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German Shepherd vs. Wolf: Key Differences and Similarities

In one way or another, all dogs are descendants of wolves. 

Though, some have kept a wolfier appearance than other kinds of dogs. 

German Shepherds are one of the breeds that have kept a closer genetic tie to their wolf ancestors. 

Even in the modern-day, similarities can still be seen between German Shepherds and wolves.

Are German Shepherds Like Wolves?

Some key similarities between German Shepherds and wolves are their shared ear and muzzle shape along with their coats. However, these two animals have very different behaviors, and they have very different diets.

German Shepherds have kept a lot of the genes that have been passed down by wolves. 

This is why German Shepherds still have a lot of physical similarities to wolves. 

However, it can be seen through vital statistics that German Shepherds are relatively smaller and slightly weaker than wolves. 

The difference isn’t by much, but this breed of dog is slightly lower in height, weight, and speed than their wolf ancestors. 

Looks Similarities:

These two animals share pointed ears, a pointed muzzle, and a similar coat structure. 

The color of their coats, while not exactly the same and have some variety, can sometimes be similar. 

Wolves with a more brownish and darker coat can more resemblance to German Shepherds. 

Looks Differences:

One different detail that stands out when comparing these two animals is the color of their eyes. 

Wolves have an amber or golden color to their eyes while German Shepherds have brown eyes. 

German Shepherds also have shorter legs and therefore smaller paws than wolves. 

This contributes to the height difference between these two animals. 

German Shepherds can grow up to 65 cm tall while wolves can grow up to 81 cm tall. 

What Are the Similarity and Differences in German Shepherd and Wolf Hunting?

Similarities:

Both German Shepherds and wolves are known for their hunting abilities. 

Wolves are natural and wild hunters, living in the wild and hunting for their food. 

While German Shepherds don’t need to hunt to survive, they have kept that wolfish hunting instinct through time.

Differences:

German Shepherds aren’t bred for their hunting abilities the same way that retrievers have been. 

However, these dogs have a strong hunting instinct for small animals.

Their main hunting instinct is usually food-driven, so if you feed your German Shepherd well, they won’t feel the need to hunt.

This is probably why they typically only hunt small animals.

Wolves, on the other hand, hunt to survive. 

They hunt their prey in groups so that they can have a meal to eat.

German Shepherds hunt alone while wolves use the benefit of hunting in a pack to successfully hunt bigger animals. 

The Similarities and Differences in the Diets of German Shepherds and Wolves

As mentioned above, wolves use hunting as their main food source. 

Through domestication, German Shepherds don’t rely on hunting prey to eat, so they have adapted to eating other kinds of food.

Similarities:

Both German Shepherds and wolves eat meat, more specifically, raw meat. 

Wolves don’t have the luxury of being able to cook their food or have their food cooked for them. 

Their digestive systems allow them, as carnivores, to be able to eat raw meat safely. 

German Shepherds have yet to evolve past this trait. 

They are still able to eat raw meat safely as long as the raw meat is clean.

Differences:

While on the topic of meat, German Shepherds don’t have as strong digestive systems as wolves, even though they can still digest meat. 

Wolves hunt in the wild which is prone to dirt, bacteria, and disease. 

Their digestive systems are more adapted to being able to eat “dirty” meat and not get sick from it. 

German Shepherds wouldn’t be able to eat as many animals out in the wild because of diseases.

That’s why, to feed your German Shepherd raw meat, you have to make sure it is completely clean first. 

Another huge difference between the diets of German Shepherds and wolves is that German Shepherds can eat things other than meat.

Wolves are strictly carnivores, so they shouldn’t eat things such as fruit, vegetables, and grains.

Through domestication, German Shepherds can eat traditional dog food and be able to get all the nutrients from it. 

In dog food, there’s more than just meat. 

There are also vegetables and some grains in there too. 

The Differences in German Shepherd and Wolf Behaviors

While these two animals may look similar, they act very differently. 

Domestication has definitely softened the hearts of German Shepherds and has made them much more people-pleasing than wolves. 

Protectiveness Similarities and Differences

German Shepherds find their pack within their own families.

They are super loving, people-pleasing, and compassionate to the people that they love dearly. 

These dogs are incredibly loyal and are good around children.

Wolves, on the other hand, don’t really care about humans as much.

Some wolves that were raised in captivity have been domesticated and therefore are more loving, but wild wolves are focused on the pack of their own species. 

Wild wolves don’t seek out compassion or love from other humans.

Though, that is where a similarity comes into play. 

Both of these animals are incredibly protective of their pack. 

German Shepherds will protect their families, who they see as their pack, with everything that they have. 

Wolves will protect their pack with their lives as well. 

You don’t want to be perceived as a threat by wild wolves as they aren’t afraid to attack to protect their kind. 

Intelligence Similarities and Differences

Both German Shepherds and wolves are intelligent animals, though wolves are shown to be more intelligent.

German Shepherds, even though they aren’t as intelligent, they are much easier to train than wild wolves. 

The main difference is that wolves don’t want to be trained by humans as they really don’t care about humans. 

German Shepherds are huge people-pleasers, so they want to show off to their favorite humans by learning new tricks and behaviors. 

Socialization Differences

German Shepherds and wolves are very different in their socialization. 

As said before, wolves don’t care about humans unless they have been domesticated. 

They are not going to be very social around humans or other species of animals, they only really care about protecting their own pack and making sure the cubs of the pack are safe. 

German Shepherds are very social around people.

Some say that these dogs are fascinated by human interaction, and they usually get along very well with humans.

They have more affection and compassion for humans, especially humans in their families.

However, German Shepherds will become aggressive if the humans that they are interacting with pose a threat. 

The Differences and Similarities in German Shepherd and Wolf Health

Both of these animals can suffer a variety of health problems, though it is no question that dogs face a lot more problems than the self-reliant wolf.

German Shepherds and wolves both suffer from hip dysplasia, but German Shepherds have a much higher chance of developing this issue.

Wolves don’t suffer from this problem nearly as often.

The main reason dogs, especially German Shepherds, face more health issues than wolves is because of the breeding process for dogs.

There’s a lot of inbreeding in the dog breeding industry which creates a lot of genetic mutations and issues in the species. 

The health issues that wolves face mostly are from occurring problems in the wild.

Some of the problems that wolves can face are rabies, worms, ticks, mange, tuberculosis, and more. 

While German Shepherds can face some of these problems, such as ticks or fleas, they aren’t outside as often as wolves and therefore aren’t as susceptible. 

So, the main difference between German Shepherd and wolf health problems is split between the genetic health problems of German Shepherds and the environmental problems of wolves. 

Final Thoughts

Both German Shepherds and wolves are amazing and interesting animals. 

They are both so similar yet different at the same time. 

German Shepherds have kept their close genetic ties to wolves throughout time yet inbreeding and generations passing has meant that differences grew between the species. 

German Shepherds and wolves are the most similar in their looks and the most different in their personalities.

For a German Shepherd, their lives are usually centered around the human/s taking care of them.

Wolves don’t appreciate humans in the same way and would rather avoid them.

Wolves that you have seen interacting with humans either in sanctuaries or in videos have been domesticated and partially rely on humans. 

Wild wolves act very differently as they want to stay away from humans. 

The two species also face different sets of health problems.

German Shepherds face the majority of their health problems as a result of breeding over time. 

The health problems that wolves face relate to their lives in the wild.

However, both German Shepherds and wolves are amazing creatures whether we can interact with them or not.