German Shepherd vs Husky: Which Dog Is Right for Your Needs?

Both the German Shepherd and the Husky are well-known breeds, require a lot of energy, and are large dogs. There are plenty of similarities between the two. However, there are some major differences, too.

The German Shepherd tends to be larger and easier to train, while the Husky is more prone to barking, and he has an inherent need to climb and to survey his land from on high. Both are working dogs but are regularly kept as pets and family companions.

Below, we have detailed everything you need to know about these breeds to help you determine which is right for your needs and which will make the best pet for your home.

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Visual Differences

german shepherd vs husky
Image Credit | Left: Capri23auto, Pixabay; Right: Sergey Bogdanov, Shutterstock

A Quick Overview

German Shepherd
  • Average Height (adult): 27-32 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 50-90 pounds
  • Lifespan: 9-13 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours/day
  • Grooming needs: Low/Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: With introduction
  • Trainability: Excellent, highly intelligent
Siberian Husky
  • Average Height (adult): 20-24 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 35-60 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours/day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Usually
  • Dog-friendly: Usually
  • Trainability: Very good

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German Shepherd Overview

black and red german shepherd
Image credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

The German Shepherd is a highly capable working dog. Bred originally as a shepherd dog, they are highly versatile and perform multiple functions. They are used as police dogs, guard dogs, search and rescue dogs, and for a host of other services. They also make good family dogs, get along with other animals with a proper and patient introduction, and they are generally healthy dogs that do not have excessive grooming requirements.

Bred in Germany, the breed fell out of popularity following World War II and breeders attempted to rebrand them as Alsatians. They have become popular pets, once again, thanks to their combination of utility, good looks, and loyalty.

Personality 

The German Shepherd is sometimes interpreted as being aloof but he is not usually aggressive. They will take time to warm to new people but once they do, they will be very loyal. This loyalty, coupled with the breed’s aggression, means that they can become very protective, especially if they perceive some form of threat towards their family members.

Although the breed can seem unfriendly, they not only thrive on companionship, they need it. When left alone for long periods, the German Shepherd can become depressed, destructive, and difficult. Similarly, if they do not receive enough exercise, they may look for other ways in which to expend their incredible energy levels.

Training 

Renowned for their intelligence and adaptability, the German Shepherd has found utility in a wide variety of roles around the world. They are alert and can be vocal, which makes them great as guard dogs. They are also very intelligent and trainable, and they have been used as police dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, and more.

You can train your Shep to do virtually anything. As well as learning basic commands, they can learn complex procedures, which makes them useful as herding and shepherd dogs.

Start training from a young age, be firm but fair, and utilize positive reinforcement to get the best results from your German Shepherd. Consider enrolling in agility and other canine sports classes because he will appreciate the workout, as well as the mental stimulation.

German Shepherds do bark and the “quiet” command should be one of the first that you train.

They do require early socialization. This will help ensure that they are accepting of strangers, although you should never expect a German Shepherd to be overly friendly with new people.

german shepherd
Image Credit: SaNtINa/kIKs, Wikimedia Commons

Health and Care 

Although the breed is considered generally healthy, they can be prone to joint dysplasia, bloat, and allergies. They may also suffer from degenerative myelopathy and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Check for symptoms and consult with a veterinarian as soon as your dog shows any signs.

The breed’s coat is relatively easy to care for. Brush weekly to remove knots and to prevent a build-up of dead hair. Brush more often during shedding season. Shedding is part and parcel of owning a German Shepherd because this breed is known for year-round shedding. Don’t bathe too often, only when absolutely necessary, as overbathing can strip the coat of natural oils that provide protection.

Suitable For:

The German Shepherd makes an excellent working dog in almost any capacity. He can also make a great family pet and companion, although he should be socialized at an early age to ensure that he is good with children. Do be prepared to put in time and effort because this breed is easy to train and will benefit from regular training and exercise.

Owners that spend a lot of time away from the home may be better off looking for a different breed because the German Shepherd is prone to some separation anxiety once he bonds with his owner.

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Siberian Husky Overview

smiling siberian husky
Image credit: Widerstroem, Pixabay

The Siberian Husky is, traditionally, a working dog. He pulls sleds, lives in packs, and is a very powerful and independent dog. The Husky will vocalize his emotions, no matter how he feels, and as well as thriving with time outdoors, he also likes to spend time up high. So, expect to find him on top of beds, cupboards, and even trees. They are also skilled escapologists, and you will need to spend a lot of time ensuring that your yard is fully secure. Expect him to find a way through open windows and other gaps, especially if he believes it’s time to be outside.

Personality

As pack dogs, Huskies require a pack leader. If they believe you are the leader, they will follow your lead, live by your rules, and listen to your commands. But they will test your leadership capabilities.

Huskies do not do well when left alone. They will become bored and destructive, and they have very powerful teeth, which means that they will make short work of just about everything in your home and even including your home itself.

They are social animals, enjoy time with people, get along with other dogs, and they can be quite comical, especially because they enjoy showing off their skills and tricks to anybody that will watch. They may look like wolves, but they tend to be very loving and friendly with anybody, including burglars, so they do not make the best watchdogs.

Training

Training is important with the Husky breed. They are pack dogs, which means that they need leadership. You will have to take charge and become the pack leader. This doesn’t mean being cruel or bullying your dog, but it does mean controlling things like access to food and toys.

The Husky is one breed that not only benefits from training but is at his happiest when being trained. He needs physical and mental stimulation, which can be provided through regular training exercises, but he will really benefit from agility and other canine sports classes as well.

a siberian husky
Image Credit: BARBARA808, Pixabay

Health and Care

The Husky breed is prone to some health conditions, although they are generally considered to be healthy breeds. Cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy are some of the most common health problems. Consult with a veterinarian if you see any of these problems emerge in your dog.

Expect to provide an absolute minimum of an hour exercise every day. Try to give them the opportunity to run, chase balls, and engage in other high-octane exercise, but most Huskies do better when walked on a leash.

The Husky has a double coat and medium length hair. He will shed often, especially during spring but, despite this regular shedding, the breed is quite easy to care for. Brush your Husky’s coat at least once a week, ideally twice, and commit to daily brushing during shedding season. This is not only healthy for your dog, but it will protect your furniture and clothes, too.

Suitable For:

The Husky is an active, lively, smart breed. He requires a lot of exercise, plenty of time outdoors, and he has an incredible knack for escaping from a seemingly secure yard or other location. He will require a lot of attention, but he will get along with most people, should have no issues living with other dogs, but will retain some prey drive so may not get along with cats and smaller animals.

The Husky is another breed that is not suitable if you spend a lot of time out of the house, at work, for example. He will become bored and agitated, and this will manifest itself as chewing and destructive behavior, as well as baying.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

These two breeds share a lot of similarities. They are both very intelligent dogs and both require plenty of exercise. Neither breed does well when left alone for long periods and they both require training and mental stimulation. They also shed a similar amount, live for roughly the same length of time, and are both considered to be generally healthy breeds, although they do require some regular grooming.

The Husky is considered more difficult to look after. He will require more training and attention and usually does better in the hands of an experienced handler or owner. The German Shepherd may be better for first-time and novice owners, although he too requires training and socialization.