Types of German Shepherds: A Guide to Dog Breed Variations

German Shepherd

Many Different Types of German Shepherds

Being that you are reading this article, you have probably done the research about the German Shepherd breed.

Also, you might have found that many different types of German Shepherd dogs exist and they are all considered purebred.

For some breeds, a body style, coloration, and personality determine whether they are purebred, while purebred German Shepherds may be in many different sizes, colors, coloration patterns, and body styles.

German Shepherd Show and Working Lines

German Shepherd show and working lines are considered the same breed.

But,  each is its own “line” which indicates the heritage of the dog.

What makes the types of German Shepherds different is the way these dogs were bred and for what purpose.

Technically, it can be said that seven different lines exist, there are only two general lines: show lines and working lines.

Show lines, from America, Canada, and Germany were bred for the body type, color, and coloration pattern which was considered more important than health and personality.

On the other hand, working lines are usually bred for personality and health, and achieving a specific appearance was not of the main importance.

We will provide you a list of the most recognizable types of German Shepherd dogs with certain defining features and characteristics.

American and Canadian Show Lines

American and Canadian Show Lines include those dogs that have deviated largely from their German origin.

This is due to the fact that they have been bred with other American dogs for about fifty years.

Even though this is not a requirement so as to be considered an American or Canadian show line German Shepherd, but still, breeders tend to breed from North American stock, rather than importing dogs from overseas.

That way they manage to retain a consistent body style, coloration pattern, and coloring.

The AKC and the CKC have determined strict regulations related to want these dogs should look like.

What they require is “extreme rear angulation,” known as the “flying trot” gait, as well as tan legs with a black saddle coloration.

Furthermore, these dogs should be short-haired.

Being that appearance is more important than personality,  there are breeders who do not try to maintain strong personality traits, while, there are also some of them who prefer protecting the typical breed temperament.

With recent breeding practices, it is believed that breeders are trying to eliminate the “Schutzhund” characteristics, which are related to the defense or protection dog.

These characteristics also make a German Shepherd great at working jobs and excellent as military or police dogs.

Unfortunately, breeders are only interested in making this specific breed type ideal for showing.

American-bred Pet Lines

The American pet lines are very similar to show line types.

Even though these dogs are bred as pets, they tend to have the same body type and personality traits as those bred for shows.

American-bred Pet Lines can be often found at backyard breeders instead of professionals and they will try to sell a couple of puppies for some easy money.

Of course, there will be nothing wrong with this if these breeders were responsible and adhered to appropriate breeding practices.

Our suggestion is to be careful when selecting a breeder and take a closer look at the parents of the litter, that should be confident and strong dogs.

In case fearful or nervous behavior in the parents or in the puppies is noticed, our advice is not to take it as that way you will encourage the backyard breeding.

Health and a loyal and strong personality should be the main characteristic when selecting a German Shepherd.

West German Show Lines

West German Show Lines are similar to American and Canadian show lines, due to the fact that they are bred to have a specific appearance, but the main distinction is that they are required to prove that they are as great at working as they are strong at shows.

So, many of these dogs pass the agility and obedience trials and it is always easier to breed dogs that are loyal, obedient, and intelligent, than those that have the right look.

West German Show Lines are known to have very similar body styles to the American and Canadian German Shepherd.

However, this dog should be red with a black saddle, rather than tan.

West German Working Lines

West German Working Lines are the line that is considered to be the type of dog bred by Max von Stephanitz, the founder of the German Shepherd breed.

According to Von Stephanitz, the best dogs should have the right personality and temperament first, and the right looks are of secondary importance.

So, his dogs, as well as West German Working Line dogs, are bred for their ability to work, learn, and listen, and a specific coloring or color pattern was less significant.

Nowadays, West German Working Line dogs are considered very high quality, eager to please the owner, and there is no similar breed among working animals and family pets.

They have a uniform black body, with brown legs, but specific colors and patterns can vary.

East German Working Lines

East German Working Lines date back to the 1940s and 1950s when East Germany was separated from West Germany.

As its name suggests, these dogs were not bred for their appearance.

Due to their excellent workability, in East Germany, the breeding of these dogs was heavily regulated.

The result was large, strong dogs with clean genetics.

Furthermore,  they have an obedient, loyal temperament.

The East German working lines are often darkly colored, black or sable mottled with brown.

What makes them different from dogs bred for the show is that they have more wolfish features.

Other physical characteristics typical of this line are longer back legs and a more stereotypical “dog” gait.

This German Shepherd breed type is ideal for people who want to possess a sturdy working dog, but they can also be great family pets if you provide them with the proper training.

Being that they are bred for their working drive, the future owner needs to make sure that they will have plenty of activities so as not to become bored and potentially destructive.

Czech Working Lines

Czech German Shepherds have the most wolfish appearance among all their cousins.

When coloration and body style is in question, it can be said that it varies from the show lines of American, Canada, and Germany.

Actually,  these dogs were bred specifically to patrol the Czech border before the Iron Curtain fell.

Being that one single kennel in Czechoslovakia used to create these dogs, the main focus was on agility, working drive, and trainable temperament.

Nowadays, these dogs are less widespread than the other German Shepherd types, but they are great family pets as well as excellent police department dogs that can work in search and rescue teams.

Difference Between Working Line and Show Line Types

The main and most important difference between working line and show line types is that dogs that were bred to work definitely have fewer health problems, fewer temperament issues, and more variation in color and coat type.

On the other hand, those German Shepherd dogs that are bred for show are bred to obey the rules related to their appearance.

They need to conform to a very specific set of standards and if they do not adhere, they are not used for further breeding.

The working line can look exactly the same as a show dog.

They are famous for their typical black saddle and tan body, or completely black or even completely tan coat color.

Sable is the most common color for working stock German Shepherds.

Another difference between these two lines is their temperament.

Working dogs often have more powerful personalities than show line dogs.

The main reason for this is that breeders of working types focus on energy and loyalty when selecting individuals to breed.

These dogs love working, they often demand to be near their owners, they love to learn tricks, and they are able to perform some more advanced tasks like fetching specific items or opening doors.

You should not expect that your German Shepherd is a couch potato, and their owners should not be.

Even though they tend to look aggressive, they are very gentle with children, and what is even more important, they do not get annoyed easily.

They will be patient if they get their daily exercise.

Which Line Should I Choose?

Yes, we know that this is quite a problem for future German Shepherd owners, and we need to say that what line you will choose should depend on what your German Shepherd is going to do.

Adopting a champion or the child of a champion just to be your pet is not the best option.

The dog you choose must then have the proper temperament for a family setting.

If you notice that dogs have issues with anxiety or fear, you should know that these are signs of weak genetics.

In case you want to find a dog to show, a German Shepherd from the American, Canadian, or West German show lines adopted from a reputable breeder is an excellent option.

On the other hand,  a dog that will be kept as a family pet or will be trained to do some sort of job should be from the working lines.

This is due to the fact that working line dogs are bred for their trainability, loyalty, obedience, and intelligence.

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