German Shepherd VS Pitbull: Two Vastly Different Powerful Breeds

Last Updated on March 19, 2023

The German Shepherd (GSD) and the American Pitbull Terrier are known to be incredibly strong and powerful dogs.

These breeds are also energetic, intelligent, affectionate, and loyal to their close family. 

Close-up images of the German Shepherd and American Pitbull Terrier
The German Shepherd (left) and the American Pitbull Terrier (right)

Both GSD and Pitbull make great companions and protectors of the home. They both have fierce looks, but their appearance is quite different.

Although they are perceived as aggressive breeds, they can be great family pets with the right owner.

So what are some of the differences between the Pitbull and the German Shepherd? Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about these two dogs.

Breed Comparison: A Quick Overview

Because they belong to the same lineage, the German Shepherd and the Pitbull are so much alike, although they differ in some aspects.

Here is a comparison table to quickly see the difference between the two dogs.

  German Shepherd Pitbull
Height 22-26 inches 
(55-66 cm)
17-21 inches
(43-53 cm)
Weight 75-95 pounds 
(34-43 kg)
50 pounds 
(23 kg)
Health Average Above-average
Energy levels High Moderate
Lifespan 7-10 years 12-16 years
Trainability Excellent Can be stubborn
Temperament Loyal, stoic, aloof Playful, sociable,
sometimes prone
to aggression

Breed History

A German Shepherd and an American Pitbull Terrier sitting
The mighty German Shepherd (left) and American Pitbull Terrier (right) dogs

The modern German Shepherd was officially created in 1920. Initially, they were bred in Germany as shepherds to protect the flocks from predators.

They excelled as guard dogs and are even used in the military and police services. 

On the other hand, the American Pitbull Terrier was first born in the 19th century in the British Isles. Here they were used as catch dogs.

In America, they were bred as fighter dogs as these agile, powerful dogs would attack fearfully and viciously.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Pitbull and a German Shepherd?

The American Pitbull Terrier and German Shepherd lying down outdoors
The equally beautiful American Pitbull Terrier (left) and German Shepherd (right) dogs

It is pretty easy to tell the difference between a Pitbull and a German Shepherd.

The Pitbull will be the smaller one with the short, smooth coat, looking quite muscular. They have a thick neck, broad chest, broad flat skull, and deep muzzle. 

The German Shepherd, however, has medium to long fur, mainly in the typical color of black and tan. They can also come in solid colors such as black, white, or even blue.

They have much more fur as they possess a double coat. A German Shepherd should have a black face mask, bushy tail, and erect triangular ears.

Read more: Pitbull Colors vs German Shepherd Colors

Temperament and Personality

The American Pitbull Terrier and German Shepherd sticking their tongues out
The American Pitbull Terrier (left) and German Shepherd (right) showing their goofy side

Despite their intimidating appearance, both the Pitbull and German Shepherd have sweet, goofy personalities. They are affectionate, loving with their close families, and eager to please.

Both the German Shepherd and Pitbull suffer from separation anxiety. Both are also energetic and love playing with strong prey drives. 

The Pitbull is brave, loyal to the end, determined, and more aggressive than the other breeds. They need daily exercise not to get bored and have the proper training to ensure they are not aggressive.

That said, with correct socialization, the Pitbull is the more friendly guy and even likes playing with other dogs. 

The German Shepherd is more distant and quieter at the party, for they are more independent. Because he is a one-person master, he will only ever have one leader.

German Shepherds are very intelligent and easily trained. They will watch over you like a furry guardian angel and immediately protect you when necessary.

Are Pitbulls calmer than German Shepherds?

No, the Pitbull, who has a shorter attention span, loves to be the soul of the party. They are more playful and impulsive.

The German Shepherd is a little calmer than the Pitbull. They are super intelligent and respond so well to training.

That makes them confident and calm in deciding their next moves, which is why they do so well in police work.

Is the German Shepherd stronger than the Pitbull?

Both these breeds are known to be very strong. The incredible pulling strength of the Pitbull is widely known, but German Shepherds can handle up to 2-3 times their body weight.

Because of their weight and size advantage, the German Shepherd might have the upper hand over the Pitbull.

Pitbulls were originally bred to fight. Although they may be the smaller dog, they would likely win in a fight due to their ruthless natures.

However, there are other factors to consider, like the size of the dogs, if one is old and weak, and if one is overweight.

A good healthy diet might be an advantage as the one with a good diet is likely to beat the other. 

Are Pitbulls more aggressive than German Shepherds?

The American Pitbull Terrier and German Shepherd barking
The American Pitbull Terrier (left) and German Shepherd (right) showing their fierce side

German Shepherds are very suspicious and are quite stern guard dogs. They are less intense to exercise but can become overprotective if not trained to accept other humans or animals.

The Pitbull is more sociable and playful; however, these are bred fighters. They are easily bored and can be more aggressive if not properly trained and socialized.

Which breed is more dangerous?

The German Shepherd and the Pitbull have reputations for being dangerous and aggressive. They are both also known for a disproportionate amount of fatal dog bites.

Statistics show that the Pitbull is the more dangerous of the two breeds and is linked with more severe fatality rates. 

With proper training and a firm owner, both these breeds can be very sweet, loving, and loyal companions, even in family homes.

How strong are their bite forces?

Dog bite strength is measured by the unit PSI. The bite force of these two breeds is very similar, with the German Shepherd having a slight upper hand due to his size.

The German Shepherd’s biteforce measures 240PSI (16.8kg per square cm), while the Pitbull’s measures 236PSI (16.6kg per square cm).

Which breed is the perfect family dog?

Both breeds are adorable and loving family pets. For a long time in Germany, the German Shepherd was considered the most popular dog as a pet.

When trained and socialized, the large German Shepherd can make a smart, loyal family dog that will protect you at all costs, being aloof and conscious around strangers. 

With his friendly, confident, and courageous personality, the medium-sized Pitbull will fit into a playful, caring family home setup.

Which Breed is Easier to Train?

The German Shepherd and American Pitbull Terrier training
The German Shepherd (left) and American Pitbull Terrier (right) training outdoors

Both the German Shepherd and Pitbull are known for trainability because they both want to please and are very intelligent.

Consistent positive reinforcement training that starts at an early stage will ensure that you enjoy an obedient and confident best friend and a great family dog. 

It will be good if everybody in the family uses the same command words and is involved in the training to keep the dog on track and create a strong family dynamic.

However, German Shepherds are a little easier to train than Pitbulls, who can sometimes be stubborn.

Check out this video to see some extremely well-disciplined and trained German Shepherd dogs:

Is a German Shepherd smarter than a Pitbull?

Pitbulls are of average intelligence.

The German Shepherd is, however, very smart, and because they love to learn and figure out new things, they can sometimes astonish you as they respond to mental and physical stimulation.

Their curiosity causes them to test and explore their environment.

Which Dog Breed Has Higher Maintenance?

German Shepherd and American Pitbull Terrier eating
The German Shepherd (left) and American Pitbull Terrier (right) having their meals

The Pitbull and German Shepherd both require a moderate amount of maintenance.

Both breeds need regular brushing, trimming of nails, teeth brushing, and shampooing, although the German Shepherd’s longer coat does require more care.

Their exercises and playtime are also time-consuming. Both breeds eat a lot, so the owner has to budget for good nutritional meals.

Which dog is more energetic?

Both the Pitbull and the German Shepherd are pretty high in energy.

While the Pitbull can go with just 30 to 45 minutes of exercise daily, the German Shepherd needs at least one hour per day

Walks, games, swimming, running, and any form of motion that you enjoy will keep them occupied and avoid boredom.

German Shepherds also excel in obedience, dog sports, and agility. 

Switching your exercise routine often is advisable to keep them from getting bored. If they do get bored, it might result in a destructive session.

Which dog sheds more?

Because of the Pitbull’s smooth short coat, a quick brush once a week will do, although they also shed a lot.

The German Shepherds have longer fur and shed notoriously, which requires a good brush two or three times per week or even more.

If their need for consistent brushing is not done, it will cause their fur to get matt or tangled.

Nutritional needs

Both Pitbulls and German Shepherds require a high-quality protein-rich diet to maintain muscle mass.

Due to their larger frame, the German Shepherd will need 3 to 4 cups of food daily, whereas the Pitbull will only need two and a half cups per day.

Average Lifespan

The Pitbull’s average lifespan is about 12 years, but they can reach up to 14 years. German Shepherd’s average lifespan is between 9 and 13 years.

German Shepherds are known to suffer from spinal problems and hip dysplasia due to their sloping frame. Eye disease is also common in this breed.

Pitbulls can also suffer from hip dysplasia, particularly if they are allowed to overeat and put on weight. These dogs are also notorious for skin and food allergies.

Puppy Price

American Pitbull Terrier and German Shepherd puppies
The cute American Pitbull Terrier (left) and German Shepherd (right) puppies

Pitbull puppies can cost between $500 and $2000, and for a German Shepherd puppy, you will have to pay anything between $1500 and $3000

Because German Shepherds have more health issues than Pitbull, they require more visits to the vet.

Vaccinations, medicines, and other procedures might also be expensive because they are bigger. Because of their size, they also need more food.

All this makes owning a German Shepherd more expensive than a Pitbull.

Learn more about the German Shepherd Price here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

American Pitbull Terrier and German Shepherd smiling
The American Pitbull Terrier (left) and German Shepherd (right) giving their best smiles

Which is more popular?

The popularity of the Pitbull and German Shepherd all depends on what you need and the commitment you are willing to put in to train, maintain, and enjoy your dog.

They are both equally popular. Some families need a smaller, lower-maintenance dog like a Pitbull. They are, however, banned in a lot of countries.

Others might go for a real guardian angel and confident watchdog like the German Shepherd.

Do Pitbull and German Shepherd get along?

If they are well trained and probably grow up together, the German Shepherd and the Pitbull might get along or even culture a good friendship.

The German Shepherd is also quite a lone wolf and might prefer to be by himself than play with other dogs like a Pitbull does. 

The Pitbull, however, is more prone to aggression toward other animals and needs plenty of socialization. Both dogs need a lot of attention and might grow to be jealous of each other.

Conclusion: Are German Shepherds Better than Pitbulls?

The German Shepherd and Pitbull are both excellent dogs in their own way. It all depends on what the owner is looking for and his preferences and needs. 

Both can be great family dogs if trained well, but they need plenty of socialization and a firm owner.

If you’re looking for an energetic, sociable companion, the Pitbull would be a good choice, whereas the stoic German Shepherd makes a good watchdog or guard dog.

Do you have a Pitbull or a German Shepherd? What made you choose this breed? We would love to learn about you and your pet in the comments below.

Further reading: See other Dog Breed Comparisons

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