Long Haired German Shepherd vs Short Haired: 5 Must Know Differences

The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is the second most popular breed of dog in America. You’ve almost certainly seen them in dog parks, films or as working dogs.

What you may not have realized is that their coat comes in several different lengths.

Short-Haired German Shepherds are the classic GSD. These are the dogs you see working with the army, the police, or herding. Long Haired German Shepherds are somewhat rarer. Their coat is seen as a ‘minor defect’ by the American Kennel Club, but they are still recognized by the association, and the coat issue is no more concerning than poorly shaped ears or incorrect tail carriage.

These differences, and 6 other key differences, will be discussed in this article to help you pick the perfect dog for you.

Long Haired German Shepherd vs Short Haired Comparison

Long Haired GSDShort Haired GSD
Size:22-26 inches tall22-26 inches tall
Coat:Single layered, long, silkyDouble layered, woolly undercoat and dense outer coat
Color:Black and tan, black, red and black, sable, black and silver, and greyBlack and tan, black, red and black, sable, black and silver, and grey
Lifespan:10-13 Years10-13 Years
Temperament:Loyal, athletic, and confidentLoyal, athletic, confident, and a good worker
Intelligence:Very intelligentVery intelligent
Socialization:Good with other dogs but needs socializationGood with other dogs but needs socialization
Destructive Behavior:Prone to jumping, barking, and chewingProne to jumping, barking, and chewing
People Skills:Great with familyGreat with family but may be aloof with strangers
Initial Purpose:Companion animalA working dog bred initially to herd sheep
Energy Levels:Highly energeticHighly energetic

Long Haired German Shepherd vs Short Haired Differences


  • Both these dogs are loyal, protective, energetic, intelligent, and athletic.
  • They will grow to similar sizes with the males from both varieties being larger than the females.
  • Both dogs will require the same amount of exercise (around two hours a day).
  • Separation anxiety is an issue that is prevalent in both types of GS.
  • They both have a protective and possessive nature – this will be particularly apparent when looking after their family.
  • Both are susceptible to the same health conditions: hip dysplasia and heart disease.
  • As long as you buy both from responsible breeders who use healthy dogs to breed, they should have similar lifespans.


  • Short Haired’s coat are only around an inch but the Long Haired German Shepherd’s coat can reach two inches or more in length.
  • The Short Haired German Shepherd has a double coat that consists of an outer coat and an undercoat. The medium-length coat is usually covered by an undercoat, or guard coat. Some long-haired German Shepherd’s have and undercoat which is usually around two inches in length. Other long-haired GSDs only have a long, single-layer coat, with a missing undercoat.
  • If a German Shepherd is lacking an undercoat, it is considered defective by the AKA and will not be allowed to participate in their exhibitions.
  • Thanks to their double coat that protects them from cold and is waterproof, the Short Haired German Shepherd is more suited to working outside and to work in general.
  • Due to their aptitude for working, the Short Haired German Shepherd is more likely to behave in an aloof manner to strangers.

Short Haired German Shepherd Breed Info

Short Haired German Shepherd Jumping

The German Shepherd was originally bred to herd sheep in Germany, unsurprisingly! The breed was refined by Captain Max Von Stephanitz to be the breed we know and love today.

They are well known for their movie roles such as Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. It was appearances like this that helped to bring the breed back into favor after the First World War.

These dogs are loyal until the end. They form extremely strong bonds with their family members and would protect them with their life. This devotion sometimes leads to an aloof nature with strangers. They aren’t quick to make new friends, however, with plenty of socialization, this behavior trait can be reduced.

They are highly energetic dogs and need at least two hours of exercise every day.

This pup loves joining you on walks, hikes, runs, bike rides, swims and any activity really. You name it and a GSD has probably done it. As their coat has that double layer, the Short Haired German Shepherd is much more suited to being out in colder, wetter weather.

Grooming a double coated German Shepherd’s is important, as they shed all year round.

Brushing them two to three times a week should help remove some of the loose hair but you are still going to find fur everywhere. During shedding season. (spring and fall), they will have a big blowout and lose a ton of fur. During this time of the year, you need to brush them every day.


Appearance and Size

This is an athletically built dog. They should stand between 22 to 26 inches tall at the withers and weigh between 50 to 90 lbs. Males are generally larger than females and have a distinctly masculine look. They have a long muzzle and ears that face forward and stand erect.

Their back should be straight, the slope that we have seen develop over the past years is incredibly bad for the health of the dog.

They have a double coat. The outer layer should be dense and close to the body. It is preferred to be straight but a slight wave is allowed in the breed standard. The undercoat should be thick and woolly – it’s the undercoat that provides weather protection.

The coat colors are generally black, black and tan, red and black, sable and grey. Breeders prefer darker, richer colors and many light colorations are not accepted by the breed standard.


Short Haired German Shepherd Lying Down

Short Haired German Shepherds are prized for their character and temperament. They are an allrounder that are able to complete almost any task you set them. This is why they have excelled as working dogs in many fields, including the police and the military.

This dog is fiercely loyal and protective – they will look out for their family and are always alert. They may be slightly too possessive at times and this can cause them to be aloof towards strangers.

Short Hair GSD tends to have a one-track mind and this is why they are so effective as working dogs.

You should always use positive reinforcement methods when training a German Shepherd. These are incredibly intelligent dogs who want to please you. Rewarding them with treats and praise when they do what you ask will get better results than not rewarding them or punishment.

One thing that they struggle with is separation anxiety. Their excessive devotion can cause them to feel anxiety when you are not around. They will bark and chew up furniture. They also don’t do well being left because they become bored easily – these dogs need a job to do, even if it’s just a puzzle toy.


A Short Haired German Shepherd will cost between $500 and $1,500. The better the dog’s pedigree, the more expensive the puppy will be.

Unfortunately, many German Shepherds do end up in shelters. Adoption prices range from free to $250.


A healthy German Shepherd should live between 10 to 13 years. Health concerns you should be aware of are hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, heart conditions, and eye conditions. A good breeder should have a full history of their dog’s health issues and clear eye tests and hip scores. Having pet insurance could also save you from the headaches of going to the vet.

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Long Haired German Shepherd Breed Info

German shepherd sat

As both of these dogs are German Shepherds, most of the breed information is going to be similar. One of the main differences you will find between them, are their grooming requirements.

Grooming for a Long Haired German Shepherd is slightly different than the Short Haired. Some long-haired GSDs don’t have an undercoat, which would make you think they would shed less. What actually happens is they shed pretty much the same amount, but because the fur is longer, the shed hair become caught in the fur.

When you brush your Long Haired German Shepherd, you will probably notice more fur comes out than with a Short Haired.

They still need to be brushed two to three times a week. Their fur can quickly become matted and tangled and this may be painful for your pup. They don’t go through shedding seasons. The amount they shed is pretty consistent all year round.


Appearance and Size

Both types of German Shepherd grow to the same size and physically appear similar.

The coat of the Long Haired German Shepherd is the most obvious difference from the Short Haired. Their fur reaches two or more inches in length, and has a softer, silkier texture.

If you are interested in showing your dog, you will need to have a Short Haired German Shepherd or double-coated long-haired dog. A missing undercoat disqualifies them from being registered with the AKC, so they are not allowed to compete in any dog shows.

Despite this, all Long Haired German Shepherds are still considered a purebred German Shepherd. It is like they are in the club but can’t take part in any activities!

The dogs that don’t have a double coat, are not as well suited to working outside or being in cold weather.


Long haired german shepherd running

Their temperament is, for the most part, the same as the Short Haired variety. They are loyal, protective and also suffer from separation anxiety.

The main difference in their character is that the Long Haired version was not bred for its working capabilities. It was bred for that gorgeous coat. This means that character-wise, they are less suitable for working life.

It is generally accepted that they are much more eager to please their owner and are more friendly towards strangers.

The only other thing to consider is that these dogs are still as energetic as their Short Haired counterpart, but exercising them enough when it’s cold might be harder. They don’t do well when it’s freezing or if it’s raining. This may be something to consider if you live somewhere where the climate is often wet, cold, or both.


As these dogs cannot be registered with the AKC, they normally cost less than their Short Haired cousins. You should expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 for a Long Haired German Shepherd without an undercoat.


They have the same life span as the Short Haired German Shepherd (10 to 13 years) and suffer from the same health issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does The Long-Haired German Shepherd Shed More?

Both the Long-Haired and the Short Haired German Shepherd shed a lot.

The Short Haired German Shepherd will shed more during the shedding season in spring and fall (because of their undercoat). The Long Haired German Shepherd tends to shed the same amount year round.

Short Haired ones leave more hair lying around on furniture, carpets, and clothes. The Long Haired one keeps the shed fur trapped in its coat.

Which One Has The Best Temperament?

A German Shepherd’s temperament is one of the reasons for its popularity. There isn’t a particularly big difference between the temperament of the Long and Short Haired versions.

The biggest difference is that the Short Haired German Shepherd is more suited to working than the Long Haired.

This means they may be more aloof with strangers and have a more focused mind. This difference is mainly anecdotal as there’s no scientific difference between the breeds. It’s all to do with what characteristics a breeder has focused on bringing through their lines.


German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds in the world – they are loyal, intelligent, and are capable of great things.

They make wonderful family pets and are brilliant working dogs. Choosing between a Long-Haired and a Short Haired is a difficult decision!

Do you want a companion animal? Why not consider the Long Haired German Shepherd?

If you want a Class A working dog it will have to be the Short Haired!

Either way, you will be welcoming an incredible dog into your life.

About Thomas Woods 224 Articles
Thomas has been a dog lover since he was 6 years old when his parents got him a rescue Labrador. Since then his love for dogs has lead him to study Animal Behavior & Welfare. He now keeps a six year old English Bullmastiff and educates pet parents through his online publication Perfect Dog Breeds.


  1. One thing with the long haired shepherd is it hair is thinner as such it floats when you brush it. If you are a neatness freak do not get a long hair. The short haired shepherds hair is more coarse and thicker and does not float.We would vacumm everday and still find hair or two on the kitchen table or bench. During cooking time he was not allowed to step into our kitchen. That saying my preference was the long haired, they just look gorgeous ours was black with tan feet and a slight hint of light brown on his forehead…..

  2. Long-haired GSDs most certainly can be registered with the AKC if the long-hair occurs naturally (i.e., two standard-length Shepherds are mated and produce some long-haired pups because both parents have the recessive gene) rather than being intentionally bred for the fur. I’ve had two, both of which were registered with the AKC, one of them with limited registration but the other one without limitations (i.e., his pups could also be registered if we chose to breed him). Naturally occurring long-haired shepherds also have the double coat, so I don’t know why the intentionally-bred ones wouldn’t.

  3. This article is SUPER inaccurate. It’s obvious the author has zero experience with GSDs.

    Long coat 100% has an undercoat and are often born in the same litter as STOCK coated GSDs , so ZERO impact on workability.

    AKC absolutely registers & accepts long coats, many finished AKC long coated champions.

    Avg cost for a GSD STARTS at $1500 n goes up, no one should ever go to a breeder who charges $500, any breeder at that price point won’t do necessary health testing, paperwork, medical care or temperament testing.

  4. I show GSD’s and much of what you wrote is absolutely false. Long coats are not a disqualification, in fact there are many LC Champions. LC’s were not bred separately as a different breed from stock coats, it’s a simple recessive gene. You can breed to Stock Coats and get a Long Coat if they carry the gene. LC’s are also shown on the international SV level. They do indeed have a double coat with undercoat. You need to fact check your article and make corrections.

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