Rottweiler Vs German Shepherd – The Ultimate Breed Comparison!

We sometimes use affiliate links in our articles so we may earn a small commission for purchases, full details in our privacy policy.

Dogs are almost unrivaled for their ability to make great companions. Although the choice to get a dog might be an easy one, picking out a breed that suits your personality and lifestyle can be challenging – especially when having to weigh up the differences between two esteemed breeds such as the Rottweiler and the German shepherd.

A German shepherd vs. Rottweiler comparison is not an easy one – both are powerful and beautiful dog breeds with heroic histories. Although Rottweilers originally hailed from Rome, both Rotties and German shepherds were used in Germany in the first World War to carry messages and supplies and keep troops company. As both dog breeds were originally bred to herd cattle and work as guard dogs, they are built well for tasks that are physically and mentally taxing. Along with herding, Rottweilers were used to pull carts to and from the market, explaining their muscular shoulder structures. Both breeds have since then become some of the most beloved and valued dog breeds.

The German shepherd – sometimes referred to as an Alsatian or Wolf dog – has been officially recognized as a dog breed in 1899 and is often shortly referred to as a GSD (German shepherd dog).

Rottweilers were named after the German town Rottweil, where they were established as a dog breed. After their faithful service as cart pullers, they plummeted in numbers after goods producers started embracing the railroad car in the late 1800s. Their use in World War I brought them back on the global dog scene and their breed was first recognized on paper in 1901.

The Kennel Club currently ranks German shepherds as the second-most popular dog breed in the USA and the eighth-most popular in the UK. The Rottweiler holds the position of eighth-most popular dog breed in the USA and twentieth-most popular in the UK.

Size, Weight And Life Expectancy

German shepherds grow up to approximately 25 inches in height and seldom weigh more than 80 pounds; small females sometime weigh as little as 50 pounds. They typically live between eleven and thirteen years.

Rottweilers are normally a bit taller and can reach up to 27 inches in height. Due to their hefty build and sizable muscles, they weigh more than German Shepherds. Large males can make the scale climb up to 130 pounds. Rottweilers’ average life span is shorter than those of German shepherds; they live about eight to eleven years.

Living Space

Both German shepherds and Rottweilers love to exercise and play. Neither of them make good apartment dogs or enjoy being in small confined spaces for long periods of time. Rottweilers tend to be quieter on the whole – they have ferocious barks, but reserve them for serious threats. German shepherds, too, have loud barks. They love expressing themselves audibly, so are probably the “noisier” choice between the two. Both breeds are companion dogs and do not respond well to long hours alone, although Rottweilers’ calmer natures usually adapt better to time spend away from their owner.


All dogs should be fed a healthy and good-quality diet, but this is even more imperative with dogs who are large and prone to digestive issues or allergies. Both Rottweilers and German shepherds have tendencies to experience bloating and allergies and should be fed diets that are grain-free, dairy-free and soy-free. Cheap diets simply won’t do.

German shepherds have a fairly unique problem called “stomach flipping” which can be triggered when a large meal is followed by rigorous exercise. This entails the stomach turning around and thereby twisting the tubes through which food passes into the stomach and out to the intestines. Not only does this require emergency treatment, but it can lead to increased digestive issues in the future. Therefore, meal times have to be planned not to interfere with training schedules or exercise, and portion sizes should be calculated, as German shepherds can be guilty of over-eating.

However, Rottweilers can be quite gluttonous too and easily become overweight, so it is pertinent to ensure that meal sizes and frequencies are planned, for both breeds, and that left-over food is not left accessible to them until the next mealtime. Rottweilers generally bloat somewhat less than German shepherds, while their coats will reflect a poor diet more visibly. A thick, glossy coat is a sign of a diet that meets your dog’s nutritional needs.

Many experts recommend feeding Rottweilers, as well as German shepherds, a “raw meat diet” consisting of a variety of raw meat cuts, fish and an occasional uncooked egg. However, several high-quality dry pellet foods are available that contain meat-extracted ingredients and the recommended amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals and fat. Rottweiler and German shepherd diets will not differ significantly, although Rottweilers will consume more food due to their heavier builds. Neither of these diets are ideal for tight budgets and it is not recommended to compromise on quality.

Since both Rottweilers and German shepherds should consistently be trained and challenged, you will also need good quality treats to keep on hand. These need not vary significantly for the two breeds in ingredients or size, but as always, quality is key. “Human” food should never be used as treats for either of the two breeds.

Health Issues

Other than the notorious stomach gymnastics, German shepherds are known for their frequent visits to the vet. Probably their most common ailment is hip dysplasia, which is a condition in which the structure of the hip and pelvis does not develop normally. This is often accompanied by other joint problems and osteoarthritis. Dogs under two years of age can develop panosteitis – loosely referred to as “growing pains.” Older dogs are prone to degenerative myelopathy, which is the deterioration of the spinal cord. Owners need to be aware of these problems, especially as German shepherds love to jump!

Rottweilers are no strangers to the vet either. Due to their large size, Rottweilers can also suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, but somewhat less than German shepherds. Issues that are common under Rottweilers include heart valve problems, cancer and damage to ligaments – especially in the knee. Occasional ectropion and entropion – where either the upper or lower eyelid folds inward – are fairly common, and they are prone to developing cataracts.

Family life

In the German shepherd vs Rottweiler contest, people with families often have the hardest time in making their decision. Both German shepherds and Rottweilers are protective dogs and typically fit well into family life. German shepherds will usually display more playfulness than Rottweilers, although both breeds interact well with children and are extremely loyal. Rottweilers tend to show more distrust toward strangers and visitors, whereas German shepherds normally warm up to newcomers faster.

Being in a family setup should never replace training and discipline. Both Rottweilers and German shepherds make good family pets, as long as their training is not compromised. They crave socialization and do not like being left home alone for long hours, which makes the interaction and consistency of family life ideal for either dog breed.

Rottweilers and German shepherds need at least two hours of exercise a day and plenty of space, so make sure your family life allows those essentials before acquiring a German shepherd or Rottweiler.


Both the Rottweiler and the German Shepherd fall under the top ten smartest dog breeds in the world. No wonder they are both used as police dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, guide dogs and herd dogs! Not only do they respond well to training, they need to be trained. Without the necessary intellectual stimulation, these dogs will become bored, restless and frustrated.

Which one of the two is the smartest? This is a difficult – and debatable – question to answer! Many experts will tell you that German shepherds are the smartest, as they train faster, but it really does depend on the type of intelligence referred to. German shepherds generally tend to learn faster and work through training programs more rapidly. Their logical reasoning is excellent and they display great attentions spans.

Rottweilers, on the other hand, are slightly slower learners, but this does not mean that they are unwilling or less intelligent, they simply take a little bit longer to grow into the perceptive and discerning dogs they eventually become. Where German shepherds would most likely beat them when put to the test in a game of timed logic, Rottweilers take the prize for being emotionally smarter. They are keen at reading body language and mood and are insightful to social cues.

That said, these aspects of both breeds’ personalities need to be nurtured and stimulated. When your dog is untrained, bored and miserable, it is unlikely that you will reap the benefits of its potential.


Rottweilers are renowned for their beautiful sleek coats which are short and easy to maintain. Although shedding somewhat more during the summer months, their hair loss is fairly little – especially when it comes to the German Shepherds vs Rottweiler comparison.

Make sure that you and your family members will be able to deal with carpets, couches, car seats, bedding, clothes and lawns covered in hair all the time, before you decide to make a German shepherd your newest family member. Their coats are longer than Rottweilers’ and have to be brushed on a daily basis to help remove excess hair.  Eczema and skin irritations are not uncommon in German shepherds, especially in hot climates, so make sure to keep their coats healthy and clean.


Another interesting similarity that comes up in the German shepherd vs Rottweiler evaluation, is that both of them were originally bred and used as herding dogs. They therefore thrive on exercise and should be treated as working dogs in need of stimulation and plenty of physical activity.

Rottweiler owners will tell you that this breed receives an unfairly bad rap for being aggressive, vicious and unpredictable.  However, Rottweilers were also bred to guard and are therefore naturally defensive of those they bond with. They rarely display violent behavior toward the ones they are loyal to – another reason they make excellent family pets. When Rottweilers receive poor training, improper discipline and inconsistent conduct from their owners, behavioral problems such as unpredictability can easily develop – this is of course worsened by the fact that they have extremely powerful jaws, necks and shoulders! Despite these bad reputations, most Rottweiler owners testify to their dogs as having gentle, loving and warm natures. A Rottie puppy can be more challenging to train and socialize than a German shepherd. They have sensitive personalities, but require firm and fair discipline nevertheless.

German shepherds are playful and like being on the move. Also bred as guard dogs, they tend to show a little less natural aggression than Rottweilers, although trained German shepherds will always be efficient attackers. Both these breeds are trained as police and service dogs due to their trainability, alertness and knack for reading situations quickly.

Price And Budget

Rottweiler puppies tend to be slightly more expensive than German shepherds – although this varies greatly, depending on the breeders and bloodline. However, getting a new puppy is a long-term and momentous commitment and it is not advisable to let your decision be swayed by a price difference of a few hundred dollars. Rather, make sure you buy from a trusted breeder with a good reputation and a passion for their offspring – preferably one that can assist you with training and other support.


The German shepherd vs. Rottweiler playoff is a tough one and will not reveal the same winner to all prospective dog owners. Both breeds can provide you with a faithful companion and a wonderful family pet when the correct care and commitment are given.

If you do your homework before you buy and are honest about what you need from your dog and what you have to offer, you can be sure that, whichever breed you choose, you will be getting an intelligent, loving and devoted new best friend.