German Shepherds vs. Curly-Coated Retrievers: Key Differences

German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers are both known for their athletic and energetic qualities. 

However, they have plenty of differences that are deeper than how different their coats are.

These dogs would make great friends, but they are most definitely not the same. 

How Are German Shepherds Different Than Curly-Coated Retrievers?

The most obvious difference between a German Shepherd and a Curly-Coated Retriever is their coats and grooming needs. However, they also have differences in their socialization needs, specific athletic qualities, and different environmental needs. 

While both German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers are athletic dogs who love being outside, they were bred for very different activities.

German Shepherds, being Shepherds, were bred to interact with livestock while herding.

Curly-Coated Retrievers, being Retrievers, were bred to retrieve dead birds from water and bring them to their human, hunter, owner.

For all the differences between these two breeds, read on!

The Socialization Needs Differences Between German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers

Socialization is a big part of any puppy’s growing experience. 

This is when they learn how to be around other people and other animals without anxiety. 

It is also when they learn what manners to have around other creatures and how to properly behave. 

Curly-Coated Retrievers need to be socialized when they are a puppy in order to not be fearful around other humans and animals. 

Without it, they are very cautious and timid around new creatures.

Socialization teaches them that they are okay to be around other people and animals and how to act around them.

German Shepherds don’t face a social anxiety problem, but they are highly energetic or possibly aggressive around other people or animals.

These dogs are incredibly loyal, protective, and territorial. 

They need to be socialized to learn that not every other human or animal is a danger to their family. 

That way, they can act calmer around other people. 


When they are socialized, both of these breeds are incredibly friendly around other people. 

They like to show off the tricks that they have learned within their own training, and they are always curious about new things. 

With socialization, they are good dogs around other pets, and they are both great around children. 

German Shepherds vs. Curly Coated Retrievers Key Differences 1 1 German Shepherds vs. Curly-Coated Retrievers: Key Differences

The Athletic Differences Between German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers

Both of these dogs are known for their athletic abilities as both of these dogs love to be outside and have high energy. 

However, they are both known for different athletic abilities.

Curly-Coated Retrievers were first bred for their hunting and retrieving abilities. 

They would retrieve waterfowl from lakes and other bodies of water.

Their curly coats are waterproof, keeping the water away from the skin and keeping these dogs warm and dry. 

German Shepherds, on the other hand, are known for their overall strength, speed, and endurance.

This breed makes good guard dogs are they have the strength and speed to attack any intruders if need be. 

Before their time in the police and guard dog world, the German Shepherd role fit much closer to their name. 

This breed has strong herding abilities and is still used today to herd sheep and other livestock. 

In order to be good at herding, they have to be fast and agile to make sure the livestock go where they are needed to be.

Another skill to add to the German Shepherd’s resume is their military time.

This breed used to be used for combat as they have strong fighting abilities. 

The Different Living Needs of German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers

While these dogs are similar in their energy levels and their love for exercise, they do have different living needs.

Curly-Coated Retrievers don’t do well in apartment living.

They need a lot of exercise a day and plenty of room to play and run around. 

An apartment is too small for them to do the things that they love. 

Curly-Coated Retrievers do best if they have access to a backyard to play in. 

This breed also prefers to be outside, and they love to go on outdoor adventures with their families. 

Curly-Coated Retrievers also don’t mind having access to a body of water whether that’s a small kiddie pool for them to relax in or having a lake nearby to take a swim. 

German Shepherds can do a little better in apartment settings, but they still need plenty of exercise each day.

They are more likely to tolerate apartment living without getting bored to the point of being destructive. 

There are many German Shepherds that are able to live nice and fulfilling lives in apartment settings.

However, owners need to make sure that these dogs are still getting their exercise needs each day from walks or going to the dog park.

The Grooming Differences Between German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers

These dogs have different coat textures, so it is safe to assume that they have different grooming needs.


The biggest difference in these needs is that Curly-Coated Retrievers need to be combed instead of brushed to better protect their coats. 

Using a brush on these curly coats can cause frizzing and require water to be added to their coats to return them to normal. 

German Shepherds do the best with regular brushing as they are big shedders. 

Curly-Coated Retrievers don’t shed nearly as much as a German Shepherd.

Regular brushing can help keep up with their shedding, especially during the two German Shepherd shedding seasons. 


Curly-Coated Retrievers shouldn’t be bathed as much as a German Shepherd. 

You should bathe a Curly-Coated Retriever only when they really need it. 

A problem with bathing a Curly-Coated Retriever is using shampoo on their coat. 

When you do this, it softens their fur which hinders the coat from being waterproof. 

The coat will return back to normal in a few days, but it is best to keep your Curly-Coated Retriever inside during this time. 

German Shepherds need a more regular bathing routine, though they still don’t need to be bathed too often either.

It is best to bathe your German Shepherd every 3-4 months. At least you don’t need to worry about getting their coat soft and shiny when bathing them. 

For both breeds, bathing is a good time to do any necessary treatments that your dog may need. 

Flea and tick treatments are good for both Curly-Coated Retrievers and German Shepherds to have done.

Check for any bugs during this time as well.

Intelligence Differences Between German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers

Both of these breeds are very smart dogs. They are both easy to train as they can pick up tricks very quickly. 

However, it is considered that German Shepherds are smarter than Curly-Coated Retrievers.

With Curly-Coated Retrievers, they sometimes mix up their intelligence with stubbornness, which can make it difficult at times to train them. 

They just love doing things to their own accord and following their own path.

German Shepherds are less stubborn and follow orders a lot easier than the Curly-Coated Retriever. This makes it easier for them to be trained as stubbornness won’t get in the way.

However, you can combat stubbornness in your Curly-Coated Retriever by being with them when they are getting trained. 

Their need for people-pleasing tends to be stronger than their stubbornness. 

Use their want to impress you in order for them to be more obedient in training. 

Do Both German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers Bite?

German Shepherds are much more likely to bite than Curly-Coated Retrievers.

This usually comes with the German Shepherd’s natural instinct to guard and protect. 

They can get more aggressive than a Curly-Coated Retriever and therefore are more likely to bite someone.

Curly-Coated Retrievers are much less likely to bite someone unless they were posing an immediate threat. 

They don’t see the need in biting someone.

Really, they only bite when they are hunting waterfowl or other small animals. 

You can always work to train your German Shepherd to refrain from biting people. 

This is a part of obedience and manners training for your German Shepherd.

For this, it is best to start this training as soon as possible. 

Final Thoughts

While German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers share many similarities, there is no doubt that they are very different dogs with their unique qualities.

Is one of these dogs better than the other? Not at all.

Both German Shepherds and Curly-Coated Retrievers are amazing dogs to have and make a wonderful addition to many families.

One thing they have in common is that they love their families with their whole hearts, and they are even great around children.

If you are an owner or family that loves to get outside and go on adventures, either one of these dogs will make a great addition to your family. 

They both are very loyal and love to be outside. 

It is important to figure out which dog will work the best for you and your family. 

If you live in an apartment, then it would be better to get a German Shepherd instead of a Curly-Coated Retriever based on their living needs. 

If you love to go out onto the water, the curly coat that the Curly-Coated Retriever has will make a better companion.

Take into consideration what each dog needs and what you will need to give to your dog so that they can have the best life.

That way, you can keep your dog happy and healthy. 

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