What are the differences and similarities between Rottweilers and German Shepherds? They’re both popular dog breeds, but these two dogs have a lot more in common than you may think. Let’s take a look at some of their most important physical attributes, temperaments, history, and lifestyles to see how they stack up against one another.
Rottweiler vs. German Shepherd Comparison
Calm, Confident, Protective, Watchful
Loyal, Smart, Courageous, Alert
Susceptible to heart diseases
Susceptible to Joint Diseases
$1,500 and Up
$1,500 and Up
Rottweiler vs. German Shepherd: Top 10 Differences Between Rottweiler and German Shepherd Dogs
1. Dog Breed History
Both the Rottweiler and German Shepherd dogs originate from Germany; however, they have very different ancestries. Both the German Shepherd and Rottweiler were originally bred for similar tasks as herding dogs. Over the centuries, both dogs rose to prominence internationally and became known as highly sought-after police dogs and military service dogs, in addition to being excellent guard dogs.
The Rottweiler breed was descended from drover dogs (cattle-driving dogs) left behind by the Romans in Rottweil, Germany, during the 2nd century C.E. These dogs were then crossbred with other dogs in that region.
During the Roman Empire, their ancestors were used for herding livestock that was used to feed the army. From the 2nd century to about 1900, as they met and mixed with local dogs, they were used mostly by the local butchers to drive cattle to market, pull carts of butchered meat to the river or town center for sale, carry money in a neck pouch and guard the butcher shop. Thus the name “Rottweil butcher’s dog” was coined.
As World War I raged on, the breed started to be used as police and military dogs. World War II further cemented the Rottweiler’s popularity as multi-talented dogs capable of serving in various capacities, roles, and jobs from messenger and mercy dog, to guard dog.
On 13 January 1914, amid the growing tension of the First World War, the first Rottweiler club in Germany was established, followed by the second club, Süddeutscher Rottweiler-Klub (SDRK, South German Rottweiler Club), on 27 April 1915. However, it was not until 1931 that the Rottweiler dog was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club and other kennel clubs worldwide.
From then on, the popularity of the Rottweiler breed has soared ever since. In fact, in 2020, the AKC ranked the Rottweiler as the eighth-most popular dog in the United States.
German Shepherd History
As the name suggests, the German Shepherd dog originates from Germany. In 1899 by Max von Stephanitz wanted to create perfect working dogs for guarding and herding sheep. So he tried to crossbreed a number of working sheepdogs from rural Germany, and the result was a dog that is now known as the German Shepherd.
When first introduced, the breed’s German-language name is Deutscher Schäferhund. German Shepherd was first introduced in the US in 1907 and in the UK in 1919. Although the breed was first known by the name German Shepherd, this name was changed across the globe due to anti-German sentiment during the First World War.
In the US, the word “German” was lopped off their name, making the breed simply the “Shepherd,” and in the UK, the name was rechristened as the Alsatian. In the aftermath of the war, the breed’s name was changed back again to “German Shepherd Dog” in many parts of the world.
German Shepherds have been used in the military since 1914 when the Germans used them on the front during World War I. Amused by the dog’s heroic acts and capabilities, the American military forces began deploying them in World War II, making German Shepherd dogs highly prized by both sides during World War II. They were used to carry messages between units, locate wounded soldiers (smelling bandages and blood), as guard dogs, sentry dogs, and scout dogs.
As years passed, the breed spread and branched into two distinct breeding lines: the American and European German Shepherds. In 2020, the German Shepherd was ranked the 7th most popular dog breed in the United States by the American Kennel Club.
The first thing that one will notice when comparing the two breeds is their size, with Rottweiler generally being bigger than the German Shepherd.
A full-grown Rottie male stands between 24 and 27 inches tall and weighs between 110 and 135 pounds. Female Rottweiler stands between 22 and 25 inches tall, weighing 75 to 110 pounds. Meanwhile, a full-grown German Shepherd male stands at 24 to 26 inches with an average weight of 65 to 90 lbs. Female GSD stands at 22 to 24 inches tall and weighs 50 to 70 lbs.
Their sheer size difference is not the only thing that makes them stand apart. The Rottie and the Shepherd have different bone structures and colors as well.
On one side, Rottweiler has a strong, muscular frame with thick-set bones that gives them a stocky appearance. They have a medium-sized head that resembles a triangle with a wide chest, long back, and thick legs. All Rottweilers have a short double coat that consists of a medium, coarse outer coat, and undercoat that is present mostly on the neck and thighs. The coat color itself is black with markings ranging from rust to tan to mahogany.
On another side, the German Shepherd has a square-shaped body with a long neck, moderately broad chest, and muscular limbs. They have a slightly dome-shaped forehead, a black nose with an elongated square-cut muzzle, and erect, pointed ears. Their back and hind legs are slightly longer than the front, making them elegant-looking. The tail is bushy and reaches the hock joint.
German Shepherds come in four types of coat:
- a short coat with an undercoat
- a medium coat with an undercoat
- a long coat with an undercoat
- and a long coat without an undercoat
For German Shepherds that have a double coat, the outer coat is coarse, slightly wavy, or stands straight off the body. The undercoat is soft and thick. Their fur color, usually tan and black or red and black., although other rarer colors exist such as all-Black, all-White, liver, and blue.
3. Temperament and Personality
In general, both breeds are not recommended for first-time owners because of their dominant nature and tendency to be headstrong.
Rottweiler’s overall temperament is calm, confident, fearless, and watchful. Rotties are initially wary of new people but are very friendly upon getting acquainted. In this area, the German Shepherd also shares the same view with the Rottweiler. They prefer to watch new people before they decide whether or not to interact with them.
When it comes to family dynamics, both of these breeds are highly protective and loyal. Between males and females of both breeds, the males are more protective of their surroundings, while the females tend to be more affectionate and protective of their families.
Compared to other dog breeds, both Rottweiler and German Shepherd are smart dogs and highly trainable. They are both self-assured and will not hesitate to show their dominance. Due to these traits, they need strong handlers that can sublimate their stubbornness.
Be firm with the Rottweiler and GSD, but not to the point where they perceive you as being aggressive. They will take advantage of your weakness or hesitation in handling them. If you lack assertiveness or you’re quite indecisive, it would be best to stick with a more submissive breed.
4. Feeding Schedule and Diet
Being a bit bigger than the German Shepherd, the Rottweiler needs to eat slightly more food per day than the German Shepherd. An adult Rottie needs about 2200 calories per day which translates to four to five cups of kibble a day. On the other hand, a German Shepherd requires about 1,740 and 2,100 calories for adults or around 2.5 to 3.5 cups of kibble per day.
Note that how much you feed your adult dog depends on their size, age, build, activity level, and metabolism. You should also consider your dog’s health condition, such as any existing allergies or other health problems.
As both breeds are susceptible to weight issues and bones problems, you should carefully measure the amount of food you give them and feed them twice a day instead of leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether your dog is overweight, you can give them the eye test and the hands-on test.
Here’s how: first, look at the back of your dog’s neck and waist. You should see a definite waist and a definite neck. Next, place your hands on the flanks and ribs of your dog. You should able to feel each of their ribs with no excess fat in between them. If it feels like you have fingers wrapped around a bowling ball, then that means that your barking buddy is a bit too chubby for their own good.
When considering the best dog food to buy, Rottweiler and German Shepherd should be fed with high-quality foods that don’t contain cheap fillers. Also, stay away from grain-free formulas unless your dog is specifically allergic to grain, as they are suspected of causing many health problems in dogs.
To keep both dogs healthy, regular exercise is a must. Rottweiler and German Shepherds should be exercised daily to reduce the risk of obesity and joint problems. These breeds are highly active, so they need at least one to two hours of walks per day to burn off their excess energy.
If you’re going out on long walks with your dog or taking them hiking in the mountains, you’ll need to plan accordingly and take water, leashes, poop bags, food-dispensing toys, treats, and other important things for your dog.
Exercise is so important for your dog’s happiness and health that you should never skimp on it. Don’t neglect your dog’s exercise just because you’re too busy or tired; otherwise, you’ll be sorry later when your dog exhibits troubling behaviors.
If you love competition, the good news is that both German Shepherds and Rottweilers are good at dog sports. They enjoy dog sports like barn hunt, herding, agility, dock diving, nose work, and tracking.
As for training, socialization and obedience should be prioritized from a very young age. Without proper socialization and obedience training, these dogs can become aggressive and exhibit destructive behaviors that can cause damage, like biting. Although personal injuries like dog bites pose are rarely life-threatening, they can still pose life-changing consequences like permanent scarring and disability.
It would be a really good idea to enroll your dog in an obedience class as soon as they are allowed. It’ll help with their training if you lack time or knowledge. This class will train your dog in a safe and controlled environment. Furthermore, it’s a good chance for you to meet and learn from experienced trainers and others with the same interest.
Good rewards and consistency are the keys to successful training. If you don’t reward your dog, then they won’t know what to associate with what behavior, and that will make training more difficult. Good rewards include treats, a pat on the head or belly rubs, squeaky toys, praise, and fun games.
It’s true that both German Shepherd and Rottweiler can learn new commands or new tricks fast, but this doesn’t mean that you can slack on consistency. Each dog is an individual and will learn at their own speed. So be patient and methodical when you train your dog.
Speaking of grooming, a German Shepherd has a coat that is harder to take care of than that of a Rottweiler, especially if your German Shepherd is long-haired.
Because of the short, close-fitting coat that the Rottweiler has, it requires less brushing, a few times per week with a firm bristle brush should be sufficient. This grooming need goes hand in hand with short-haired German Shepherds.
The one thing that both of these breeds have in common is their ability to shed consistently throughout the year, whether they are short, medium, or long-haired. The specific breed’s coat will determine how much hair you can find around your home and yard. You can expect that the longer the coat, the more hair it will shed.
During shedding sessions, German Shepherd grooming needs to be upkeep to keep the shedding and matting down. This includes daily brushing, regular stripping of dead hair, and vacuuming up loose strands.
As far as bathing goes, both breeds need bathing just as much as one another. While the frequency of bathing for both of these breeds can be different depending on their individual skin and coat health, you can expect to bathe your Rottweiler or German Shepherd once every few months, while German Shepherds will need a bath about once four to eight weeks. Of course, the more active your dog is, the more likely you are to have to bathe them more frequently.
If you decide to give either of these dogs a bath yourself, it is recommended that you use warm or lukewarm water rather than extremely hot or cold water. It is also important to keep the shampoo and/or soap out of their eyes and ears. Finally, don’t forget to brush and towel-dry their coat rather than rubbing it dry with a hairdryer, as this can damage their skin and coat.
Both German Shepherd and Rottweiler are considered healthy dogs. Still, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own unique health concerns.
German Shepherds, for instance, are susceptible to conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, degenerative myelopathy, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, allergies.
The Rottweiler is also prone to similar health issues, like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, aortic stenosis/sub-aortic stenosis (AS/SAS), osteosarcoma, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), panosteitis (Pano), hypothyroidism, and allergies.
Despite these potential health concerns, with proper diet, exercise, and regular checkups to the vet, both of these breeds can live long, healthy lives. The Rottweiler has an expected lifespan of about 9 to 10 years, while the German Shepherd is expected to live an average of 12 to 14 years.
The price of the German Shepherd is a little higher than that of the Rottweiler. The price you pay for a Rottweiler puppy is anywhere from $1500 to $2500, while the German Shepherd will cost about $1500 to $3000. So, both of these breeds are not cheap. In most cases, these prices have included spaying and neutering, initial vaccinations, deworming, and microchipping.
The annual expenses of owning either of these breeds should be somewhere between $1,200 to $1,500. This includes the cost of food, treats, toys, training classes, vet visits, and more.
It’s still possible to find breeders who sell puppies without papers for much less. Nevertheless, these puppies usually come from lines with zero health and temperament testing. While you might be able to find a bargain, you’re likely to pay for it in the long run.
Costs can also be cut down by adopting a dog from a shelter rather than buying one. Just be aware that you’ll be settling for a pup who might have unknown health issues or not a purebred. But this should not stop you from adopting a dog; there are plenty of wonderful mixed breed dogs who need loving homes.
10. Children and Other Pets
Rottweilers and German Shepherds tend to be one of the best dog breeds for children. They are protective of their families, which makes them good watchdogs. More than that, they’re also very loving dogs who will do anything to protect their family from harm.
Still, you need to think carefully about if a Rottweiler or German Shepherd is the right dog for you, especially if other members of your family are very young. For example, Rottweiler might not be “toddler-safe” dogs because of their cattle-driving instincts to lean and push, which may lead to accidental injury.
If you have young kids at home, this means that you shouldn’t leave one of these big dogs alone with your children without supervision.
Both of these breeds can also live peacefully with other dogs and pets, as long as they’re socialized with them from puppyhood. Adult Rottie or Shepherd might have an issue with sharing their territory with new pets, especially if they’ve lived alone for many years, so you should introduce them slowly and carefully. Ask the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist if you aren’t sure what you should really try to do.
Overall, both of these breeds make great dogs for families with children. And they can also get along well with other dogs and pets in the home.
Rottweiler and German Shepherds are not for everyone. They require a lot of time, energy, patience, and attention to be happy pets. However, if you want a big family pet that will be loyal to the end, both dog breeds can be perfect!
But if you don’t have enough space in your home or yard for these large dogs (or aren’t ready for such an intense responsibility), there are many other breeds out there with similar qualities but different needs – like Boston Terrier or Basset Hound, who are pretty low maintenance.