German Shepherd or Siberian Husky – Which is Best for You?

Owning a dog is therapeutic but it takes a lot of research, as not all breeds are for everyone. There are different classes for dogs as well, and the working breed is one that many families find to be good dogs for loyalty and companionship.

The Siberian Husky and the German Shepherd are two of the dogs in this class, and although they do share some common traits, their backgrounds vary greatly.

Before you purchase or adopt one of these two dogs, you will want to know the history, needs, and health issues of each breed in order to help you decide which one is best for you.

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German Shepherd vs Siberian Husky: Breed Histories

The German Shepherd is in the working class breed of dogs, and was originally bred to help ranchers with herding. The breed has now evolved into a trustworthy option for police forces and military units.

They are also ideal as service animals, and can even contribute in search and rescue missions. In addition to loving their roles as busy working dogs, they are extremely loyal and protective of their owners.

All of this progress did not happen overnight; it took over three decades to perfect this versatile breed.

The Siberian Husky was bred to withstand the cold temperatures of Siberia, while pulling heavily loaded sleds across rough terrains. Like German Shepherds, they have a strong work ethic, and are the main reason their owners were able to survive in these frigid environments.

The Siberian Husky’s durability and endurance famously rescued an Alaskan town in 1925.

The small Alaskan town of Nome was suffering from an outbreak of diphtheria during the dead of winter, and a team of huskies ran just over 650 miles in less than a week to bring the needed medicine.

Appearances

Both the Siberian husky and the German Shepherd have thick undercoats that makes them look like balls of fluff.

The German shepherd is a tad bigger than the husky, with average weights coming in at roughly 75-80 pounds for a grown adult.

The husky is often only a few inches shorter than the German shepherd, but rarely weighs over 50 pounds as fully grown healthy adult.

Unlike the Siberian husky, the German shepherd has a very lean build with a muscular appearance. The GSD’s colors can vary: black, sable, grey, black and tan, black and red, or black and silver.

The husky has more of a compact build, and their fur stands out noticeably more. The Siberian Husky is known to have over a dozen different color variations as well.

These colors include: all white, sable, brown, piebald (irregular patches of color), copper, red, black and tan, all black, black and white, grey, silver, agouti (more of a wolf-like appearance), and splash (generally white in color with a blanket over their back with a different color). The all-white husky is the rarest.

These are both larger dogs with unmistakably striking appearances. The Siberian husky has almond eyes, while the German shepherd has more of a round eye shape. They both have beautiful erect ears and saber style tails.

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Temperaments

While these dogs were originally bred for working environments, they still make great family dogs. They can be great with other animals in the house and with children, but are prone to being overly protective.

If you are considering getting a German Shepherd, you will need to make sure to train it early in life. This should involve socializing it with other dogs and people.

German Shepherds are also known to be quite sensitive and susceptible to separation anxieties. As such, these dogs will typically form strong bonds with their families.

Due to their extreme willingness to learn and help their owners, they must be given ‘jobs’ to always feel important and included. Some examples could include bringing in the newspaper, playing catch, and canine athletics games.

As For Siberian Huskies, they are extremely smart, but also mischievous. According to Prestige Animal Hospital, they bond to their family and can also struggle with separation anxiety if left alone for too long.

It is ideal to have more than one pet if you are wanting to add a Siberian Husky to your family. These dogs are perfect matches for people who lead active lifestyles, especially for those who enjoy being outdoors.

The one thing to watch for with the husky is their innate ability to escape enclosures! You’ll need a secure fence, or even a wireless fence in place to keep them from wandering too far from home!

Training

Siberian huskies and German shepherds are both highly trainable dogs, as they are both intelligent, eager to please, and love their owners.

While shepherds love learning and enjoy being given jobs, professional dog trainer Michele Welton, warns that the husky tends to only do things that benefit themselves.

The Siberian husky can be trained, but you will need to provide them with incentives to listen to your commands.

This can lead to frustrations and a desire to let the dogs do as they want. However, just like with intelligent children, you will need to keep your husky from being bored in order to avoid damaging behavior.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a Husky or a Shepherd, a bored dog can leave your house or yard in ruins!

It is best to simply start training your pup at a young age, utilizing positive reinforcement, and constantly changing up their toys and activities. This will greatly increase the chances of the dog adjusting smoothly to your family and living environment.

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Exercising

As is now apparent, both of these breeds need a lot of daily activity. Huskies are even more energetic than GSDs and love to run.

This is what they were designed to do after all, and it remains their favorite activity. German Shepherds also need exercise to stay mentally healthy and fit, but they can get by on lesser amounts.

These dogs should get at least an hour of daily activity, and Huskies will even need a long run or a couple of hours in a fully secured dog park. Again, because of their escaping ability a yard is rarely enough.

German shepherds, on the other hand, are happy with a couple of 30-minute walks or some playtime in the yard. They are also a breed that loves to play fetch, and other games, with their owners.

Health

No dog breed is without common health problems, and this only worsens with poor breeding. If you are looking for a purebred dog, you need to know the family line to understand what health problems you may end up facing.

If you are planning on adopting, these problems can be a little trickier since it will be nearly impossible to know the breeding standards that were followed.

Huskies are more prone to eye complications with cataracts being the most common. They may also suffer from progressive retinal atrophy or corneal dystrophy.

The veterinarians at the East Dallas Vet Clinic have noticed that German shepherds are more prone to joint issues, allergies, and stomach problems.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are common problems with GSDs, and bloat is something you will need to watch for because how fast they like to eat.

Siberian huskies generally have a longer lifespan, often living between 10-15 years. Since German shepherds are a bigger breed, this often leads to shorter lifespans. With the proper care, a German shepherd can live between 9-13 years.

The lifespans of these breeds will depend on exercise, monitoring of potential health problems, and diets. Both breeds will require high-quality foods tailored specifically for their size.

These are breeds that thrive on raw food diets with superior meat, and without soy, wheat, and corn.

Care and Grooming

Huskies and German shepherds both have thick undercoats and are notorious for shedding year-round. They need to be brushed at least twice a week, but daily brushing will help limit the amount of hair you find around your house.

Using a brush with an undercoat removal system, such as the FURminator, can help with shedding for both breeds. These de-shedding tools will help remove of dead hairs during the high shedding season.

These dogs will also need a weekly or bi-monthly bath, as they can get dig serious messes as they play in the dirt! Thankfully, these breeds don’t mind water so you can make bath time something fun and mentally stimulating.

According to AKC, you do not want to bathe the Shepherd breed too often, as they produce natural oils which keep their coats healthy. This is also true for the husky because their coat is designed to keep them warm in frigid climates.

Finally, Siberian huskies and German shepherds will both need regular grooming appointments to trim their nails, clean their ears, and even clean their teeth.

We also recommend talking to your veterinarian about teeth cleaning and diet to help with any breath or teeth issues.

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Breed Comparison Table

NameAppearanceBreed HistoryPersonality & TemperamentCoat CareSizeExercise & TrainingHealth & Life ExpectancyKid Friendly?
German Shepherdgerman-shepherdBred in Germany in the late 1800s as working dogs. World class K-9 dog. 2nd most popular companion canine in America.3rd most intelligent of all dog breeds. High energy levels, prey drive, & desire to stay active. Extremely loyal to their owners.Shed heavily year-round and seasonally. Medium-length double layer coat. Regular brushing & grooming is recommended.Weighs 50-90 lbs, stands 22-26 inches tall. Females are 10-15 lbs lighter & two inches shorter.1-2 hours daily exercise is recommended. Begin socialization & training ASAP.Lifespan: 9-13 years. Common health issues: Dysplasia (hip, elbow), Temperament, Eye issues, Cardiac issues, Autoimmune thyroiditis, Degenerative myelopathy.Yes - IF properly trained.
Siberian HuskyhuskyOriginally bred for working & to withstand the Siberian cold.Great family dogs. Can be great with other animals in the house and with children. highly intelligent but also mischievous.Sheds year-round. Thick undercoat that makes it appear like a ball of fluff.Can weigh up to 50 pounds, but will rarely exceed this weight as fully grown healthy adults. Compact build.Great for those who lead active outdoor lifestyles. Ideally should get 1-2 hours daily exercise/activity. Easily trainable thanks to their intelligence.Lifespan: 10-15 years. Prone to eye complications with cataracts being the most common. They may also suffer from progressive retinal atrophy or corneal dystrophy.Yes

Deciding Which Breed Is Best For You

With the knowledge you now have, how do you decide which breed will make a better pet for your family?

According to Arctic Spirit Rescue, for a family that has young children or a very active lifestyle, a Siberian husky is a good breed.

They are playful and children will help keep them mentally stimulated. This husky breed is also more patient with younger children, and won’t mind spending time with them.

If you are looking for a dog that will be more protective of your home, then a German shepherd is going to be the better of the two breeds. Huskies will only do what suits them, while German shepherds live to protect their owners.

The GSD breed is ideal for a family that wants only one dog as they may not do as well with other household pets. On the other hand, the Siberian husky is a pack animal that is totally fine sharing the house with other pets.

Unfortunately, neither breed is ideal if you are wanting to adopt from a shelter. Since they are prone to genetic health problems, it’s important to understand the family health lines prior to adoption.

Their common health complications can be costly to treat and without it, their quality of life could decline greatly. If you absolutely want to adopt one of these dogs, opting for a fully grown healthy adult can help reduce the potential for unknown health issues.

German shepherds often have high anxiety around people. You will only want to choose this breed if you have the ability, time, and desire to socialize this dog throughout its entire life.

They are very proud breeds but aggression is common. Most of the time, once they become aggressive, they can no longer be trusted around other dogs or kids and will need to wear a muzzle in public.

Siberian Huskies thrive on companionship. They enjoy having more than one dog in the house, children to play with, and someone in the house most of the day.

German Shepherd vs Siberian Husky: Final Thoughts 

Whether you select a German Shepherd or a Siberian Husky, you will have your work cut out for you! These working dogs have their own specific drives and motivations.

Understanding their natures will help you make your pet feel right at home. It will want nothing more than to bring you companionship for years to come.

You will also need to be prepared for the training and expenses required for both breeds over the long term. Welcoming one of these dogs into your life is a serious commitment that should not be taken lightly.

Neither breed will be content as couch potatoes, and will thrive on large amounts of rigorous activity.

They are both generally quiet and enjoyable dogs. However, when the situation calls for it, they can both make themselves heard.

The German Shepherd will not shy away from causing a raucous when protecting their family, while Huskies are known for singing to their owners.

Also, when selecting a dog, be sure to plan for an introductory period. If you have children or other pets, they will need time to get to know the new dog, and find out if they are compatible.

Unfortunately, these breeds are often put up for adoption because owners were not prepared for the work and sacrifice that goes into caring for them. They need an owner prepared for having more than just a companion animal.

With this in mind, German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies can both make great pets that are well worth the extra effort.

Feel free to check out our in-depth guide about the German Shepherd Husky Mix.

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