For lots of us, dogs are treasured parts of the family. We regard them as pets, guardians, friends, and close companions.
If you’re thinking about adopting a dog to become part of your family, you may find the variety of breeds available to be a little overwhelming!
Two of the most popular dog breeds in the world today are the German Shepherd and the Chihuahua, but comparing these breeds goes well beyond simply looking at the obvious size difference.
Although these two breeds have wildly different origins, histories, and intended places within the family unit, both are widely considered to be friendly, loving animals that can make the perfect addition to your life!
German Shepherd vs Chihuahua: Breed Histories
Named after the Mexican state where they originated, the Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world. The earliest ancestors of these pocket-sized pups are found in historical records that date back to 300 BC.
They were raised as pets, as living heating pads, and as an Aztec food source according to Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes.
Although these dogs’ roots date back to ancient times, they were not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1904.
The breed quickly gained popularity in the United States and around the world, as dog lovers fell in love with the Chihuahua’s diminutive size and adorable build.
Today, the Chihuahua is one of the most recognized breeds on the planet, as Chihuahua canine actors have made their marks in film, television, and advertising!
From the Taco Bell Chihuahua to Elle Woods’s “Bruiser” in Legally Blonde, Chihuahuas are a universally-beloved breed that are just as comfortable in front of a camera as they are around the home!
The German Shepherd
Like the Chihuahua, the German Shepherd is named after its original birthplace. Unlike the Chihuahua, however, the German Shepherd was always intended to be a working dog, which has continued to this very day!
The first German Shepherds, as the name would imply, were originally bred to guard sheep against natural predators in the late 1800’s. This breed is widely recognized for its intelligence, devotion, and ability to work as specialized guard dogs.
Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, German Shepherds have become synonymous with police and first responder teams.
Like Chihuahuas, they’ve become mainstays in films and on television. Their high levels of intelligence, versatility, and willingness to work with humans make them ideal for this line of work!
However, German Shepherds are perhaps most well known for their work with the police, military, and in search and rescue operations. This is in large part thanks to their hardworking nature and devotion to their handlers.
|Personality & Temperament
|Exercise & Training
|Health & Life Expectancy
|Bred in Germany by Max von Stephanitz in the late 1800s. World renowned working livestock, herding & guarding dog. 2nd most popular companion dog in America.
|3rd most intelligent dog. High energy levels. Needs to stay active or ‘work a job’. High prey drive and herding instinct. Forever loyal to their owners.
|Shed heavily year-round and seasonally. Medium-length double layer coat. Regular brushing & grooming is recommended.
|Weighs between 50 & 90 pounds, and stands 22 to 26 inches tall.
|Should ideally get 1-2 hours of daily exercise and activity. Start puppy socialization & training ASAP.
|Typically lifespan of 9-13 years. Known genetic (heritable) health issues: Dysplasia (hip, elbow), Eye issues, Cardiac issues, Autoimmune thyroiditis, Degenerative myelopathy.
|Yes - IF properly trained.
|Named after the Mexican state where they originated, the Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world.
|Loyal, fiercely protective, intelligent, & somewhat skittish. If provoked, a Chihuahua can still become frightened and risk lashing out in self-defense.
|Short-haired Chihuahuas will need weekly brushing, while long-haired Chihuahuas may need brushing 3 times per week.
|On average, Chihuahuas will weigh 3-6 pounds, and reach heights of 6-9 inches.
|Can be prone to destructive behavior without exercise. The perfect home for a Chihuahua will have plenty of time for socializing, training, and healthy doses of playtime!
|Biggest health issues are usually tied to their size. Prone to dental problems, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), head and heart complications.
|Yes - IF properly trained. They generally make great family dogs.
As with most dog breeds, the temperament of the Chihuahua depends heavily on its socialization and exposure to humans during the dog’s youth.
However, the temperament of nearly every dog is also heavily dependent on the personality of the dog’s parents and grandparents, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Chihuahua dogs are generally known to be loyal, fiercely protective, and somewhat skittish. Because of their small size, it may be easy to dismiss the threat posed by one of these little dogs.
However, if provoked, a Chihuahua can still become frightened and risk lashing out in self-defense.
Chihuahuas are also very intelligent dogs. If trained properly, they are capable of learning a wide variety of tricks and commands, and are often used as emotional support animals for this reason!
For the most part, Chihuahuas prefer the company of Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes to that of other dogs.
If you already have a different dog breed in your house, a Chihuahua should acclimate well to their company. It is when when introducing a new dog to the family, when you already have a Chihuahua, that problems can arise!
German Shepherd Temperament
German Shepherds are confident, self-assured dogs who are fiercely protective of those they consider being part of their family.
According to the Animal Humane Society, if properly socialized, they are especially protective of infants and children. They tend to ‘guard’ family members that they consider to be weaker or in need of protection.
A well-socialized German Shepherd will be generally polite towards strangers and new acquaintances. However, this can change quickly as GSDs may become overprotective of “their” humans if they sense a potential threat.
As a result of their high levels of intelligence, German Shepherds are easily trained and work well with pet lovers and handlers alike.
They are hardworking, eager to please the humans around them, and usually affectionate towards their family and friends. However, German Shepherds will be reluctant to extend that affection towards strangers.
Overall, German Shepherds are a clever and loyal breed with strong protective instincts. Their versatility allows them to feel content working on the farm, and relaxing at home!
The Perfect Home for a Chihuahua
As mentioned earlier, Chihuahuas can be nervous dogs. Because of their small size, they may seem to be the perfect pets for small children.
However, due to the excitable nature and high energy levels of most small children, this may not be an ideal match. Since Chihuahuas are so small and delicate, children can accidentally hurt them when playing together.
Chihuahuas usually prefer warm climates, will burrow into pillows, and climb to the highest spots on the couch to soak up a little bit of extra sun.
They can surprisingly be prone to destructive behavior if not properly stimulated. The perfect home for a Chihuahua will therefore have plenty of time for socializing, training, and healthy doses of playtime!
Chihuahuas can fit into a “pack” of other dogs without any real issues, as long as they have had time to adjust to the group dynamics.
Their size is by no means an indication of their personality. Chihuahuas are often ready to take on dogs three to four times their size in a play fight, or an actual scuffle!
The Perfect Home for a German Shepherd
Like Chihuahuas, German Shepherds need a home where they can get plenty of affection, socialization, as well as one-on-one time for training and attention.
Due to their history as guard dogs, they are more suited than Chihuahuas for families with small children, as they have retained some of those same instincts to protect and care.
German Shepherds are usually eager to have some sort of purpose. In the professional field, this could mean having a “job” like guarding sheep, or detecting narcotics.
In the domestic sphere, however, this means that German Shepherds could potentially “herd” small children or other animals around the house!
They prefer cooler climates, but are still more than happy to bask in the sun with the people they love!
Adding a German Shepherd to your family is a serious commitment. Make sure you are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to give one of these loyal, protective dogs the love and attention that they deserve.
Chihuahua Health Concerns
The biggest health issues with Chihuahua are usually tied to their size. Their small jaw size, in particular, can make dental care quite the tricky procedure.
If the Chihuahua’s teeth are not properly cleaned, they can quickly develop a wide range of dental complications. This can include rotting teeth, as well as more severe periodontal diseases.
Also as a result of their small size, Chihuahuas are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) according to PetMD.
Dogs with low blood sugar will become lethargic, and may shiver or whine occasionally. If you notice your dog displaying these symptoms, take it to your veterinarian right away!
Finally, like most toy breeds, Chihuahuas are at a greater risk for head and heart complications. Heart murmurs are fairly common among older Chihuahuas.
Puppies are often in danger of developing “soft spots” along their skull, especially in “Apple Head Chihuahuas” (a variety of the breed with a short, rounded muzzle as opposed to the long, pointed head that is more common).
German Shepherd Health Concerns
Generations of breeding to a standard with specific traits in mind has led to certain health issues in German Shepherds.
Rather than breeding for health and intelligence, breeders focused more so on physical traits. As a result, GSDs have become particularly susceptible to two major health concerns: hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy.
Hip dysplasia occurs when the ball-and-socket joint in a dog’s hips or elbows becomes “loose”. This increases the dog’s risk of injury, development of arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions later in life.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a disease that causes the immune system to attack the myelin sheath that surrounds the spinal cord.
Over time, once this sheath has been destroyed, the dog’s nervous system is no longer able to communicate with its limbs, and the dog becomes paralyzed.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for either of these conditions. However, there are certain things that can be done to limit the risks and severity of the diseases.
Regular veterinary checkups and a balanced, nutrient-rich diet can at least treat some of the symptoms. This will also help build up the German Shepherd’s immune system, and reduce their risk of developing DM.
Special Considerations for Chihuahuas
If you love the size and fighting spirit of a Chihuahua, but are worried about its health risks or some aspect of its personality, some crossbreeds may be a better fit.
One such common crossbreed is the Chihuahua Bichon Frise Mix. This results in a dog that’s Chihuahua-sized, but with the hypoallergenic coat, and slightly sturdier build of a Bichon Frise.
As mentioned earlier, Chihuahuas come in two main varieties—”Apple Head” and “Deer Head”. While Apple Head Chihuahuas have larger eyes and a cute, almost cartoonish profile, they are more at risk for various health conditions.
Deer Head Chihuahuas have a longer muzzle and a more pointed face. This removes some of the risks for breathing conditions, and diseases of the nose, throat, and lungs.
Teacup Chihuahuas are an even smaller variety of the breed. While they may be adorable, they are at extremely high risk for the aforementioned health conditions.
The risk is compounded due to excessive inbreeding, and careful genetic manipulation and modification.
Special Considerations German Shepherds
German Shepherds love to work – the happiest GSDs are the ones that have tasks to complete, and something to occupy their attention. It is when bored that they may become irritable, or even aggressive towards their owners.
Because of their work as police and military dogs, it should come as no surprise that German Shepherds have an incredibly powerful bite.
While proper socialization should greatly reduce the risk of a German Shepherd biting someone that it considers to be its family, the risk is still there and should be taken very seriously.
As with any dog, a young German Shepherd must be exposed to as wide of a variety of individuals as possible (age, appearance, ethnicity, career, and health).
However, because of the size and strength of these dogs, proper socialization is even more important with a German Shepherd than it is with, say, a Chihuahua!
German Shepherd vs Chihuahua: Not An Easy Choice!
German Shepherds and Chihuahuas are some of the most well-known dog breeds on the planet today. Thanks to their intelligence, loyalty, and protective natures, both breeds can be excellent additions to any family.
However, because of the special characteristics that set each breed apart, a German Shepherd will often thrive in an environment where a Chihuahua might feel nervous or uneasy. The opposite is also true!
Both are loving, affectionate dogs. Despite the great disparity in their sizes, when it comes to loving their humans, they are far more alike than anyone would imagine at first glance!
Related reading: What Breed Do We Get from the German Shepherd Chihuahua Mix?