German Shepherd vs Pitbull – Which Breed Suits You Best?

German Shepherd vs Pitbull

When it comes to dogs, I honestly believe you can’t go wrong if you choose one that’s suited to your lifestyle. Comparing their needs with yours is a great way to make a decision you’ll be happy you made. 

When it comes to the German Shepherd and the American Pit Bull Terrier, you might have a tough decision on your hands because these two pups bring a lot to the table!  

While they might look completely different — seriously, nobody is going to confuse the two — they actually have some things in common. For example, if you’re looking for a loyal and protective companion, they both fit the bill. Unfortunately, both are considered to be some of the most dangerous dog breeds, a title they get unfairly, but more on that later! 

They are notoriously different dogs, though, and they’re suited to different lifestyles. Let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of what makes each dog.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull: What’s the Difference 

German Shepherd vs Pitbull: What’s the Difference 

History

what dog can beat a pitbull

The Pit Bull breed is actually older than the German Shepherd. This pup originated in England in the 1800s, where Old English Bulldogs were mixed with terriers and bred for dog fighting. They were used for bull baiting and ratting.  

Pit Bulls made their way to America via British Isles immigrants after the Civil War ended, which is when they were named. However, despite its lengthy history, it is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, nor is it considered to be a breed. 

can a german shepherd kill a pitbull

 The German Shepherd hails from none other than Germany, where the breed came into existence in 1899. From the very start, these intelligent beasts were bred to be working dogs.

Breeders wanted a dog capable of it all — speed, agility, strength, and a strong nose for smelling. They had jobs herding sheep to start, and today, you can find them serving alongside first responders, police officers, and the military.  

Physical Characteristics 

When it comes to their physical characteristics, these two dog breeds couldn’t be more different. When comparing the German Shepherd vs Pitbull, it’s easy to see that German Shepherds are the larger dogs — they’re taller, with a leaner appearance that can be deceiving. 

pitbull vs german shepherd

This pup stands between 22 and 26 inches tall, with a weight between 50 to 90 pounds. The Pitbull, on the other hand, is shorter, with a height of 17 to 21 inches and a weight that falls between 30 and 65 pounds.  

That’s not the only difference. When looking at the faces, the German Shepherd has a longer, narrower snout compared to the Pitbull’s shorter squared nose. The face of a Pit Bull is wider, too. Typically, unaltered ears on Pitbulls are floppy, much like a Labrador Retriever, just shorter. The German Shepherd has pointed ears that stand up. 

When you first look at the two, you’d think that the Pit Bull is the more muscular one, but the German Shepherd is quite built under that thick, coarse fur. They tend to be evenly matched in this department because they’re both very strong dogs. They have to be for the work they do.  

German Shepherds can have either long or medium-length fur and come in the standard black and tan, black and silver colors you’d expect, though some are solid black, and then there’s the White German Shepherd to contend with, too.  

Pitbulls have a short, smooth coat and that’s often found in a variety of colors and patterns, including merle and brindle, which give them a very unique look.

Temperament

When it comes to temperament, these dog breeds have a bit in common because they are both bred to be tough and incredibly loyal dogs. However, they have key differences too.  

are german shepherds stronger than pitbulls

German Shepherds tend to be the alpha in the pack, so make sure you invest in some training and socialization from a young age so it knows its place in the home. They also tend to bond strongly with one person over another, though they will love all of their family members. This is also one of the most intelligent dogs out there, so training will likely be a breeze.  

german pitbull

The Pitbull is more affable, wanting to love everyone and be your best friend. Though they can be great guard dogs when trained to be, they’re not the aggressors everyone thinks they are.  

Both dogs have a prey drive, but the German Shepherd slightly edges out the Pitbull in this respect. They can also get along with other dogs as long as these two breeds have proper socialization.

Aggression Level 

When it comes to aggression, I want to make one thing very clear — any dog can be aggressive. Any. Dog. It’s up to the owners to instill training and socialization and to recognize the cues that the dog might be aggressive.  

pitbull bite force vs german shepherd

That said, both of these breeds have, at one time or another, been labeled the most aggressive dog breeds and earned reputations for being dangerous. Yet, Pitbull attack statistics tell a different story. Studies don’t always tell the full story. 

Then, there’s the fact that these statistics are often based on wrong facts, such as someone misidentifying a type of dog when making a report.  

Many times, aggression is a result of ownership and mistreatment. Dogs aren’t inherently mean or aggressive, they are often made that way. Does that mean there are no bad eggs? No, but more often than not, it’s the owner. That’s what I always tell people when they ask, “are Pitbulls dangerous?” 

So bear that in mind when you consider the German Shepherd or the Pitbull as a pet; training is your friend, and just love them. They will love you right back and show you why they’re called Man’s Best Friend.  

Bite Force 

Every dog has a bite force measurement that’s laid out in pounds per square inch, basically how much pressure it puts when it bites down. Here, the German Shepherd wins out by a very small margin, but it’s still the winner.  

German Shepherds have a stronger bite force of 238 PSI to the Pit Bull’s 235. However, some people mistakenly think that the Pit Bull has a locking jaw, which it does not. It just tends to hold on to everything much longer than most dogs.  

One thing to mention, though, is that bite force doesn’t simply determine strength. The truth is both of these dog breeds are strong. The Pit Bull does tend to have more muscles per pound of body weight, though, so it would likely edge out the German Shepherd in this respect. 

Nutrition Requirement 

are pitbulls stronger than german shepherds

As the two dogs are both muscular, this means in order to keep up their physiques, they need a good solid high protein diet. In terms of keeping them well fed, the German Shepherd, being the larger of the two, will need more food, typically three to four cups to the two-and-a-half a Pit Bull will eat. Of course, this will vary by dog, so make sure you’re not over or underfeeding.  

One thing I will say is most dogs will eat when they’re hungry. If you only have one pup, you can leave the food out, and they will nibble when they are ready. Then, there’s the matter of ensuring you have high-quality food for the pups that’s rich in protein. Aim for about 25% to 30%.

Exercise Requirement

Both the German Shepherd and the Pit Bull are very high-energy breeds, they love to play, they are excitable, and they need regular exercise of around an hour a day.  

pitbull vs german shepherd who would win

Your exercise routine can include brisk daily walks, playing in the backyard, or engaging in mental stimulation interactive games that require strategy. German Shepherds, in particular, love those types of games, and they also love agility training. It’s why they serve particularly well as one of the top military dog breeds

Health and Life Span

How we wish our pups would all live forever, right? The German Shepherd has a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years, while the Pit Bull has an average lifespan of around 12 to 14 years.  

That said, they both also have their fair share of health issues. Both, for instance, may suffer from hip dysplasia, while the German Shepherd might also suffer elbow dysplasia. This is a good reason not to overly push them when they’re growing because it’s harder on the joints if you do.  

The Pit Bull is also prone to a few other conditions, such as grass allergies and a neurological condition called cerebellar Abiotrophy, which could render it immobile. They also have knee issues because they love to run and jump and hypothyroidism, which can cause skin problems and obesity.  

The German Shepherd is known to have a sensitive digestive system (fiber is a must!) and may suffer from Degenerative myelopathy, a spinal cord condition that affects the hind legs and can be life-threatening.  

Just because they are known to have these issues doesn’t mean they will. It’s just a good idea to keep an eye out for anything unusual and keep up with vet visits! 

Intelligence Level

When it comes to the smarts, the German Shepherd wins here, hands down. It’s one of the most intelligent dogs in the kingdom. In fact, they’re also the smartest working dogs.  

But don’t let that fool you into thinking the Pit Bull is dumb! They’re known for above-average intelligence, they’re just not quite as smart as the Shepherd. Both breeds are eager to please their humans and will learn tasks easily. 

Another thing to be on the lookout for, especially with German Shepherds, is their intelligence tends to get them in a spot of trouble from time to time. For example, make sure you have a high fence in your backyard before you let them out because they will hop a fence or find a hole to crawl under to go exploring. 

Grooming Needs

When it comes to the grooming department, you’ll spend much more time on it with your German Shepherd than with a Pit Bull. The Pit Bull has a short, smooth coat that doesn’t require much bathing unless of course, your dog likes to roll in the mud! 

German Shepherds tend to need regular brushing, and they shed like crazy. If you brush them regularly, you can avoid always being covered in fur, but you’ll never be 100% fur-free.

Living Environment and Socialization

When it comes to your living environment, both of these dog breeds will do best in a home with a fenced-in backyard. However, they can be suited to apartment living if you meet their exercise needs. That said, socializing is going to be your best bet for a successful pet.  

Early socialization is critical for both of these dogs because they’re strong, smart breeds that need that positive reinforcement behind them. Obedience training is a great idea for both German Shepherds and Pit Bulls. They learn to follow your commands, which will, in turn, make you both very happy. 

Training

Training is pretty easy with these dogs because both the German Shepherd and the Pit Bull love to please their people. Positive reinforcement over negative is recommended because they’re more likely to thrive knowing an action made you happy. 

German Shepherds, notorious for being police and military dogs, pick up commands faster, but they will get bored easily and want to learn new things. 

German Shepherd vs Pitbull: Which Breed Would You Choose?

german shepherd vs pitbull

Choosing between a German Shepherd and a Pit Bull is definitely a personal choice, but it’s also a matter of your lifestyle and how much time you have to devote to the dogs. If you want a more laidback pup, the Pit Bull is the way to go. If you want a dog that will keep you busy and engage more, that will be the German Shepherd.  

Both of these dogs make great family dogs. Hands down, they are amazing through and through. If you’re inexperienced with dogs, I would recommend the Pit Bull over the German Shepherd only because it’s less work.

Which Pitbull Looks Like a German Shepherd?

There is no Pit Bull that looks like a German Shepherd in theory, but there is a way to get the best of both, and that’s through crossbreeding. Many cross breed to create Pitbull mixed breeds that have the traits of both. 

This particular mix of German Shepherds and Pit Bulls is called a German Sheppit, which is considered a designer dog. However, it’s a loyal companion that will also protect you, so you get the best of both worlds.

FAQs 

What Is More Suitable for Families With Young Kids, a German Shepherd or Pitbull?

Both the German Shepherd and Pit Bull do well in homes with small children, especially if you train them and raise them from puppies to adulthood together.  

I will stress, though, that it’s very important that you teach your children to respect animals and not pull on or sit on them. This is not appropriate behavior, no matter how cute one might think it is. Many dog bites happen because the pup is pushed to its limits. This is true for any dog, not just these two breeds.  

Is One More Effective as a Therapy Dog Compared to the Other?

Believe it or not, both Pit Bulls and German Shepherds make amazing therapy dogs. When it comes to training, the German Shepherd may pick up on tasks quicker, especially complex ones. However, the Pit Bull is the more relaxed of the two and might be a better companion.  

How Much Do Pit Bulls and German Shepherds Cost To Adopt?

The cost of the two dogs really depends on the breed line and the breeders. Sometimes, you can get the pups for a steal, if they are surrendered to animal shelters from breeders who can’t sell. But often, you can expect to pay anywhere from $700 to 1200 for German Shepherds and $800 to $2000 for Pit Bulls.  

Which Breed Comes With a Higher Cost of Ownership?

Owning a dog will always come with expenses, such as food, vet bills, and health care. But when you compare the German Shepherd vs Pitbull, it’s likely that German Shepherds will cost more. The reason being is that they’re more prone to health issues, as noted above, and these issues tend to be costlier.

However, this is just going on generalities, and you could end up with a dog that has virtually no health issues at all.

Wrap Up

While these dogs might be considered to some as two of the scariest dog breeds, to me, they’re just goofy, lovable companions. I have hands-on experience with both, and I can tell you that you’re adopting an amazing dog no matter which one you choose.

Just remember to do your research when it comes to buying from a breeder — and check your local pet shelters; you’ll often find some real good doggies looking for a home there, too!

Christina Drury
Meet Christina Drury, a dedicated animal enthusiast, and proud pet parent. She has a deep-rooted affection for all creatures, and Christina has called the Buckeye State home for the past four years. As a seasoned writer, she possesses a versatile writing style that spans various niches, yet her heart truly belongs to animals. With her innate connection and expertise, Christina is committed to crafting engaging and insightful content for animal-related issues.

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