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Rottweiler vs. German Shepherd: Breed Differences & Similarities


Last Updated: April 10, 2024 | 11 min read | 26 Comments

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Whether you’re looking for a family pet or a dog to protect your business, you may have considered adopting a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd Dog. Both of these large dogs can intimidate people and animals. But don’t be fooled by their athletic build or the myths surrounding these canines.

Although they’re strong and powerful dogs, they can melt into mush when you pet them. They can also be your kids’ best friends. They’ll protect your family and work hard to please you if you raise them properly. If you’re in love with the working dog breed, you might have trouble choosing between these two dogs because they have similar characteristics. They also make a popular crossbreed.

Do you want to know what it’s really like to own a Rottweiler vs. German Shepherd (GSD)? Keep reading to learn more about these outstanding purebreds. Many of our readers have strong things to say about each breed and how they have impacted their families for the better.

If you are not certain of your dog’s genetic makeup, you can use an at-home DNA test kit to find out.

Breed Comparison


  • Height 22-27 Inches
  • Weight 80-135 Pounds
  • Temperament Loyal, Loving, Confident Guardian
  • Energy Average
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 9-10 Years
  • Price $1,500 and Up

German Shepherd

  • Height 22-26 Inches
  • Weight 50-90 Pounds
  • Temperament Confident, Courageous, Smart
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-14 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Key Differences

  1. Rottweilers are stockier, larger, more muscular, and have square-shaped frames. They will reach 80 to 135 pounds on average. GSDs reach 60 to 90 or so pounds on average.
  2. German Shepherds are faster and more agile.
  3. Rotties have a more dominant personality.
  4. Both are very smart, but German Shepherds are a bit more intelligent.
  5. Rottweilers have a shorter lifespan.
  6. GSDs tend to be nippers when they are puppies.
  7. German Shepherds have dense coats, and Rotties have short coats.
  8. Rottweilers need less grooming.
  9. GSDs have pointy, erect ears, and Rottweilers have folded ears.

Breed History

Looking at a dog’s history is an important part of the ‘will this pup fit into my life?’ research. Although the history of both breeds is not interlinked in any way, they are similar. Shepherds and Rottweilers have also acted as service dogs over the years. Both breeds were some of the first dogs to assist blind people.


Black and Rust Dogs Standing Next to Each Other
At one point, Rottweilers were almost extinct, but now they’re among the most popular breeds in the US.

One of the first things you should understand about these dogs is they love to work. Rottweilers come from a Roman lineage. These dogs were used to maintain the herds that fed the armies as they moved around the continent.

As they bred with local dogs, farmers began using the strong canines to drive their cattle to the marketplace. Rottweilers protected the butcher’s offerings and pulled carts to deliver the meat. They are named after the town of Rottweil, where they were used extensively.

Once clients purchased the meat, it is said they would put the money in purses strapped to the dogs’ necks for safekeeping. For this reason, the Rottweiler has been called “the butcher dog of Rottweil.”

By the time of the industrial revolution, cars and trains moved market supplies, so dogs were no longer needed. However, in the early 20th century, people bred these canines for their looks, personalities, and attractive qualities. Even though Rottweilers continued to be used as police and service dogs, they weren’t as active in the military as some other breeds.

German Shepherd

Three Dogs Sitting on a Beach
German Shepherds make great police or military dogs, as well as family companions.

German Shepherds have had plenty of military experience, even though they’re traditionally herding dogs. In the 18th century, a military man named Captain Max von Stephanitz sought to create the perfect herding dog. Using all of the best herding dogs from each northern and central district in Germany, the breed was created.

Although he made a great herding dog, his characteristics made him the perfect candidate for the police academy. Off he went, studied hard, and excelled with flying colors. Ever since then, he has been one of the most popular police K9s around the world.

Like the Rottweiler, the Shepherd’s popularity suffered a little from anti-German sentiment after the Word Wars. So much so that he was renamed the Alsatian in many parts of the world and still goes by this name today. As the breed has grown over the years, they have developed into two more distinct breeding lines, depending on your geographic location.


Long-Haired and Short-Haired Dogs Sitting Outdoors
Rotties tend to be larger, stockier, and more square than German Shepherds.

Rottweilers are bigger than German Shepherds. The average Rottie male is between 110 and 135 pounds. Females are smaller and range from 75 to 110 pounds. Male German Shepherds are closer to 65 to 90 pounds. Females generally range from 50 to 70 pounds. However, size shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. A gentle Rottweiler can seem smaller than a rambunctious German Shepherd.

It isn’t just their sheer size difference that makes them easy to tell apart. The Rottie is a square and stocky pooch who is well-noted for his intimidating looks. He has a big, square head, which is in proportion to his body. German Shepherds are longer and more athletic, which has made them more successful in the world of policing.

All Rotties have a short to medium-length double coat, which is thick, dense, shiny, and soft in texture. German Shepherds have the option of four coat types, short, medium, and long, all with an undercoat. The fourth option is a long coat without an undercoat.

Rotties tend to sport the traditional black and tan coat with the traditional Rottie markings. Compared to the Shepherd, who sports a wider range of colors, including black and tan, blue, black, and white.


Two Happy Dogs Sitting on a Bridge
Though both breeds are known to be intimidating, they can actually be quite loving and affectionate with their families.

These breeds have distinct differences. Both breeds are typically not recommended for first-time owners. German Shepherds are working dogs requiring much more exercise than other breeds. When they aren’t exercised properly, they can become destructive.

Rottweilers, on the other hand, were bred as guardians and protectors. They may not require as much exercise, but they can be dominant dogs and quite stubborn when being trained. Let’s look at some of the differences in a bit more detail.

They’re both self-assured dogs that quickly designate themselves as leaders without firm guidance. You can’t let them walk all over you because if you do, they may become destructive and dangerous. They need a confident leader who will spend time with them. Each breed was bred over the years for different purposes, so you need to give them jobs they were bred for to maintain their true nature.

Both types of dogs can be aloof and easygoing. They can also snuggle in your lap if you let them. For the most part, both breeds are confident and courageous. They tend to be rather fearless unless they’ve been neglected or mistreated, in which case they may become shy, anxious, or snappish.

Many Rottweilers are known for being goofy and lovable at home with the family. German Shepherds are playful but a bit less silly. Both dogs can be extremely good with children. Many families swear to each breed as being the best they’ve ever owned.

As Guardian Breeds

Both breeds have territorial and protective instincts, which can work for you if you want to protect your home and family. Like any dog, these canines can be taught to attack. Some people worry that Rottweilers are likely to turn on their owners. If your dog is raised and treated properly, it’s not expected to do that. Dogs of various breeds have turned on their owners. This is not a breed-specific problem. It has more to do with the environment a dog is raised and kept.

Because of these territorial and protective instincts, neither dog is particularly friendly with strangers. They must warm up to someone new before they understand the individual is not a threat. Socializing these dogs adequately by bringing them around strangers from an early age can prevent antisocial behavior and can keep them friendly.


Two Dogs Running in Sand
German Shepherds require more daily exercise than Rottweilers.

Whether you have a Rottie or a Shepherd, you must know what it means to own a working dog. Both of these dogs have a lot of energy. While exercise is important for all dogs, it’s even more crucial to the happiness of both of these dog breeds. Rotties should get at least one hour of exercise per day. They enjoy long walks if you have the time.

If you think that’s a lot, consider the American Kennel Club recommends German Shepherds get at least two hours of exercise per day. Families who don’t have time to give much attention to a dog might consider getting a Rottie instead of a Shepherd. To keep your German Shepherd active and entertained, test a variety of different dog toys and see which ones work best for your pup.

When you’re not actively exercising with your dog, make sure it has plenty of mental stimulation. Wild dogs spend about 80% of their time looking for food. You can set up the same kind of routine with your dog. If you don’t give these dogs something to keep them busy, they’ll come up with their own entertainment, which often involves digging in the yard or tearing up your carpets.


Dogs in Obedience School
Both breeds are highly trainable and do well as law enforcement or military dogs.

Rottweiler owners should commit to training their dogs correctly. Because these animals are so large and muscular, they can overpower you more easily than a smaller German Shepherd. Still, Shepherds are powerful dogs.

If you own either of these breeds, consistency is key with their training. If you become sloppy, your dog won’t know what to expect. When you give dogs structure, you help control their environment. You should learn to walk them properly. They are both just as likely to bound after a squirrel on your afternoon stroll.

Rottweilers may be more food motivated than the two breeds. In fact, Rottweilers are considered to be greedy dogs. You can use treats to motivate your dog’s behavior while keeping its belly full.

On the other hand, German Shepherds are more likely to be motivated by play and praise. Therefore, your training sessions should probably include commands followed by a good game of fetch. Both dogs are highly trainable, which is why they’re often used in search-and-rescue missions, as therapy dogs, and in police work. Overall, German Shepherds are the easiest to train out of the two breeds because they are typically more eager to please.

A Rottweiler is probably more likely to look for a loophole in your rules, though. Therefore, you have to be strict with your training. Never let misbehavior slide, or your Rottie will learn how to manipulate you.

When it comes to following commands, the German Shepherd tends to be quicker to learn. Once you teach them to do something, they’ll be steadfast. Still, every animal is different. Dog breeds don’t always predetermine their personalities.


Mature Dogs in Lions Position
The German Shepherd will typically have a longer lifespan of the two breeds.

Both breeds are relatively healthy dogs. Still, they both have their fair share of health concerns. The Rottie has an expected lifespan of 9 to 10 years, and the German Shepherd enjoys a few more years at 12 to 14. This is primarily down to the Rottie being a large to a giant-sized dog breed, as they tend to have shorter lifespans.

The main concerns that affect the Rottie are hip and elbow dysplasia. This occurs when the bone and the socket do not sit correctly. Not only does it cause discomfort and pain mobility issues, but it can also require surgery further down the line.

The Rottie is also at risk of cardiac concerns, mainly cardiomyopathy and subaortic stenosis. This is why it is important to keep his heart healthy with regular exercise. Finally, progressive retinal atrophy is another condition to watch for.

The German Shepherd is also prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Shepherds are amongst the most affected breeds of hip dysplasia. You can help to keep your German Shepherd’s hips and joints in top shape by using glucosamine supplements and making sure they have a soft but firm dog bed to rest on.

German Shepherd breeders should only breed dogs with good hip scores and try to breed out the sloping back where possible. Another concern for the Shepherd is degenerative myelopathy, a progressive spinal disease that occurs from eight years onward.

Could Pet Insurance Help?

If your pet insurance covers exam fees and your dog needs to be examined, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse those costs based on your policy details. However, if you are a new customer, vet expenses will not be covered until after your policy’s defined waiting periods, so signing up once you have an existing health concern will not help this time. Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any current pet insurance plans.

This is why it is a great idea to sign up for a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and relatively healthy to ensure you will be covered when you need it most.


Puppies Eating From Dog Bowls
A proper diet is crucial for such large and active dogs.

The Rottie eats slightly more of the two breeds, which is expected given his size. But it isn’t by all that much! The Rottie usually eats around four to five cups of kibble daily, depending on their size. German shepherds typically eat between 2.5 to 3.5 cups of high-quality kibble per day, depending on their size, gender, and growth needs.

All dogs are different, which may vary depending on your dog’s size, age, energy levels, and food brand. Always feed both of these guys high-quality kibbles designed for large breed dogs.

For potentially dominant dog breeds such as these guys, it’s important to make them work for their food rather than give it to them for free. Instead of just putting the food dish down, try training your dog and offering the food as a treat. You may think this is exhausting, but both breeds are bound to love the regimen. Even if you just ask for a paw, a little discipline goes a long way.


Dogs Getting Brushed by Humans
Both breeds shed a good bit, so frequent brushing is required to keep their fur from getting matted.

Both dog breeds have different grooming regimes, particularly if your German Shepherd is long-haired. They all have double coats that shed throughout the year and more so during the shedding seasons. The shedding of longer-haired Shepherds will be much more obvious than his shorter-coated brothers and the Rottie.

Short-haired German Shepherds and Rottweilers have similar grooming needs in that they need brushing a few times a week. During the shedding seasons, this should be upped to every other day or daily. Longer-coated Shepherds will need brushing most days and every day during the shedding season. This is because their hair will gather more dust and dirt and is at more risk of tangling.

They both need bathing just as much as one another, approximately once every 8 to 12 weeks. This will keep them both looking (and smelling!) their best. The Rottie might need his nails trimmed more often than the Shepherd as he isn’t as active. Generally, everything else is the same when it comes to their grooming.

Always be sure to use dog-specific products on both of these guys to avoid skin irritations and other reactions. It’s important to get your pooch used to his grooming regime as a pup because both dogs can be a handful if they refuse to be groomed.

Puppy Prices

Cute Puppies Peering Over an Edge
Of the two, Rotties tend to be a bit more expensive on average.

The price of a Rottie pup from a reputable breeder usually starts at around $1,500 compared to a German Shepherd, which starts at around $1,000. Why the difference? The Shepherd is more popular, meaning there are more breeders, which affects the supply and demand depending on where you live. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot find expensive GSD pups. Puppies from champion breeding lines can fetch well over $5,000.

You also need to think about the ongoing costs of owning both breeds. Although there isn’t a huge difference, the cost of a Rottie over his lifetime will likely be more than a Shepherd due to their size.

Rotties are large to giant-sized dogs, and bigger products usually come with a higher price tag, including beds, crates, harnesses, toys, etc. Plus, his food bill is higher too. Remember, the Shepherd is likely to outlive the Rottie by a few years, so it might not be all that different.

Final Thoughts

People often ask if the German Shepherd is better than the Rottweiler, and the truthful answer is both are amazing breeds. There are significant differences between the two, Rotties are larger and need more room, but both are loving, loyal breeds that make fantastic additions to the right family.

If you want a big family pet that will be loyal to the end, both dog breeds can be perfect. These dogs aren’t ideal for a small home or an area without a large yard unless you plan to take them for several long walks a day. But if you have space, you may find a fulfilling relationship between you and your intelligent, fearless pooch.

Both dogs naturally protect their territory, making them both excellent guard dogs. But these breeds are gentle enough that they’ll usually cuddle with you when they’re not on alert. As long as you give your pet what it needs, lots of exercise, training, chances to play, and mental stimulation, it should reward you with loving companionship.

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