German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are, respectively, the first and second most popular dog breeds according to the American Kennel Club.

If you want to get a new dog or add another dog to your home, and you’re thinking about a German Shepherd or Labrador Retriever, you’re likely to make a good choice.

Below, we offer a list of comparisons on the two breeds, so you can make an informed decision.

Both the German Shepherd and Labrador Breeds are highly intelligent and can be used as working dogs or show dogs. Not only that, they are loveable, loyal, and make great family pets.

According to the experts at The Labrador Site, although the breeds share some commonalities, depending on your family and your needs, the differences can be very important.

Common Traits

The German Shepherd and Labrador breeds are relatively the same height, between 21 – 26 inches, and are considered large breeds.

This makes both susceptible to hip and knee dysplasia. German Shepherds and Labradors both form strong bonds with their family. And as mentioned, they both like to work.

German Shepherds range from 50 to 90 pounds. Females are usually smaller. And Labradors range from 55 to 80 pounds. Females are smaller in this breed as well.

German Shepherds are fiercely loyal and this affects their temperament. While they can be gentle with their family, when an “intruder” (animal or human) comes into the home, German Shepherds become aggressive, and may even attack.

Conversely, Labradors tend to accept strangers, and owners often joke that if an intruder enters the home, the Lab will show them where the valuables are hidden.

Labradors tend to act like puppies, excitable, playful and goofy, many years into adulthood. People often say Labs act like puppies until they are very old. They rarely make vicious guard dogs–instead, the intruder may get licked to death.

German Shepherds tend to be happiest when they are the only dog in the household, and prefer to live with adults.

Labradors, on the other hand, love kids and usually get along with other dogs. They still need adjustment time.

Working Labs (as opposed to “show” Labs) are easy to train, especially because of the superb sense of smell and retrieving instincts.

German Shepherds are also easy to train and enjoy pleasing their trainer. They are incredibly loyal and devoted to their owner.

Every dog is an individual, just like people, and each has a personality, character, and idiosyncrasies. If you’ve ever seen a German Shepherd puppy, with her large brown eyes and floppy black ears, you could find yourself in love.

Labradors, too, with his long ears, clumsy gait, and giant paws could win your affection. Cuteness, however, is only one part of the equation.


German Shepherds come from dogs that were used as sheepherders and guard dogs, which demanded they were loyal, protective, and able to withstand all types of weather.

Today, German Shepherds’ intelligence and loyalty is used to protect people and property, often as police dogs. German Shepherds have a double coat, rough fur on top, soft fur underneath.

Labradors come from an interesting lineage. They are similar to the breed known as the Newfoundland, and also emerged from the island of Newfoundland and Labrador in the northern part of Canada.

Supposedly, humans settled there as early as 1500 and brought dogs with them that worked, fished, and hunted.

Labradors have webbed feet, which makes them excellent swimmers, and have a double coat, like the German Shepherd. Labs coats are yellow or black, or brown, giving them the name Chocolate Lab.

The “retriever” descriptor acknowledges their ability to “retrieve” fowl. Labradors were named after the region of Canada they hail from and the Spanish word “labradors,” or workers.


Because German Shepherds were bred to be guard dogs if you have small gregarious children, or frequent visitors, the German Shepherd’s intense personality may be too much for your family.

Some statistics claim over half of the dog bites (some fatal) in kids under 12 may come from German Shepherds. This is something in which you should be mindful.

German Shepherds are often used as police dogs, shown in videos barking ferociously and attacking perpetrators.

Keep in mind that German Shepherds are very intelligent and easy to train, however, that deep-seated loyalty and need to protect their family can supersede their gentleness. Still, German Shepherds are great family dogs.

Labradors are more social when compared to German Shepherds. Like any animal, however, they can be unpredictable and become aggressive.

It’s a good idea to start early on socializing your Labrador puppy. It builds confidence, which is very important when he or she has to be around other dogs.

A scared dog can be an aggressive dog. A confident well-trained pup will become a social adult dog.

If you want to keep a pristine household with little fur floating around, neither of these breeds will do. Because both the Labradors and German Shepherds have double coats, they will shed.

Brushing them regularly will help, but if you want one of these breeds, you will simply have to make peace with fur.

Both breeds need companionship

Both breeds prefer having people at home, and when they are left alone, they may destroy all of your belongings.

If you are out of the house most of the day, you may crate-train either breed, however, not for more than four hours at a time. Both breeds greatly rely on companionship.

Common Ailments

Both of these breeds, especially when they are purebred, not mixed, suffer from common ailments, including the following:

  • Hip and knee dysplasia
  • Eye disease, like progressive retinal atrophy
  • Allergies
  • Skin abnormalities

German Shepherds, specifically, can have degenerative issues related to their spine and pelvis. If left untreated, they can suffer hind-leg paralysis. Laboradors, specifically, can be prone to obesity.

Remember, both of these breeds need a lot of exercises and physical activity every day. And, in Labradors, obesity can instigate the hip and knee dysplasia.