If you’ve ever wondered how coyotes and German shepherds compare, you’re not alone. Both canids, these iconic animals have similarities but also key differences when it comes to size, temperament, abilities, and more.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Coyotes tend to be smaller and leaner than German shepherds. They are wild animals that avoid humans, while German shepherds are domesticated working and companion dogs that bond closely with people.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how these two canine species stack up, including:

Size and Physical Attributes

Average Height and Weight

When it comes to size, there are some notable differences between coyotes and German shepherds. Coyotes are much smaller and lighter. The average coyote reaches a height of about 30-38 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 15-46 pounds.

German shepherds are significantly bigger, reaching 22-26 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing between 49-88 pounds on average.

Build and Features

In addition to the size difference, coyotes and German shepherds have very distinct builds. Coyotes have a narrow chest, small feet, a pointed muzzle, and large, erect ears. They also have a bushy, black-tipped tail. German shepherds are more heavily built with a broader head, chest and hips.

They have medium-sized feet, a black nose, and their ears stand erect when alert. Their tail hangs down.

Coat Color Variations

Coyotes typically have thick fur that can be gray, reddish-brown or yellowish-gray. Their fur allows them to blend into their environments. German shepherds have signature black and tan colored coats, although solid black or sable coats are also seen.

White German shepherds, though less common, also occur.

Breed Height Weight
Coyote 30-38 inches 15-46 pounds
German Shepherd 22-26 inches 49-88 pounds

As the table shows, coyotes are much more petite in stature compared to the larger and stockier German shepherd breed. Knowing the key physical differences between these wild relatives can help people properly identify them.

Natural Habitat and Range

Native Regions

Coyotes are native to North and Central America. They are found throughout most of the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Coyotes have expanded their range dramatically over the past century and can now be found in nearly every U.S. state except Hawaii.

Their adaptability has allowed them to thrive from the arid deserts of the Southwest to the dense forests of the Northeast.

German shepherds originated as herding dogs in Germany. Despite the name, the breed’s ancestral homeland covers much of continental Europe. Over time, German shepherds spread with emigrants and became popular across the globe as working, herding, and companion dogs.

They can now be found worldwide in a variety of environments.

Preferred Terrain and Habitats

Coyotes inhabit diverse habitats including prairies, forests, deserts, swamps, and even urban areas. They prefer open or semi-open landscapes like pastures, agricultural areas, brushy country, and mountainous terrain.

These omnivores are highly adaptable and will make their dens anywhere that provides food, water, and shelter.

German shepherds are also quite versatile but prefer temperate climates. In hot weather, their heavy double coat can cause them to overheat. Their ideal setting offers both open areas for activity and shelters like barns or dog houses where they can retreat from the elements.

Given adequate shade and water, they adjust reasonably well to warmer regions too.

Coyote Habitats German Shepherd Habitats
  • Prairies
  • Forests
  • Deserts
  • Swamps
  • Urban areas
  • Temperate regions
  • Open country
  • Farmland
  • Mountain terrain
  • Sheltered areas

In terms of geographic range, coyotes cover more area overall in North and Central America. German shepherds, however, have gained popularity globally thanks to their versatility and excel as workers, herders, and pets in many nations worldwide.

Behavior and Temperament

Interaction With Humans

Coyotes and German shepherds have very different typical behaviors when interacting with humans. Coyotes are wild animals that generally avoid close contact with humans, while German shepherds have been bred over generations to work closely with people.

Coyotes tend to be shy and fearful of humans. They usually flee when encountering a person and avoid areas of high human activity. However, as coyotes adapt more to urban and suburban environments, some have become more tolerant of people. Attacks on humans are very rare.

Coyotes may lose their fear of humans if they learn to associate people with food sources.

In contrast, German shepherds are highly social dogs that form close bonds with human handlers and families. They are eager to please and intrinsically motivated to follow commands and complete tasks. German shepherds were originally developed to herd sheep and protect homesteads.

Today they are often trained as police dogs, service dogs, search/rescue dogs, and loving family companions.

Social Structures

Coyotes and German shepherds have dramatically different social structures.

Coyotes live in small family groups comprised of an alpha breeding pair and their young. These packs claim territories that they patrol and defend from other coyotes. They communicate using yips, barks, and howls. Coyotes practice monogamy and both parents raise the pups together.

The female dominates the male. At around 9-11 months old, coyote pups disperse to find their own territories and mates.

In contrast, German shepherds are bred to integrate into human families and mixed breed dog packs. They may display some dominance behaviors with other dogs, but ultimately submit to authority from human owners or trainers. Multiple German shepherds can live together amicably.

They communicate using a variety of barks, whines, and body language. German shepherds are loyal pets and working dogs that bond closely with their human handlers.

Communication Styles

Coyotes and German shepherds have very distinct communication styles and vocalizations.

Coyotes have a wide range of yips, barks, howls, and other sounds. Their long range howls and yips help pack members locate each other and defend territories. Short rapid barks can indicate alarm or aggression. Whines and wagging tails communicate friendliness or submission.

Coyotes also use chemical signals like urine and feces to mark the boundaries of their territories.

German shepherds communicate using various barks, whines, howls, and body language. Different barks convey anything from playfulness to warnings. They may howl along with sirens and other dogs. German shepherds are very expressive with their body language, using facial expressions, ear positions, tail wags, and postures to signal their moods.

They understand many human words and gestures when trained.

While both species communicate within their social groups, only the highly trainable German shepherd can effectively interpret human cues and words when domesticated.

Abilities and Skills

Senses and Physical Capabilities

Both coyotes and German shepherds have excellent senses that allow them to be aware of their surroundings. Their sense of smell is particularly acute – it is estimated to be 1 million times better than humans.

This powerful olfactory ability assists them in tasks such as tracking, hunting, and detecting threats.

In terms of physical capabilities, coyotes can run up to 40 mph, whereas German shepherds can run at speeds approaching 30 mph. So while the coyote may have the edge in a chase, the German shepherd is certainly no slouch.

Both species are also excellent jumpers – coyotes can clear fences over 6 feet tall, and German shepherds typically have no issue with 4-5 foot fences. Their physical dexterity assists them in hunting, evasion, and traversing varied terrain.

When it comes to eyesight, German shepherds tend to have the advantage. While coyotes have decent vision for nighttime hunting, German shepherds have better visual acuity and can identify objects clearly from over 1/4 mile away.

Their eyesight complements their renowned scenting ability, making them highly perceptive canines.

In terms of hearing, both species have excellent ears that can rotate to precisely pinpoint sounds. However, tests have shown that coyotes may have superior high frequency hearing which is advantageous for detecting faint rustles in grass and brush.

Intelligence and Trainability

Coyotes display significant cunning and cleverness which assists their survival. They are skilled problem solvers who can adapt tactics to varying situations. For example, some urban coyotes have learned to look both ways before crossing roads safely.

However, when it comes to direct trainability and human cooperation, German shepherds are clearly superior. Their high working intelligence allows them to learn numerous verbal cues, hand signals, scent detection abilities, and complex tasks.

This is why they excel as service dogs, search and rescue dogs, police and military working dogs, and more.

In fact, according to psychologist Stanley Coren’s ranking of canine intelligence, German shepherds are ranked as the 3rd most intelligent breed – they generally obey a command on the first attempt over 95% of the time.

Whereas coyotes are not domesticated and lack the genetic inclination towards human cooperation seen in dogs.

Additionally, German shepherds have a longer lifespan in captivity compared to coyotes. With proper care, German shepherds typically live 9-13 years, whereas even captive coyotes average only around 8 years. Their increased longevity allows for more thorough training over their lifespans.

Life Span and Health Issues

Average Longevity

Coyotes in the wild have an average lifespan of 6 to 8 years, while German shepherds have an average lifespan of 9 to 13 years. Here are some key differences in their longevity:

  • Coyotes face more threats in the wild from predation, diseases, and human activities like hunting. This leads to a shorter average lifespan.
  • German shepherds raised as family pets and given proper veterinary care tend to live longer than working dogs or stray dogs.
  • The largest wild coyote was recorded at 50 pounds while german shepherds average 50-90 pounds. The extra size and strength of german shepherds helps them better avoid predators.

However, coyotes in captivity can live up to 15 years with proper care and diet, showing their natural longevity when threats are removed. Overall, german shepherds tend to live longer on average due to their domesticated status, larger size, and access to veterinary care.

Common Health Problems

Coyotes and german shepherds share some common health problems due to their high energy, athletic nature.

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia – This painful joint condition can occur in both species, especially in working/active individuals.
  • Bloat – The deep chest shape in German shepherds makes them prone to deadly stomach twisting.
  • Heartworms – Mosquito-borne heartworm disease can reduce stamina in both species.

However, coyotes tend to suffer more from external parasites like mange, fleas, and ticks since they cannot receive regular preventative treatments in the wild. German shepherds are also prone to several inherited conditions rare in coyotes, like degenerative myelopathy, hemophilia, and von Willebrand disease.

Overall, the domesticated german shepherd faces more internal health issues, while the wild coyote suffers more from external parasites and trauma.

Coyote German Shepherd
More external parasites More inherited conditions
Trauma from fights, collisions, Elbow/hip dysplasia
Average 6-8 year lifespan Average 9-13 year lifespan


In the end, coyotes and German shepherds may seem quite similar on the surface as medium-large canines with pointed ears and furry tails.

But when you dig deeper into their size, natural history, temperaments, abilities and health, distinct differences emerge between these wild and domesticated species.

Hopefully this guide gave you a comprehensive overview of how coyotes and German shepherds compare. Let us know if you have any other questions!

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