Golden Retriever Vs German Shepherd: Which Is The Best Family Pet For You?

Golden Retriever Vs German Shepherd

There are two dogs that often come out on top when it comes to the more popular breeds that are available as family pets. They are the Golden Retriever and German Shepherd.

While they are quite different dogs in terms of their origin, appearance and some of their traits, they are both popular choices as family pets because of their reliability, reputation and personality.

There are some dog lovers that are firmly on one side of the fence or the other with the debate of Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd.

Some are in love with the Golden Retriever for it’s nature and appearance, and would not want any other dog. Then there are German Shepherd owners that would say the exact same thing. It doesn’t hurt that these dogs are both adorable as puppies and quickly steal peoples hearts.

So what about those with no experience of these dogs? How should they choose the right dog for them?

The following guide will look at some of the important considerations and comparisons between the Golden Retriever and GSD to help new owners make that choice.

We will look at key issues in daily care, healthcare, personality and training issues to weigh up the pros and cons.

We will also look at the importance of finding the right breeders, or perhaps shelters, for these animals, and the potential of a hybrid dog – for those that can’t make up their minds.

golden retriever vs german shepherd guideGolden Retriever

What do newcomers need to know about the general care needs of these dogs?

The needs are quiet similar when caring for these dogs at home and there is little between the two “Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd family dog”.

They both need a good sized home with space to play and have strong exercise needs. This is because there isn’t a lot of difference in size in these two dogs, with the dogs growing at pretty much the same rate.

Both are seen as great family dogs that are great with both kids and cats. Although, there are some that believe the GSD isn’t as good for new owners as the Goldie. Despite this, there are personality and training factors with the GSD, that will be seen below, that suggest that they can be pretty easy to handle.

As for the dietary needs of these dogs and Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd food – both breeds will need approximately 3 to 4 cups of dry dog food per day with the right nutritional value.

Those that are unsure on the best food and portion sizes should turn to guides such as Dog Food Secrets for help on healthy, natural recipes and interesting food tips.


On the subject of diet, owners of the Goldie should remember that they can put on weight a little easier than the GSD. This means that you may have to be a little more careful with treats. 

What about Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd shedding issues?

A common question here is do golden retrievers or german shepherds shed more?

There is a clear difference and this comes from the different types of coat. Both are dense and while the Golden Retriever tends to have a yellow, golden coat, there are also white and red coats. The coat is thicker with the Goldie and water-repellent, due to the heritage of this gun dog. However, some may find that it is a little more difficult to maintain with the need for more brushing and grooming.

The GSD on the other hand is dense with a thick undercoat that sheds heavily, with some big seasonal blow outs to deal with. The GSD generally comes in colors of back and black and tan, but there are also some white and blue colors as well.

Are there any important healthcare considerations with either breed that may have an impact on a new owner’s decision here?

Surprisingly, this is another area where the two breeds are pretty similar. It starts with the life expectancy, which is around 10-13 years for both.

There are major concerns for both breeds that are actually the same. They are canine hip dysplasia (CHD), cataracts and elbow dysplasia. There are also some minor concerns of cardiomyopathy, gastric torsion, pyotraumatic dermatitis and allergies.

Each dog requires regular checks with a veterinarian and a strong healthcare plan.

Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd sheddingGolden Retriever & German Shepherd Puppy

How do the personalities of these dogs differ, and are there any behavioral concerns that owners should be aware of?

It is the temperament and behavior of the dogs that many people are most concerned with, and this is where some of the most important difference between the two really start to come into play.

Both dogs are alert, loyal, quiet and gentle.

Golden Retriever is more friendly and playful, while the GSD can be more protective and out-going.

There is always the concern with those new to the GSD that they can be a little aggressive and difficult to handle. This comes from the fact that they are bred from military stock and often used in police and security roles. However, this doesn’t have to be the case with these dogs if they are trained well and placed in a loving home with good owners. A well-trained GSD can be a great watchdog, as well as a family dog, that will alert owners to the presence of intruders.

However, both can be pretty sensitive, there are issues with considerable mouthiness on both sides too, but this can be trained out from an early age.

One of the other behavioral concerns is with Golden retrievers and separation anxiety. They don’t like to be left alone too long and seek out company.

All this talk of behavioral issues leads us to the issue of training these dogs

How difficult is it to get a well-behaved, obedient German Shepherd or Golden Retriever?

Neither are difficult to train, but the GSD is easier. This is largely due to the Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd intelligence.

The great thing about the GSD is that they are known for their intelligence and ability to pick up commands quickly. They can listen well and respond with little need for repetition. This is part of the reason why they are used in so many important roles and compete so well in agility.

Still, those that, for whatever reason, find themselves struggling to train either breed should turn to some online guides for help. One of the best in this area is Doggy Dan the online dog trainer. That is because this online guide is a great tool for a range of breeds and their issues. It provides step-by-step guidance on a number of potential problems and allows users to work where they want, in their own time.

Further Readings: How To Train A German Shepherd Puppy, German Shepherd Training Commands: Complete Step-By-Step Guide

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Goldie, GSD or perhaps a Golden Shepherd?

There is lot to consider here when weighing up the pros and cons of each breed, and there may already be a clear winner to many new owners based on a specific problem or positive personality trait.

However, there may also be those that struggle to make their minds up because there are so many potentially positive aspects to owning both the German Shepherd and Golden Retriever.

This therefore raises questions over a German Shepherd and Golden Retriever mix. Is there such a thing as a German Retriever and, more importantly, is it a good cross?

The German Retriever or Golden Shepherd is a cross breed with a lot of appeal. It takes many of the positive traits of both dogs and creates an interesting mix.

The look of this dog is striking. The body tends to resemble that of a German Shepherd’s, but they also have a head that is much more like that of a Golden Retriever. This is also seen in the short, droopy ears.

Coat colors are also more varied, with the chance of black, cream, yellow, tan, white, golden and blue.

While these physical features are a positive sign, there are still some health issues due to the shared genetic traits. They can struggle with dysplasia, eye problems and digestive issues. There are also reports of OCD, Von Willebrand’s Disease, epilepsy and cancer.

Golden Retriever German Shepherd mix dogGolden Shepherd Puppy – Image Source

As for the personality of these hybrid dogs, there is a great personality with the right breeding. The aim here was to breed a dog with the alert, out-going nature and protective spirit of the German Shepherd alongside the retrieving ability softer side of the Golden Retriever. In many ways, this was successful.

This is a good natured, intelligent dog with a lot to offer. These animals do well in the same roles as both parent breeds and still make good family pets. The problem is that some of those behavioral issues can creep in too. Like the Goldie, they have problems being left on their own and can develop separation anxiety. Still, they have the intelligence to learn and train well.

The final important issue here for new owners is that they share the coat type of the German Shepherd, these means that they are a frequent, heavy shedder. 

golden retriever german shepherd mixGerman Retriever – Image Source

Finding the best breeders for these pups – whichever pure breed or cross breed you go for

All this talk of cross breeds and pure breeds leads us nicely onto the issue of finding a good breeder.

Whichever option you choose here in the debate over the German Shepherd vs Golden Retriever – or even the GSD/retreiver cross – you have to look for a breeder that is reliable and responsible with their breeding practices.

It is important that the litter comes from healthy stock with good genetics.

Those that are in the market for a show dog will have to be a little more picky on the linage, at the same time ensuring that the dog is not overbred and suffering for it. The responsible ones will let you see the litter, the parents and answer any questions about their health and linage.

Watch out for the ones deliberately selling rare forms, like the blue and white shepherd. While there are some examples of these dogs that are completely healthy, some are overbred with bad practices because they seem exotic and can make breeders some extra cash.

On that note, you also want to consider the prices asked for by these breeders. There is no reason why a standard retriever or GSD should be that expensive – this is an accessible breed with no strange benefits.

At the same time, beware of a puppy going for a price that seems too good to be true. Question why the breeder is so keen to shift this dog, is it one with genetic defeats that mean it doesn’t meet AKC standards, is it simply a weak little runt.

What about adopting German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers?

If the idea of buying a puppy from either breed seems like too much hassle – either because of this buying process or that fact that you don’t really want to train a puppy, there is always the options of adopting a Golden Retriever or German Shepherd.

The popularity of these breeds means that many are bought as puppies with the expectation that they will be this perfect family dog. However, there are many families that find that they can’t handle them – either due to cost, behavioral issues or other circumstances. These dogs can turn up at the local shelter in need of a good home. This is the ideal place to find an adult German Shepherd or Golden Retriever.

So, which is the best option for your family

It is clear that there are many similarities and differences in this debate of Golden Retriever vs German Shepherd.

For the most part the personality traits and health concern are the same, as are their dietary needs. Yet, there are little differences that set them apart, such as the separation anxiety of the Goldie, the intelligence of the GSD, the shedding of the GSD and the Goldies gentle spirit.

Each breed has its desirable qualities and both make great family pets. Unsurprisingly, this is also true of their offspring in cross breeding.

In the end, if they both seem appealing, it may be worth heading to a shelter and letting the dog pick you, not the other way around.


Passionate lover of dogs and proud owner of a friendly, mischievous and energetic golden retriever named Beethoven! I’m incredibly excited to share my experiences on how best to care for your beloved pet. The more we know, the happier we and our canine friends will be!

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