German Shepherd vs Doberman: Which breed is best?

German Shepherd vs Doberman: which breed is right for you
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The German Shepherd vs Doberman Pinscher debate is one you've probably come across if you're looking for a large dog. The dogs are certainly similar in quite a few ways, and are both often used as guard dogs or military/police dogs. But if you're trying to figure out if either a German Shepherd or a Doberman is the right dog to add to your family, you'll need to do your research.

We've gathered a ton of information about the key differences in the German Shepherd vs Doberman debate, but it's also important that you do your own research as well. Getting a dog is a serious endeavor, and you want to make sure you make the most informed choice. 

Here you'll learn more about each breed, including their size differences, their intelligence, and some other key differences between them. 

German Shepherd

One of the best dogs for runners, a German Shepherd running across the grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

German Shepherds were bred as sheep herding dogs so they're intelligent, confident, loyal, and eager to please. They're also relatively easy to train, and are faster learners who are highly motivated by rewards, praise, and play – this is why they're often used as police dogs. It's important to socialize German Shepherds as puppies to give them an even better chance at being well-behaved adults. German Shepherds do have a lot of energy, however, and won't do well in an environment that doesn't provide them with exercise and stimulation. Their life expectancy is anywhere from nine to 13 years.

Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher

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Doberman Pinschers are German dogs that were bred as guard dogs by a mixing of Black and Tan terriers and German Pinschers with Rottweilers. They are protective by nature but can become comfortable with strangers when socialized at a young age. Doberman Pinschers are very high energy dogs and can be destructive if they aren't properly exercised, so you'll want to take that into consideration. They are ranked very high in terms of canine intelligence (fifth according to psychologist Stanley Coren), and are fast learners. They will need a confident and consistent trainer, however, to ensure that they don't get bored and misbehave as they learn so fast. Doberman Pinschers have a life expectancy of around 10-12 years. 

Doberman vs German Shepherd size

German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers are relatively similar in height but can be different weights. German Shepherds stand anywhere from 22 to 26 inches tall, while Dobermans are around 24-28 inches. German Shepherds can weigh between 50 and 90 pounds, while Dobermans are a bit heavier, coming in at around 60-100 pounds. They are both large, high-energy dogs. 

Doberman vs German Shepherd intelligence 

Both Dobermans and German Shepherds are highly intelligent breeds of dog, but there may be some personality differences. Canine psychologists frequently rank the breeds in the top ten most intelligent dog breeds, with some ranking Dobermans higher than German Shepherds and others vice versa. Overall, they're both considered incredibly smart working dogs, although there may be some personality differences. 

Some owners suggest that German Shepherds are more mischievous and goofy than Dobermans, and can be more hyperactive if improperly socialized at a young age. However, every dog is different, and breed similarities doesn't always mean that your dog will be exactly like a "typical" German Shepherd or a "typical" Doberman.

Are German Shepherds more aggressive than Dobermans? 

Aggression is a tough thing to actually define, and can be consistently misconstrued. Dogs are the product of their environment, and any breed can be aggressive. Consistent and firm training is necessary to ensure your dog is not aggressive or reactive, and since both breeds are high-energy, training is a must. Again, aggression differs from dog to dog, so it's not a good idea to make broad, blanket statements about breeds. 

Why do police use German Shepherds instead of Dobermans? 

German Shepherds are popular as police and military dogs because of their agility, trainability, obedience, strength, and intelligence. As working dogs, they were bred to be great workers, and they work well alongside humans. They also have good control over their prey drive as they were bred to be herding dogs. Some say that Shepherds are preferred over Dobermans because the latter lack an undercoat, which offers extra insulation in both cold and warm environments.  

Which dog should I get, German Shepherd or Doberman? 

Ultimately, you can't decide on a dog just by reading one article, although we're happy you're here. If you live in a small apartment and aren't very active, neither a German Shepherd nor a Doberman are a very good option for you. Both are active, energetic breeds that need at least two hours of exercise a day, and if you can't provide that for them they'll likely develop behavioral issues – and potentially even health issues. 

But if your family is an active one or you have plenty of space and are considering a large, energetic dog, there are some other things you can consider when deciding between a German Shepherd and a Doberman. Are you worried about shedding? Are you prepared to get a trainer? Do you have small children and other pets? Are you looking to adopt, not shop? All of these questions and more will help you decide which dog is right for you. This is a big decision, and we're here to help make it a little easier.