More and more households are becoming multi-dog homes. People have recognized the value (and entertainment!) two or more dogs in a home brings.
German Shepherds and Pitbull-type dogs such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, or the Staffordshire Terrier are all extremely popular breeds and as such are more likely to be considered for multi-dog households.
For owners who already have one of those breeds and are considering adding one of the other breeds into their homes, they may be wondering if it’s a good idea or not. Can German Shepherds and Pitbulls live together?
German Shepherds and Pitbulls have many similar breed traits which makes them highly likely to get along with each other. While there may be some risks that usually stem from poor breeding, as long as each dog is properly socialized and trained then they are likely to be good companions for each other.
Below we’ll discuss the reasons why German Shepherds and Pitbulls might get along, and what breed traits might be a cause for concern. We’ll discuss how to safely introduce adults and puppies, and how to set them up for success. We’ll also talk about some important things to keep in mind if you are considering having this dynamic duo in your home.
Reasons German Shepherds And Pitbulls May Get Along
It’s important to remember that each of these dogs are individuals, and a lot of what may contribute to whether they get along or not is based on their upgrading and socialization levels. However, in most cases German Shepherds and Pitbulls may get along for the following reasons:
1. They Have A Similar Play Style
Both German Shepherds and Pitbull-type dogs are known for being playful pups, and their love of play makes them likely to get along with each other. These breeds tend to have a rougher play style with lots of wrestling, vocalizing, and chase games.
While some other breeds tend to enjoy less physical play, not the German Shepherd or Pitbull! Their play styles allow them to really engage with each other and play in a way that they both enjoy.
This also makes it less likely that one dog will bully the other or cause unintended injuries or miscommunications due to their play style. German Shepherds also tend to be “neck grabbers” during play and the thicker skin of the Pitbull means there is a smaller chance for accidental injury.
2. They Are Both Adaptable
German Shepherds and Pitbulls are also very adaptable breeds that are capable of doing a wide variety of activities. This means that they are likely to get along well because they’ll both be able to participate in the activity and there is a lower chance of an owner feeling like they have to choose between the dogs when deciding on something to do, like hiking or swimming.
Their adaptability also translates well into their home environments as each dog breed is capable of living in apartment complexes or rural homes and they generally adjust to changes within a home pretty easily. Despite being larger size dogs, both breeds are also capable of living in areas with little to no access to a yard (provided they get regular walks!).
3. They Are Eager-To-Please
While the German Shepherd may be a little easier to train, both Pitbulls and German Shepherds are known for their eager-to-please attitudes. They are both family friendly dog breeds and each of them enjoy being with their families and doing their best to make their owners happy. Both dogs (if trained and socialized properly) get along well with children and other pets, too.
Depending on the owner, this clingy and affectionate attitude could be a downside. Pitbulls are generally more affectionate and cuddly with their owners (and they aren’t fans of being left alone), but German Shepherds also do best when not away from their owner for long periods of time.
4. They Are Of A Similar Size
While this depends on the breeding of each dog, in most cases Pitbulls and German Shepherds are of a similar weight and size. This means you don’t have to worry about one accidentally stepping on the other like you would if you had a large breed dog and a small breed dog.
It also means that it is easier to accommodate each dog’s needs as they likely do not need different-sized food, treats, toys, bowls, or bedding. It’s also easier to walk two dogs of a similar size than it is to walk two dogs of different sizes. In fact, you might even be able to jog with the two of them at the same time!
5. They Have Similar Energy Levels
Similar to their play styles, both Pitbull-type dogs and German Shepherds also have similar energy levels. While this can vary somewhat based on the individual dog and their breeding, in most cases their energy can match up pretty well.
This helps tire both dogs out at the same time rather than one wanting to end play before the other has gotten all of their energy out. It also helps keep both dogs on the same schedule when it comes to walks and other physical activities.
While Pitbulls can sometimes go through bursts of energy rather than one single swoop like the German Shepherd can, in general their energy similarities means they will be able to tire each other out and their owners can worry less about one becoming irritated with the other or overexerting themselves.
Why German Shepherds And Pitbulls May NOT Get Along
In most cases a German Shepherd and a Pitbull will get along, however, there are a few things to consider that may impact the relationship between the two dogs:
1. Owner Attachment Issues
While Pitbulls tend to get along with everyone and will bond with more than one person in the household, German Shepherds are likely to bond more closely with only one person in the home.
This can lead to the German Shepherd displaying threatening or aggressive behavior towards the Pitbull if they feel like their “person” is choosing the other dog over them.
This owner guarding is a form of resource guarding (which I’ll also discuss in more detail below) and creates friction between the two dogs. To counteract this, it’s important for each dog to receive appropriate time and interaction with the owner both together and separately.
It’s also important to establish boundaries for the dogs and to create space if you feel one dog is trying to hoard your time and energy.
If any aggressive or threatening behavior is seen, it’s vital to reach out to a reputable dog trainer or behavioral consultant immediately as this issue is one that tends to get worse very quickly and needs professional intervention.
2. Behavioral Issues
While dogs of any breed can develop behavioral issues, the German Shepherd and many Pitbull-type dogs are prone to a few specific behavioral issues. This includes resource guarding, separation anxiety, and reactivity.
While these issues may be prevented if proper socialization and training are implemented from a young age, for adult dogs or for those whose history is unknown it may be tough to deal with.
This is especially true if both the German Shepherd and the Pitbull have developed the same behavioral issue, which is likely if one starts engaging in the behavior and the other dog begins to engage in it as well if the owner does not intervene in time.
Dogs can absolutely learn from watching other dogs, and even if they may not engage in the behavior, they will likely respond to the increased energy level or body language of the other dog and may respond in a negative or inappropriate way.
It is important to monitor each dog for any signs of behavioral issues as there is a greater chance of success in fixing these behaviors if the owner nips them in the bud immediately.
3. Poor Breeding
Unfortunately, both the German Shepherd and Pitbull have been victims of unscrupulous and irresponsible breeding practices. As a result, there is a risk of unpredictability in each breed.
For dogs of these breeds who come from poor breeding, there is an increased risk of aggression, neuroticism, and poor impulse control. While there are many reputable breeds for both the German Shepherd and many of the Pitbull-type breeds, there are also just as many bad breeders.
If choosing to purchase one of these dogs from a breeder, it’s important to research the breeder carefully to ensure that you are getting a happy and healthy puppy. Many shelters and rescue groups have purebred dogs available for adoption, too, and they often do thorough evaluations of the dog’s temperament prior to placing them in a new home.
Following proper socialization and training techniques will also help mitigate any risks for issues occurring later on in life. While the Pitbull has been the victim of more stigma than the German Shepherd has, it is extremely important that owners make sure they are undertaking training for each dog to prevent any further issues for the breeds and to set an example of responsible dog ownership.
How To Set Your German Shepherd And Pitbull Up For Success
If you are considering adding a German Shepherd to your family and you’ve already got a Pitbull (or vice versa), there are a few important steps to take to ensure that everyone gets along nicely.
Both breeds tend to be good for even first time dog owners, but it’s important to keep in mind that every dog is different. If you have puppies or young adolescents, it’s important to begin training as soon as possible, especially when it comes to impulse control.
While younger puppies may not need to get started on obedience training just yet, it is still important to socialize them with everyone and everything (always making sure it is a positive experience, of course!). By doing this type of training early and often, you will set your pups up for success and there is a higher chance of your German Shepherd and Pitbull getting along.
No matter the ages of your dogs, you also want to make sure that each dog has their individual needs met. Depending on the dogs, this could include separating them at feeding time or providing them with different types of bedding.
Making sure you are providing them with enough toys, chews, and other resources will also help ensure that their interactions are peaceful rather than one trying to hoard limited resources.
It’s also important to make sure you spend time individually with your German Shepherd and Pitbull, as well as make time to interact with them as a unit. Providing safe spaces for each of them to go to if they need some alone time is also important in making sure that each dog stays happy and healthy.
How To Introduce An Adult German Shepherd And Pitbull
If you have adult dogs, it’s best to have a helper assist you when introducing your new furry friend to the family. Whether the new dog is a German Shepherd or a Pitbull-type dog, the process is the same.
Prior to introducing them, it’s important to get as much of a history on the new dog as possible and to really look at your existing dog’s history and interactions with other dogs. When introducing adult dogs, it’s best to do the introductions on neutral territory and off-leash (or at least drop the leash so it is dragging on the ground).
As both German Shepherds and Pitbulls tend to be of a higher energy level and very forward in personality, the initial introduction can seem a little scary. If both dogs are well-socialized, then it’s likely they’ll display appropriate greeting behaviors.
If both dogs tend to be a little more dominant or they are of the same sex (though this can also vary between dogs), then there may be some scuffling to establish their social hierarchy.
If scuffling does occur, it should be over quickly and there should still be metasignals present in both dogs. If at any point the noise stops and the dogs continue to scuffle, one dog prevents the other dog from leaving the space, or there is an escalation in tense body language, then the dogs should be separated as quickly as possible and removed from the area.
At no point during this initial introduction process (and for several weeks afterward) should the dogs be left alone unsupervised. While there may be some hiccups as each dog adjusts to their new family and household routines, there should still be an overall sense of peace and friendliness (or at the very least disinterest in each other) in all interactions between the dogs.
Social hierarchies in dogs are very fluid and the dynamics can change even on a day-to-day basis, so it’s these initial few weeks and months where you will get the best idea as to whether your German Shepherd and Pitbull will become buddies or not.
How To Introduce A German Shepherd Puppy And Pitbull Puppy
Puppies are a little easier to introduce than adult German Shepherds and Pitbulls. Depending on the age and socialization history of the puppies, it’s likely you’d be able to introduce them at your home in the backyard.
Despite both breeds being more confident than some other breeds, German Shepherd and Pitbull puppies don’t generally have any concerns about social hierarchies and group dynamics at this stage of their life. Thus, they are more likely to engage in play and general interest (or disinterest) in each other.
There can be minor “play fighting” like wrestling and biting, but this is normal (and important) play behavior for puppies and also falls in line with each breed’s rougher play style.
As with adult German Shepherds and Pitbulls, it’s still important to monitor the interactions between the puppies as they age (especially around the adolescent period) and make sure that everyone is still on the same page when it comes to manners and appropriate play.
Things To Keep In Mind When Living With A German Shepherd And A Pitbull
While it’s highly likely that a German Shepherd and Pitbull will get along, there are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering adding one or the other to your household.
As both dogs can experience resource guarding issues, it’s important to make sure you provide enough resources for each dog (this includes your attention and energy!) and that you nip any guarding issues in the bud immediately.
German Shepherds will usually stay active much later in life than a lot of Pitbull-type dogs, too, so as your pups age you may need to adjust their activities or provide your German Shepherd with more energy outlets than your Pitbull.
Both breeds are susceptible to health issues such as dysplasias and cancers, so thinking about the financial aspect of having two dogs prone to health issues is important and you should have a plan of action for taking care of each dog if the need arises.
German Shepherds and Pitbulls are also the targets of many breed bans, both city-wide and in housing complexes. If you rent or live in a city that has breed bans, make sure you do your due diligence before adding a new pup to your family. You can also work to advocate for abolishing breed bans.
German Shepherds and Pitbulls have a lot of similarities, which makes it likely that these dogs will get along nicely. They both have similar play styles, energy levels, and are of a similar size. They are also family-friendly dogs, eager to please their owners, and can adapt easily to new situations and environments.
While it’s more likely that a German Shepherd will get along with a Pitbull-type dog than not, there are a few factors that could impact how well the two might get along.
Both breeds also share a tendency for certain behavioral issues like resource guarding, separation anxiety, and reactivity towards other dogs. German Shepherds in particular can become very jealous of their owners.
Both German Shepherds and Pitbulls have also been the victims of poor breeding practices, which can impact how well they might get along with each other.
But if both dogs are well socialized and have had proper training, then it’s extremely likely a German Shepherd and Pitbull will be friends!