German Shepherd or Golden Retriever? Which One is Right For You?

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Some more things to remember, is that there are always exceptions to the rule. Not every Golden Retriever or German Shepherd will be as I describe. Some GSDs might act more like Goldens and some Goldens more like GSDs.

OK, so you’re looking for a new dog. There are so many breeds to choose from. Your final choice comes down to a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd! Which one should you choose and why? How are the breeds different and what do you need to know about each breed before making your final choice?

Doing Research

OK, while doing research for this blog, I got quite frustrated. One source labelled GSDs as not being likely to dig (The American Kennel Club website). That has NOT been my experience with the breed. Not only that but GSDs scored 4/5 stars for “friendly towards strangers” (dogtime.com), again, that’s not the case for the average GSD. So, unfortunately doing research about breeds isn’t very accurate. You cannot trust online sources to tell you what you need to know.

Some more things to remember, is that there are always exceptions to the rule. Not every Golden Retriever or German Shepherd will be as I describe. Some GSDs might act more like Goldens and some Goldens more like GSDs. This article is a GUIDE. And how you train and raise your puppy will have an impact on how they grow up too.

About Your Average German Shepherd

OK, so personality-wise most GSDs are like your Accountant-CEOs (in that order, otherwise known as Analytical-Drivers). What does that mean? They like to know the rules. And if you are not going to have rules, they’re going to make rules. These guys like structure and certainty. They are generally very methodical (why they make great tracking dogs) if you show them how to do something they will follow that way of doing.

German Shepherds are described as “aloof” and that translated means, they don’t really want strangers around. Strangers are not their friends. Remember German Shepherds were bred to herd  as well as protect the flock of sheep. So, that means that German Shepherds don’t trust strangers, they are suspicious, and so they are more likely to bark at you and try and scare you away. And if barking works, then biting must be better – they do excel in Schutzhund (though if you want to do that fun sport, be sure to get a GSD from good working lines).

German Shepherds can be easy to train, because they are intelligent and methodical, but that doesn’t mean that they are always easy to live with. Especially if you are not clear and consistent. Many of the GSDs I see are very reactive and some can be nervous (not what you want in a GSD). They need information to be able to make a decision. So give them time to assess the situation without pressure. And it’s also important that tell them how you want them to behave.

Your German Shepherd likely doesn’t want to be fussed over. They’re happy to lie by your feet, but the odd pat is about the extent of physical contact most GSDs require. Hugs aren’t usually their thing. They might tolerate it from you, because you’re part of their tribe but, don’t overdo the gushy stuff with these guys.

A GSD’s Tinder Profile

Are you introverted? Not really the life of the party? Looking for that one true friend to be your rock, your protector and your confidant? Look no further! I’ll protect you from the creepy old guy with the funny hat and that annoying yappy little dog a few doors down.

I have one of the best noses in the business, so need anything found, I’m your dog! Love long hikes in the wilderness looking for lost people? You’ll have no better partner!  Don’t want strangers harassing you? No need to fear when your German Shepherd is near! Want someone sensitive, and kind, yet forceful and scary? I’m just the dog for you!

About Your Average Golden Retriever

What makes most Goldens easy to live with is their strong desire to please you. Most GRs are friendly with everyone. Like, don’t expect them to be of any use if someone breaks in. In fact, they’d probably open the door for them and let them in. They are mostly extremely social, and happy dogs, but sensitive too!

Goldens LOVE mud, and water (generally, if they weren’t traumatised by it as a puppy). They will also want pats. Constantly. Like “pat me and tell me how amazing I am, don’t stop!”. So if you Love to spend hours brushing and patting your dog, bathing them, blow-drying them (they tend to get a lot more hot spots, so you have to dry these guys thoroughly!) then Goldens could definitely be your best mate.

Golden Retrievers can be quite sensitive. Like really sensitive. They don’t re-home well. In fact most of the times I’ve been called to help with Goldens have been after they’ve gone to a new home and they were a little depressed. They really struggle with change and it’s up to you to help them through it with patience.

A Golden’s Tinder Profile

Do you love long walks on the beach and making new friends? As long as you don’t mind if I’m everyone else’s friend as well! I’m the dog you should have walking by your side! I love you just as much as I love rolling in mud, and stinky dead things on the beach, but don’t worry, straight after I’ll want you to pat me (constantly!) and tell me how much you love me!

I get easily distracted by birds. It’s in my DNA. But don’t worry, my heart lies with you! I’m a sensitive soul who just wants to please you! I love making everyone happy, I’m pretty easy to train, but don’t expect me to be a good dog automatically. I still need training!

Choosing the Right Dog!

Finding a good breeder is VERY important with Golden Retrievers, as with German Shepherds! Both breeds can suffer from terrible hip and elbow problems as well as eye sight problems. So it’s very important that you check the parents’ of the puppies health certifications.

Temperament also matters. Your dog will be spending the next 8-12 years in your home. So take the time and meet the parents! Some poorly bred lines can have a tendency to be reactive, and if this isn’t worked with can turn into aggression. Other lines have problems with food aggression. So, it’s very important to find a good breeder, but if you didn’t, then get a trainer to help you deal with any problems that arise ASAP so they don’t become dangerous. Good training can go a long way towards helping bad habits melt away.

How to choose the right puppy

If you’ve selected the right parents and the right breeder, the puppy you choose is not as important as what you do with the puppy you choose. Factor in training from a good trainer before deciding on a dog and I promise the investment will pay dividends as you enjoy your puppy for the rest of their life with you, rather than dread living with your puppy and finding that you cannot cope with their naughty habits less than a year into your life together!

Bear in mind that an introverted dog with an introverted owner can make things more difficult if the dog doesn’t get the right exposure to new situations and things that they require. So get help, or contact us for your introverted owner & dog guide. Personally, if you have young kids and want an easier life, I would tend to go more towards a Golden Retriever they’re just more likely to be easier in general. But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, and you know how to deal with dogs who try to make rules then by all means, a German Shepherd could be just the dog for you!

I would tend to go for a German Shepherd more as my personal favourite, if I had children, I’d choose a Golden Retriever. The only thing I’m not a fan of about GSDs is their constant vocalisations. Like seriously, they whine the ENTIRE walk. They dig, they chew… oh Goldens can do that too… bu they are less whiney. So really I don’t have much of a preference between the two breeds! With training, both can be exceptionally fantastic companions. It’s up to you to know what you need in a dog, and make the right choice for your family and circumstances.

Want more help?

We’ve also got our free New Puppy Survival Guide for you to grab, which includes tips on dealing with puppy biting just fill in your details below and not only do you get the guide which covers  but also a series of emails that will cover more details on socialisation, toilet training and management to help you with your puppy! You can get it right here!


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Hi, I'm Luzelle! I help dog owners, just like you, learn how to enjoy your dogs. Because not only will you benefit as your dog's guardian, but your dog will feel happier and more fulfilled as well! The reality is that naughty dogs aren't fun to take anywhere. And I know your dog really wants to be a good dog, they just don't know how! So, stop getting frustrated and embarrassed by your dog's bad behaviour, and give us a call! Because Life is just better with an obedient dog and good dogs have more fun!

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