Breed Information

The Loyal Labrador versus the Guardian German Shepherd

german shepherd vs lab

The German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, but, the same could be said regarding the family’s favorite Labrador Retriever.

Both dogs are classified as part of the working class of canines, even though their work is of differing origins.

According to DogTime, The German Shepherd is known for its work as a police or military dog, but it is also a service dog for many individuals (meaning the dog might be a seeing-eye dog or a therapy dog).

The Labrador Retriever was chiefly trained to be a hunting dog, but the breed is also a popular service dog.

Both the German Shepherd and the Labrador Retriever have great merit as working dogs and family dogs, and their loyalty to their humans is unmatched.

The German Shepherd Dog

Loyal and brave, the German Shepherd Dog is perhaps one of the most misunderstood dog breeds. The German Shepherd was developed to be a herding dog in the cold Northern European climate.

They were a coveted member of the German forces in World War II, and many American soldiers brought a GSD (German Shepherd Dog) home from their tour of duty in Europe.

They had seen the GSD in action as a working dog, and, although the GSD is a fierce military dog, the loyalty of the breed is virtually unmatched.

When soldiers brought the GSD to American shores, they have bred for companionship purposes as well as the ability to utilize their working potential.

Soldiers returning home knew that the GSD was superb at search and rescue missions as well as protecting the home, and the GSD was a proven herding dog.

As the dog breed grew popular in America, many police departments sought to employ the breed for the aforementioned rescue missions as well as drug detection and other police work.

So, we know why the German Shepherd became a popular dog, but it might be important to understand how the origins of the breed make it especially prepared for work assignments.

The History of the German Shepherd Breed

The ancestors of the German Shepherd Dog were really a mix and match of varying herding dogs.

In fact, before the distinct breed was developed, farmers would travel all over Northern Europe to find a satisfactory male with which to breed their female sheep herding dogs.

However, in 1898, a retired military officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz determined that he would create a distinctive breed of herding dog that could be identified as the prime sheep herding dog.

Stephanitz did this by learning all about the breeding standards the British used to perfect dog breeds in that country.

He also began attending dog shows featuring sheep herding and working dogs, and he noted the German-type of herding dogs.

Although Stephanitz observed many dogs that were capable of sheep herding dogs, he did not find one dog that was both smart and athletic.

It was then he determined the breed he was going to develop would be capable, intelligent, and physically fit.

Stephanitz looked high and low for the perfect dog to sire this unique sheep herding dog, and he finally found the proper pooch in Hektor Linksrhein.

Hektor was a “wolfish-looking” dog, and he was the perfect, powerful pup to begin developing the German Shepherd Dog.

After Stephanitz began developing what would become the GSD, he realized that Germany and all of Europe was becoming more industrialized.

Not to be outdone, Stephanitz determined he would use his military experience to promote the new dog as a police or military dog.

It was due to Stephanitz’s promotion of the GSD as a military dog that prompted American soldiers to bring the dogs Stateside.

One dog that would travel to its forever home in the United States due to an Allied soldier’s interest would become a very famous Hollywood pup.

According to Canidae, A puppy rescued from a bombed residence would be adopted by a soldier and trained to become the “actor” Rin Tin Tin.

Issues with the German Shepherd Dog Breed

Over the years, the German Shepherd became prone to temperament issues and tooth decay.

However, top breeders began to emphasize certain standards that not only preserved the physical prowess of the German Shepherd originally envisioned by Captain Stephanitz but also to weed out the negative personality traits.

Once American breeders began to import a few European GSDs to improve the American stock, a push for the breed to do police and military work in the United States became the chief breed for that line of employment.

The German Shepherd Personality

When it comes to comparing the GSD to other breeds, one chief area of difference is the aloofness of the German Shepherd.

This is not to be misconstrued as a negative trait, however. The German Shepherd’s reserved personality makes him a great protector.

The GSD typically observes all around him; however, with family, the GSD is friendly and happy-go-lucky.

They are great as watchdogs. They are loyal and protective. However, they have a few non-negotiable needs. First, they must have ample exercise. As work dogs, the GSD needs to release pent-up energy as often as possible.

Next, they are not good dogs for those who won’t spend a lot of time with them. Dogs left alone a lot may develop bad habits due to separation anxiety. The German Shepherd dog is not one that you wish to see develop any of said habits!

The German Shepherd Dog is highly trainable, and actually improves when he is allowed to work. Therefore, the dog needs owners who are committed to providing daily exercise and personal attention to the German Shepherd Dog.

All in all, the GSD is a great family dog; however, he should be adopted by a family or an owner with ample time to provide exercise and love to the dog.

German Shepherd Dogs are highly intelligent, and boredom, as well as pent-up energy, can cause him to become destructive.

They are not typically aggressive dogs, even though this is often the type of misinformation spread about the breed.

Rather, with ample playtime and attention from loving family members, the German Shepherd Dog will be a great, protective addition to your family.

Introduction to the Labrador Retriever

According to AKC, The Labrador Retriever is also one of the most popular dog breeds in America.

A member of the working class of dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever is most typically used for duck hunting or other forms of bird hunting.

The Labrador Retriever was primarily thought of as a companion to the fisherman. The Labrador Retriever not only “retrieved” waterfowl, but also assisted the fisherman is hauling heavy fishing nets, retrieving ropes, and even bringing in fish.

The Labrador Retriever of today is still a working dog; in fact, they thrive on being able to assist their owners in a number of tasks. They are also quite versatile in that they are often employed as service dogs.

Origins of the Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is native to the chilly North Atlantic area of Canada. In fact, the original Labrador Retrievers were developed in Newfoundland.

They were originally known as “St. John’s Dogs,” a nod to the capital city of Newfoundland. Labrador Retrievers, or their ancestors, were known as the fisherman’s helper around the 1700s.

Experts believe that the St. John’s Dog was bred with the Newfoundland Dog breed and other water dog breeds in the North Atlantic Canadian area. The result is the Labrador Retriever that we know today.

According to DogTime, The Labrador Retriever was immensely popular with the natives of Newfoundland, but the dog garnered the attention of the English sportsmen who visited the area in order to take advantage of the ample hunting and fishing opportunities in the area.

Many of the English nobility who visited Newfoundland to hunt or fish purchased Labrador Retrievers and took them home with them to England.

In fact, it was an English earl who is responsible for giving the Labrador Retriever his modern moniker. The third Earl of Malmesbury is noted as the first to refer to the breed like the Labrador Retriever. The name stuck, and the rest is history.

At one time, the breed almost died out! In Newfoundland, government officials began taxing those who owned a female puppy, and the government also mandated that all families be permitted to own no more than one dog. However, the Earl of Malmesbury once again came through to keep the breed from dying out.

The Earl, along with other fanciers of English origin, made sure to keep breeding their dogs for the betterment of the Labrador Retriever. Not only did the English version of the Labrador Retriever survive, but it thrived.

After World War II, the Labrador Retriever breed became increasingly popular in the United States, and by 1991, the Lab was the top popular breed in America.

The Labrador Retriever as a Service or Working Dog

Just as the German Shepherd is a working dog at heart, the Labrador is a working dog as well. They assist the handicapped as seeing-eye dogs.

They are also great therapy dogs for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental disorders.

Furthermore, just like the German Shepherd, the Labrador Retriever works is drug detection and in sniffing out explosives.

The Labrador Retriever is also astute at providing search and rescue assistance.

The Labrador Retriever as a Hunting and Fishing Dog

Originally, the Labrador Retriever was meant to be a hunting and fishing dog. As previously stated, the Lab was a great helper to local fishermen. When hunters took down waterfowl, the Lab keenly retrieved the prey for their human hunting partners.

Today, the Labrador Retriever is still used as a hunting partner. They retrieve ducks and other waterfowl. Other uses for the dog include being companion animals, which they are most popular for.

Comparing the Labrador Retriever and the German Shepherd Dog

According to Anything Labrador, The German Shepherd Dog and the Labrador Retriever actually have more in common than one might think.

Both breeds are susceptible to health conditions that plague many large breed dogs, such as hip dysplasia.

Both the German Shepherd Dog and the Labrador Retriever are extremely intelligent, and they welcome training that will allow them to live out their need to work.

Speaking of work, both the GSD and the Lab love to work; in fact, they thrive on being able to work. Finally, both breeds tend to bond with their families.

Perhaps one of the greatest areas of difference in the GSD and the Labrador Retriever has to do with their temperaments.

The Labrador Retriever is known for being easy-going, family-friendly, and generally happy-go-lucky dogs. The German Shepherd often has a more detrimental reputation, although this reputation is undeserved.

The German Shepherd is, well, a shepherd. This means that the dog is prone to guarding individuals, especially members of its family.

If a child or small adult is trying to walk somewhere the German Shepherd feels is unsafe, the GSD will put itself between the family member and the perceived danger.

While this guarding behavior can and should be seen as a positive, it can be annoying and viewed as misplaced aggression. (This is why the German Shepherd is not a dog for novices. No matter how good their intentions might be, it is never a good idea for an owner with no experience to take on a GSD.)

Labrador Retrievers may jump up on their owners, but they never do so aggressively. They also are more accepting of strangers than the GSD.

Unfortunately, some families will opt for a Labrador Retriever due to the fact that the Lab tends to be better with children than the GSD.

This doesn’t mean that the German Shepherd will or has a tendency to hurt children. Not at all! Rather, only experienced adults should take on a young German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd tends to do better in an all-adult family that is experienced with dogs. However, if the GSD is a part of a family that is willing to provide him with the proper amount of exercise, he will be fine to join a younger family.

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