German Shepherd dogs are immensely popular. They are loyal, intelligent, and trainable. You can see them everywhere – working with the police and army, herding, or just making great companions for families and kids. Though, you may not probably know that these dogs can differ by the length of fur. Due to this, they are divided into long-haired vs. short-haired German Shepherd dogs.
Therefore, the coat can be of two lengths. If it is under 2 inches, the dog is short-coated. If the fur is 2+ inches, the animal is long-coated. There are several other varieties between these two. Long fur is regarded as a minor defect by the AKC (American Kennel Club), but they have recently started to recognize it.
If you want an excellent German Shepherd for your needs, consider what you would like to see. The fur length is among the most distinctive features. So, you have to decide what excellence means for you.
In this article, we have attempted to describe the main characteristics of these dogs according to their coat length, considering their key similarities and differences. We also want to share information about the suitability and acceptability of GSs with different lengths of fur. It will help you decide what the right choice is for you.
Short-Haired GSD and Its Characteristics
Short-haired German Shepherds, as we see them nowadays, were bred in Germany to take care of sheep, and then refined by Captain Max Von Stephanitz. We can easily recognize them in movies, such as Strongheart or Rin Tin Tin.
These dogs are amazingly loyal, and they can feel anxious when you are not around. It explains their unfriendliness to strangers. Moreover, they do not easily make new friends, and a lot of socialization techniques are needed to reduce their aggression and rejection.
Short-haired dogs are quite energetic, so they need at least two hours of exercise every day. Your pup will join you in all your activities, be they walking, running, swimming, or riding a bike.
Their coat has a double layer, so they can withstand cold and severe weather conditions. However, such a coat needs constant grooming, at least every 2-3 days, especially in spring and fall, when their shedding can become a true catastrophe for your household.
Let’s have a more thorough look at some of these features.
Size and Appearance
A short-haired German Shepherd dog is usually athletically built. Its height is 22-26 inches at the wither, and it can weigh 50-90 pounds. Males are obviously bigger than females, and they look quite masculine. Their muzzle is long and the ears are erect, facing forward. The back should be straight, and a sloped back that has appeared nowadays can cause severe health problems.
The outer layer of the coat is usually dense and located close to the skin. The fur is straight but sometimes slight waving occurs. The undercoat is wooly and thick because it is meant to protect the animal from severe weather conditions.
The short-haired GSs look like wolves. Nevertheless, they can be of different colors. Black, black and tan, sable, gray, or red and black colors are acceptable. However, lighter colors are not popular among breeders and owners. A white short-haired German shepherd does not comply with the breed standards.
Behavior and Temperament
Short-haired GSs can complete any task you may set. That is why they are appreciated as working dogs in many jobs, including the police and army.
These dogs are perfectly protective. They are always alert if they need to guard the family or household. They can even seem too possessive to their owners. However, these animals are very clever and trainable. They always want to please you. So, if you reward them with some treats, training will have much better results.
Separation anxiety is one of the most severe behavioral problems. They feel lonely, frustrated, and anxious if they cannot see you for a long time. They may even start chewing your clothes, footwear, and furniture if you are out. A German Shepherd can start barking and howling, and it may cause some trouble in your relationships with neighbors. Anyway, the dog needs an exciting job to do, even if it is just playing with a toy.
Lifespan and Health
Normally, short-haired German Shepherds can live 10-13 years. They may suffer from such health issues as hip dysplasia, heart and eye conditions, and generative myelopathy. That is why it is important that you request a full history of its parents’ health if you want to take a puppy from a breeder. Be sure that the breeder will also provide you with information about the puppy’s hip scores and clear eye tests. Getting insurance is a good idea, too.
A short-haired German Shepherd puppy can cost you $800-$2,000, or the amount may be much higher – up to $4,000 – if you take it from a reputable breeder who is well-known for their showroom or working bloodlines. If you want to adopt an adult dog from a shelter, it will cost you up to $250-$400.
Long-Haired GS and Its Characteristics
Long-haired German Shepherds are pretty similar to their short-haired counterparts, but one of the most important differences is the requirement for brushing and grooming. Most long-haired GSs do not have an undercoat. Though, it does not mean little shedding.
Since the fur is longer, the shed part of it can get stuck, so when you brush the dog, you may see even bigger amounts of fur than when you brush a short-haired animal. In fact, your pup will need brushing 2-3 times per week, or the fur will get tangled and matted. Unlike short-haired dogs, this variety’s representatives do not shed in specific seasons, but do it all year round.
Size and Appearance
The height and weight of a long-haired GS are similar to that of a short-haired one. However, the fur is longer on the neck, which reminds of a mane, and on the rear part of the body, so they seem much bigger. The fur has a soft and silky texture. It makes them disqualified from being registered according to the AKC standards. Though they are still purebred dogs, they cannot take part in showrooms and are not suited for working outside in cold seasons because of the one-layer coat that does not protect them from bad weather conditions.
Male long-haired Shepherds can grow up to 24-26 inches in height, and females grow a bit smaller – up to 22-24 inches. The weight also differs between males and females. The former can weigh 66-68 pounds, while the latter reach 51-53 pounds.
Because of the lack of an undercoat, the fur seems shiny, and the dogs look beautiful with it.
Behavior and Temperament
This variety has almost the same temperament as the short-haired one does. They are immensely protective and loyal. Though, they also tend to expose separation anxiety.
The main difference is in working capability. Since they have beautiful long hair, which these dogs were bred for, they are not quite suitable for work. Instead, these German Shepherds are more friendly to strangers and always ready to please their owners.
The difference is in exercising. Sure, they are as energetic and lively as their short-haired counterparts, but walking them in cold weather is a bit problematic. They cannot do well when it is freezing or raining. If you live in an area with a cold and wet climate, consider these conditions before adopting long-haired GSDs.
These dogs are also very obedient, but they need constant contact with the owner’s family. That is why they can become fantastic indoor dogs who are quite playful and pleasing. They like engaging with toys and family members. Moreover, these dogs are immensely protective, so they can display extreme bravery when their owners are in danger. This nature also makes them excellent playmates for children and caring babysitters. Long-haired German Shepherds need a lot of exercise every day. They should have a stable outlet to spend their energy. Playing fetch or Frisbee is great for them.
Lifespan and Health
The lifespan of long-haired German Shepherds is almost the same as of their short-haired counterparts – approximately 9-13 years. They can also suffer from the same diseases. The issues may include digestive problems, epilepsy, hip and elbow dysplasia, and eczema. Dysplasia is a genetic issue, while others mentioned can be a result of improper breeding techniques. In case of careless breeding, a number and variety of hereditary problems increase.
Veterinary care should become a norm for you and your dog. Physical examination has to include X-rays, blood tests, and other methods to detect different health conditions.
Since long-haired German Shepherd dogs are not fully approved by the AKC, their cost is lower than that of short-haired dogs. You can pay $500-$1,500 for such a puppy. The cost can reach $2,000-$2,500 if you buy a dog from a well-known and reputable breeder.
However, many breeders are not interested in raising long-haired Shepherds, so, if they detect a long-haired gene in their stud, they try to get rid of such a dog. Many of them are put in shelters. So, you can adopt such an adult doggie at $200-$450, or just get it for free.
GS with Long Hair vs. Short Haired German Shepherd: Similarities
Let’s talk about the similarities when we speak about dogs with long hair vs. short-haired German Shepherd dogs in general and in detail once again. So, they are the following:
- both varieties are loyal, energetic, athletic, protective, and very smart;
- they need equal amounts of exercise (not fewer than two hours per day);
- both dogs are vulnerable to the same diseases – hip dysplasia and a poor heart condition;
- they are almost the same size, with males obviously larger than females;
- both varieties have equal lifespans if you buy these puppies from a responsible and reputable breeder – 9-13 years;
- both types of GSs can suffer from separation anxiety;
- the nature of both types is equally possessive and protective – they are quite caring to their owner’s family;
Long-Haired German Shepherd vs. Short-Haired One: Differences
Now, it’s high time to distinctly highlight the key differences between these two varieties. We are happy to provide you with details.
The coat type is the most essential difference between these two variations. A short-haired type is the most common. Such dogs’ fur is about one inch long. It is straight and dense, though it may be a bit wavy.
These animals have an undercoat that helps insulation and is immensely weather-proof. Long-haired GSDs do not have this layer. Their hair length is about two inches. The fur feels silky and soft. However, the absence of the undercoat is a disadvantage because such dogs cannot work outdoors if the weather is cold.
Standards of the Breed
The AKC does not consider long-haired GSs corresponding to the breed’s standards. That is why such dogs cannot participate in dog shows. Actually, long fur is believed to be faulty. Moreover, most of these dogs do not have an undercoat. Even if they do, they fall beyond the standards, anyway. Though, these German Shepherds are purebred and white long-haired German Shepherds are especially appreciated as the rarest ones.
Grooming needs considerably vary between these two types. Double-coated short-haired dogs experience shedding seasons that may last for 1 or 2 weeks. You will have to brush such a dog more often during this season. Long-haired dogs can shed a lot throughout the whole year. They need brushing 3-4 times per week.
However, in general, long-haired Shepherds shed less, but you can brush out more hair from them in one session. The need for regular brushing is caused by the fact that long hair can easily produce tangling.
It is believed that both varieties of GSs have an almost similar temperament. However, short-haired dogs slightly differ at this point from their long-haired counterparts. These animals work as police or guard dogs. They are intensively trained for this, so they seem more aloof and unfriendly. Long-haired GSs, who are not involved in any jobs, tend to be eager to please their owner and play more actively.
Nevertheless, these differences may not be caused by the type of engagement, so there is no evidence that the length of fur can influence temperament a lot. These varieties are just bred and trained differently.
Short-haired German Shepherds are costlier because they fully correspond to the breed standards, according to the AKC. The price can be $800-$2,000 or even reach $4,000 depending on the breeder’s reputation. The representatives of the long-haired type cost cheaper – $500-$1,500, or up to $2,000-$2,500 if a puppy is obtained from a well-known breeder. The pedigree can also influence the price.
You can as well adopt a dog from a shelter for free if the purity of pedigree is not your concern, or purchase an adult dog for $250-$400.
Which Dog Is Better for Your Needs?
When you are going to get a German Shepherd dog, think about why you need it. To decide on a long-haired German Shepherd vs. short-haired dog, make your overall assumptions. For some people, a short-haired dog is the best option, while for others, a long-haired variety is perfect.
Short-Haired GSs Are Better for Shows
If you need a dog for shows, you’d better obtain a short-haired Shepherd. It should come from a show bloodline and be of an adequate color. Black short-haired German Shepherd dogs are highly appreciated. Dogs without an undercoat are disqualified.
Long-Haired GSs Feel Great in the Upscale Suburbs
If your residential area is quite prestigious, and you don’t want to make your neighbors nervous, a friendly fluffy dog is the best option. It does not feel aggressive or threatening.
Upscale suburbs usually prefer purse dogs, so a long-haired cud dog will fit the environment better. It looks rare and exotic, pleasing the sight of a refined public, especially if it is a white long-haired German Shepherd that looks nice and friendly.
Long-Haired Dogs Are Better for Civilian Guard Duties
German Shepherds should comply with the AKC standards for their institutional uses, so short-haired varieties are preferable. Nevertheless, long-haired dogs are perfectly trainable, too. A black long-haired German Shepherd can be excellent for guarding your house. It looks bigger and more intimidating.
Short-Haired Shepherds Are Great for Institutional Service
Short-haired dogs exactly correspond to all the criteria for institutional services. You can easily raise and train them, and they are interchangeable between different teams. If a long-haired animal does the same job, it may quickly get sidelined because a squad or institution can be disassembled, and no recruiter from another team will ever accept such a dog.
That is why, if you want your Shepherd dog to get trained for guarding a school, farmyard, or business, opt for a short-haired variety.
Long-Haired Dogs Are Better for Saving Money
A long-haired variety is much cheaper, so you have a chance to save costs without any losses in quality. Long-haired Shepherds have the same characteristics, and owning and raising them as family dogs will not take you more money, either.
However, you need to be sure that your long-haired GSD comes from a responsible breeder, is free from genetic health issues, and is properly medically tested. You will save even more if you do not need to visit a veterinarian frequently.
Does a long-haired GS shed more?
Both varieties tend to shed. However, short-haired dogs shed intensively in spring and fall when there are shedding seasons. Long-haired Shepherds shed equally all year round. The shed of long-haired animals is kept trapped in the long fur, so it does not make furniture, clothes, and other household items messy.
Do short-haired or long-haired GSDs have a better temperament?
In fact, there is not much difference between dogs’ temperaments depending on their fur’s length. The difference can be in short-haired dogs’ ability to work. Since they are widely used by the police, military, and institutional services, they are trained to be aloof and more focused.
Long-haired Shepherds are not used for working purposes, so they are friendlier and less aggressive. They make up perfect family members and companions. There is no scientific evidence as well that the length of the coat can affect temperament.
Where can I obtain a long-haired German Shepherd puppy?
Long-haired puppies cost less than their short-haired counterparts. Though, they are rarer. If you want to get a puppy from a reputable breeder, you will need to wait for it longer. Well-experienced breeders do not like to raise such offspring because these dogs are not suitable for work and shows. You need to do thorough research concerning breeders who can offer you long-haired puppies.
If you don’t mind adopting an adult dog, you do it at a lower price, getting your most well-trained and obedient companion from a special club or shelter.
How rare are short-haired Shepherds?
Short-haired GSDs are not rare at all. You can see these dogs almost everywhere. According to the AKC, German Shepherds are the third most popular breed, and its short-haired representatives make up most of the population. Short hair is a dominant gene, so the chance to get a long-haired puppy from its short-haired parents is quite minimal.
As you can see, there are no big differences between long-haired vs. short-haired German Shepherd dogs. The main difference is in the types of a coat and ways of grooming them.
Choose a short-haired German Shepherd if you want it for work or shows, need a standard GS, or plan to use your dog as a stud. Get a long-haired dog, if you have children, a dog-loving family, friends, or neighbors. You may also prefer this variety if you want an exotic wolf-like look in your dog, or need an intimidating beast to guard your house and keep unwanted visitors away.
Remember that, no matter all the debate, there is not much difference in GS’s intelligence, temperament, and trainability. You can freely opt for any of these two varieties.