German Shepherd vs Great Dane: 5 Key Differences Explained

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Published: June 2, 2023
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The German Shepherd vs the Great Dane: what are their differences, and which breed is best for you?

German Shepherds have higher energy levels and require more frequent brushing than Great Danes. Great Danes are much larger, drool heavily, and can be stubborn while German Shepherds are more biddable.

In this article, we’ll discuss all of the similarities and differences between German Shepherds and Great Danes.

German Shepherd vs Great Dane: A Comparison

Great Danes weigh up to 175 pounds, compared to German Shepherds at just 90 pounds.
Key DifferencesGerman ShepherdGreat Dane
Height22-26 inches28-32 inches
Weight50-90 pounds110-175 pounds
CoatMid-length double coat that sheds heavilyShort-haired single coat that sheds heavily
Tendency to droolModerate High 
TemperamentAffectionate, can be guarded around strangers, protective, playfulAffectionate, can be guarded around strangers, protective, playful
Exercise NeedsVery highHigh
TrainabilityEasy Intermediate
Life Expectancy7-10 years7-10 years
Health ProblemsProne to joint problems, spinal issues, and GDVProne to GDV, joint problems, heart disease, and thyroid disease

Key Differences Between German Shepherds and Great Danes

German Shepherds are easier to train than Great Danes.

©Korneeva Kristina/

Key differences between German Shepherds and Great Danes include their sizes, coats, drooling tendencies, exercise needs, and trainability.

German Shepherds are much smaller, easier to train, and higher energy. Great Danes drool more and have shorter coats.

Let’s dive into all of their differences below to learn more about each breed!


Gray Great Dane puppy lying down on white background
Great Danes have short coats that shed heavily.



Great Danes are giant dogs, standing 28-32 inches tall. German Shepherds are much smaller at 22-26 inches.

Tall dogs can be easier to pet as they’re easy to reach standing up. Of course, they’re also stronger and can more easily reach countertops and other forbidden places!


German Shepherds weigh 50-90 pounds. They’re big dogs, but they pale in comparison to Great Danes, who weigh 110-175 pounds!

Heavier dogs cost more to feed and vet. They’re also more difficult to lift if needed or to manage on leash if they pull.

Large, deep-chested breeds are also more predisposed to bloat, which is one of the leading causes of death for Great Danes.


German Shepherds have medium-length fur that sheds heavily year-round, especially during shedding season in the spring and fall. 

Brush them once every two to three days throughout most of the year, and daily during shedding season. This will work to reduce the amount of shed fur around your house and also stops painful mats from developing in the coat.

German Shepherd coat colors include:

  • Black
  • Black and cream
  • Black and red
  • Black and silver
  • Black and tan
  • Gray
  • Sable
  • White
  • Liver
  • Blue
  • Bi-color 

Great Danes have short single coats, but they still shed heavily year-round. Frequent brushing isn’t necessary to prevent matting, but can help distribute oils for healthy skin and coats and will the amount of fur they shed.

Great Dane coat colors include:

  • Black
  • Black and white
  • Blue
  • Brindle
  • Fawn
  • Harlequin
  • Mantle
  • Merle
  • White
  • Silver

They may also have black or white markings or a black mask.


Black German Shepherd
German Shepherds require more exercise than Great Danes and are very work-driven.



German Shepherds and Great Danes have very similar temperaments. They’re very loyal and protective of their families and make great guard dogs.

They’re quite touchy-feely and love to snuggle up with their favorite people. They may be clingy, and don’t take well to being left alone for long periods.

Because they have strong guarding instincts, they may take a while to warm up to strangers. Early socialization is important so that your dog learns to be confident and fear-free in social settings.

Social needs

German Shepherds and Great Danes both do best in homes where someone is around most of the day, such as couples working opposite shifts. They’re good family dogs so long as they’re trained to be gentle around children.

If you have very young children, be aware that large dogs can easily knock them over even in play or by not watching where they’re going. Keeping them separate from the dog until they both learn manners and how to be gentle with one another is a good idea! Never leave a dog and child together unsupervised.

Both breeds have been known to do fine with smaller dogs and cats, but this won’t be the case for all dogs as they each have their own personalities and some may have higher prey drives than others.

German Shepherds may have higher prey drives, but both should be watched closely around new animals and never left unsupervised with prey animals like rodents or birds. Introduce new pets slowly and with all dogs leashed until they can be trusted around one another.

Exercise Needs

Great Danes require quite a bit of exercise, and it can be difficult to get their energy out indoors since they’re so large! The same is true of German Shepherds, who require even more exercise to tire them out.

Both breeds are intelligent and require plenty of mental stimulation alongside physical exercise. Puzzle toys, sniff games, dog sports, and training new tasks are just a few options available to work your dog’s mind and body.


German Shepherds catch onto new cues very quickly and are biddable. They want to please their people!

On the other hand, Great Danes can be more aloof and stubborn. It’s important to use force-free methods with both breeds and to have patience.

Drooling Level

German Shepherds drool an average amount for their size, but Great Danes drool a ton! Be prepared to clean up their faces, bowls, and beds regularly.

Health Factors

close up of a Great Dane
GDV, also known as bloat, is one of the leading causes of death in Great Danes.


Life Expectancy

Both breeds have a life expectancy of 7-10 years. While this is a decent lifespan for a giant breed like a Great Dane, German Shepherds actually have a low lifespan considering their size.

This is thought to be due to their tendency toward joint problems. German Shepherds bred for show, in particular, are prone to issues due to their sloped backs. Working lines tend to be healthier in this aspect.

Health Problems

The most worrying health problem in these breeds is gastric dilatation-volvulus, also known as GDV or bloat. German Shepherds are prone to bloat due to their large size and deep chests, but it’s extremely common in Great Danes.

Before adopting either breed, it’s important to know how to prevent bloat and what symptoms to watch for. A dog with bloat can die within hours if not treated–catching it on time and bringing your dog to the emergency vet can literally save their life.

Bloat can be prevented by avoiding raised feeders and instead using slow-feeder bowls that sit on the ground. Feed several small meals throughout the day rather than one to two large ones, and avoid exercise directly before or after your dog eats a meal or drinks a large amount of water.

A prophylactic gastropexy is a surgery that helps to prevent bloat in breeds that are especially prone to it, such as Great Danes. This is definitely something to discuss with your veterinarian!

Symptoms of bloat include:

  • Swollen abdomen
  • Retching
  • Excessive drooling
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal pain
  • “Downward dog” or praying position with their butt up and head down

Even with prompt veterinary care, around 30% of dogs will still die from bloat. 

Other conditions common in German Shepherds include joint issues and degenerative myopathy. Great Danes are prone to joint problems, heart disease, and thyroid disease.

Reputable breeders will screen their dogs for all recommended genetic health conditions. The OHA lists recommended tests by breed and is an excellent resource.

Wrapping Up: German Shepherd vs Great Dane

When it comes down to it, German Shepherds and Great Danes are both terrific dogs! Which one is right for you will depend on your lifestyle and preferences.

Great Danes can be more expensive to own due to their size, but they’re easier to exercise and groom. German Shepherds tend to be a breeze to train and don’t drool nearly as much if that’s something that’ll bother you!

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German Shepherd vs Great Dane

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About the Author

I'm an animal writer of four years with a primary focus on educational pet content. I want our furry, feathery, and scaley friends to receive the best care possible! In my free time, I'm usually outdoors gardening or spending time with my nine rescue pets.

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