GERMAN SHEPHERD VS ENGISH MASSTIFF
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Let us begin with the history of the German Shepherd, whose ancestors have been working together closely with their sheepherder-owners for thousands of years. In the late 19th century, the “father of the German Shepherd”, Max von Stephanitz, set out to create the ultimate Sheepherding dog. He focused on strong, sturdy, and yet agile dogs of wolf-like appearance, who could trot for hours, directing and protecting their flock. But soon it became apparent that this new breed could do much more than just herd sheep. And today, Germany’s most popular dog is used in many disciplines: personal protection, canine sports, police service, and, of course, sheepherding.
The English Mastiff, as you might guess, was developed in England and is also known as the “Old English Mastiff”: A well-deserved name, considering the breed is estimated to be 2’000 years old. In ancient Roman literature, the prowess and bravery of the English Mastiffs was praised to be superior to even the famed Roman war dogs. Aside from their role as war dogs, the English Mastiffs were used over the centuries to guard livestock and property against intrusions from humans, bears and other predators. Today, this intrepid giant has gained world-wide popularity as gentle companion and family dog.
DIFFERENCES IN LOOKS
German Shepherds come in a wide variety of different shades and colours: purely black, black-and-tan, black and silver, red and black, as well as grey and sable. Breed standards differentiate between short stock coat and long stock coat. German Shepherds are slightly longer than tall, with the line of their back slightly sloping down from shoulder to hip. In size, their ideal is around 63 cm for males and around 58 cm for females. (That is around 25 inches for males and 23 inches for females.) Deviations of up to 2.5 cm (or, 1 inch) either above or below the ideal hight are permissible according to breed standards.
Compare to German Shepherds – and almost any other dog breed in existence, really - English Mastiff are absolutely massive dogs, with males measuring between 70 and 91 cm at the withers (that is, between 28 and 36 inches) and females being slightly smaller. Their weight can range from to 73 all the way up to 100 kilos (which is between 161 and 220 pounds), again, with females being a bit smaller.
The English Mastiff’s breed standard only allows the colours brindle, apricot, and fawn for their short and tight coat. These formidable giants come with the blocky head, deep facial wrinkles and pronounced jowls typical for all Mastiff breeds.
INTELLIGENCE & TRAINABILITY DIFFERENCES
The German Shepherd is known for its incredible intelligence, trainability and versatility, which makes it an ideal sports dog, personal protection dog and service dog. German Shepherds are an absolute dream to work with – apart from perhaps the Belgian Malinois, there is not a breed on the planet easer to train and more eager to please their handler. As they are extremely quick leaners and dependable workers, German Shepherds can be a good choice for less experienced handlers.
And pretty much on the other end of the trainability-scale, we have the English Mastiff: Although intelligent, this breed comes with a strong tendency to think and act independently. This trait is typical for most Mastiff-type dogs, and it does make training them quite challenging. Therefore, it is advisable to educate these slightly stubborn dogs from puppyhood onwards with regards to obedience and manners. Their enormous size makes this especially important.
And this brings us to the main differences in temperament. Being very active, keen and energetic, German Shepherds are less suited for an indoor lifestyle - simply because of their extremely high working drive. This breed is immensely alert at all times. They are not the best choice for families with small children: German Shepherds can easily injure small kids by accident, simply due to their boisterous nature and abrupt movements.
English Mastiffs, on the other hand, excel as family guardians. They are extremely calm, peaceful, and gentle giants who enjoy nothing more than cuddling on the couch with their owners. Well-known for their extraordinary love for children of all ages, English Mastiffs are the ultimate “couch potatoes” of the canine world.
When it comes to their natural guarding abilities, neither breed requires training to defend their own. Despite their enormous bulk, English Mastiffs will absolutely jump into full defense-mode, should it ever become necessary. However, being one of the top police- and military service dogs in the world, German Shepherds are the more proactive guardians of the two: They are very much more quick to react – and strike, if necessary – in a potentially threatening situation.
EXERCISE AND GROOMING DIFFERENCES
In terms of exercise requirements, German Shepherds need to run, work and play a lot. At least one extended run off-leash per day is a must with those canine athletes. Being a designated working breed, these dogs can spend hours out and about – walking, running, doing obedience work, and playing. One great way to satisfy their need for movement is to teach your German Shepherd to trot next to your bicycle.
Apart from playtimes and runs, the English Mastiff will be quite content with a few shorter walks a day: This gentle giant breed is quite low in energy and, therefore, in its exercise requirements: Despite their enormous size, English Mastiffs do not need lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Of course, they still enjoy play sessions and nice walks with their owners – they just need less of it than German Shepherds. Ideally, both breeds should be provided with a garden or yard where they can run around and play.
Now, when it comes to grooming, German Shepherds are notorious shedders all year round and should be brushed thoroughly every day – and multiple times a day during shedding season. The long-coated version of the German Shepherd requires even more brushing for their coats to stay clean and tidy. For this breed, I highly recommend investing in efficient grooming tools designed for heavy shedders, such as the Furminator and the undercoat rake.
Thankfully, English Mastiffs require little more than a weekly once-over with a soft bristle brush or a mitt. Outside of shedding season in spring and autumn, their short coat hardly shed. Because of their quite sizeable jowls, however, the affectionate giants do require a little bit more care than most other dog breeds. The English Mastiff is equipped with deep facial folds that need daily cleaning in order to prevent skin infections. As well, these giant dogs tend to drool quite a bit, especially right after eating and drinking, and also whenever they anticipate mealtimes or treats.