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German Shepherd vs Pit Bull: Which Makes A Great Family Pet

german shepherd vs pitbull which would make a great family pet

With over 360 officially recognized dog breeds all of them lovable and adorable, choosing a family pet can be a daunting task.

But due to their unique qualities, there are two great choices you may be torn between.

Choosing between a German shepherd and a Pit Bull as a family pet.

This choice can quickly become more difficult when one realizes that they are both wonderful breeds in their own rights.

In this guide, we will discuss these two breeds, understand them, and ultimately help you make the right choice between a German shepherd and a Pit Bull as a great family pet.

Key Takeaways:

  • German Shepherds bring a combination of intelligence, loyalty, and adaptability, while Pit Bulls offer affection, playfulness, and sociability.
  • When it comes to size and physical attributes, the German Shepherd stands out as a larger, more imposing breed, while the Pit Bull, though powerful, carries a more compact and athletic physique.
  • German Shepherds boast a double coat, consisting of a dense outer layer and a softer undercoat. Pit Bulls have short, glossy coats that require less maintenance than longer-haired breeds.
  • German Shepherds typically have a strong bite force ranging from 238 to 743 psi while the bite force of Pit Bulls is considered to be within the range of 235 to 305 psi.
  • On average, German Shepherds have a lifespan of about 9 to 13 years while Pit Bulls generally have a life expectancy of around 12 to 16 years.
  • When comparing German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, both breeds have qualities that can make them wonderful additions to the family

German Shepherd vs Pitbull History:

Let’s take a stroll through history, where the tale of the German shepherd begins—a story woven with loyalty, intelligence, and an unwavering commitment to duty.

Origins in Germany:

Our journey kicks off in late 19th-century Germany, a time when shepherds and farmers sought an ideal herding and guarding companion. Max von Stephanitz, a vision-driven ex-cavalry captain, recognized the need for a versatile and intelligent working dog. In 1899, he spotted a canine named Hektor Linksrhein at a dog show, captivated by the dog’s intelligence and athleticism. This meeting sparked the birth of the German shepherd breed.

Purposeful Breeding:

Von Stephanitz dedicated himself to refining the breed, emphasizing traits like intelligence, strength, and an unwavering work ethic. The primary focus was on functionality and utility. German Shepherds quickly became indispensable in various roles, excelling not only as herders but also as police and military dogs.

World War Contributions:

The breed’s prowess became internationally recognized during World War I when German Shepherds served as messenger dogs, rescue dogs, and even as Red Cross assistants. Their bravery and adaptability earned them a stellar reputation worldwide.

Spread Across the Globe:

As soldiers returned home, they brought with them a newfound appreciation for the German shepherd. The breed’s intelligence and versatility led to its adoption for various tasks beyond herding, including police work, search and rescue operations, and guide dog services.

Pop Culture Fame:

The German shepherd continued to rise in popularity, finding its way into the hearts of civilians and celebrities alike. The iconic Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd rescued from a World War I battlefield, became a Hollywood sensation, solidifying the breed’s status as a beloved and versatile companion.

Modern Guardians: Today, German Shepherds maintain their status as one of the most cherished and versatile dog breeds globally. Their intelligence, loyalty, and adaptability make them prized family members, service dogs, and working professionals. From guiding the visually impaired to serving in law enforcement, German Shepherds continue to leave paw prints on hearts around the world.

Pitbull History and Origin:

Interesting history of the German shepherd but what about the pit bull breed?

Origins in 19th-Century England:

Our narrative begins in 19th-century England, where the Pit Bull’s ancestors were bred for a sport known as bull-baiting. Bulldogs, renowned for their tenacity and strength, were crossed with various terriers to create a breed suitable for this challenging pursuit.

The resulting dogs, known as Bull and Terriers, were eventually brought to America by immigrants, laying the groundwork for what we now recognize as the Pit Bull.

American Evolution:

In the United States, the breed evolved, with a primary shift in purpose from bull-baiting to farm work and later to family companionship. Pit Bulls demonstrated remarkable intelligence, loyalty, and a friendly disposition, endearing them to families across the nation.

The Nanny Dog:

During the early 20th century, Pit Bulls gained a reputation as trustworthy and loving family dogs. They were often referred to as “Nanny Dogs” for their gentle and protective nature, particularly towards children.

Famous personalities, such as Helen Keller and President Theodore Roosevelt, proudly shared their homes with Pit Bulls, contributing to the breed’s positive image.

Service and War Heroes:

Pit Bulls served valiantly during World War I, symbolizing courage and tenacity. Sergeant Stubby, a Pit Bull mix, became a decorated war hero, showcasing the breed’s versatility and loyalty. Their resilience and intelligence earned them recognition in various service roles, from search and rescue to therapy work.

German Shepherd vs Pit Bull: Physical Features

When it comes to selecting the perfect canine companion for your family, understanding the nuanced differences in size and physical attributes is key.

Let’s take a closer look at how German Shepherds and Pit Bulls measure up in the realm of size, structure, and more.

German Shepherd vs Pit Bull: Physical Features

Physical Features             German Shepherd          Pit Bull

Size                                        Medium to Large             Medium

Height (at shoulder)       Males: 24-26 inches, Females: 22-24 inches          Both: 17-21 inches

Weight                                 Males: 65-90 pounds, Females: 50-70 pounds     Males: 35-60 pounds, Females: 30-50 pounds

Body Structure                  Robust, well-muscled    Compact, well-defined muscles

Coat                                       Double coat (short or long)          Short and glossy coat

Ears                                        Erect ears            Can be natural or cropped, depending on type

Tail                                         Bushy, long tail  Short, tapered tail

Overall Appearance        Sloping back, noble presence     Compact, athletic build

German Shepherd Physical Characteristics:

Stature and Presence:

German Shepherds are renowned for their impressive size and noble presence. On average, males stand between 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder, while females typically measure slightly smaller, ranging from 22 to 24 inches. Weight-wise, males generally weigh between 65 to 90 pounds, with females falling within the 50 to 70-pound range.

Muscle and Build:

Their body structure is robust and well-muscled, contributing to their prowess in various roles, from herding to protection. The breed’s characteristic double coat, which can be short or long, adds to its majestic appearance while providing practical benefits such as insulation.

Iconic Silhouette:

The classic silhouette of a German shepherd is one of strength and poise, with a distinctive sloping back and erect ears. This breed’s size and imposing appearance have historically made them a preferred choice for roles in police and military work.

Pit Bull Physical Characteristics:

Compact Powerhouses:

Pit Bulls, in contrast, boast a more compact frame, emphasizing agility and strength in a smaller package. Height-wise, both males and females typically range from 17 to 21 inches at the shoulder. Weight varies, with males weighing between 35 to 60 pounds and females falling within the 30 to 50-pound range.

Muscular Definition:

Pit Bulls are known for their well-defined muscles, particularly in the shoulders and jaw. This compact build lends itself well to their historical roles in activities like bull-baiting, showcasing the breed’s strength and tenacity.

Variable Looks:

It’s worth noting that Pit Bulls can display some variability in size and appearance due to their diverse ancestry. American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are all considered part of the Pit Bull category, and there can be some differences in size and build among these subtypes.

German Shepherds and Pit Bulls Temperament:

Understanding the temperamental of potential furry family members is crucial when making a decision between breeds.

Let’s explore the distinctive temperaments of German Shepherds and Pit Bulls to help guide you in finding the perfect fit for your household.

German Shepherd Temperament:

Intelligence and Trainability:

German Shepherds are renowned for their exceptional intelligence and trainability. These dogs are quick learners, making them highly responsive to commands and an absolute joy to train. Their eagerness to please and strong work ethic have made them favorites in various roles, including police work, search and rescue, and as service dogs.

Loyalty and Protective Instincts:

A hallmark of the German Shepherd temperament is unwavering loyalty to their family. They are known to form strong bonds with their human companions and are often protective. This protective instinct, combined with their keen sense of awareness, makes them excellent watchdogs.


German Shepherds are adaptable to various living situations, provided they receive ample mental and physical stimulation. They thrive in environments where they can engage in activities that challenge their intelligence and athleticism.

Pit Bull Temperament:

Affectionate Nature:

Pit Bulls, often unfairly stereotyped, are known for their affectionate and loving nature. They form strong attachments to their human family members and are often referred to as “velcro dogs” for their tendency to stay close to their loved ones.

Playfulness and Energy:

Pit Bulls are bundles of energy and playfulness. They thrive on interactive play and enjoy activities that engage both their minds and bodies. Regular exercise is essential to keep them happy and healthy.

Sociable Demeanour:

Contrary to some misconceptions, well-socialized Pit Bulls can be friendly and sociable. Early socialization and positive experiences with people, other animals, and various environments contribute to a well-rounded Pit Bull temperament.

German Shepherds and Pit Bulls Health Issues and Considerations

Ensuring the well-being of your future four-legged family member involves delving into the health considerations of each breed.

Let’s look at the common health issues between the German Shepherds and Pit Bulls

German Shepherd Common Health:

Orthopedic Considerations:

German Shepherds, while generally robust, are prone to certain health concerns, with a notable focus on orthopedic issues. Hip and elbow dysplasia, conditions where joints don’t develop properly, are relatively common. Responsible breeding practices, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can contribute to joint health.

Gastrointestinal Sensitivities:

Some German Shepherds may be prone to gastrointestinal sensitivities, including food allergies and digestive disorders. Owners can manage these sensitivities through a carefully tailored diet, often with guidance from a veterinarian.

Genetic Predispositions:

As with many breeds, German Shepherds may have genetic predispositions to certain conditions. Regular veterinary check-ups, early detection, and proactive health management can help address potential concerns.

Pit Bull Health Issues and Concerns:

Muscular and Joint Health:

Pit Bulls, known for their robust physiques, may also encounter orthopedic concerns, including hip dysplasia. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight contribute to joint and muscular well-being.

Skin Sensitivities:

Some Pit Bulls may be prone to skin sensitivities or allergies. Regular grooming and attention to skin health, including appropriate bathing and monitoring for any signs of irritation, are essential for their overall comfort.

Heart and Weight Management:

Certain types of Pit Bulls, particularly those with shorter snouts, may be susceptible to heat-related issues. Owners should be mindful of this vulnerability, especially in warmer climates. Additionally, Pit Bulls can be prone to obesity, emphasizing the importance of portion control and regular exercise.

German Shepherds and Pit Bulls Feeding and Nutrition Needs

Understanding the nutritional needs of your canine companion is a cornerstone of responsible pet ownership.

Let’s explore the dietary considerations for German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, ensuring they receive the right fuel for a vibrant and energetic life.

German Shepherd Nutrition:

Protein for Muscular Endurance:

German Shepherds, with their muscular build and active lifestyles, benefit from a diet rich in high-quality proteins. This supports muscular endurance, maintains lean body mass, and aids in overall health. Look for commercial dog foods with a protein content specifically formulated for large and active breeds.

Joint Health with Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Given the breed’s predisposition to certain joint issues, incorporating Omega-3 fatty acids into their diet can contribute to joint health. This can be found in fish oil supplements or in dog foods that contain fish as a primary ingredient.

Balanced Nutrition for Sensitive Stomachs:

Some German Shepherds may have sensitive stomachs, making it essential to opt for dog foods that are easily digestible. Limited ingredient diets, devoid of common allergens, may be suitable for those with gastrointestinal sensitivities.

Pit Bull Nutrition and Feeding Needs:

Lean Proteins for Muscle Maintenance:

Pit Bulls, renowned for their athleticism, thrive on diets rich in lean proteins. This helps maintain muscle mass and supports their active lifestyle. Look for dog foods with protein sources like chicken, turkey, or fish.

Skin and Coat Health with Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

Pit Bulls often have short, glossy coats, and incorporating Omega-6 fatty acids into their diet contributes to skin and coat health. Commercial dog foods designed for skin and coat support may be beneficial.

Balanced Diets for Energy:

Given their energetic nature, Pit Bulls require a well-balanced diet to meet their energy needs. A mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates helps sustain their vitality and enthusiasm.

German Shepherds and Pit Bulls Grooming and Coat Care

Grooming is a crucial aspect of caring for your furry friends, ensuring not only their physical well-being but also the longevity of that special human-canine bond.

Let’s unpack the grooming needs of German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, shedding light on how to keep these magnificent breeds looking and feeling their best.

German Shepherd Grooming:

Double Coat Duties:

German Shepherds boast a double coat, consisting of a dense outer layer and a softer undercoat. Regular brushing is essential to prevent shedding and keep their coats healthy. Brushing a few times a week helps remove loose hair, reduces matting, and stimulates the skin.

Bathing Basics:

Despite their active lifestyles, German Shepherds typically don’t require frequent baths. A bath every two to three months or as needed, using a dog-specific shampoo, is usually sufficient. Over-bathing can strip their coats of natural oils, potentially leading to skin issues.

Nail Care and Ears:

Routine nail trims are essential for German Shepherds to prevent discomfort and potential issues with movement. Checking and cleaning their ears regularly helps prevent infections, particularly as their erect ears can sometimes trap moisture.

Pit Bull Grooming:

Short Coat, Regular Brushing:

Pit Bulls have short, glossy coats that require less maintenance than longer-haired breeds. However, regular brushing, ideally once a week, helps minimize shedding, keeps their coat healthy, and provides an opportunity to check for any skin abnormalities.

Bath Time Balance:

Pit Bulls, like German Shepherds, don’t need frequent baths. A bath every two to three months or when they get particularly dirty is generally sufficient. As with any breed, using a dog-specific shampoo is recommended to maintain skin health.

Nail Trims and Ear Checks:

Regular nail trims are crucial for Pit Bulls, especially considering their active nature. Checking their ears for signs of redness, irritation, or wax buildup should be part of the grooming routine to prevent ear infections.

German Shepherds vs. Pit Bulls Bite Force

Bite force in dogs is often a subject of curiosity and, at times, misconception. It’s essential to understand this topic with a balanced understanding of the physical attributes and temperaments of different breeds.

German Shepherd Bite Force:

German Shepherds are known for their strong, powerful jaws, a characteristic that aligns with their historical roles in herding and protection. While specific measurements of bite force can vary, studies suggest that German Shepherds typically have a strong bite, with estimates ranging from 238 to 743 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi). Their bite force is influenced by factors such as individual strength, size, and genetics.

Pit Bull Bite Force:

Pit Bulls, a term encompassing several breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier, also possess formidable bite strength. Bite force measurements for Pit Bulls vary, and different studies provide different estimates. Generally, the bite force of Pit Bulls is considered to be within the range of 235 to 305 psi. It’s crucial to note that there can be individual variations among dogs of the same breed.

Understanding the Bite Force Differences Further:

While bite force is an interesting aspect to consider, it’s essential to emphasize that it does not directly correlate with a dog’s temperament or behavior.

The perception of certain breeds having “stronger” bites has sometimes led to stereotypes and misconceptions.

A dog’s behavior, including aggression, is influenced by a myriad of factors, including genetics, training, socialization, and individual temperament.

Both German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, when well-trained and properly socialized, can be gentle and loving companions. Responsible ownership, positive reinforcement training, and early socialization play pivotal roles in shaping a dog’s behavior.

German Shepherds vs. Pit Bulls Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

The lifespan of a dog breed is a key aspect of responsible pet ownership. Let’s explore the life expectancies of German Shepherds and Pit Bulls

German Shepherd Life Expectancy:

On average, German Shepherds have a lifespan of about 9 to 13 years. Factors that can influence their longevity include genetics, diet, exercise, and preventive veterinary care. Regular health check-ups, a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are essential components of ensuring a German shepherd’s well-being throughout their life.

Pit Bull Life Expectancy:

Pit Bulls, a term encompassing several breeds, generally have a life expectancy of around 12 to 16 years. However, like any breed, individual lifespans can vary. Providing proper nutrition, regular exercise, and routine veterinary care contributes significantly to the overall health and longevity of Pit Bulls.

German Shepherd vs. Pit Bull Aggression

The question of aggression in dog breeds is a topic that often stirs debate and sometimes perpetuates misconceptions.

German Shepherd Aggression:

German Shepherds are known for their loyalty, intelligence, and versatility in various roles, including police and military work. While they can be protective, their inherent temperament is not typically characterized by unprovoked aggression. German Shepherds are known to form strong bonds with their families, making them devoted and watchful companions.

Aggression in German Shepherds is often associated with fear, lack of socialization, or inadequate training. A well-raised and properly socialized German shepherd is more likely to exhibit confidence and a calm demeanor, rather than unwarranted aggression.

Pit Bull Aggression:

Pit Bulls, including breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, have also been subject to stereotypes regarding aggression. It’s essential to recognize that aggression is not a breed trait but rather an individual behavior influenced by factors such as upbringing, training, and socialization.

Well-socialized and properly trained Pit Bulls are known for their affectionate nature and can be excellent family pets.

The breed’s historical association with dog fighting has contributed to misconceptions, but responsible ownership and positive reinforcement training have shown that they can be gentle and loving companions.

German Sheperd vs Pit Bull: Who Will Win In A Fight?

Both German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, like any other dog breeds, are individuals with their own unique personalities. Aggression, if present, is influenced by factors such as genetics, training, socialization, and overall environment.

Responsible dog ownership involves providing a safe and loving environment, proper training, socialization, and ensuring the well-being of your canine companion.

Discussions about which breed would “win” in a fight are not productive or ethical.

Instead, the focus should be on promoting responsible ownership, positive training methods, and fostering a safe and loving environment for all dogs.

If you have concerns about aggression or behavior issues in your dog, seeking the guidance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist is recommended.

German Shepherd vs. Pit Bull Which Will Make for a Great Family Pet

So which will make for a great pet between the German shepherd and Pit Bull you may ask.

When it comes to selecting the ideal family pet, there are various factors that need to be considered.

German Shepherds as Family Pets:

  • Loyal Protectors: German Shepherds are renowned for their loyalty and protective instincts. They often form strong bonds with their families and can be excellent guardians, providing a sense of security.
  • Intelligence and Trainability: These dogs are highly intelligent and trainable, making them versatile family members. Their ability to learn commands quickly allows for effective communication and a smooth integration into family routines.
  • Adaptability: German Shepherds can adapt well to various living situations, whether in a suburban home or a more rural environment. They enjoy being part of family activities and are often gentle and playful with children when properly socialized.

Pit Bulls as Family Pets:

  • Affectionate Nature: Pit Bulls are known for their affectionate and loving disposition. They often form strong bonds with their human family members and can be especially gentle and patient with children.
  • Energetic Companions: Pit Bulls are energetic and playful, making them great companions for families with active lifestyles. They thrive on interaction and enjoy engaging in activities with their human pack.
  • Loyalty and Sociability: Contrary to some stereotypes, well-socialized Pit Bulls are often friendly and sociable. Their loyalty to their families is a standout quality, and they can make devoted family pets.

Choosing the Right Fit:

The ideal family pet depends on your specific needs, preferences, and ability to meet a dog’s requirements.

Both German Shepherds and Pit Bulls can be excellent family companions when provided with proper training, socialization, and love.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

1: Energy Levels: Assess your family’s activity level and choose a breed that aligns with your exercise routines.

2: Space: Consider the living environment. German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, being medium to large breeds, benefit from sufficient space to move around.

3: Training Commitment: Both breeds thrive with positive reinforcement training. Consider your willingness and ability to invest time in training and socialization.

4: Family Dynamics: Evaluate the age and dynamics of your family members. Some dogs may be better suited for families with young children, while others may be more compatible with older individuals or couples.


The perfect family pet is subjective and depends on your unique needs, circumstance,s and requirements.

Both German Shepherds and Pit Bulls can make loving and devoted family members when provided with the care and attention they deserve.

Regardless of the breed, responsible ownership practices, proper training, and a commitment to meeting the dog’s physical and emotional needs are paramount.