German Shepherd vs Pitbull

German Shepherd vs Pitbull – Battle of the Breeds

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This battle of the breeds will look at the German Shepherd vs Pitbull Terrier. They are both extremely popular dog breeds. GSD’s are loved for their ability to learn and protective nature. Pits are extremely friendly though they sometimes get a bad rap because of their track record of attacks. Both breeds are highly intelligent. The American Pitbull Terrier is a natural climber while the German Shepherd excels in obedience and several occupations and sports.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Stats

German ShepherdAmerican Pitbull Terrier
Height: 22″-26″Height: 17″-21″
Weight: 50-90 lbsWeight: 30-60 lbs
Life Expectancy: 9-13 yrsLife Expectancy: 8-15 yrs
Temperament: Intelligent, Loyal, ObedientTemperament: Confident, Enthusiastic, Friendly
Health: Average for large dogsHealth: Average
Energy Level: HighEnergy: Moderate
Required Exercise: 2 hoursRequired Exercise: 30-45 minutes
Trainability: ExcellentTrainability: Very Good
Good with Children: ExcellentGood with Children: Excellent with Training
Good with Dogs: Very GoodGood with Dogs: Not Good
Bark Level: MediumBark Level: Medium
Shed Level: HighShed Level: High
Bite Force: 238 psiBite Force: 235 psi
Price: $1,500 – $3,000Price: $500 – $2,000

German Shepherd Quick History:

German Shepherd History 101

The history of the German Shepherd goes back to the 1800’s. During this time period they were bred to help Shepherds protect their flocks from predators.

Their awareness, intelligence, strength and speed made them a perfect fit for the job. They continued as herding dogs until eventually the population of predators dwindled because of industrialization in Germany.

Around that time, an ex-cavalry captain named Max von Stephanitz made it his mission to develop the breed into the perfect working dog.

In 1899, her purchased a German Shepherd named “Hektor Linksrhein” at a dog show.

He changed the name to “Horand von Grafrath.” It was everything that Stephanitz was looking for in the breed. He later founded the Society for German Shepherd Dogs. Horand was the first of the breed to be added to the register. He became the foundation for the breed that we have today.

The first GSD registered in America was “Queen of Switzerland.” Popularity rose during the 1900’s thanks to dog film stars such as Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart.

Unfortunately their popularity wavered during World War I. For a long period their name was even changed to Alsatian because of the anti-German sentiment. Eventually they would reclaim their name. The breed continues to be one of the most popular in the world to this day.

American Pitbull Terrier

Pitbull Terrier History 101

The history of the American Pitbull Terrier goes back to the middle of the 19th century. During that time breeders wanted to combine the athleticism of the Bulldog with the fighting spirit of the Terrier.

Developed in the British Isles, the breed was referred to as the Bull and Terrier. They would eventually make their way to America later in the 19th century.

For a period in the UK, Bull and Terriers were unfortunately subjected to bloodsports like bear and bull baiting. They were stopped in 1835 thanks to welfare laws. But owners found another illegal outlet in dog fighting.

The breed was officially recognized as the “American Pit Bull Terrier” by the UKC on February 10, 1998. During the early 20th century, they played several rolls including livestock “catch dogs.” They were also family companions.

Unfortunately the dog fighting continued until it was finally outlawed in the United States in 1976. This history has had a negative impact on the breed’s reputation. To this day that are used in illegal dog fighting rings and sometimes as attack dogs even against the police.

However they can also be found competing in athletic sports like French Ring Sport, Top Dog and Weight Pulling. They are hard working dogs and make wonderful family pets and therapy dogs.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Size

While American Pitbull Terriers have a reputation for being fierce fighters, they are outsized by the German Shepherd. In fact, GSD’s can stand around 5″ taller and weigh about 30 lbs heavier. But don’t let their size fool you, Pits can handle their own.

Male German Shepherds stand between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulders. The females are close standing between 22 and 24 inches tall. The males weigh in the range of 65 to 90 pounds. The females are slightly lighter weighing in the range of 50 to 70 pounds.

Male American Pitbull Terriers are short and stocky standing 18 to 21 inches tall. The females are just slightly shorter standing 17 to 20 inches tall. The males weigh between 35 and 60 pounds with the females weighing in just under that between 30 and 50 pounds.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Appearance

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Appearance

Both of these breeds have very distinct looks that most people recognize. The GSD has a large athletic frame which makes it perfect for several different jobs including military and police work. This medium to large size breed is normally recognized by its traditional tan with black saddle color. It also has those big perky triangle shape ears that people love.

The American Pitbull Terrier is a medium sized dog with short hair. The Pit has a familiar look that most people recognize. They are short and stocky and very muscular looking. Their face has a signature boxy look. They can appear cute and cuddly but also aggressive and intimidating under certain circumstances.


The German Shepherd comes in eleven different colors according to the AKC. The most common and traditional color is black and tan. There are a total of four black color combinations including black and cream, black and red, and black and silver. Solid colors include black, blue, gray, liver, sable and white. There are also bi-color GSD’s.

The American Pitbull Terrier can also come in a wide array of colors and combinations except merle. Some of the more common colors include black, brindle, fawn, grey, tan and white. Some Pitbulls will have white markings on their chest.


Their heads looks very different. The German Shepherd has a chiseled face with a long muzzle and big perky ears. They also usually sport that signature black mask on their face. The Pitbull Terrier has a more round stocky face with a shorter wider muzzle.


The GSD’s ears are large, triangular in shape and erect as adults. The Pitbull’s are smaller, medium in size, high set and can be cropped or natural.


The body is one of the main differences between the two breeds. The German Shepherd has a long, lean, athletic type body. It is bigger and taller than the Pit. The American PItbull Terrier has a short, stocky body that is well defined with muscles.


The GSD has a long, bushy tail that hangs down and curves. The Pit has a shorter tail that is thicker at the base, tapering down to a point.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Temperament

Both breeds have some similarities and some differences when it comes to their temperament. They are both extremely intelligent and hard working dogs. GSD’s are known for their smarts and ability to train. Pits excel in performance type events because of their intelligent nature. Both of these breeds are also confident and strong.

The main difference between their temperament is their attitude towards strangers. GSD’s make excellent guard dogs because of their wariness around strangers. Pits on the other hand are friendly with everyone including strangers. Because of this, American Pitbull Terriers aren’t a top choice for guard dog.

GSD’s are also full of energy compared to the Pit which has a moderate amount of energy. It doesn’t take as much to keep them happy.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Health

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Health

Both breeds are relatively healthy but both have a high propensity for hip dysplasia. This condition causes friction between the elbow or hip joints resulting in discomfort, pain and even immobility. Lifespans are similar with GSD’s living around 9 to 13 years. Pits because of their smaller size can live a few years longer with their lifespan in the range of 8 to 15 years.

Common health conditions for both breeds:

German ShepherdPitbull Terrier
Degenerative MyelopathyCongenital Heart Defects
Elbow and Hip DysplasiaDegenerative Myelopathy
EpilepsyDemodex Mange
HemophiliaElbow and Hip Dysplasia
OsteoarthritisLuxating Patella
PanosteitisSkin Allergies (Mange)
Perianal FistulaThyroid Dysfunction
Progressive Retinal Atrophy

A lean healthy diet, regular exercise and annual visits to the Vet can help curb some of the common conditions. Because both breeds are prone to joint problems, we recommend a good Glucosamine supplement.


German Shepherds are high energy and need at least two hours of exercise every day. This keeps them healthy while also decreasing boredom which can lead to destructive behaviors. The Pitbull Terrier expends less energy and can do well with 30 to 45 minutes of daily exercise.

Taking them for daily walks and playing with them outside is recommended. You can also play games and give them jobs to do to keep them busy and their mind sharp.


BARF Diet For Dogs

We recommend a healthy lean diet for both breeds that consists of low carbs and high protein. High quality kibble or homemade food is the best route. The B.A.R.F. Diet is very popular and is a combination of raw bones with fresh meats, fruits, veggies and sometimes herbs.

It is best to develop a personal plan for your dog that caters to their age, size and weight. You veterinarian can help you develop this plan. GSD’s are larger so they will require more calories than the Pit. Their protein percentage is the same.

Here is a caloric and protein chart for both breeds:

Adult German ShepherdAdult Pitbull Terrier
1,740-2,100 calories daily922-1,740 calories daily
18-22% protein18-22% protein

Puppies of either breed won’t require as many calories.


This is one of the major difference between the two breeds. German Shepherds have a medium length double coat of fur that requires brushing once a week if not every few days to get rid of loose fur. They shed seasonally twice a year to prepare for the next season. During this time they will need daily brushing.

The American Pitbull Terrier on the other hand only requires minimal brushing. They are very low maintenance when it comes to their short single coat. However it is still important to give them a brushing once a week to keep their hair looking illustrious and their skin healthy.

GSD’s can be bathed once every two or three months. Pits can be bathed anywhere from once a month to once every six months. Both breeds should get their teeth brushed daily and nails trimmed weekly.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Training

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Training

Both breeds take well to training. They are both extremely intelligent and eager to please their owner. GSD’s are known for their intelligence and trainability. Pits also are easy to train and make great family pets when socialized and trained properly.

Positive reinforcement training is the best method for both dogs. Both will respond well to training with praise and treats. Consistent training is key to their long term growth as confident obedient dogs.

Pitbulls have a reputation for getting into fights and if not trained properly they can show aggression towards people and other dogs because of their fighting roots. For this reason, they must be socialized and trained from an early age. Even then, they can still unexpectedly turn on animals or people so be cautious.

In 2020, 26 out of the 41 fatal dog attacks reported in the U.S. were the result of a Pitbull or “Pitbull Type” dog. That is why training is so important. Make sure you do your homework and research the breed before owning a Pitbull.

German Shepherds should also be socialized and trained early on while they are still puppies. Try to get them used to being around as many animals and people as possible. This will benefit them greatly in the future. Use toys and treats for training and never punish or yell at them.

German Shepherd vs Pitbull Price

The GSD is a little pricier starting at around $1,500 for a pet quality puppy. The price goes up from there and can reach upwards of $30,000 to $50,000 for a high quality guard dog or Schutzhund trained dog.

Pits are a bit more affordable starting at around $500 for a new puppy. This is mainly due to the fact that many people are afraid to own one because of their reputation. Their prices go up from there to the $10,000 range for a high pedigree pup.

Both breeds can be found at shelters but Pits are especially prevalent. A lot of people end up abandoning their Pit because of the aggression factor. This leads to high euthanasia rates. This is all the more reason to adopt instead of buying from a breeder. Just make sure you know their history.

In Closing:

Both of these dogs can make amazing companions. They do have some similarities when it comes to their temperament. But as far as their looks, there is a significant difference.

If you are looking for a larger dog who is athletic, smart, loyal and will protect your family at all costs, choose the German Shepherd. They are wonderful pets and can perform a plethora of tasks.

If you are looking for a medium sized dog that is confident, courageous and super friendly with everyone they meet, choose the American Pitbull Terrier. Just remember that they need proper socialization and training to avoid their naturally aggressive tendencies.

Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Have you ever owned a German Shepherd or an American Pitbull Terrier? Which breed do you think is the better choice? Let us know! We would love to hear from you about your experience!

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