbow joints to determine if there is any abnormal formation. This can lead to painful joints or crippling arthritis.

Ophthalmologist Evaluation

This is an evaluation of the eye problems that Labradors are known to have. Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which is the gradual degeneration of the retina that can lead to vision loss, is a common condition in Labradors. Labradors are also prone to cataracts.

Exercise-Induced Collapse DNA Test

EIC is where the dog can suffer a loss of muscular control after excessive exercise. In very rare cases the dog can die immediately, but normally the episode will last up to 25 minutes. The symptoms include the dog dragging its limbs behind him, collapsing, and becoming completely unable to move.

The best way to optimize your pup’s health is to research reputable breeders, and then when you meet them ask to see the parents and their health certificates as described above and to see the conditions in which all the dogs are living in. You will know your pup is healthy and that he has had the best start possible in life.

Nutrition

The GSD is the less energetic of the two breeds. However, it will need 3-4 cups food per day. The Labrador, on the other hand, will only require 2-3 cups per day. Because the GSD is more energetic than the Labrador, he will need more food to stay alive.

However, Labradors are very food-oriented and will go to any length to get food. He is one of the most food-orientated hungry hounds around and can easily become obese if you don’t monitor his food intake, so it’s really important that you do.

A high-quality kibble and a low-calorie diet suit these pooches down to the ground. Firstly, because they are prone to Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, a low-calorie diet can help to prevent this as much as possible. For Labradors, a lower intake of calories will make them less likely to become obese. Higher-quality food will ensure your Labrador is receiving all the nutrition he needs, and away from the Vet, his worst enemy.

Scientists have recently discovered the reason why Labradors love treats so much, and that is because the part of their DNA that tells them when they are feeling full, the POMC, is missing. So ultimately, they are forever hungry!

Grooming

The GSD has a medium-length, straight outer coat and a dense undercoat. GSDs shed a lot so you should brush them 2 to 3 times per week in order to keep their coats manageable for yourself and your family. Although the Labrador sheds less than the GSD, he should still get brushed 1- 2 times per week in order to maintain his fur.

Both of these guys should be bathed every 6 weeks, don’t wash them any more than this otherwise you risk damaging their natural coat oils which can lead to skin problems. They both have very dense undercoats so be sure to thoroughly rinse them after each bath. This can cause skin irritation.

Price

The GSD will cost, on average, between $1,000 and $1,500 from a reputable breeder, whereas the Labrador will cost between $850 and $1,200. GSDs are slightly more expensive than Labradors because they are more used for work purposes. Breeders may charge a premium rate. GSDs from a particular bloodline can reach up to $20,000.

The GSD population in rescue centers can be quite high because new owners have underestimated their guarding tendencies and often find them too intense. So, there is a good chance that there will be a GSD in one of your local rescue shelters; adoption fees can range anywhere from $50 to $350.

It’s wonderful to give your dog another chance at finding a loving family. However, you should remember that you cannot always know their past health history. But if it doesn’t concern you too much, then you could be a lifesaver.

Final Thoughts

The Labrador and the GSD are fine examples of the canine world. These guys are intelligent and affectionate and will not let you down.

They are very similar in temperament and are both socially and loving. However, the GSD is better suited for guard dogs than the Labrador.

If you’re still unsure about which breed you prefer, but are still looking for the perfect dog, don’t worry! You might be interested in the GSD Labrador mixed pooch, also known as the Sheprador. This package includes both the best and worst of both worlds so that you don’t have two choices.

These canines are the Gold and Silver Medals for America’s most popular breeds of dog. So you can be sure that you will get a prized pet if you decide to adopt one of these dogs!

Becky Roberts

Becky Roberts

One of Becky's favourite things to do every morning is to browse the top pet-related forums, looking for issues and questions that people have. She then shortlists the most common ones, and turns them into blog posts for Fuzzy Rescue. She's had over 4 cats and 2 dogs over the past decade, so she does know a thing or 2 about raising/training, and more importantly, loving them. She's the only one on our team that doesn't like coffee, but it seems to us she really doesn't need more energy :). We're very fortunate to have her on board as she does most of the heavy listing for the site, outputting an insane amount of content each month. Read More

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