Do German Shepherds and Labradors Get Along?


Both German Shepherds and Labradors are people-oriented and affectionate breeds. They are very outgoing, active and love any and all attention. But do German Shepherds and Labs get along? 

German Shepherds and Labs can and often do get along very well. However, when bringing these two breeds together, it is important to make sure that they have adequate space, separate sleeping areas, and are both being fed a separate, breed-appropriate diet.

GSD and Lab

Basic Facts About German Shepherds

First things first. Before we jump into discussing how German Shepherds and Labs get along, it’s important that you understand the basics of these two breeds. So let’s jump right in!

Temperament and Personality

German Shepherds are self-assured and almost unmatched in their intelligence. 

They are sought out for those canine based jobs that require the ability to deal with high levels of pressure and need excellent problem-solving skills.

These jobs include police work, rescue work as well as service dog work for people with physical and mental disabilities. Just a look at these examples linked below to get a better idea:

Why Are German Shepherds Good Police Dogs?

Are German Shepherds Good Service Dogs?

Are German Shepherds Good Emotional Support Dogs?

German Shepherds are also known to be extremely confident as well as devout observers, who are known to think on the fly in their uncanny decision-making ability.

The hallmark of a German Shepherd is its ability to bond with and remain loyal to those they love.

Loyal To One Or Many?

Since the German Shepherd is a very loyal breed that will bond with its humans, they are a perfect addition to the family dynamic. However, they will always be partial to one person who they perceive as the pack leader.

As far as family goes, they need a family that will devote the time to train and exercise them. With these things in place, a GSD will be a loyal and reliable companion.

Around Children

As a breed, German Shepherds have a reputation for being an excellent pet for a household with children. 

This reputation has often been attributed to their calm and patient demeanor.

However, if the dog has not been properly socialized starting when it is a puppy, the mixing of a larger German Shepherd and a toddler may not provide the best outcome.

To learn more about this, be sure to read this excellent article linked below about socializing your German Shepherd:

How To Socialize Your German Shepherd

Around Strangers

It is believed that at the age of 7 to 8 months, a German Shepherd will develop the ability to distinguish the difference between “strangers” and “their pack,” including their human family.

It is at this age that you need to take the time and due diligence to begin to train your German Shepherd that not everyone they meet outside of its immediate “pack” is a danger.

Around Other Dogs In General

German Shepherds can run the full spectrum as to how they interact with other canines. 

They can be overly friendly, but on the other hand, they can also be overly aggressive.

In most cases, if a German Shepherd shows aggression towards another dog, it will most generally be with one of the same sex. 

Or it may result from not being adequately trained and socialized when younger.

For more on GSDs and their relationships with other dogs, we have a great read for you right here:

Are German Shepherds Good With Other Dogs?

What To Expect When Owning A German Shepherd

Having some basic knowledge about what you can expect from a German Shepherd in terms of training, exercise, feeding, and health will help you to see just how well a GSD will match up with a labrador.

So let’s now take a look at what you can expect!

Trainability

Because German Shepherds are highly intelligent and naturally curious, they tend to get bored quite easily. 

To help in combating any boredom, they react well to mental exercises and stimulation through enrichment.

One great way to keep a GSD occupied is with a treat dispensing puzzle toy. One of our favorites is this interactive puzzle game from Outward Hound.

We love that you can stuff treats inside of it for your pup to discover, while enhancing your dog’s cognitive ability at the same time.

German Shepherds love to work and make their humans proud, and they thrive in those areas of obedience training and agility courses.

A German Shepherd can learn to perform just about any task presented to them, as they are continually eager to please their humans.

When learning anything new, they will utilize how smart, bold, and single-minded they are when necessary.

For more complete information about training a GSD, look no further than this comprehensive guide:

German Shepherd Training Guide: All You Need to Know

This guide linked above will take all of the guesswork out of how to train your GSD!

Exercise Requirements

Although German Shepherds require a lot of activity, and they are most certainly low maintenance dogs either. 

It is recommended that your German Shepherd gets at least two hours of exercise per day, every day. 

This exercise can include taking them for a walk or allowing them some off-leash time in a safe area, allowing them extra energetic playtime. 

To make it even more enjoyable, search out online exercises that you and your German Shepherd can do together that will benefit you both and enrich and strengthen your bond with one another.

Most people don’t realize this, but German Shepherds can be excellent frisbee dogs. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at the article linked below if you’d like to see a GSD flying through the air catching a frisbee!

Can German Shepherds Play Frisbee?

Nutritional requirements

With many large breeds, the less active and older the dog, the less a calorie intake is needed.  However, with German Shepherds, there is a minimal nutrient diet required.

The two most essential ingredients you need to look for and provide in your German Shepherd’s diet are proteins and fats.

While still growing into adulthood, German Shepherds will require a minimum of 22% protein intake. 

However, once they reach their adult years, you can cut back to a maintenance amount of 18%.

When they are puppies, it is essential to make sure that they receive 8% fat in their diet, and then cut that down to 5% when they are an adult. 

The fat will give them the support they need for their required energy.

German Shepherds are quick growers, so there will not be a need to invest in various specific puppy foods. 

In fact, within approximately six months’ time, you will be able to switch them over to an adult diet for the remainder of their life.

For more info on this, check out this German Shepherd Feeding Guide. It is literally the best guide on the internet – and we stand by this statement entirely.

Health Concerns

There was a significant amount of inbreeding in the early days of establishing a breed standard for German Shepherds. 

As a result of the inbreeding and the over-all large size of the breed, German Shepherds are prone to various health problems and concerns.

The top five health concerns related to the German Shepherd breed include:

  • Hip Dysplasia

The number one health concern as it pertains to German Shepherds is hip dysplasia. Although other large breeds are known to suffer from this condition, it is extremely common to the German Shepherd breed.

Hip Dysplasia, a genetic malformation of the canines hip joint, proves to be painful for the canine.

  • Elbow Dysplasia

Having come from the gene line of badly bred ancestors, German Shepherds are especially susceptible to this condition, which is congenital.

Much like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia affects large breed canines’ elbow joint and can range from very mild to very severe.

  • Gastric Dilatation (Bloat)

This condition usually presents in those canines with short or medium length fur.  However, the coats of a long-haired German Shepherd can often hide the issue.

When a German Shepherd consumes too much food too quickly and then exerts itself with too much physical activity.

Gas from the food will build up in the stomach, causing the canine to bloat, making it difficult to breathe. 

If not handled quickly, the German Shepherd could go into shock, which can cause a life-threatening event.

  • Epilepsy

Although epilepsy is usually associated with humans more than dogs, many German Shepherd owners have found that they may present with a seizure disorder. 

This fact is ironic because German Shepherds are often trained to detect epilepsy and other forms of seizures in humans.

  • Hemophilia

German Shepherds possess a recessive gene, linked to the breeds earlier inbreeding, that then manifested and developed into hemophilia.

Hemophilia is a condition of the blood that prevents it from clotting in the expected amount of time leading to excessive bleeding. 

Hemophilia is much more common in German Shepherds than that of other breeds.

Now is a good time to pause for a moment of cuteness – just take a look at this German Shepherd puppy and adult Labrador playing together!

Labrador Retriever Basic Facts

We’ll now provide you with some labrador basics to give you a better understanding of the breed in general so that you can see how it stacks up against a German Shepherd and how they may interact.

Temperament and Personality

As far as breeds go, Labradors are not usually known as presenting with problems related to behavior.

They are known to be a terrific pet for families but do require vigorous exercise in the form of fetch, running, or, if possible, swimming.

This particular breed needs activity, and that means more than the occasional walk here and there. 

If left confined and without enough exercise, it is then that behavior problems can present.

It is also worth noting that Labradors can often exhibit a somewhat stubborn streak even with their kind disposition.

Loyal To One Or Many?

Labradors are an extremely loyal breed that will share that loyalty with every member of the family. 

Although they are also inquisitive and will choose to say hello to anyone they meet, in the end, they will always return to their family.

However, with that said, like all breeds of canines, there is one individual that a Labrador will see as the “pack leader” and will form the strongest bond with.

The breed is known to naturally bond to his human family, and as such, will often bark to let its family know if strangers or trouble is present.

Around Children

Labradors are one of the best dogs for children – in fact, children of all ages.  They are easy-going, good-natured, and are known to take pretty much anything that comes their way in stride.

Around Strangers

Labradors have a personality of being social and accepting of most anyone they meet.

If the breed does present with any kind of behavior issues, it is typically spurred by their desire to be around humans.

Around Other Dogs In General

As a rule, Labradors are good with other canines, however, sometimes their exuberance gets the best of them. 

To help aid in this excitement, it is suggested that obedience training starts at an early age.

What To Expect When Owning A Labrador

Let’s now dive into what you can expect when owning a lab, and you will be able to begin to see the similarities and differences between these two breeds.

Trainability

Labradors grow at a somewhat rapid rate and are also highly energetic.

As such, it is best to train them young, as those as young as eight weeks old respond well to training and routines.  The older the canine gets, the more difficult it will become to teach them.

When young, it is best to teach them the basics such as sit, stay, come, and walking on a lead.  These are all necessary skills for a large breed such as Labradors.

Exercise Requirements

On average, it is suggested that a healthy Labrador adult will need a minimum of at least one hour of significant exercise each day, every day. 

If your Labrador is more laid back and relaxed, then 45 minutes a day is suggested, whereas a more energetic Labrador will require 1 ½ hours or more a day.

The exercise should be varied, and consist of play fetch, jogging alongside their human, running in a safe enclosed area, or if possible, swimming in an area of water. 

The exercise needs to consist of something more than a casual walk.

Nutritional Requirements

Because Labradors are a high energy, active breed, they will need a diet that includes a variety of foods containing the basic building blocks of eating, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

It has long been a mistaken belief that canines are only carnivores and only eat meat.  As it turns out this believe is an error, as they are, in fact, omnivores.

Labradors require much the same nutritional requirements as humans, in that they enjoy the addition of vegetables and fruits in addition to their dog food.

Health Concerns

Although the Labrador breed classifies in the working dog class of canines, they are more widely known for their loyalty and gentle, playful temperament.

Like most all breeds, Labradors have their fair share of health concerns that any owner needs to beware of.  The top five health concerns include:

  • Hip Dysplasia

Much like the other larger breeds, Labradors have a genetic predisposition to developing hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia can cause early onset arthritis signs, which commonly include limping and painfulness when the canine tries to go up and down stairs.

  • Laryngeal Paralysis

This condition occurs when those muscles in or around the larynx to become dysfunctional.

When the change occurs, there is a reduction or impairment of sufficient airflow through the dog’s larynx.

  • Arthritis

Because Labradors are a large breed of canine, and because of the constant strain on their joints, they are commonly prone to developing arthritis.

To aid in the onset development of arthritis or to minimize pain in those Labradors who present with the condition, the canine must maintain a healthy weight, achieved through both diet and exercise.

  • Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by low production of the hormones in the thyroid that control metabolism.

To effectively diagnose the condition, a blood test needs to be performed, with the common choice of treatment being the daily administering of a synthetic replacement hormone.

  • Elbow Dysplasia

This condition in Labradors is commonly present from birth, and is typically diagnosed early in life.

The condition itself is an abnormal development and growth of the canine’s elbow joint, leading to lameness and pain upon flexing the elbow, resulting in a reduction in the joint’s range of motion.

What Do German Shepherds and Labradors Have In Common?

German Shepherd and Labrador

At first glance, German Shepherds and Labradors appear to take a position on the canine range at opposite ends.  They only seem to have the shared trait of that of their height.

However, there are several other similarities that the two breeds share.

Both breeds are known for being extremely intelligent and suffering from the common health concern of hip dysplasia due to their size.

They both have an unparalleled work ethic, and they form deep, loving bonds with their humans.

They are both also known to be great additions to families and are generally happy breeds that are typically accepting of strangers.

Warning Signs That You Should Separate A German Shepherd And A Labrador

You must monitor how your German Shepherd and Labrador interact and engage with one another.  This observation will go a long way in determining how they feel about one another.

Aggression

Aggression in canines can surface with many signs.  What may look like ordinary and acceptable behavior, in the canine world, this may not be the case.

Signs to look for that may indicate aggression include one canine rolling the other over, one canine pinning the other one down, or one canine chasing another canine down when it runs and tries to hide.

Physical manifestations will occur, such as growling, a stiff ridged stance, snarling, and intense, uninterrupted staring at one another.

Arousal

An increase in arousal, usually presented as “humping”, is a form of aggression that is somewhat closely linked to an act of aggression.

When you notice this type of behavior, it is suggested that you distract the canine, as this is their way of asserting dominance.

Jealousy

Much like their human companions, canines are prone to experiencing and showing jealousy.  However, how they process the emotion is not the same.

Signs that your canine may be experiencing jealousy include the act of crowding your space, showing aggression, demanding extra attention, and in some cases backsliding on their potty training.

Bringing A New Dog Into Another Dog’s Home

If you want to add a new companion to the family dynamic, you should take a few steps to make sure that the introduction goes smoothly.

  • Choose a neutral space outside of the home to initially introduce the two canines.
  • Keep both canines leashed, but keep the leash loose, which will prevent escalating any possible tension.
  • Make the first few meetings brief in length.  These are just for an introduction, which can be achieved within a few moments.
  • Keep your body language and tone calm and reassuring.
  • Make sure to keep treats on hand, to use as both rewards and distractions.
  • Keep an eye on the canine’s body language and monitor how they engage and interact with one another.
  • Once you feel ready, introduce the new canine to the home by walking it around the house with its new companion. 

Does It Make a Difference if Both Dogs Are the Same or Different Sexes?

It is traditionally known that male canines tend to be more protective of their possessions than females do. 

Males are more affectionate throughout their lifetime than females, and are also known to be much more attentive.

Finally, male canines are known to be more motivated by food than females are.

Keep these points in mind if you are planning on keeping a Labrador and German Shepherd together, and it is also important to monitor any females in heat. If you neglect to do this, you may just wind up with a mixed breed!

What Can You Do To Make Sure That A German Shepherd And A Labrador Get Along?

There are a few things that you can do to make sure that a GSD and Labrador in the same household get along well. Let’s now take look at what these are.

Provide Adequate Space for Both Dogs

The most efficient manner to assure that a German Shepherd and a Labrador will get along in the same home is to provide both dogs with sufficient space.

With both breeds being large in stature and both being highly energetic, they will need adequate space to get their needed daily allotment of exercise.

Having a large yard for the two breeds to exercise in is crucial. Providing them with a yard will allow them to have their own “space” and not feel like they are on top of one another.

German Shepherds and Labradors are not breeds that do well in the limited space provided by most apartments. 

Unless you are prepared to be both willing and able to make an effort to take them out and assure that they get their needed daily exercise requirements, you may want to look into other breeds.

For more information on large dogs in small apartments, be sure to read the following article:

Can a German Shepherd Live in an Apartment?

Provide Separate Bowls and Feeding Times

If you observe showings of aggression between the two breeds when it comes to feeding time, attempt to prevent any altercations by placing their individual bowls several feet apart.

If this separation of food bowls does not work for some reason, you may want to feed them at separate times, ensuring that one canine does not have access to the other’s food.

Can You Feed Them The Same Food?

Because the German Shepherd has a higher metabolism rate, it will require 3-4 cups of food per day, whereas the Labrador will only require 2-3 cups.

However, it is essential to understand that Labradors are food-oriented breeds and, as such, are prone to becoming obese.

Both Dogs Need Separate Sleeping Areas

Although littermates are accustomed to sharing a sleeping area, they will want their own crate once the canine gets older.

Canines see their crate as their “safe place,” and as such, it is highly recommended that each canine in the home has its own designated crate.

Since both GSDs and Labs grow at a pretty amazing rate, it’s important that you select the proper crate for them. Make sure that you choose one that they can grow into.

One crate that we’ve tried and tested many times with great results is the iCrate from MidWest Crates. It’s super strong, and we love that it comes with a divider to accommodate your pup’s growth – it will be the first and last crate that you’ll need to buy.

You Need to Provide Separate Toys

Toys tend to be a bone of contention in the canine world.  When a canine feels that a toy is “theirs,” they will protect the toy and not want any other dogs playing with it.

To prevent any possible altercations, make sure to have a significant number of toys, and make sure that there are some in each crate.

This will give both dogs the opportunity to have their own property. Trust us – this one is important! Ignoring this advice can lead to some pretty unpleasant outcomes!

Do You Need to Separate a GSD and Lab When Not Supervised?

If you find that your German Shepherd and Labrador tend to be overly playful, which could possibly escalate to aggression, it is best that when they are not being supervised, to place them in their individual crates, along with some of their favorite toys.

This will keep both dogs calm and occupied when you are not around, and prevent any aggression issues that can lead to injury.

Getting A German Shepherd and Labrador When Puppies

While bringing a puppy into the home of an adult dog can certainly be done, if you are planning on owning these two breeds together, it can be a good idea, depending on your time and financial resources, to get a GSD and Lab when they are both puppies.

But, this will not come without its challenges. Let’s now take a look at the pros and cons of bringing a GSD and Lab puppy into your home at relatively the same time.

Pros

  • Both breeds are highly intelligent and open to trainability. This will make training them together highly effective
  • There will potentially be a lack of jealousy, as neither dog will feel that the other is intruding on his or her territory.
  • Both dogs will integrate easier and quicker when young, as opposed to adding to the home as an adult.

Cons

  • As are most puppies, both breeds are very energetic and active. This will require double the work for you – even if the work is play, and this can be exhausting!
  • Both breeds are prone to developing various health concerns as they age. This will likely lead to higher veterinarian bills for you.
  • Both breeds will need sufficient mental stimulation in order to prevent the possibility of developing boredom. Again, this comes down to taking a lot of your time to spend with your pups.

Final Thoughts

Because both of these dogs are large breeds, deciding to take on a German Shepherd and a Labrador can be quite the undertaking.

It is important that you make sure you have a lifestyle that is compatible with the time, energy, and financial costs of owning these two breeds together.

However, if you can make it work, having these two dogs together can be a great joy, and it can be a truly unique experience if you are up to the task!

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds for over 20 years now. While I've lived in many different places and traveled extensively - the places change, my dogs don't. German Shepherds have been my constant companions. I love every aspect of training them and simply just having them around. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge about German Shepherds with the world, and I encourage all future dog owners to consider one as a companion as well. Read my story here.

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