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Australian Shepherds vs. German Shepherds: What’s the Difference?

There are many dog breeds to choose from when thinking about getting a new puppy. However, with all the breeds out there, finding specific, relevant breed information can be a daunting task. If you are deciding between an Australian shepherd and a German shepherd, I’ve compiled a comparison of each breed and even the result of breeding the two together.

Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds, while sharing the same partial name, are two entirely different dog breeds. They differ in many ways, such as their physical appearance, their origins, and their lifespan. However, they were both initially bred for herding.  

Whether you want an Aussie or a German shepherd, or whether you are just curious, there is a lot to learn about these two breeds. Read on to discover all the differences between these two breeds, and more. 

What Are the Differences Between Aussies and German Shepherds?

They both have “shepherd” in their name, but these two dogs differ from each other in numerous ways. However, they do share some similarities. It is easy to assume, however, that they are more alike than they are different. 

Several differences are important to discuss. For example, their weight difference. Australian shepherds are generally going to be much smaller than their German shepherd counterparts. Consider the difference: Australian shepherds can weigh between 40 and 65 pounds whereas a German shepherd can weigh upward of 95 pounds. That is a significant difference in size. 

Yet, despite these differences in weight, there is not much of a height difference between the two breeds, though German shepherds can be a few inches taller. However, there is a lot of crossover between the heights of the two breeds. Consider some of these other differences.

  • Lifespan. The lifespan of the two breeds is different. A German shepherd, on average, only lives upward of 10 years, whereas an Australian shepherd can live 15 years on average. This may be an important factor if deciding between the breeds. 
  • Origin. German shepherds, as their name implies, originated in Germany. However, Australian shepherds did not originate in Australia. Rather, they originated in California. 
  • Grooming requirements. Australian shepherds require less grooming than German shepherds do. An Australian shepherd, for example, sheds twice a year and should be brushed once a week. German shepherds, however, shed consistently and should be brushed several times a week.  
  • Color. Australian shepherds are usually shades of white, red, and black. German shepherds, conversely, are usually shades of grey, brown, and black. 

Despite several differences, these Aussies and German Shepherds have a lot in common. Their similarities come mostly in their temperament. For example, they are both extremely energetic dogs. Remember, they were bred to herd and to be outside. Therefore, they both need a lot of space to get that energy out. 

Since they are both highly energetic, they both require similar nutritional needs. However, their diets do differ slightly. For example, an Aussie will require far fewer calories per day than German shepherds. 

Diet and Exercise Needs

While these two breeds are similar, their differences can come out when it comes to their diet and exercise needs. If you are considering getting a German shepherd or an Australian shepherd, it is important to know the differences. 

  • German shepherds can be fed multiple times, depending upon their activity level. They are very energetic dogs, and they need a lot of nutrition to keep going each day.
  • Australian shepherds may need to be fed up to twice a day, as long as the food is no more than three cups a day. As with German shepherds, Aussies are very energetic, but because of their small size, Aussies do not need as many calories.
  • As with all dogs, Shepherds need access to fresh water throughout the day. 
  • Omega fatty acids are great for Australian shepherds. Australian shepherds should have a diet that includes a lot of omega-fatty acids. If their diet includes a lot of these, they will be much healthier. German shepherds will also benefit from omega-fatty acids.

Training differences between an Aussie and German Shepherd

It’s important to begin training both Australian and German shepherds as early as possible. These two breeds are easily trainable and are bred to be trained, too. When they are not trained, they often exhibit destructive behavior. 

If your shepherd is well trained, they will behave and exercise much better. To train either breed well, it is crucial to take them on multiple, vigorous walks and get as much exercise as possible. 

Generally, Australian shepherds should have roughly two hours of exercise a day, but German shepherds will probably need slightly more.

Side by Side Comparison of Breed Characteristics: Aussie vs. German Shepherd

With all the information about these two breeds, it can be difficult to sort out. However, side-by-side, it is easier to see where these two breeds overlap and where they differ. Consider the table below when comparing Aussie shepherds and German shepherds. 

Australian ShepherdGerman Shepherd
Australian shepherds usually grow to a height of around 23 inches, though they can be a bit smaller. Aussie Growth Stages are detailed in this separate article. German shepherds usually grow to a height of around 26 inches, though they can grow a bit smaller, too. 
The weight of an Aussie shepherd is far less than a German shepherd. They can weigh as little as 40 pounds and as much as 65 pounds. German shepherds can weigh as little as 65 pounds and as much as 95 pounds. However, they can weigh slightly less, though they will normally weigh more rather than less. 
Australian shepherds are an older breed than German shepherds. They were bred in the mid-nineteenth century in California. German shepherds are a more recent breed of dog, originating in Germany around the turn of the last century, roughly 1899. 
Australian shepherds are very friendly dogs. They work well within a family. Moreover, they work very well with children when supervised. German shepherds can be friendly dogs. However, they do work better with other pets. Where they fall short is their ability to be friendly toward strangers. 
An Australian shepherd likes to bark and howl regularly. German shepherds like to bark and howl regularly. 
Australian shepherds do well with cold weather, as they can stand temperatures that fall just below freezing. Moreover, they are usually comfortable with temperatures up to about 80 degrees F. German shepherds do well with temperatures that are above 40 degrees, though they can handle slightly warmer temperatures than Australian shepherds, handling temperatures upward of 85 degrees F. 
Aussie shepherds have an incredibly high energy level, usually more than their German counterparts. German shepherds have a high energy level. 
Aussie shepherds require a lot of exercise, so they need to have space both indoors and outdoors to exert their energy. German shepherds need a lot of exercise. They need a space where they can get their high energy out of their systems. 
Australian shepherds shed, usually twice annually in Spring and Autumn. As a result, they only need to be brushed about once a week. German shepherds shed constantly. This means they need to be brushed regularly.
Aussie shepherds do not drool very much. German shepherds have a tendency to drool. 
Australian shepherds were bred to be herding dogs, therefore they are much better suited to herding. They are intelligent and follow commands well. German shepherds were bred to herd, but they are also highly adept at being guard dogs. They are great at hunting, and they will protect their owners very well. They are also intelligent, and they will respond to commands very well. 
Australian shepherds are not at a high risk of developing blindness or other eye issues. German shepherds are more at risk of developing eye issues, such as blindness and cataracts. 
Australian shepherds tend to have longer hair than their German counterparts. German shepherds tend to have slightly shorter coats than their Australian counterparts, but they shed much more. 
Australian shepherds do not have as many color variations as German shepherds. German shepherds have a wide variety of different color variations in their physical appearance. 

The characteristics of these two breeds do crossover quite a bit. There are a few differences that could be significant for new pet owners. For example, the amount of shedding each breed is susceptible to.

If you are looking for a dog that is better equipped to protect and guard your home, a German shepherd is the better choice. However, both dogs are trained easily because of their high intellect. Therefore, both breeds can be trained in various ways. 

Are Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds Related?

It is a common question to ask about Australian shepherds and German shepherds. Are they related? While all herding dogs will have similar characteristics, it does not mean they are necessarily related. It just means they were bred for the same purpose. 

To understand how Australian shepherds compare with German shepherds, it is important to know their history. Their history explains why they are different and why they are not related. 

Consider some of the following points when thinking about how these two breeds are similar but different. 

  • Australian shepherds originated in the American West. They can trace part of their origins to the Iberian peninsula. Spaniards brought their livestock and herding dogs to the new world.
  • German shepherds originated in Germany. German shepherds originated entirely in Germany, but they were bred over fifty years after the Aussie shepherd. 
  • Australian shepherds were bred to herd sheep. Australian shepherds were bred specifically for sheep herding, but they eventually progressed to cattle herding, too. 
  • German shepherds were bred for different types of jobs. They slowly developed into the guard dogs that they are known for today. 

A brief look at their origins shows part of the story. They came from different parts of the world, and they were not crossbred. However, their origins are similar in that they were both bred for specific tasks in specific areas. However, looking closer at their histories will shed more light on their similarities. 

Origins of the Australian Shepherd

Australian shepherds have a long history beginning in the 1500s and spanning several continents.

In the Pyrenees mountains of the Iberian peninsula, there is an area known as Basque. In this area, there is a lot of sheep, and in the early nineteenth century, shepherds there had their own shepherd dog and began to migrate to Australia. 

They brought the Australian collie with them as they migrated to the new world, specifically the western regions, which is where the Australian shepherd was born. Now, the Australian shepherd is essentially a mix of the Pyrenese shepherd dog and the Australian collie. 

Despite being bred in America, they are called Australian shepherds. The Australian shepherd became very popular in the Western United States during the nineteenth century, especially for cowboys who used them to round up cattle. 

Origins of the German Shepherd

German shepherds come entirely from Germany. They did not cross country borders or continents.

Instead, they came about because people wanted a perfect herding dog. In Germany, there are various regions. Each region, in the nineteenth century, had its own distinct shepherd dog. Each one was unique, but it did not mean they were all equally effective at their jobs of herding. 

These different breeds were crossbred, but they were done so with a specific goal in mind. They wanted to get the best traits of each breed of shepherd dog so that the new breed would be “perfect.” It took several decades, but the German shepherd breed came about around the year 1899. 

Through the years, the German shepherd evolved from a herding dog to a guard dog. In fact, many police and military units use German shepherds for detecting drugs, bombs, and for defense. They are highly disciplined animals, and they are easily trained.

Do Aussies and German Shepherds Get Along?

Australian shepherds and German shepherds have similar temperaments, so it is logical to wonder if they will get along. You may want to get one of each, or perhaps you already have one and are thinking of getting a second dog. No matter the reason, it is important to understand the temperament of each thoroughly. 

The short answer to the question of whether or not Aussies and German shepherds get along is that, yes, they can. It is best to pair opposite-sex dogs to avoid excessive aggression, as dogs of the same sex can get very territorial. This is true about most breeds. It is also best to introduce them as puppies so that they grow up together, although this is not required. 

It’s good to look also at their temperament. You want to look at the following aspects of how they are as individual breeds before pairing them together. 

  • Aggression. The aggression of each animal is will determine whether they will get along. Remember, both Aussies and German shepherds are very energetic and can come across as aggressive. 
  • Instincts. The instincts of both breeds are similar. Both their instincts are to herd, which is also covered in Do Australian Shepherds Like Other Dogs?. They are both likely to create strong bonds with their owners because of their high intelligence and their ability to be trained. 
  • Personality. Their personalities come from their high energy, but both breeds are similar in how they act. 

Remember, German shepherds are more of a guard dog in the modern world, so this is the biggest difference between them when it comes to pairing them. Australian shepherds do not make the best guard dogs, but this does not affect their ability to coexist. 

Are German Shepherds and Aussies a Common Mix?

As with any breed, some mixes come about along the way. German shepherds and Australian shepherds were bred separately and have different histories. However, they can be very similar dogs in a lot of ways. This is why breeders have begun to mix German shepherds with Aussies. 

This mix is relatively new, but it is gaining in popularity. It is becoming more common. These mixes are commonly known as German Australian Shepherds. With a German Australian shepherd, it is important to note a few aspects of the breed. Remember, a mix will literally blend the characteristics of each breed. 

  • Behavior. The behavior of a German Australian Shepherd is similar to both parent breeds. For example, a German Australian shepherd is very energetic, intelligent, and loyal to its owners. They are trustful of strangers, however. Moreover, this mixed breed does make a good guard dog. 
  • Exercise. A German Australian Shepherd needs at least one hour of exercise a day. These exercises should include walking, running, and hiking. Moreover, to avoid the dog from getting bored, puzzle toys can help stimulate its mind when not exercising. 
  • Well-trained. Just like the two breeds from where it comes, the German Australian shepherd dog is a great dog to train. They respond well to commands. This is because they retained the intelligence levels of their parents. 
  • Diet. The diet of a German Australian shepherd is relatively simple. You should avoid overeating and make sure it does not receive more than three cups of food a day. A low-calorie diet is best for this breed to keep it the proper weight and proper health for it to behave properly. 

While this mix is still relatively new, it shares a lot in common with both the German shepherd and the Australian shepherd. It can be a good choice for a new pet owner. However, it is important to note that you do not know exactly what temperament you will get with a mixed breed like the German Australian shepherd. 

Since it is a mix, there is uncertainty. While a lot of these aspects of the breed are general and common, you may get a German Australian shepherd that exhibits more traits from one of its parents than the other. 

Characteristics of a German Australian Shepherd 

Specifically, what are the characteristics of a German Australian Shepherd? When you take a closer look at the characteristics of the mixed breed in question, it is easier to see why it is becoming more popular and more common. Consider these characteristics of a German Australian Shepherd. 

ColorGerman Australian shepherds can have a variety of colors. However, they will usually exhibit the colors of the German shepherd, mainly white, black, and tan colors. However, there can be a variety. 
CoatGerman Australian shepherds shed a lot. They get this from their German shepherd parents. They need to be brushed regularly. Additionally, their coat is about a medium-length coat, so it is not very long.  
LifespanThe lifespan of a German Australian shepherd is usually around 12 to 15 years, which makes it more similar to its Australian shepherd parent. German shepherds do not normally live this long. 
WeightA German Australian shepherd’s weight can vary quite a bit. On the lower end, they can weigh as little as 45 pounds, but on the heavier end of the spectrum, they can weigh up to 90 pounds. 
SizeThe height of a German Australian shepherd is truly a cross between the two breeds as they can grow up to around 20 to 25 inches. This means that they are considered medium-sized dogs. 
Health ConcernsThere are health concerns associated with a German Australian shepherd. Some of these health concerns include epilepsy, deafness, blindness, and eye diseases. While it depends on the dog, it will inherit some of the health concerns of the parents. 
LoyaltyGerman Australian shepherds are just like their parents in that they become very loyal to their owners. They will protect you and become quite attached. They also make good guard dogs, which they inherit from the German shepherd in their mix. 
Space RequirementsGerman Australian shepherds require a lot of space. This is because they are highly energetic, so they need the space to exert all that energy they have. 
IntelligenceGerman Australian shepherds are very intelligent. This makes them easy to train. However, as with their parents, it is important to train them as early as possible to avoid destructive behavior. 

As the table shows, a mix between a German shepherd and an Australian shepherd creates a new breed that exhibits characteristics of both. It is important to remember that because it is a mix, some of these characteristics may vary based on the dog. 

However, they have a lot of the same characteristics that make their two parent breeds so popular. Additionally, they physically look like a distinct cross between the two breeds. This is why they are often considered a “designer” breed. 

German Australian shepherds are becoming more common each year because people like the cross between these two popular breeds. The two breeds are great house pets and this mix has some of the best characteristics of both. 


German shepherds and Australian shepherds are similar in a lot of aspects, but they differ in a lot of ways, too. They may both have origins as dogs bred for herding, but German shepherds, for example, have evolved into guard dogs and police dogs. 

Both are still very popular breeds for pet owners because of their intelligence and their ability to be trained easily. While they may have different dietary needs, they can coexist in the same household without any issues. German shepherds and Australian shepherds may have their differences, but they have their similarities, too. Both breeds can become loyal companions and valuable additions to any home!

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