Dutch Shepherd vs German Shepherd - The Similarities & Differences
These powerful herding dogs have been a favorite family pet for a few decades now. Nevertheless, they’ll still need active families ready to put up with their active temperament. Is the Dutch or the German Shepherd the best dog for your family? We help you make up your mind with our in-depth article.
Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine
Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here
Dutch Shepherd vs German Shepherd: Similarities
German Shepherd vs. Dutch Shepherd: Differences
Dutch vs German Shepherd: Their Origins
The history of both of these breeds is one of the main differences between Dutch shepherds and German Shepherds.
First, we have the German Shepherd. This work dog came to be mainly thanks to the work of Max von Stephanitz, who crossed different German sheepdogs to develop a distinct breed. He wanted a dog that would be both smart and useful, and could quickly shift from herding sheep to other kinds of work, particularly police duties. During WW2, the German Shepherd became an iconic military dog and after the war, its popularity greatly decreased in the UK and the United States.
On the other hand, the Dutch Shepherd can be considered the German Shepherd’s cousin! This breed was more or less a natural result of the crossbreed of different Dutch, German and Belgian sheepdogs. Thus, while von Stephanitz was hard at work creating the German Shepherd, Dutch farmers were inadvertently breeding the Dutch Shepherd we know today: a multipurpose farm dog that was as good at herding sheep as it was guarding the home.
Nevertheless, the history of both of these breeds is similar from the beginning of the XXth century. Because of the war, most breeding programs stopped completely. German troops adopted German and Dutch Shepherds (as well as other farm dogs) to become police dogs, and many farm dogs simply died of starvation.
Even after the war, both Dutch and German Shepherd greatly suffered: farms were using more technology and herding dogs weren’t needed as often as before. This halted their breeding programs even further.
However, soon enough the German Shepherds made a comeback in America. Two German Shepherds appeared in different Hollywood films from the 1920s until the late 1940s: Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. This transformed the public’s idea of the breed as belonging to the Nazis, and more people became interested in adopting them as family pets.
In contrast, Dutch shepherds almost disappeared after the war. Nowadays, they’re still rare. Nevertheless, several clubs and associations are trying to strengthen the breed outside its native country, where herding opportunities are scarce.
Do German & Dutch Shepherds Look Similar? How To Distinguish One From The Other
To the untrained eye, German and Dutch Shepherds look faintly similar. Both breeds have long muzzles and strong jaws. They also have triangle-shaped, erect ears and their bodies are fairly muscular and square. However, this is where their physical similarities end!
On the one hand, we have German Shepherds. One of their main features is their gait: this is a trotting breed. This means they don’t walk exactly as other dogs, and their back is slightly sloping rather than flat.
The unique gait of German Shepherds is called trotting, and all purebred GSD should have it.
In contrast, Dutch Shepherds are “regular” dogs, in that they walk normal. Their backs should be more or less flat and their bodies are square. They’re proportionate dogs with strong paws .
Besides the way they walk, another of the big difference between these two breeds is their coats AKA their fur. German Shepherds have a medium-length coats that’s slightly rough, helping them handle bad weather. They also have a darker “stain” on their backs.
Most German Shepherds have strong, deep colors even though most colors are allowed. The AKC disqualifies white German Shepherds, while dogs with blue or liver coats loose points when competing. Usually, these dogs come in brown and black with different patterns and mixes.
In contrast, Dutch Shepherds have three types of coat: short, long and rough. All three types are double-coated, like German Shepherds. Nevertheless, both short and long-coated Dutch Shepherds have straight, soft fur. Those dogs with rough coats look more similar to German Shepherds, but with denser hair.
As for the color, Dutch Shepherds are always brindled, while only some German Shepherds present this coat. “Brindle” means a black or very dark striped coat, with the background being slightly lighter. Among Dutch Shepherds, the brindle pattern must be rather dark and too many white markings will make them lose points while competing.
PRO TIP: There is no established genetic marker for brindle coats. Thus, any breeder claiming their pups were tested and will become brindled as they grow is not being truthful. A brindled puppy will usually show signs on its coat by 8 weeks old.
German Shepherd vs. Dutch Shepherd: Do Shepherd Dogs Need Special Training?
Both of these breeds are very active and energetic. This means that once you adopt one, you’ll have to provide adequate training to your pup and it's always a good idea to invest in a shepherd harness specifically suited to them.
When it comes to their training, the German and Dutch Shepherd have similar needs. These smart working dogs want to keep busy. Luckily, they both show aptitudes for a variety of tasks!
Even though nowadays German Shepherds are very popular police dogs, they aren’t exceptionally aggressive. They are smart, easy to train and have good sense of smell, so that’s why many police forces chosse them as their preferred K9 companion. According to Malcolm Willis:
“German Shepherds cannot track as well as Bloodhounds or work sheep as well as Border Collies or guard as aggressively as some Dobermans but on all-around merit there is no equal to a well-trained German Shepherd” – Malcolm B. Willis, geneticist & breeder (extracted from Tenner, E (2017) 
In contrast, Dutch Shepherds are slightly more inclined to actually herd. You’ll have to control their tendency to use their mouth to guide you, especially if you have younger children.
Nevertheless, both dogs will need consistent training since puppyhood, and you should focus on obedience with positive reinforcement. They respond better to praise than punishment, and want to keep an active mind most of the day.
These two breeds are very loyal and want to please their owners. They usually form a strong bond with their “person”, and can become unruly if uprooted from their family. These dogs stay alert and eager to learn throughout their lives, so you must provide sufficient mental stimulation for them to be happy.
PRO TIP: Ask your German Shepherd breeder to meet your pup’s parents. Temperament is inherited, so you want confident, friendly parents instead of aggressive or excessively shy. You can also ask for a TT (Temperament Test) issues by the American Temperament Test Society or a test by the Shepherd Dog Club of America.
German & Dutch Shepherds: How To Groom & Care For Your Shepherd Dog
Both of these breeds have a double coat. This means that they’ll shed and need weekly or bi-weekly grooming to keep their fur looking its best.
You’ll need to brush them daily and have an in-depth grooming session once a week. Keeping their nails trimmed and ears clean should be a priority regardless of the breed you choose.
On the other hand, it’s also important to provide German & Dutch Shepherds with sufficient exercise and play time. These are working dogs, and if you want them as family pets, you’ll have to commit to a daily workout routine to keep them happy.
Both of these breeds need regular exercise to be healthy and happy. If not, your house could suffer!
If you don’t offer ways for them to burn energy, they’ll take it out on your home. In fact, they can become mouthy and aggressive. It’s not their character; they’ll be bored out of their minds!
Besides providing them with a grooming and exercise routine, you should keep an eye out for common health issues. Here are some key conditions that commonly affect these breeds:
German Shepherd Health
These generally healthy dogs will live between 7 and 11 years. Nevertheless, you should be on the lookout for arthritis, as well as hip and elbow dysplasia. Their unique gait makes them prone to joint issues, so ask your breeder for testing before committing to a pup.
This breed can also suffer from different heart and gastric conditions, as well as bloat.
Dutch Shepherd Health
This breed is also healthy, most of the time. Nevertheless, because their population dwindled not so long ago, some genetic conditions have been discovered.
Besides hip and elbow dysplasia, which is common in most large herding dogs, Dutch Shepherds can suffer from a unique condition called “Inflammatory Myopathy”.
According to the Dutch Shepherd Club of America , this disease was confirmed in 2018. It’s a recessive condition, meaning both parents need to have it for the puppies to suffer from it. Inflammatory Myopathy causes atrophy in the nerves, leading to death within the first 2 years of life. Nowadays, breeders can test their Dutch Shepherds before breeding.
The Dutch German Shepherd Mix: An Uncommon Crossbreed
Because these breeds are relatively similar, sometimes crossbred litters happen. These fluffy Dutch Shepherd German Shepherd mix pups pair the looks and character of both of its parent breeds.
This means that these pups are active, loyal and very smart. Of course, it’s very likely you won’t ever come across one of these: most of them happen by accident!
If they do happen, these are medium to large dogs, with round dark eyes and a powerful body composition. They would have the same abilities as their parent breeds to herd, guard and work, so they would be great farm dogs as well as regular family pets.
If you’re interested in this mix, ask around at your local Shepherd rescue center or even look for a German or Dutch Shepherd breeder. They might know of a litter in your area!
interested in learning about other Shepherd mix breeds? Check out our below guides:
Dutch vs German Shepherd: Which One Is Best For Your Family?
Your family needs to be ready for the hard work that comes with adopting either of these active breeds. These Shepherd dogs might be a good fit if:
The German Shepherd is better for your family if…
This might be the better choice if you:
The Dutch Shepherd will be a great fit if…
On the other hand, this breed might be better if you:
Either way, both of these breeds need engaged owners that understand how to offer the mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive. Does that sound like you? If so, there’s a pup waiting for a family like yours!
- American kennel Club. German Shepherd: Breed Standard. Consulted on May 7th 2020, at [https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog/ ]
- Carlson, J (2018): Inflammatory Myopathy. Dutch Shepherd Dog Club of America. Consulted on May 7th 2020, at [http://www.dsdca.org/inflammatorymyopathy.html]
- Tenner, E. (2017). Constructing the German shepherd dog. Raritan: A Quarterly Review, 36(3), 90.
- United Kennel Club. Dutch Shepherd. . Consulted on May 7th 2020, at [https://www.ukcdogs.com/dutch-shepherd]
Vedrana Nikolić (B.A. in Cultural Anthropology) - Professional Writer.
Vedrana is a writer, anthropologist & dog lover. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying, among other things, the communication between animals and humans.
For more info on Vedrana click here