Border Collie vs German Shepherd: Differences & Commonalities

Border Collies and German Shepherds come from the same family of breeds. But these two dogs have their differences. For example, Border Collies are smaller than German Shepherds. At the same time, they have different personalities and behaviors.

Border Collies are also known for their intelligence, loyalty, and high energy levels. On the other hand, German Shepherds are known for their strong herding instincts and protective tendencies.

In addition to these differences, Border Collies and German Shepherds both have short coats that require minimal grooming. It’s not important whether you’re looking for a dog with a high energy level or a dog with a strong herding drive. What matters most is you take all of these factors into consideration when choosing between Border Collie and German Shepherd.

History of Border Collie and German Shepherd

Border Collie waiting for commands

The history of the Border Collie is one of great adventure and discovery. This breed of dog originated in the Scottish borders. Then, farmers would use them to herd livestock and protect their homes from intruders. They were also used for herding cattle, for hunting and for retrieving game. They became an important part of the Scottish culture and were adopted by other countries as well.

Where Border Collie Originated?

Border Collie is a breed of dog that originates from the border region between England and Scotland. Border Collies are one of the most common herding dogs in use today. James Reid, the Secretary of the International Sheep Dog Society, was the first to use the term Border Collie on registration forms in 1915.

The first Border Collies were used for herding cattle and sheep. In fact, up to this day, some of these dogs are still in used in herding livestock. Despite this, the Border Collie gained popularity in Wales at the turn of the 20th century thanks to its intelligence and playfulness. At present, you can see that the majority of these breeds are working as a service dog.

How German Shepherd was Known?

The history of the German Shepherd dates back to the 18th century. Initially, German Shepherds were bred to help in herding. In fact, the German Shepherd is one of only a few breeds that have been developed for herding over time.

The origin of the modern-day German Shepherd can be traced back to Germany. This is where they were used as herders and guard dogs. The breed was created as a result of selective breeding. It’s done in order to develop a dog with a calm temperament and high intelligence. From that point on, the German Shepherd has continued to grow in popularity and is now one of the most commonly used breeds worldwide.

German Shepherd working as a police dog

For centuries, humans have trusted and relied on the noble German Shepherd as an invaluable service dog. German Shepherds were bred to serve as hunting dogs, herders and companions. They are energetic and trustworthy. As a matter of fact, this makes them ideal for people with disabilities.

Today, there are many different varieties of German Shepherd:

  • Police K9 dogs
  • Service dogs
  • Therapy dogs
  • Guide dogs

This makes the German Shepherd as one of the most popular breeds in the world.

Features of Border Collie and German Shepherd

These two dogs might have similarities in their ancestry and traits. But one thing that can be used to quickly distinguish them over the other is their physical appearance. Look at how each dog differs from face, ears and body.


Border Collies have a wide head and slightly domed cheeks. This gives them a slightly rounded face with a distinct stop and an alert expression. As with German Shepherds, there should be no gap between the nose and lip when the dog sniffs or licks. German Shepherds may also have a slight stop in their noses.


When it comes to the ears of a Border Collie, it is often small. Also, their ears lie flat against their head when not moving or working. Whereas for a German Shepherd, the ears should be flat and hang close to the head.


Border Collies have a medium-to-large frame. They stand between 23–28 inches tall. They also have a deep and broad chest. As for German Shepherds, they have this long, lean body with a short neck. Their chest is broad and has short legs. They have powerful shoulders and a straight back that stand up when they walk.

Comparison Sheet between Border Collie and German Shepherd

Many would have agree that Border Collies are one of the smartest dogs. They’re also friendly and active. But, German Shepherds would not give up that easy. Though the former is smart, German Shepherds are more aloof and independent.

Border Collie vs German Shepherd: Differences & Commonalities

Below is a table that can be used as guidance about the differences and similarities of these two beautiful breeds.

DifferencesBorder CollieGerman Shepherd
Size23 to 28 inches. 22 to 28 inches.
Weight26 to 48 pounds.75 to 90 pounds.
AppearanceBlack, red, brown or white coat. Medium length, sometimes silky.White, brown and black coat. Ears standing up. Big paws and long snout.
AncestryBred in borders of Scotland and England. Used for hunting and herding.Origin can be traced back in Germany. Used for herding initially.
BehaviorEnergetic pets. Overactive tendency when playingAloof and independent. Loyal and smart. Might be prone to separation anxiety.
Lifespan13 to 15 years.11 to 15 years.

Differences in Traits

Border collie on physical stimulation

Indeed, Border Collies and German Shepherds are both intelligent and loyal dogs. Still, they have traits and personality that makes them, them.

Border Collie Personality

A Border Collie is an intelligent, highly trainable breed. They are also known to be a very social dog. Border Collies are very good with children and other pets. However, they’re also very territorial. As a result, they should never be left alone for extended periods of time. They will bark at strangers, chase cars and animals, and dig holes in the yard. They can also be aggressive toward other dogs if they feel threatened.

German Shepherd Personality

owner spending time with German Shepherd

The German Shepherd may be a perfect example of a dog’s strengths, but it isn’t for everyone. This dog was bred to herd flocks all day. Therefore, they need to be engaged in various activities and exercises. Without it, they’re likely to express their boredom and frustration in unpleasant ways, like barking and chewing.

Even so, one of the nicest things about German Shepherds is that, they are loyal and bold. However, they can be aloof with strangers. They are highly intelligent and have an easygoing nature. As a matter of fact, many families love them because they’re perfect with kids and they’re trainable. Aside from that, they’re also known for their strength and courage.

They can be trained to do many different jobs; police K-9 officers, search and rescue teams, therapy dogs, and guide dogs all use the German Shepherd as their partner.

Then again, there’s a cross between Border Collies and German Shepherds. Otherwise known as English Shepherds. These breeds are polite and dependable dog. They are so easy to be contented that lying on your feet makes their day.

However, you should know that such breed is somewhat sensitive. Though, they are very attentive that keeps an eye on you. The English Shepherd is an all-purpose working and competition dog that learns quickly. Despite the typical independence of a herding breed, they are highly teachable.

Health and Maintenance: Border Collie vs. German Shepherd

Keeping your Border Collie or German Shepherd healthy at all times is very important. First and foremost, it will lower the risks of your dog suffering from healthy issues. Especially the most common among these breeds are hip dysplasia.

Aside from that, it can prevent them from showing behavioral problems like aggression or hyperactivity. In this regard, what a responsible pet owner would have done?


Border Collie playing catch

Border collies are very active dogs. Thus, they need daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. There are many ways you can engage your dog in physical activity. Some of these activities include walking, jogging, agility training, and hiking. On the other hand, when doing any sort of activity or exercise, always start off with short walks or jogs. This way, your dog doesn’t get overexcited or tired out.

Likewise with German Shepherd, they are very energetic and active dogs. Fortunately, there are a number of activities for that can keep them entertained and engaged. These activities can include things like fetch, obstacle training, wrestling, treasure hunt, find a treat among others.


A Border Collie needs scheduled bathing and brushing. Another important thing to be remembered is their nails. When grooming your dog, make sure to pay attention to their nails. Because if the nails gets unnoticed, it might result to some discomfort. Sometimes, pain.

A general rule here is, if you’re hearing your Collie’s nails against the floor’s surface, then it’s time to cut it.

In relation to shedding, Border Collies have double coats coupled with feathered and smooth outer coat. Oftentimes, they shed moderately. It does the trick if you’re going to brush them at least 2 or 3 times per week.

Groom your German shepherd every week or two to remove excess shedding hair. This also keeps the fur healthy and tangle-free. You can use several different tools to groom your German Shepherd like:

  • Slicker brush – to remove loose hair from the undercoat
  • Pin brush – to remove harder knots of fur, and a rubber curry comb to smooth out short hairs

Depending on the type of coat, you may need to use different tools. After each grooming session, you should thoroughly dry your German shepherd with a towel or air dry him if possible. Never leave him in wet or damp clothes as this could lead to infections or other health problems.

Vet Visit

why you must bring your dog to a vet?

Generally speaking, vet visits are applicable to all dog breeds. This is regardless whether you have a Border Collie or a German Shepherd. During the first twelve months of your dog, make sure  to ask your vet about the following:

  • Distemper
  • Kennel cough
  • Rabies
  • Lyme disease
  • Influenza

Now, as soon as your dog reaches its 12th month, they’re already considered as adults. In such case, vet visits can be performed annually. Unless, there are special conditions that need to be checked. During checkup, your vet may perform blood sample. This is to check for heartworms and parasites that may be wreaking havoc to your dog’s health.

In the event of an emergency, don’t think twice to bring your dog to your trusted vet. If your dog is behaving abnormally, if they seem to be sick or anything out of the ordinary, consider a vet visit.


We’ve known that Border Collies and German Shepherds have come from the same family. Thus, they are both capable of herding and shown impressive loyalty and love towards their owner. Still, these two dogs have their differences that made them unique.

Border Collie for instance are extremely intelligent dogs that can be trained and taught of new skills. German Shepherds on the other hand are more independent and more perfect for families, especially those who have kids.

The decision on which Border Collie vs German Shepherd is better will lie on your individual preference. But one thing is for sure, these two dogs are definitely awesome!

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