Rottweiler vs German Shepherd: Which is right for you?

Five rottweilers running towards the camera, looking very happy
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Rottweiler vs German Shepherd - they’re two of the most popular working breeds, but are these loyal family dogs really that different? Well, while there’s no denying they share a lot of similarities, they do possess some distinct traits that will help you when it comes to choosing which of these two pups is right for you.

While they may have a ferocious reputation, the Rottweiler makes for a calm and courageous companion when paired with an experienced pet parent who is willing to invest time into training and socializing them. They don’t require as much exercise as the German Shepherd and they shed less, but they are more stubborn, which can be challenging.

In contrast, the German Shepherd is highly intelligent and not nearly as headstrong as the Rottweiler and this, coupled with how praise-motivated they are makes them easier to train. However, they require a lot of exercise and do not like being left alone, so they do best with owners who want a dog that’s always by their side.

To put an end to the Rottweiler vs German Shepherd debate once and for all, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about these two breeds in this guide. From size to strength and intelligence to aggression, read on to find out which canine companion is right for you.  

German Shepherd

German Shepherd sitting on the grass

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Bred as a sheep herding dog, the German Shepherd is an intelligent, brave, confident dog eager to please its owner. Often used as police dogs, this working breed is easy to train as it is a fast learner and is motivated by praise and play. They have lots of energy so they will need more exercise – about two hours a day. They love to play, but are not as goofy as the Rottweiler. The breed comes in black and tan, blue, white and black colour variations. They live for around 7-10 years, but are generally healthy dogs.


Two rottweilers standing in a field

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The Rottweiler was originally used by the Romans to pull carts, herd cattle and guard homes. This breed is a loyal and affectionate protector. Also used as police and service dogs, they love to work, but are more motivated by food than the German Shepherd. While they also have lots of energy, they don’t need as much exercise – about an hour a day. The Rottweiler is a good, loveable pup. Their short to medium double coat is generally always black and tan. They live around 9-10 years and are also quite healthy dogs.

Rottweiler vs German Shepherd: Size

The Rottweiler tends to be slightly taller and heavier than the German Shepherd in size. Rottweilers have a more square and stocky build, with males measuring around 24-27in (61-69cm) at shoulder height and females around 22-25in (56-63.5cm). Males weigh around 95-135lb (43-61.2kg) and females around 80-100lb (36.3-45.3kg). Male German Shepherds measure around 24-26in (61-66cm) at shoulder height and females around 22-24in (56-61cm). Males weigh around 65-90lb (29.5-40.8kg) and females around 50-70lb (22.7-31.7kg). Their bodies are longer and more athletic. 

Rottweiler vs German Shepherd: Strength

Both the Rottweiler and German Shepherd are powerful dogs. The Rottweiler probably has a slight advantage when it comes to strength because it has a more muscular, heavier build and they were built for carrying and pulling weight, whereas the German Shepherd is more agile. 

In terms of the strongest bite, the Rottweiler wins with a bite force of 328psi vs the German Shepherd’s bite force of 238psi. However both breeds were bred to protect and should not show aggression if trained properly. 

Rottweiler vs German Shepherd: Health

Given the proper care, both of these breeds tend to be relatively healthy. However, as with all large breeds, they're naturally predisposed to certain health conditions that their smaller brothers and sisters aren't — such as hip dysplasia. 

The Rottweiler is also more likely to suffer from conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy and hypothyroidism, while the German Shepherd is prone to bloat and degenerative myelopathy. Check out our guide to five German Shepherd health issues you need to know about for more on this. 

Both of these breeds will benefit from the best dry dog food or wet food that's been specifically formulated for large breeds. It's important not to overfeed them as they're prone to weight gain if overfed and under-exercised and excess weight will put pressure on their joints. 

Rottweiler vs German Shepherd: Intelligence

These two breeds are both intelligent. However the German Shepherd is considered the third smartest dog breed after the Border Collie and the Poodle in terms of work intelligence and obedience according to a study by canine psychologist Dr Stanley Coren. They can learn a new command after only five repetitions and will respond to a command first time 95% of the time. The Rottweiler ranked ninth on the list, showing that both breeds are smart but the German Shepherd learns more quickly. 

Rottweiler vs German Shepherd: Aggression

German Shepherd outside barking

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According to a study on aggressive dogs 15% were German Shepherds and 5% were Rottweilers. However, any dog can become aggressive if not trained properly and this does not necessarily mean that German Shepherds are more aggressive as this breed is more common.

Although both breeds have a reputation for being aggressive, this is an unfair stereotype. While the German Shepherd’s sharp teeth and bark and the Rottweiler’s intimidating stature may look scary, these loveable pooches are not violent if well trained and socialised. 

Why do police use German Shepherds instead of Rottweilers?

German Shepherds make great police dogs. They’re not only intelligent, strong and agile, but they love to work hard and stay calm under pressure. Although Rottweilers are also smart and easy to train (and have also been used by the force), they are not as athletic and do not have the same endurance. They do have a keen sense of smell, but it is not as accurate as the German Shepherd’s sense of smell. Their strength is also a hindrance in police work as often when apprehending felons, more care and less strength is needed to reduce damage. 

Which dog should I get? German Shepherd or Rottweiler?

Whether you choose a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler will very much come down to your personality as well as theirs. They are very similar breeds and both will make loyal, loving protective family dogs. The German Shepherd will be slightly easier to train, but will need more exercise, whereas the Rottweiler will be a goofier companion and will eat more due to its size. 

Both are healthy dogs with a similar lifespan but look out for common health issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia in both breeds and cardiac concerns with the Rottie. Their grooming needs are similar: if they have short coats, they’ll need brushing a few times a week, but long-haired German Shepherds will need more and will shed more excessively than the Rottweiler. Both are wonderful guard dogs and family pets so whichever choice you make, you’ll have a loving friend. 

For more on these two breeds, check out our guides to 10 surprising Rottweiler facts and six pawsome German Shepherd facts.

Zara Gaspar
Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language.  Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities.  A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.