If you want to get the perfect German Shepherd, you need to be well-versed in different coat types so you can articulate what perfect means to you. When looking for the right dog, the first thing most people consider is the dog’s appearance.
From intimidating intruders to being acceptable to little kids, a dog’s looks play a huge role in his popularity and presence. And among German Shepherds, this starts with the fur length.
A long-haired German Shepherd has a topcoat with hair longer than 2 inches, whereas a short-haired German Shepherd has fur under 1 inch. Usually, the long-haired type doesn’t have an undercoat. This makes short-haired dogs acceptable to show rings as opposed to the long-coated variety.
In this post, I will go over the key differences between the long-haired and short-haired German Shepherds, including:
- Physical features
- Grooming needs
I’ve also a section dedicated to which type is best for you based on your goals and lifestyle compatibility. But let’s start by being clear about the differences.
- Differences Between a Long Haired German Shepherd and a Short Haired German Shepherd
- Which is Better for You – Long Coat or Short Coat German Shepherd?
- Final Thoughts
Differences Between a Long Haired German Shepherd and a Short Haired German Shepherd
Here’s a snapshot of the differences between the two varieties:
|Feature||Short Haired GSD||Long Haired GSD|
|Stock*** coat, Short stock coat, Standard coat, Normal coat.||Long coat, Long stock coat, Long stock hair, “Coaties.”|
|Less than 1 inch long.||At least 2 inches long.|
|Dense topcoat, straight, coarse fur lying close to the body. Longer and thicker hair on the neck. Slightly longer fur on the rear of the forelegs and hind legs to the hock and pastern.||Soft topcoat, not close lying to the body. Feathering on the ears and legs. Longer and thicker hair on the neck, having the appearance of a mane. Hair is shiny and may form a parting along the back.|
|Double coated having a thick undercoat and a dense guard coat.||Mainly single coated (open coated).|
|Function||Companion pets, working-line or show-line.||Companion pets. The AKC views single-coated, silky hair or hair too long as faults for conformation. Short stock is the preferred working type.|
|Temperament||Intelligent, loyal, protective, high-energy, affectionate, brave, guard dog, working drive, athletic, confident, versatile, aloof, territorial.||Intelligent, loyal, protective, high-energy, affectionate, brave, guard dog, athletic, confident. Slightly more friendly due to a reduced working drive.|
|High shedding. Will shed all year round and more so in the spring and fall when the undercoat is shed.||High shedding but stays consistent all year round if open-coated.|
|Cost||More expensive $1,500 – $4,000 depending on the bloodline.|
Higher stud value.
|Less expensive $800 – $2,000. Lower stud value.|
***Stock refers to the breeding stock.
Hair Length and Appearance
The first difference between a long-haired German Shepherd and a short-haired German Shepherd is that the short coat has a topcoat with fur that doesn’t cross the one-inch mark. On the other hand, long-haired types have a topcoat with hair length going beyond 2 inches. This creates a significant enough difference in appearance.
Short-haired German Shepherds have a short, dense topcoat, and the fur will be straight, rough, and lie close. In contrast, long stock coats have longer fur, which is softer, and not close fitting, with feathering on the ears and legs. The hair appears shiny and is longer and thicker on the neck, forming a mane.
Long-haired varieties look more wolf-like. However, the sleekness of their topcoat alongside the absence of an undercoat can also make them look more fox-like.
On the other hand, a short-haired German Shepherd has the classic German Shepherd look because shorter coats set the breed standard. If you have watched any movie with the breed, there’s an over 90% chance you’ve seen the short-haired German Shepherd. Consequently, your idea of the breed is the same as the short coat.
However, fur’s primary function isn’t for appearance or to expand on the choice of colors. It is to regulate your dog’s temperature and protect him from cold and heat. Surprisingly, both varieties don’t have contrasting temperature tolerance because of coat length.
While long coat German Shepherds are closer to their wolf ancestors in terms of their fur length, the short stock coats are closer in terms of coat quantity. Wolves have double coats, as do short-haired German Shepherds.
Long-haired types, however, often don’t have an undercoat. They are referred to as being open-coated. The absence of the undercoat offsets the long hairs’ ability to trap heat. As a result, a long-haired German Shepherd’s coat can trap roughly the same amount of heat as double-coated dogs.
While there’s little temperature regulation impact due to coat quantity, there is a significant human-judgment impact. Working line German Shepherds have to be compact and agile. Long dragging fur with no undercoat isn’t what most working line breeders are looking for.
Even harsher is the judgment from the show crowd. The missing undercoat gets long-haired German Shepherd disqualified from most dog shows, and their entire category is labeled a fault by the American Kennel Club.
I’m often asked whether long-haired German Shepherds are bigger.
So, what’s the deal?
Long-haired German Shepherds are not bigger than the short-haired variety. Although their long silky fur and thick mane may make them look bigger, they are the same size as all other types. Males are 24-26 inches tall and weigh 66-88 lbs, and females are 22-24 inches tall and weigh 49-71 lbs.
Both long-haired GSDs and short-haired German Shepherds shed hair faster than Facebook changes its algorithm. But does any particular type shed more?
Long-haired German Shepherds do not shed more than short-haired types, although the rate of shedding varies throughout the year among short-haired GSDs. That is because their undercoat is the source of a significant amount of shedding, and it sheds more during the spring and fall seasons.
Long-coated dogs usually have only the topcoat, which sheds at an even rate all year round. However, if a long-haired German Shepherd has a double coat (very rare), then his shedding rate will also vary throughout the year.
Both long-haired and short-haired German Shepherds make good family dogs. However, when it comes to taking puppies in as canine labor prospects, almost all the long-haired types are left out.
That’s because those who rely on serious canine work purchase working line dogs, and among working line breeders, a long-haired German Shepherd is seen as unmarketable.
Of course, that’s not to say that long-haired types cannot do any work; it is just that those who want dogs for work don’t buy them.
However, the reality is that they’re slightly inconvenient to use for work as their fur can get in the way and is harder to clean, and they don’t have as strong a working drive due to the breeding program.
Show Ring Acceptability
If you think working line criteria are harsh, wait till you see how the show ring treats long-haired German Shepherds. Both types are seen as visually appealing by different people, but after all, beauty is subjective.
But if beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, then the show ring judges seem to be entirely blind when it comes to long-haired German Shepherds.
They are not only seen as faulty because the missing undercoat disqualifies them from the show ring, but even double-coated long-haired ones get judged critically upon making it to the show ring.
Nonetheless, this has a pleasant side effect. The lack of show ring acceptability ensures that those buying long-haired German Shepherds are not doing so in hopes of show circuit glory or rewards; they are doing so out of love.
Learn All About German Shepherds In This Video…
Both the short-haired German Shepherd and long-haired varieties have almost equal temperaments. Some will claim that “coaties” are slightly friendlier, calmer, and less aggressive.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Long-haired German Shepherds are not less aggressive or calmer than the short-haired variety. There is no difference between the two. However, they are known to have a slightly friendlier temperament due to not having a strong working drive, as most working lines are short-haired.
As far as aggression is concerned, there is often a misconception that German Shepherds are aggressive due to their appearance and resemblance to wolves. However, with proper training and early socialization, they are a friendly and affectionate breed.
Short-haired German Shepherds cost more than long-haired ones because they are more versatile and widely accepted. They have higher chances of qualifying in the show ring, so most show-line German Shepherd breeding is done with short hair in mind. They are also used as working lines.
If a long-haired German Shepherd is born in the show line, he becomes “useless” to the show circuit, and the fact that he wasn’t bred for work means he won’t be adopted for work either but will still thrive as a companion pet.
Such a dog is sold cheaper. A long-haired German Shepherd will cost between $800 – $2,000 (high-end) with papers. Such a deal would be absurd for a short-haired type. On average, you would need $2,000 to get a decent short-haired puppy, and prices can go as high as $4,000 depending on bloodline and working drive.
If one dog gives you a higher chance of an $800 puppy and one gives you better odds of getting a $2,000 puppy, who would you rather have? For most breeders, the answer is a short-haired GSD.
Coat variation is governed by gene variants. Long hair is a recessive trait which means both alleles (gene halves) must correlate with long hair to have a long-haired puppy.
A short-haired German Shepherd might carry one long hair gene half, and it will not show, but if the same dog mates with another who also has a dormant half gene of long hair, the two dormant genes might pair and form a full long hair gene which would make the puppy long-haired.
And guess what happens when a short-haired stud produces a long-haired puppy? The short-haired parent is often removed from the stud pool.
If breeders remove short-haired studs with a 25% chance of producing a long-haired pup, it isn’t surprising that no mainstream breeder is interested in keeping a long-haired dog as a stud.
Because a long-haired German Shepherd has both gene halves representing the long hair trait, his odds of producing a long-haired puppy are 50%. Having such a stud in a market where 50% of your puppies would get a 50% price cut isn’t a wise business move.
Which is Better for You – Long Coat or Short Coat German Shepherd?
Now that you know the differences between the long-haired German Shepherd vs. the short-haired one, let’s look at which type is right for you. To do so, I’ll mention the kind of dog owner who a long-haired GSD would be ideal and the one for whom the short-haired variety will be excellent.
Better for Dog Shows: Short Hair German Shepherd
It is a myth that you cannot show a long-haired German Shepherd. However, it is primarily true because any dog with an absent undercoat is disqualified. Given that double coats in the long-haired variety are pretty rare, the general assumption stands true in most cases.
If you intend on entering your dog in a show, you should get a short-haired German Shepherd. Even so, you’ll need to ensure that the dog is from a show line and has the right color. To learn more about which colors are considered faults, check out my post on German Shepherd colors.
Better for Upscale Suburbs: Long-Haired German Shepherd
If you live in an upscale neighborhood and don’t want your neighbors or the homeowners’ association having problems with your pet, a fluffier dog is likely to present as non-threatening and cuddly.
Since upscale is a subjective term, here’s a better indicator: if purse dogs are trendy in your neighborhood, your big dog better be a long-haired German Shepherd. The dog is also considered exotic because of its rareness and distinct looks. This has social currency not in dog show circles but in upscale suburbia.
Better for Civilian Guard Duties: Long-Haired German Shepherd
Most institutional use of German Shepherds requires enrollment to be compliant with AKC standards. That’s why most K9 squads rely on short-haired dogs. However, the long-haired ones are equally trainable and competent, and ironically have a better look for the job. Color plays an important role here.
For example, a white long-haired German Shepherd looks cuddly and truly non-threatening. In contrast, a darker long-haired doggo looks intimidating. If you have a house you want guarding, you’re better off getting a “coatie.”
Better for Institutional Service: Short-Haired German Shepherd
When it comes to teams, short-haired German Shepherds excel because of acceptability and enrollment criteria. It is safer to raise and train them because they are interchangeable between teams, squads, and institutions.
Long-haired GSDs trained for official work might end up getting sidelined if a team is disassembled as other team recruiters won’t accept them. If you want to enroll even one dog but plan on having more in a pack to guard or serve a business, farm, or school, you should get a short-haired German Shepherd.
Better for Saving Money: Long-Haired German Shepherd
Given that long-haired types come considerably cheaper than short-haired German Shepherds, there’s an obvious short-term financial incentive to get a long stock coat. It is also important to note that the long-haired type doesn’t lack anything significant in any area as far as owning and raising a family dog is concerned.
Still, the amount of money you save on this one-time transaction isn’t even a significant enough advantage to offset the medical uncertainty of acquiring an untested dog. Even when getting a long-haired German Shepherd, make sure to get one from a breeder who provides you with the parents’ health checks.
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Short-haired German Shepherds are not too different from their long-haired counterparts. The “coaties” have longer topcoats with an often-missing undercoat. However, this slight difference gets exaggerated because of variation in acceptability and judgment. As things stand, you should get a short-haired German Shepherd if:
- You want a standard German Shepherd
- Plan on showing or working
- Want to use your dog as a stud
And you should get a long-haired German Shepherd if:
- You have kids or neighbors with children and want a fluffy dog (white, liver, and long haired)
- Want an exotic wolf-like German Shepherd (silver, gray, brindle, and long haired)
- Want a dark, intimidating dog to keep intruders away (black & tan, black & red, all black, and long haired)
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