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Australian Shepherd vs. German Shepherd: Which Dog Breed Is Right For You?

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Australian Shepherd (right) vs. German Shepherd (left)

The Australian Shepherd and the German Shepherd are both working dog breeds but not in the same sense. The Australian Shepherd, or Aussie, is best known for its ability to control livestock. On the other hand, the German Shepherd Dog, or GSD, is best known for guarding livestock. In any case, both breeds are extremely good at what they do. 

The Aussie and the GSD both make excellent pets for the right owners. In other words, owners who are well-versed about these dogs' care requirements. If you are considering getting either of these dogs, keep reading to find out which one is suitable for you.

Size and Maintenance Level

The Aussie is a medium-sized dog, weighing between 25 and 32 kg, with males being somewhat heavier than females. Conversely, the GSD is a large dog breed weighing from 30 to 40 kg. Like male Aussies, male GSDs are slightly heavier than females. So it is up to you whether you want a large or medium-sized dog.

When it comes to maintenance levels, both breeds are deemed high-maintenance. In addition, both breeds are high-energy dogs. They both require a great deal of regular exercise, as well as mental stimulation. However, German Shepherds are not as energetic as Australian Shepherds. Aussies flourish in environments with enough room to run, play, and exercise. They excel at various activities, such as obedience training and agility. Furthermore, Aussies make great pets for active owners who dedicate time to train and exercise them.

Like Aussies, German Shepherd Dogs also thrive on mental challenges and active engagement. The GSD  is perfect for you if you are seeking a devoted and versatile dog. On the other hand, your search might end with the Aussie, provided you are seeking a tireless and trainable partner for work or sport.

The Aussie and the GSD are both serious shedders. They both shed their medium-length, double-coat, year-round and more profusely during shedding season. As such, they both require brushing every few days or so to help remove loose hairs. However, more work will be required during the shedding season.

Personality and Temperament

In terms of temperament, Aussies are described as:
  • Intelligent
  • Sweet-natured
  • Affectionate
  • Protective
  • Active
On the other hand, German Shepherd Dogs are described as:
  • Intelligent
  • Stubborn
  • Alert
  • Obedient
  • Loyal
  • Confident
  • Protective
  • Curious
  • Watchful
  • Courageous
  • Brave
Both breeds were originally bred to be herding dogs and therefore tend to easily get bored and become destructive if they're not exercised enough. The Aussie and GSD both require early socialization and training to keep their herding instincts in check. If you are not planning on using them to herd, that is. These dogs are both known for trying to herd their owners. The Australian Shepherd even possesses a stronger herding instinct than the German Shepherd Dog. Thankfully, both breeds are very smart and eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train.

German shepherds' eagerness to please combined with a strong sense of loyalty makes them kid-friendly. On the other hand, Australian Shepherds are not always good with children. They don't make good guard dogs either, though known for bonding strongly with their owners and being protective of their property. Conversely, German Shepherd Dogs are naturally protective and especially suitable for guarding roles.

Both breeds have high prey drives and therefore exhibit an irresistible impulse to chase small animals. This makes having them around small pets or livestock challenging at times, or on daily walks around the neighborhood.

Australian Shepherds are generally not aggressive dogs. They are known as sweet-natured dogs with lively personalities. German Shepherd Dogs, however, if not properly socialized from an early age, can become aggressive to other pets and people. This is due to their protective nature toward their owners. Moreover, German Shepherd Dogs are among several breeds that have been restricted or banned in many US cities. Take President Joe Biden and his wife's German Shepherd Dog, Commander, for example. 

Commander was banished from the White House following a series of biting incidents involving staff. Earlier this year, Forbes reported that Commander bit secret service agents at least 24 times. However, with early socialization and proper training, a German Shepherd can become a well-mannered dog.

Australian Shepherd (right) vs. German Shepherd (left)

In terms of attention, Aussies are more needy than GSDs. Aussies tend to be overly clingy whereas GSDs tend to be independent-minded. Most Aussies form strong attachments to their owner and therefore often want to be wherever their owner is. This behavior earned them the nickname "Velcro dogs."

German Shepherds, regardless of their independent nature, are also very dependent upon their owners. In fact, GSDs hate being left alone for many hours during the day. Like Aussies, GSDs are also referred to sometimes as "Velcro dogs'' because they love to stick to their owners through thick and thin.

Both breeds tend to be cautious around strangers and dislike downtime, except when they’re sleeping.  One way to make these breeds burn off some of their energy in play. Both breeds will enthusiastically enjoy just about any game you invent.

The Aussie is known to be quite vocal but not as vocal as the German Shepherd Dog. Fortunately, they are both obedient dogs and can be taught the "Quiet" command.

Ultimately, Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds are both not recommended for sedentary pet owners. Both breeds can make excellent pets for apartment dwellers, provided their physical and mental needs are adequately met. However, it is worth noting that German Shepherds are not as friendly as Australian Shepherds.

Health and Lifespan

The American Kennel Club says most German Shepherds are healthy dogs. On the other hand, it says Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs. This means German Shepherds are prone to more health issues than Australian Shepherds. Some of the more common health problems in German Shepherds, according to Purina, include:
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Bloating
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Eye Problems
On the other hand, the AKC recommends that Aussies be tested for Ophthalmologist Evaluation, Elbow Evaluation, and Hip Evaluation.

Australian Shepherds have an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years whereas German Shepherds have a life expectancy of 9 to 13 on average.


In the United States, the average cost of a German Shepherd is around $2500 while the average Australian Shepherd price usually ranges between $500–$2,000. Both breeds' prices can vary depending on many factors including the dog's age, breeder reputation, as well as coat color.


To sum up, both the Aussie and the GSD make great family dogs for active families. They are happiest when their high energy and mental stimulation needs are met. Remember:
  • GSDs are large dogs while Aussies and medium-sized
  • Aussies are healthier and live longer than GSDs
  • Aussies are more energetic and require more exercise than GSDs
  • GSDs are not as friendly as Aussies
  • Aussies as not as loyal and protective of their owners as GSDs
  • Aussies are not as vocal as GSDs
However, whichever breed you choose, you can't go wrong, provided you are prepared to meet their training and exercise needs.


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