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15 Hard-Working Native German Dog Breeds That Will Capture Your Heart

From petite Pomeranians to large Leonbergers, most German dog breeds have a reputation for their intelligence, persistence, and ability to do a job efficiently.
By Linley Sanders
April 01, 2021

From beloved German shepherds and Great Danes to intelligent poodles and dachshunds, Germany has provided the United States with many of its favorite dog breeds. In fact, half of America's top 10 most popular dog breeds originated in Germany.

It's easy to understand why: if you are looking for a hard-working and highly intelligent dog, then German dog breeds are hard to beat. Germans historically bred dogs with a dedicated and efficient work ethic in order to serve a specific function in society.

Jerry Klein, DVM, and the chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club, says that German dogs were owned by people across socioeconomic backgrounds, from farmers and peasants to the wealthy. The dogs were often bred to fill a need in German society—big dogs were used for hunting bears or working as guard dogs, while smaller dogs were employed to retrieve waterfowl or work as exterminators.

"The German dogs encompassed all parts of German society and what was needed: work and function," Klein says. "The German dogs all had to do something, and that may be the common thread between an Affenpinscher and a dachshund and a German shepherd or a Rottweiler. They had to do a job, and they had to have abilities. Function is behind all of these breeds."

Brown and white pointer tilts head to the left in close-up
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German Shorthaired Pointer

In the late 1800s, Germans wanted to create a wonder pup with a natural instinct for multiple hunting activities. After generations of breeding, the German shorthaired pointer emerged as the ultimate family companion with a multitude of innate gifts. The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America says the GSP (as they are affectionately called for short) was successfully bred to "point, retrieve, trail wounded game, hunt both large and small game" across challenging terrains.

This multitasking field dog was recognized by the AKC in 1930. Today, the German shorthair is praised as one of the best dog breeds for hunting and tracking, as well as an ideal dog for owners who love the great outdoors. As an energetic and intelligent dog, the GSP is perpetually ready to explore life alongside their families. Their affectionate and eager-to-please persona keeps them consistently among the top dog breeds in America.

Great Dane with her puppy
Great Dane puppies grow fast during the first couple years of life. So to protect his developing bones, don't start regularly exercising your puppy until he's at least 18 months old.
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Great Dane

Though the Great Dane is seemingly named for Denmark, the breed actually originated in Germany. The Great Dane, which is also called a German Mastiff, is lovingly called a "gentle giant" because of the dog's extra-large size. But, don't let their reputation as one of the world's largest canines intimidate you. Great Danes make excellent family dogs because of their big hearts and friendly attitudes.

While the Great Dane was originally bred to hunt bears and wild boars, they eventually became guard dogs for nobility. The aristocratic lifestyle suited Great Danes, and they earned a reputation for being loving companion dogs in addition to fierce protectors. The AKC recognized the Great Dane in 1887, and today it remains the 15th most popular breed in the country.

black dachshund standing in the forest
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Dachshund

The small but mighty dachshund was renowned in the 17th century for their talent of hunting badgers across Germany. In fact, their name in German translates to "badger hunter." They were bred to tunnel into badger dens and push out their prey, according to the American Kennel Club. The dachshund's hearty bark—which owners know well—was vital to alerting their hunting partner above-ground to what they found.

This affectionately named "weiner dog" was introduced to America at the end of the 19th century and wasted no time securing its place as a beloved household pet. Dachshunds have independent personalities and are naturally quite energetic, but these small dogs also make excellent apartment companions to those who can keep up with their spunky attitudes. The dachshund rounds out the top 10 list of America's most desired pups and are known for living a long time—up to 16 years!

German shepherd laws on dock by a lake
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German Shepherd

American pet owners can thank Germany for one of our country's most popular dogs: the German shepherd. In the late 1800s, the original German shepherd was employed as a sheep herder (as the breed name would suggest). His owner, Captain Max von Stephanitz, relied on the motto "utility and intelligence," and he developed the namesake Deutschland dog with that priority in mind. Stephanitz strove to create an intelligent working dog, and his focus led to the German shepherd being utilized as a military dog and police dog throughout history.

The German shepherd was first exhibited in America in 1907, according to the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. It became the 60th breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1908. Today, the German shepherd's friendly nature, patience, and intelligence makes them a top choice for families and active dog owners.

light brown standard poodle standing on path in woods
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Standard Poodle

There is a reason why poodles are crossbred with so many breeds: they are low-shedding, highly intelligent, and easily trainable. But, before the standard poodle became widely desired across America for their appearance and demeanor, they worked as duck retrieving dogs in Germany. Their name is taken from the German word "pudelin," which references their love for splashing in water

In 1933, three standard poodles competed in the American Kennel Club's first obedience test. The poodles were beat out by a Labrador retriever, but the event helped showcase their intelligence on a national level. Today, poodles are known as smart, eager-to-please dogs who make a wonderful addition to a calm household. It comes as no surprise that they earn 6th place on the nation's favorite dog list. 

Orange pomeranian smiles in a close up on a grey brick road
Poms are born extroverts. Their outgoing personalities mean they mesh well with nearly any family.
| Credit: golubka57 / Adobe Stock

Pomeranian

The petite Pomeranian actually descended from larger sled dogs and guard dogs—and they have fierce personalities that match their ancestors. The Pomeranian's name comes from the region of the world where they originated, Pomerania, which is now part of Poland and western Germany. In the late 1800s, the small dog became known as a regal companion to royalty, including Queen Charlotte and Queen Victoria.

Since the AKC's recognition of the tiny Pomeranian in 1900, the dog has only grown as a sought-after canine companion in the U.S. (taking the 23rd spot in overall popularity). These sweet pups are emotionally intelligent and quick-to-learn, making them loving lap dogs or emotional support animals. The Pomeranian is also inquisitive and energetic, so owners will want to make sure they stay busy with training and bonding activities.

black Affenpinscher dog on the grass
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Affenpinscher

These former mice and rat hunters are tiny but ferocious. The incredibly intelligent affenpinscher worked in Germany as an eager pest exterminator during the 1600s, according to the American Kennel Club. Despite their hunting prowess, they were also known as loving companions to the families they served. Perhaps a nod to their cuddly nature (and round, fuzzy faces), the name affenpinscher in German means "monkey dog."

The tiny affenpinscher was recognized by the AKC in 1936. They are relatively unknown as a breed in America today (they rank 163 out of 195 in popularity), but these loyal little dogs are great with children and families. Prospective owners of an affenpinscher will love their lifelong curiosity, profound intelligence, and bold attitudes.

Profile shot of adult rottweiler
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Rottweiler

As the Rottweiler breed developed in Germany, they were nicknamed "Rottweiler Metzgerhund," which translates to the "Butcher's dog of Rottweil." Fittingly, their primary career was to work as protectors and herders of cattle. The Rottweiler's reputation for being hardworking and intelligent continued when they arrived in the U.S., and they are lauded for search and rescue work at the site of terrorism attacks in Oklahoma City and at the World Trade Center.

Today, the Rottweiler is the 8th most popular dog in America. They are historically guard dogs, and they have a reputation to this day for their protective and powerful presence. Prospective owners should socialize and dedicate time to positive reinforcement training with these eager-to-please and highly intelligent dogs from a young age.

Leonberger dog walks across and
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Leonberger

You cannot miss a Leonberger—partially because of their larger-than-life personalities, but also their big size. These 170-pound working dogs were bred in 19th-century Germany as the ultimate companion to European royalty, but their fancy origins did not interrupt functionality. History tells us Leonbergers may have rubbed elbows with the royals, but they also did their part with the working class folk, as well. The gentle giants were used as working dogs on farms or waterfronts, and have a particular knack for cart-pulling.

These extra-large companions were only recognized by the AKC in 2010, but they already have a devoted following (ranking 98 out of 195). Leonbergers have a lot of love to share, and they crave social interaction with people and other animals. These big boys are wonderful for families who have plenty of room in their home (and heart!).

full length shot of adult weimaraner splashing through water
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Weimaraner

These iconic silver-gray Weimaraners originally worked as hunting companions to pursue bears and mountain lions in 19th century Germany, but eventually evolved into prized tracking dogs. These intelligent pups love to stay close to their humans—ideally ones who have the time and energy to keep them busy with training and enrichment activities.

Though the Weimaraner was recognized by the AKC in 1943, they did not reach peak popularity in the U.S. until President Dwight Eisenhower brought his own Weimaraner into the White House. Other celebrity owners, including Grace Kelly, surely helped the Weimaraner secure it's modern popularity as the nation's 36th most popular dog.

American Eskimo dog on the beach
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American Eskimo

Don't let the "American" name fool you—the American Eskimo actually arrived in the United States after German immigrants brought these pups over in the early 1800s. The fluffy white dogs originally worked on farms, but eventually became a featured act in traveling circuses. They have the signature double coat that is well-known in similar German breeds, including the German spitz and Pomeranian.

Despite their long history in America, the American Eskimo was only recognized by the AKC in 1995. These bright dogs are recognized as one of the easiest to train and they love high-activity environments, which makes them perfect additions to active families.

Medium shot portrait of a Doberman Pinscher wearing a red collar
Bred to be obedient, loyal companions, Dobermans are often vigilant. They form deep bonds with their owners and are commonly called "Velcro dogs."
| Credit: everydoghasastory / Shutterstock

Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman pinscher was once known as a personal guard to a tax collector in Germany. They often carry a reputation for being "velcro dogs" who are glued to their owner's side, so behavioral training is often needed to prevent separation anxiety when their humans are away.

Prospective pet owners could not ask for a more devoted best friend than the Doberman pinscher. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1908, and today he regularly earns a spot in the country's top 20 most popular dogs.

Giant Schnauzer guard dog
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Giant Schnauzer

There is a Schnauzer for every size: miniature, standard, and giant. Like many of its German companions, the giant Schnauzer is loved for its intelligence and work ethic. These dogs were bred in the Bavarian Alps in the mid-1800s, where they worked herding cattle and guarding livestock. Eventually they transitioned to becoming police and military dogs in Europe.

Giant Schnauzers made their way to America around the 1920s, where they eventually earned a reputation for being energetic yet trainable. These dogs need frequent stimulation and often thrive as the only animal in a household. Despite the need for dedicated training, experienced dog owners who are willing to put in the work will fall in love with their signature Schnauzer beards, eyebrows, and super-smart brains.

Horizontal portrait of white blonde longhaired German Spitz dog
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Przemysław Iciak / Getty

German Spitz

The German spitz is regarded as a larger version of its cousin, the Pomeranian. While the Pomeranian weighs less than eight pounds, the German spitz tends to weigh between 24 to 26 pounds. There are also three sizes of the German spitz: small, medium, and large. They all share the fluffy double-coat that is well-recognized in Pomeranians across America.

Historically, the German spitz was relied upon for its keen hearing, and they served as watchdogs on boats. Today, the German spitz is considered a devoted companion dog with a low prey drive—though their high-pitched barks are certain to give mail-delivery workers and any visitors a surprise.

Brown and white Munsterlander dog happily sits on hilltop against overcast sky, shot from below
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Small Münsterländer

The Small Münsterländer originated as a hunting and retrieving dog in Germany, but they soon developed into a loving family companion. These intelligent dogs are known for their love of water and persistence in completing tasks. These well-tempered pups need regular engagement to be part of their everyday routine, so they make ideal pets for aspiring dog trainers or people with an active lifestyle.

Though the Small Münsterländer has the word "small" in their name, they are hardly a toy breed. The Small Münsterländer is considered more of a medium-sized dog, weighing between 40 to 60 pounds. And despite what many assume, they are actually unrelated to the Large Münsterländer—a completely different breed that happens to originate from the same hometown of Münster, Germany.