Rottweiler vs German Shepherd vs Doberman: Which Guard Dog is Right for You?

Categorized as German Shepherd Types and Mixes
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So you’re looking for a guard dog to join your family and protect your home. Three popular breeds that are known for being excellent guard dogs are the RottweilerGerman Shepherd, and Doberman. But with each breed having its own unique traits, it can be tough to decide which one is the best fit for your lifestyle and needs.

This comprehensive comparison guide will dive deep into all the key factors you should consider when choosing between a Rottweiler, German Shepherd, or Doberman. You’ll learn about each breed’s size, maintenance needs, temperament, trainability, health issues, exercise requirements, and more. Read on to discover which of these intelligent, loyal guard dogs makes the most sense for your family!

Size Comparison

One of the first things to consider is the size of each breed, since larger dogs generally make more imposing guard dogs.

Rottweiler22 – 27 inches80 – 135 lbs
German Shepherd22 – 26 inches50 – 90 lbs
Doberman24 – 28 inches60 – 100 lbs

The Rottweiler is the largest and most massive of the three breeds. Male Rottweilers can reach 135 pounds!

German Shepherds are medium to large dogs. While they are tall, they tend to be leaner than Rottweilers.

Dobermans are similar in height to German Shepherds but tend to be lighter in weight. The Doberman has a sleek, athletic build.

If size is a top concern, the Rottweiler is your best bet for an intimidating guard dog. German Shepherds and Dobermans still have imposing appearances but won’t take up as much space as a Rottie.

Maintenance and Grooming

In addition to size, you should think about the grooming needs and maintenance requirements of each breed. Dogs with long coats or fast-growing hair will require more frequent brushing and professional grooming.

BreedCoat TypeSheddingGrooming Time
RottweilerShort, dense double coatHeavy shedder1 hour per week
German ShepherdMedium double coatHeavy shedder2-3 hours per week
DobermanShort, sleek single coatLight shedder30 minutes per week
  • Rottweilers have manageable grooming needs thanks to their short coat. They do shed heavily, so be prepared for lots of vacuuming!
  • German Shepherds have a medium double coat that requires more frequent brushing to control shedding and prevent matting.
  • The Doberman wins when it comes to ease of grooming. Their single, close coat barely sheds!

If you prefer a lower maintenance guard dog, the Doberman’s short coat is the way to go. German Shepherds need the most intensive grooming while Rottweilers fall in the middle.

Trainability and Temperament

Guard dogs need extensive obedience training from a young age. Their protective instincts can become problematic behavior if not properly directed.

Trainability also affects how easily your dog will learn commands and develop good manners around your home.

RottweilerModerately easy to train. Requires patience and consistency.Confident, courageous, alert. With proper socialization, devoted and affectionate.
German ShepherdVery easy to train. Eager to please owners.Confident, intelligent, watchful. Loyal and bonding.
DobermanExtremely easy to train. Eager to work.Energetic, fearless, alert. Loyal and friendly if trained/socialized.
  • Rottweilers are moderately trainable as they can be stubborn at times. Their natural protectiveness must be controlled through training.
  • German Shepherds are very easy to train and pick up on commands rapidly. They excel at obedience competitions.
  • Dobermans are extremely trainable and are considered one of the easiest breeds to teach. They love having a job to do.

Dobermans stand out when it comes to trainability and temperament. Their eagerness to work with owners makes training a dream. Rottweilers may need more patience and persistence during training.

Exercise and Activity Needs

Guard dog breeds were developed to work, so they need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. Make sure you can provide the right amount of daily activity for your breed.

BreedEnergy LevelExercise Time/Day
RottweilerModerate energy.45-60 minutes per day.
German ShepherdHigh energy. Needs vigorous exercise.60+ minutes per day.
DobermanVery high energy. Needs intensive exercise.90+ minutes per day.
  • Rottweilers have more moderate exercise needs. Long daily walks plus playtime will keep them fit and stimulated.
  • German Shepherds are a very active breed. They require long periods of vigorous exercise and play every day.
  • Dobermans have extremely high exercise demands. Be prepared to commit to long, intense daily workouts if you get a Doberman.

If you lead an active lifestyle, the Doberman or German Shepherd will make a great exercise buddy. Rottweilers are a bit less demanding when it comes to intense activities and exercise duration.

Health Concerns

All dog breeds come with certain health conditions to be aware of. Some genetic issues are more prevalent in particular breeds.

BreedMajor Health IssuesAverage Lifespan
RottweilerHip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cancer8 to 11 years
German ShepherdHip and elbow dysplasia, arthritis, hemangiosarcoma9 to 13 years
DobermanCardiomyopathy, cervical vertebral instability, von Willebrand’s disease10 to 12 years
  • Rottweilers are prone to musculoskeletal issues like hip and elbow dysplasia. Cancer is also a concern, especially in older dogs.
  • German Shepherds share some of the same common health problems as Rottweilers, including hip/elbow dysplasia and arthritis.
  • Dobermans are predisposed to serious cardiac conditions and bleeding disorders.

Across all three breeds, joint dysplasias and arthritis are potential issues to be aware of. Consider the specific health risks of each breed when choosing your guard dog.

Family Life and Children

While guard dogs are protective, they still need excellent socialization to behave appropriately around family and visitors.

Some key factors when considering these breeds for a family:

  • Rottweilers tend to be reserved and aloof with strangers. Thorough training and socialization is vital. With their size, supervision around children is essential.
  • German Shepherds bond very closely with their family. With early socialization they are good with children and more receptive to strangers.
  • Dobermans form a close attachment and are loyal to their family. They can do well with children if properly trained. Close supervision is still recommended due to their size.

Rottweilers and Dobermans in particular may require more extensive socialization as puppies to be manageable around young kids and unfamiliar adults. German Shepherds often take well to children with proper introduction.

Finding a Responsible Breeder

When getting any purebred dog, it’s extremely important to buy from a responsible, reputable breeder. Insist on seeing all health clearances for the parents.

For Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Dobermans, the parents should have OFA or PennHIP certifications for hip and elbow dysplasia at a minimum. Other recommended clearances include eye exams and cardiac exams, especially for Dobermans.

Visiting the breeder’s facilities will give you a good sense of the conditions the puppies are raised in. A good breeder will welcome such visits and be knowledgeable about the breed.

Adopting from a rescue organization is another great option. Many rescues screen and treat dogs for health and temperament issues prior to adoption.

Cost Comparison

The costs below give a general sense of what to budget for one of these breeds. Actual costs vary based on the breeder and location.

BreedAverage Puppy CostYearly Expenses
Rottweiler$1,500 – $2,500$1,900 – $2,600
German Shepherd$1,500 – $3,000$1,500 – $2,500
Doberman$1,500 – $2,500$1,800 – $2,500

Initial puppy costs are similar across the breeds when purchased from a breeder. Adoption fees are lower, typically $300 to $500.

Yearly expenses like food, vet visits, toys/treats are comparable for the three breeds. The Doberman’s extensive exercise needs may drive the yearly costs slightly higher.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which breed is the best guard dog?

All three breeds excel at guard dog duties. Rottweilers and Dobermans tend to be more natural protectors, while German Shepherds require more specialized training. Rottweilers are considered the ultimate guard dogs by some simply due to their imposing size and appearance.

Are Rottweilers good family dogs?

With proper training and socialization from a young age, Rottweilers can adapt well to family living. However, their large size warrants close supervision around small children. Their natural wariness of strangers means they need extensive exposure to new people.

What health issues do German Shepherds have?

Hip and elbow dysplasia are very common in German Shepherds. They are also prone to arthritis, hemangiosarcoma (cancer of blood vessel walls), and degenerative myelopathy. Regular vet checkups, exercise, and ideal weight are important.

Are Dobermans aggressive?

Dobermans are a breed with natural guardian instincts. In the wrong hands or with poor training, aggressiveness can develop. However, in caring hands with proper socialization from puppyhood, Dobermans are very affectionate, loyal, and eager to please. Their “aggression” is greatly exaggerated.

Should I get a male or female Rottweiler/German Shepherd/Doberman?

There are some general differences between males and females of those breeds:

  • Male Rottweilers and German Shepherds tend to be larger and exhibit more guarding tendencies. Females are often more affectionate.
  • Male Dobermans are usually more dominant, territorial, energetic. Females are calmer and more sensitive.
  • For a family companion, most often a female is recommended for these breeds. But either gender can make wonderful pets with responsible ownership.

The Best Guard Dog For You

After considering all the factors – size, grooming, trainability, health, exercise needs, temperament – think about which breed best matches your lifestyle.

Are you an active person looking for a workout buddy? The energetic Doberman may be the perfect fit.

Do you want an imposing guard dog presence but have limited space? Consider the more compact German Shepherd.

For a devoted family guardian that also loves affection and playtime, the loyal Rottweiler could be your top choice.

Whichever breed you decide on, be sure to start training and socialization early on. Let your puppy get used to all the people, sights and sounds they may encounter in your home and neighborhood. Establish yourself clearly as the leader.

With proper care, any of these intelligent breeds will become a beloved companion and guardian you can trust to keep your family safe. The Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and Doberman all have stellar reputations as guard dogs – decide which one feels like the best match, and you’re sure to find your perfect canine protector.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.