Trying to figure out if a German Shepherd or a Husky is the right breed for you and your family? Scroll down for an overview of both breeds including expectations around activity levels (spoiler alert: lots) to make sure they're the right one for you.
German Shepherd Dog (Deutshe Schäferhund)
Confident, Courageous, and Smart. These dogs descend from the german herding dogs that varied in type from district to district in the late 19th century. In the late 1800's a German cavalry officer set out to develop the ideal German herding dog, and grossed several varieties to create today's GSD. German Shepherds became popular in the US in the early 1900's, partially due to their performance in Hollywood with stars like Rin-tin-tin. Suffering a bit from anti-german sentiment after the world wars, today the breed is the preferred dog for policy and military units across the world.
German Shepherds rank 2 out of 197 breeds recognized by the AKC in terms of popularity. They stand 24-26 inches tall for males, and 22-24 inches tall for females. Males weight in at 65-90 lbs and females 50-70 lbs. Their life expectancy is 12-14 years, and they belong to the Herding Group.
The breed standard according to the AKC:
The first impression of a good German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of the forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility – difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.
German Shepherds are very active dogs, ranking 54th according to our database of dog activity and more active than the average dog breed. They are the 2nd most popular breed among Fi Collar owners, and they get 14,389 steps per day on average.
Care & Grooming a German Shepherd
German Shepherds have a medium length double coat with dense fur. The breed is relatively easy to maintain though, requiring a quick brushing a few times a week to remove loose hair, and an occasional bath. Be prepared for early spring and late fall transitions though on the coat causing immense shedding. Make sure your vacuum is up to the task and you have nail clippers handy to keep nails in check if they don't wear away naturally from activity to avoid issues.
Given their size and intelligence, German Shepherds respond well to training but should be properly trained and socialized as young puppies to avoid issues when they are older and stronger. Be consistent and positive, reward based training typically yields great results especially for the family the dog bonds with.
Responsible breeders should screen potential parents for health conditions like degenerative myelopathy and elbow/hip issues. German Shepherds can suffer from bloat so be aware of the warning signs like being restless, drooling, and trying to vomit but not producing anything. This can be deadly and needs prompt medical attention, but can be prevented by limiting activity around eating.
Loyal, Mischievous, Outgoing. From their look you can guess the northern heritage, the ancestors of Huskies were bred in northeast Asia by the Chukchi people and kept as companion dogs as well as working dogs for sleds. The semi-nomadic requirements of the Chukchi people to travel over vast distances of frozen wasteland fit perfectly with a sled dog capable of hauling light loads. They began catching the public attention by winning sled races in the early 1900s, but today are known as great family dogs.
Siberian Huskies rank 14 out of 197 breeds recognized by the AKC in terms of popularity. They stand 21-24 inches tall for males, and 20-22 inches tall for females. Males weight in at 45-60 lbs and females 35-50 lbs. Their life expectancy is 12-14 years, and they belong to the Working Group.
The breed standard from the AKC notes:
The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog, quick and light on his feet and free and graceful in action. His moderately compact and well furred body, erect ears and brush tail suggest his Northern heritage. His characteristic gait is smooth and seemingly effortless. He performs his original function in harness most capably, carrying a light load at a moderate speed over great distances. His body proportions and form reflect this basic balance of power, speed and endurance.
Huskies are very active dogs, ranking 85th according to our database of dog activity and more active than the average dog breed. They are the 3rd most popular breed among Fi Collar owners, and they get 12,614 steps per day on average. Anecdotally we also hear of them escaping more than any other breed on average, so make sure you have proper containment (fences, etc) to prevent these escape artists from getting out.
Care and Grooming a Husky
Considered a natural breed, they are very self reliant and require little cleaning – needing only a few baths per year. Weekly brushings help to keep the coat and skin in proper form, considering they have a dual coat which sheds twice per year. As with German Shepherds, prepare for some shedding and cleanup, and keep nails trimmed if they do not naturally wear down.
As with all breeds, Huskies benefit from early socialization and training to develop good manners and avoid issues down the road. For those who hope to have their husky be a working dog, this is especially true. They're not suited to be left alone for long periods as they're very social, and as they love to run long distances should be only let off leash with proper training (and a tracking collar!)
Eye issues are the big one to look out for, as all Huskies potentially being used for breeding should be checked at 12 months for juvenile cataracts and examined by a canine ophthalmologist.