German Shepherd vs. Swiss Shepherd: What Is The Difference?


German Shepherds originated in Germany and were bred to herd sheep. They are now ranked as the 2nd most popular dog in the US and 8th in the UK. The Swiss Shepherd, also known as the Berger Blanc Suisse, is a stunning looking dog, similar to the German Shepherd. So, what’s the difference between a German Shepherd and a Swiss Shepherd?

The clear difference between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd is in their color as the Swiss Shepherd only has a white coat, whereas the GSD comes in a range of colors. Both breeds appear almost identical other than coat color. However, they also have slightly different temperaments. 

Another key difference is the origin. We know the GSD came from Germany but what about the Berger Blanc Suisse?

The Swiss Shepherd was originally developed from the white-coat line of the German Shepherd Dog which was bred in Switzerland after being imported from America.

The breed is the less popular of the two but is becoming more sought after since becoming a recognized breed of its own by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization) in 2011 and the UK Kennel Club in 2017.

This article will look at the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd’s main traits and how they compare. We will learn about each breeds’ history and highlight all the similarities and differences between them.

German Shepherd laying next to a Swiss Shepherd. German Shepherd vs. Swiss Shepherd: What is the Difference? Difference between German Shepherd and Swiss Shepherd

I aim to provide you with all the information you need if you are contemplating buying or adopting either the German Shepherd or the Swiss Shepherd. Both are truly fantastic breeds.

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Let’s now explore the differences between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd.

Table Of Contents

German Shepherd vs. Swiss Shepherd – Which One is Right for You?

It is a common question if you are looking to bring either of these breeds into your home – what is the difference between a German Shepherd and a Swiss Shepherd? There is no doubt, both breeds are great family dogs. 

There are several similarities and differences between these two breeds. Whether you choose a German Shepherd or a Swiss Shepherd will ultimately depend on what you are looking for in a dog. 

If you are seeking an easily trainable, reliable working dog, then you should probably choose the German Shepherd. This breed is intelligent, brave, loyal, and protective and can be aggressive towards intruders if not trained. German Shepherds are considered to be both excellent police and guard dogs due to their protective nature.

However, if you are looking for a more gentle and calmer family dog, with a lovely temperament, you should choose the Swiss Shepherd. This breed is considered more mellow and is excellent with children. They rarely become aggressive unless treated badly.

Although they are utilized as a family companion dog, they are also easy to train and do well as a service or therapy dog, or in search and rescue. 

Check out this cool 3-minute video which highlights some of the main differences between the white-coated German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd. I need to mention here that the white GSD is purebred and is no different from any other German Shepherd, other than coat color.

White German Shepherd vs. White Swiss Shepherd

Below, we will explore the differences and similarities between these two fantastic breeds of dogs.

How Do These Breeds Compare?

So, what sets these two breeds apart? Below is a table highlighting the main differences between German Shepherds and Swiss Shepherds. The height and weight statistics were taken from the FCI Breed Standard for each dog. Of note is that the American Kennel Club and the UK Kennel Club classify the German Shepherd as a large breed dog as opposed to medium-sized.

Also, please note that heights and weights are always a guide and a dog might be larger or smaller (weight or height) than the sizes stated in the Breed Standard.

GERMAN SHEPHERD SWISS SHEPHERD
GROUPHerding dogs Herding dogs
ORIGINGermanySwitzerland
MALE HEIGHT60 – 65 cm
24 – 26 inches
58 – 66 cm
23 – 26 inches
FEMALE HEIGHT55 – 60 cm
22 – 24 inches
53 – 61 cm
21 – 24 inches
MALE WEIGHT30 – 40 kg
66 – 88 pounds
30 – 40 kg
66 – 88 pounds
FEMALE WEIGHT22 – 32 kg 
49 – 71 pounds
25 – 35 kg
55 – 77 pounds
APPEARANCEAny pigmentation (nose can be black or pink)Dark pigmentation (e.g. black nose, paw pads, lips)
HIP ANGULATIONMore severe angulationLess severe angulation,
More upright stance
LIFE SPAN10 – 13 years12 years
LITTER SIZE86 – 8
DOG SIZE (FCI)Medium  Medium
OTHER NAMESAlsatian, Alsatian Wolf Dog, Schäferhund, Deutscher Schäferhund Berger Blanc Suisse,
White Swiss Shepherd Dog, Snowy Shepherd, Polar Bear Shepherd
COAT COLORSBlack and Tan, Bicolor, Black, Black and Red, White or Cream, SableWhite only
COAT TYPEDouble-coated, short to medium, medium, or longDouble-coated.
Varies from medium to long
SHEDDINGHeavy,
Constant, seasonal
Heavy, constant, seasonal
TEMPERAMENTAggressive, Outgoing,
Brave, Protective, Watch-dog, Strong,
Confident,
Intelligent, Alert,
Independent, Loyal, High-energy,
Aloof,
Affectionate, Versatile
Balanced Temperament, Affectionate, Territorial, Social, Alert, Courageous, Playful, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Loyal, Sensitive, Intelligent, Independent, Versatile
GROOMINGModerate maintenanceModerate maintenance but can be high if live in a rainy climate, such as the UK
TRAINABILITYEasily trainableEasily trainable
HYPOALLERGENICNot hypoallergenicNot hypoallergenic
CHILD FRIENDLYYesYes, very child friendly
NEW OWNER FRIENDLYYesYes, very good first dog
COST$900 – $4500$2500 – $4500

As you can see from the above table, there are many differences and similarities between these two breeds. We will now look in detail at the main differences between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd, including history, temperament, nutrition, and health. 

History, Temperament, Nutrition & Health

German Shepherds are generally considered to be an all-purpose working dog. They are medium-large build, agile, muscular, strong, highly intelligent, and extremely versatile. The GSD is fun, loyal, confident, and courageous – making them the perfect match for many dog lovers. 

Here’s a fantastic 2-minute video from the American Kennel Club on the German Shepherd breed:

Meet the German Shepherd Dog

Swiss Shepherds appear almost identical in appearance to the white German Shepherd, with the typical Shepherd face and pointy ears, however, they have a less severe hip angulation and a more upright stance.

They also have quite a different temperament being less aggressive than the GSD and with a calmer demeanor. They were specifically bred with a lower drive and are less intense – making them a good family pet. Although still protective, they are more friendly and gentle and are therefore particularly good with children.

Below is a really cool 5-minute video all about the White Swiss Shepherd. It features a working Swiss Shepherd actually herding on a Californian ranch. The Swiss Shepherd still retains its working abilities from the founding breed, the German Shepherd, however, due to their lower drive, they make a better all-purpose farm dog as explained in the video:

White Swiss Shepherd – All About Herding

The History of the German Shepherd

True to their name, German Shepherds originated in Germany during the late 1800s. Due to being incredibly intelligent, strong, responsive, and obedient, German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs, responsible for herding sheep and protecting flocks. 

They were not originally considered as household pets or companions, instead, they were specifically bred to work as all-purpose farm dogs and herders. Their sense of smell, intelligence, courage, and speed made them perfect sheepherders. 

By the start of World War 1, the German Shepherd breed had become incredibly popular throughout Germany and had already started spreading to other parts of the world.

The breed became popular in the UK and America, partly due to the popularity of dog movie stars Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin and partly from returning soldiers of the First World War who spoke very highly of the breed. People loved the German Shepherds characteristics, especially their loyal and courageous demeanor. 

All these outstanding qualities have made the German Shepherd an increasingly popular dog breed over the years. Nowadays, German Shepherds are rarely used to herd sheep but are often used as police and military dogs, dogs for the blind, and in search and rescue.

The History of the Swiss Shepherd

The Swiss Shepherd is a relatively new breed but they share the same ancestry as a German Shepherd. Historically, white-coated German Shepherds were considered to be quite highly valued due to the ability to distinguish them easily from wolves in the fields. 

This is where it gets interesting! From the very first German Shepherds, all colors including white were accepted. The white variant is due to a recessive gene and is not an albino as often thought.

Swiss Shepherd Dog with puppy.

Nevertheless, in 1933 during the Nazi regime, white coats became undesirable in the breed standard of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany and the white GSD began to be excluded in Europe.

An effort to preserve the white-coated German Shepherd led to the first White Shepherd Club being founded in 1964 in the US. The white-colored German Shepherd was re-named the White Shepherd and they have gradually become to be accepted as a distinct breed in the USA and Canada.

The Swiss Shepherd was developed from the white-coat line of German Shepherds after a male White Shepherd was taken to Switzerland in 1967 and bred with other imported White Shepherds mostly from the United States, Canada, and England. These were considered to be the foundation dogs of the White Swiss Shepherd Dog.

Although it shares the same lines as the white German Shepherd and the White Shepherd, the Swiss Shepherd was officially recognized as its own breed in Switzerland in 1991.   

Despite being around for many years, it was not until 2011 that the Swiss Shepherd was considered an official breed by the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale). In addition to this, the UK Kennel Club has only recognized the breed since 2017.

The breed remains unrecognized by the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club, but hopefully, they will begin to accept this beautiful dog soon.

It can be a bit confusing – but technically speaking The Swiss Shepherd, White Shepherd and white German Shepherd are now all different breeds with different breed standards:

  • The Swiss Shepherd is recognized by the FCI (World Canine Organization).
  • The white German Shepherd is recognized by the American Kennel Club (although it is disqualified from showing) and the UK Kennel Club.
  • The United Kennel Club recognizes the White Shepherd.

In case you were wondering what the difference is between the AKC and the UKC, the main contrasts are that the AKC is a non-profit organization of which dog clubs are members. In contrast, the UKC is a for-profit corporation open to individuals.

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German Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

German Shepherds are very eager to please, and this makes them easy to train. Obedience training at a young age will help to ensure that a German Shepherd puppy grows up to become a well-trained adult, however, GSDs are one smart cookie and it’s never too late to train them.

German Shepherds make an excellent protective companion or watchdog, and they love having a job to do. They form an intense bond with their owners from a young age and due to this, some can become quite clingy and suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. Here are 5 reasons why your German Shepherd may become too clingy!

When faced with strangers, the German Shepherd can become quite nervous and occasionally aggressive. This is because they are very loyal to their family which stems from their natural guarding instincts. If not raised in a loving home, socialized and trained, German Shepherds can easily grow up to become aggressive. 

The GSD is a very active dog, and lots of daily exercise is a necessity. They need at least two hours of physical exercise every day such as walks, hikes, off-leash running, frisbee, fetch, or agility, and these should be done in two separate sessions.

They also require mental stimulation. Have a selection of interactive or puzzle toys to keep their brain active. I love to keep my GSD busy with the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher from Amazon. The random distance setting will keep your pooch guessing every time!

Without regular exercise, German Shepherds are known to get into mischief and will display destructive behavior such as digging, chewing, barking, or howling. They love to be part of the family and don’t do well if left outside or left alone for long periods. If you are contemplating adopting a German Shepherd here is my guilt-free guide on how long they can be left alone.

Some will say that German Shepherds need acres and acres to live happily, however, this is not entirely true. Having a decent sized yard might be beneficial but as long as they are exercised and cared for properly, they can adapt to living in smaller spaces, even apartments.

Please be aware though that this will require lots of extra work on your part, so make sure you have a suitable lifestyle and can devote time to your dog. Here’s where you can learn exactly how much space German Shepherds need that you may find helpful.

Swiss Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

The Swiss Shepherd is known for its kind and loving nature being more gentle and less aggressive. They were specifically bred to be less intense with a lower working drive. This impressive and imposing breed still retains its working abilities but is better suited as an all-purpose farm dog (if working), or makes an ideal companion pet.

They are also very loyal and protective dogs, especially towards children. This breed is affectionate and sensitive to the way they are treated and thrives off praise when they have done something to please you. 

Swiss Shepherds are also highly intelligent and enjoy learning new tricks and commands. They train easily and excel as service or therapy dogs but are not utilized in the police or military due to their calmer demeanor. Their excellent temperament makes them an ideal family pet who will be kind and friendly to children.

Like the German Shepherd, White Swiss Shepherds tend to be quite clingy towards their owners and they can seem timid. This can be both a good and a bad thing. They display intense bonding towards their owner, however, when left alone for too long, they can also develop separation anxiety. This can lead to destructive behaviors such as barking, chewing, or digging. 

Swiss Shepherds are an active breed and due to their strong herding tendencies, they require a great deal of daily exercise including running and playing. Again, if they are left without exercise, they can become destructive as they need to release the buildup of energy within them. They enjoy dog sports which also keeps them mentally and physically stimulated.

German Shepherd Nutrition and Health

The German Shepherd breed is generally a very fit and healthy dog with an average lifespan of around 10-13 years. However, like many other pedigree breeds, some hereditary conditions can cause problems in the German Shepherd. Due to this, it’s important to choose a reputable breeder.

Responsible breeders will usually screen their breeding stock for some of these hereditary health conditions, such as degenerative myelopathy (DM) or hip dysplasia. Although the breed can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, it’s important to know that not all German Shepherds will have bad hips.

The GSD needs high-quality food to provide all the nutrition he needs for an active lifestyle. There are many different types of diets that you can feed your dog, such as dry, wet, raw, etc. Here’s where you can find my giant guide all about the best diet for German Shepherds including the various types, nutrition, and exactly what they can and can’t eat.

German Shepherds can also be prone to experiencing bloat. This is a condition that causes swelling of the abdomen which can occur very suddenly and can be potentially life-threatening.

With this in mind, German Shepherd owners should educate themselves on the symptoms to look out for. This article is really helpful as it provides 10 tips on how to prevent bloat.

Healthy German Shepherd laying down. German Shepherd Nutrition and Health.
My German Shepherd Willow looking very healthy indeed!

Swiss Shepherd Nutrition and Health

We have learned that the Swiss Shepherd also has a great deal of energy. With this in mind, it is also important to feed a Swiss Shepherd healthy high-quality dog food that is formulated for active breeds. This ensures that the dog’s energy needs are met. 

This beautiful breed is also considered to be a very healthy dog but it is of no surprise that the Swiss Shepherd shares the same hereditary conditions, as their close cousin, the German Shepherd, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. The Swiss Shepherd is also prone to bloat and can suffer from a sensitive stomach. 

The White Swiss Shepherd Club of America states the Swiss Shepherd has a lifespan of around 12 years. 

What Else To Know About Swiss Shepherds

The Swiss Shepherd has many striking features such as its bright white coat, beautiful expression, and wolf-like appearance. It is becoming an increasingly popular breed around the world due to its impressive beauty and desired temperament. 

2 White Swiss Shepherds. German Shepherd vs. Swiss Shepherd: What is the Difference?

The Swiss Shepherd is more expensive to purchase than the GSD. Prices can vary depending on lineage, breeder reputation, location, litter size, and demand. The price is around $2500 for an average pup without breeding rights or show quality. Expect to pay up to $4500 for top breed lines.

In contrast, expect to pay around $2000 for an average German Shepherd. However, this price can also quickly grow to $4500 or even more for top breed lines, such as a show or working dog.

Origins

As its name suggests, the Swiss Shepherd originated in Switzerland, whereas the German Shepherd was originally developed in Germany.  The White Swiss Shepherd emerged from the white lines of the German Shepherd Dog.

Appearance

The main obvious difference between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd is in their appearance. While the German Shepherd comes in several shades – the coat is usually dark consisting of either tan and black, red and black, sable, or all black or all white. In contrast, the Swiss Shepherd has a completely bright white coat. 

The White Swiss Shepherd is classed as a medium-sized dog by the FCI. The dog’s stance is more upright and less severe at the hips, with a level and firm back, whereas the German Shepherd is a lot more angular at the hips, with a slightly sloping back. Here are the FCI’s full breed standards of both the White Swiss Shepherd and the German Shepherd.

How Are German Shepherds and Swiss Shepherds Similar?

As you can see, there are several differences between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd. However, they share a lot of similarities, too! Below are the main similarities between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd. 

Ancestry

The German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd share the same ancestry. The Swiss Shepherd is very closely related to the beautiful white variation of the German Shepherd.

In 1967 Miss Agatha Burch took a male White Shepherd named “Lobo White Burch” from the US back to Switzerland, after living in the US for many years. She then imported a female white German Shepherd from the UK, named “White Lilac of Blinkbonny” and bred the two. These two dogs and a few other Canadian imports became the foundation of the modern White Swiss Shepherd Dogs.

Intelligence

Both of these breeds are incredibly intelligent and easy to train. They can learn lots of skills and tricks, and they respond well to commands. When socialized and trained well, both the Swiss Shepherd and German Shepherd are extremely disciplined and respected.  It is for these reasons they are used as working dogs.

Loyalty

The German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd are both very loyal, devoted, protective, and eager to please their owners. While Swiss Shepherds can be slightly needier towards their owner due to their more gentle nature, however, both will protect their family and territory due to their herding genetic traits.

Good with Children and Other Pets

When brought up around children or other pets, both the Swiss Shepherd and German Shepherd are very good with them, again the former being slightly better due to their friendliness. It can be daunting looking for the right breed of dog to bring into the family, however, both are a great choice, and bringing a puppy German Shepherd or Swiss Shepherd into your family will be a success. 

Which Breed Would Make the Best Pet?

The answer to this question really lies in what you are looking for in a pet and your particular circumstances and lifestyle. 

If you are looking for a loyal, protective, confident watchdog, I would recommend a German Shepherd. Due to his more aggressive nature, he makes the perfect guard dog while remaining devoted and true to his owner. Even though they are affectionate and loving dogs, they remain extremely protective of their owners and territory.  

However, if you are looking for a less intense loving family pet with a lower drive, I would definitely recommend the Swiss Shepherd. Being aggressive does not tend to be in their nature, and they have a more gentle and calmer demeanor. 

Both require the same amount of daily exercise and thrive from being well-trained and worked. This is an important factor to remember when considering a German Shepherd or a Swiss Shepherd as a pet as you will need to devote lots of time to ensure their daily needs are met. 

German Shepherd vs. Swiss Shepherd – Final Thoughts

We have learned that there are many similarities and also many differences between these two fantastic breeds of dog. Here are some key takeaways from the article:

  • The main differences between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd are their coat color, country of origin, temperament, and popularity.
  • The Swiss Shepherd is always white in color.
  • Both breeds make wonderful and very loyal pets.
  • The German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd have almost identical traits however the Swiss Shepherd is a lot less intense, calmer, and less aggressive of the two.
  • They are both great as working dogs due to their intelligence and easy trainability. 

I hope this article has helped you understand the difference between the German Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd as it can be somewhat confusing at first.  If you plan on buying or adopting either one for a pet, you now have all the information to help you decide. Good luck!

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Sharon Waddington

I am the owner of World of Dogz. I have a female German Shepherd named Willow, and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with her, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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