The German Shepherd is one of the most widely recognized dogs worldwide. It’s the second most popular dog breed in America, and for good reason. This pooch is smart, caring, curious and loyal.
Originally a working line dog, they need as much mental stimulation as they do physical. The types of German Shepherds are:
- West German Working Line
- DDR/East German Working Line
- Czech Working Line
- American Show Line
- Canadian Show Line
- West German Show Line
- Mixed Lines
First, this article will briefly discuss the history of German Shepherds, and then discuss each type of German Shepherd specifically.
German Shepherd Breed History
Historically, German Shepherds originated in Germany and were used for herding purposes. They would lead the flock and protect it from predators.
The development of the German Shepherd Dog breed is credited to Cavalry Captain Max Emil Friedrich von Stephanitz back in the 1890s.
Stephanitz occupied himself by experimenting with dog breeding, intending to standardize the working shepherding dogs in Germany. In 1899, a shepherd dog named Hektor Linksrhein caught his attention at a dog show for it apparently possessed all the qualities he desired.
For that reason, he purchased the dog and changed its name to Horand von Grafath. This name is now known as the first-ever registered German Shepherd Dog in history and the main breeding stud that basically founded the breed as it is known today.
To this day, the standards and requirements that Stephanitz set for the breed are recognized around the world and are still followed strictly in Germany.
Different Types of German Shepherds
Generally, there are two main types of German Shepherds: the Working Line and the Show Line. The most obvious difference between the two lines is their physical conformation but they also differ greatly in personality.
Difference between Working Line and Show Line German Shepherds
Working Line German Shepherds Generally
The working line German Shepherd is the original breed standard. The Working Line German Shepherd was developed and bred for their capacity to work and not specifically for their physical appearance.
They are highly driven, incredibly energetic, and exceptionally confident dogs that have a high tolerance for pain. All of these traits allow them to perform remarkably not just for herding but also in the police, military, and personal protection work.
To be certified working line German Shepherd dogs, the dogs have to meet very specific physical and mental characteristics set by The German Shepherd Club of German (SV), along with a few more specifications. The dogs cannot carry the gene for hip dysplasia and have to have earned the working title in Schutzhund, Herding or Police Service activities.
Working line German Shepherd dogs have exceptional standards that they must meet:
- The dog has to be eager to repeatedly perform tasks with confidence and energy.
- Are required to be loyal and show poise around strangers and children.
- They are required to have nerves of steel; they should not falter from tasks around loud noises like traffic and gunshots.
Unlike their show line counterparts, the working line is smaller and more agile, with a shorter coat so it can perform duties with more ease.
Show Lines Generally
The Show Line German Shepherd was developed specifically with the intention to refine the appearance of the breed. Their most obvious difference from the Working Line is that they have loftier, more angulated bodies and brighter colored coats.
While still considered as high-energy dogs, the Show Line German Shepherd has much lower energy levels that then Working Line counterparts. They also have a lower prey-drive, which makes them better suited for home life.
A show line German Shepherd is a better option for a first-time dog owner. Although either line would make a great family companion, working lines require experienced and knowledgeable handlers to properly train and adapt their behaviors for the home.
Working Lines Specifically
In the following, we will discuss the different working line German Shepherd Dogs:
West German Working Line
The West German Working Line continues to be bred following the original standards set by Stephanitz though the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, the first German Shepherd Dog association. They have stable tempers and excel both in the field and in the family home.
They are bred to work mainly in search and rescue teams and in law enforcement but make great family pets as well as long as they have an experienced handler. They can come in a few different colors, but generally, have lighter coats than their East German cousins.
DDR/East German Working Line
After World War II, the remaining war dogs were developed into what is known as the DDR / East German working line. They were maintained strictly by the government of East Germany. These German Shepherds were bred with a higher priority for athleticism and extraordinary work drive.
These dogs have a very distinct look because of their strict breeding. They have larger heads, darker coats, and a perfect working physique. The DDR is said to have better genetics and fewer health problems than its counterparts.
Czech Working Line
The Czech working line is not known for its temperament, but rather its extraordinary working drive. This line was bred in Czechoslovakia for border patrol and the Czech military.
This version of the breed is the least common; it has a wolfish appearance with a strong jaw and pointed ears. The breed is good for families with prior experience as well as working in law enforcement and search and rescue.
Show Lines Specifically
In the following, we will discuss the different show line German Shepherd dogs:
American/Canadian Show Line
The American / Canadian Show Line is bred specifically for their physical appearance. While they have large bodies, their faces tend to be narrower. Their most recognizable feature is their particularly angulated rear.
These lines have been bred to look a certain way without the strict focus on agility or working drive. North American breeders worked with dogs of German origin but preferred to breed them locally to maintain their body style, colors, and patterns.
Some breeders relinquish the coveted German Shepherd dog temperament for looks and a correct gait to meet AKC and CKC standards.
West German Show Line
The West German Show Line is similar to the American/Canadian lines, but their rear angulation is not as exaggerated. Additionally, this line focuses on both the appearance of the dog as well as their ability to work.
Another difference seen is in color; West German lines are preferred red with a black saddle, while AKC and CKC require a tan coat with black saddle.
Further, the West German Show Line followed a hip and health certification system while the American / Canadian Line does not.
German Shepherd Mixed Lines
Mixing show and working lines is generally frowned upon by strict working line breeders. The idea of mixing the breeds is to get the calm temperament of a show line dog and the working drive of a working line German Shepherd dog.
If bred properly, these dogs can be handled more easily than working line German Shepherd dogs, but will still have the ability to protect and work in a time of need.
Many people don’t realize that there are so many different types of German Shepherds out there. What is even more surprising is the strict and rigorous breeding that they go through to fit them into their categories.
We hope this article has given you some insight into this magnificent breed!
If you are looking to learn more about this breed check out this article on 13 things to know about German Shepherd.