5 Different Types Of German Shepherds (With Pictures): 5 GSD Variations

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Types of German Shepherd

Are you fascinated by the noble German Shepherd breed? Do you know the different types of German Shepherds that exist?

It’s no surprise that these loyal and intelligent dogs have taken the world by storm with their grace, strength, and unwavering loyalty. German Shepherds have an impressive history and have played a crucial role in society, making them one of the most beloved dog breeds worldwide.

Throughout the years, breeders have developed the German Shepherd breed into various types, each with distinct traits that set them apart. From the American Showline to the German Working and Czech-type, each type brings unique characteristics that have made it popular with dog owners worldwide.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of German Shepherds, exploring the various types and discovering the physical and personality differences that make each class unique.

Different Types Of German Shepherd Dogs

German Shepherds are one of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds in the world, and there are two distinct bloodlines within the breed: the working line and the show line.

Within these two main bloodlines, there are five different types of German Shepherds:

  1. West German Working Line German Shepherd
  2. East German Working Line German Shepherd
  3. Czech Working Line German Shepherd Dog
  4. American/ Canadian Show Line German Shepherd
  5. European/ West German Show Line German Shepherd

Difference Between Working Line & Show Line German Shepherd

The key difference between the two bloodlines lies in their purpose. The working line dogs were selectively bred for specific tasks or roles, while the show lines were bred to conform to certain appearance standards.

Working Line German Shepherd Dog

The working line consists of three subcategories:

These dogs enjoy working and are often used for protection, search and rescue, police work, and military functions.

They have a higher energy level, an intense drive to work, and are more task-oriented. And that also means they require significant investment in time, energy, and money.

In fact, people who own working-line German Shepherds must work with their dogs for 2 to 4 hours daily. So if you are a first-time owner and thinking of owning a German Shepherd, opt for a Show Line or pet quality GSD, as they are generally calmer and require less daily exercise.

When it comes to physical appearance, working-line GSDs have a more robust and straighter body structure that allows them to work for longer hours. They also tend to have a medium-length double coat that provides enhanced tolerance to varying climates.

In terms of health, the working line German Shepherds are healthier due to a more consistent gene pool with fewer inbreeding issues leading to less likelihood of genetic health problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Plus, their more physical lifestyle helps them stay healthy and fit.

Show Line German Shepherd Dog

Show-line German Shepherds were bred to meet specific physical standards for dog shows, and there are two groups of show-line GSDs:

They are generally thinner and have a slanting or sloping back and more angular hindquarters. They are also calmer, easier to handle, have a lower energy level, and require less exercise than their working-line counterparts.

Of course, they can also perform the same tasks as working line dogs but don’t expect them to be as good at it.

Health-wise, show-line GSDs tend to be predisposed to genetic health issues. So it’s crucial to purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder and provide them with proper nutrition, exercise, and care.

The 5 Types of German Shepherds

1. West German Working Line German Shepherd

The West German Working Line is renowned for exemplifying the breed’s essence, emphasizing temperament first and look second.

They are widely regarded as the closest to the first German Shepherd dog Max Von Stephanitz had developed, which possesses an alluring personality and a strong work ethic.

As with most working line German Shepherds, the West German Working Line tends to be slightly smaller than show line German Shepherds. These dogs are bred to be highly capable, have a high tolerance to pain tolerance, and excel at handling stressful situations for extended periods, making them invaluable for their field of work.

They have hardy structures and are typically recognized by their blended coat pattern, referred to as sable in color, which is the most common. However, they can also have a black and tan color or a sable and black combination.

West German working lines are known for their high energy levels and the corresponding high prey drive. This aspect makes them perfect for many different types of jobs. However, if their desire for work is unmet or they lack enough exercise and mental stimulation, they may express boredom, nervousness, and destructive behavior.

Potential owners should consider that owning a West German working line dog as a pet requires lots of commitment as they are hardworking, active, and need various games and tasks to fulfill their mental thirst. Thus, engaging in activities such as agility, nose work, hiking, running, biking, sensory-stimulating games, and providing a sense of purpose is crucial to ensure these dogs are happy and healthy.

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2. Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR)/ East German Working Line German Shepherd

East German Working Line German Shepherd

East German DDR Working lines exhibit many similarities with the West German lines and have a shared history in developing the German Shepherd dog breed. They were selectively bred with a primary focus on their strong work drive and ability to function as guard dogs.

Breeding East German DDR Working lines in the past was heavily regulated on producing large, strong dogs with clean genetics and obedient and loyal temperaments. Their aim, basically, was to create the perfect, pure lines of the German Shepherd breed.

They were a popular choice during World War II due to their strength, speed, and intelligence, which were seen as invaluable for the army. Today, these dogs are still widely valued for their unwavering devotion and protective nature, often employed as military dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and guard dogs.

East-German DDR Working Line German Shepherds tend to be slightly larger than the other four lines of GSDs and have a darker coat color, with black, sable, and black and tan being the most common. They are highly intelligent and can exhibit aggression towards strangers and other animals if not properly socialized from an early age.

Owning an East-German DDR Working Line German Shepherd is a massive responsibility, as these dogs require daily care, attention, and training. Prospective owners must also have significant knowledge of the breed, devote time to work and interact with them regularly, and have ample financial resources, considering these dogs are typically expensive to care for.

3. Czech Working Line German Shepherd Dog

Czech Working Line German Shepherd

Czech German Shepherds were initially developed during the Communist era in Czechoslovakia, where they served as border patrol dogs. After Germany’s separation and eventual reunification, the breed became more prevalent, although their popularity didn’t gain traction after the country’s reunion.

The Czech German Shepherd Dog shares a lot of physical and behavioral traits with DDR German Shepherds since that’s what they are principally bred from. And like other German Shepherds, these dogs are valued for their hard work ethic, fearlessness, and ability to learn new things quickly.

When compared to the West or East Working Line, Czech GSDs are more wolf-like in appearance, being slender and remarkably agile, and quick-footed. They are also known to have a more robust drive. In fact, they are arguably the most powerful, active, and driven working line of German Shepherds.

Although today’s Czech German Shepherds are calmer than their ancestors, they are still inherently built for work. So, if you decide to acquire a Czech GSD puppy, source them from reputable breeders who breed with appropriate temperaments.

Providing adequate mental and physical stimulation is also critical as it helps channel their energy. And of course, ongoing socialization and proper behavioral training are also necessary for this line of GSD.

4. American/ Canadian Show Line German Shepherd

American Show-line German Shepherds, commonly known as the AKC (American Kennel Club) lines, were produced for dog show competitions in the US. The show line GDSs gained popularity when one won a dog competition in the early 20th century, resulting in a surge in the number of people seeking out this type for their homes.

American show-line German Shepherds are usually black and tan. Some other colors are also available with specific breeding, but note that the AKC does not recognize many of them. Compared to their European counterparts, they are typically heavier and have a more roached back with longer hocks. The thickness of their underbelly and chest area is also more pronounced.

While German Shepherds are naturally inclined to work, the American Show Line GSDs won’t be as physically active and don’t need as much mental stimulation as the other three working line variants. The reason is that they are specifically bred for their looks rather than athleticism or work drive.

Because of that, American Show Lines are ideal for people who simply want a loyal companion without the need to engage in too much intense activity. Note, though, that they should still be taken out on regular walks or jogs and offered interactive play sessions, obedience training, and proper socialization to help keep them physically and mentally fit and well-behaved.

5. European/ West German Show Line German Shepherd

West German Show Line German Shepherd

Like American and Canadian show lines, West German show lines GSDs are bred for their look. However, more than just their physical appearance, these dogs must demonstrate their proficiency in functional tasks, proving their ability to perform tasks beyond being shown in exhibitions.

In fact, the development of West German show line GSDs followed the establishment of working lines, and every dog bred for exhibition must be capable of work. Yet, despite that, they tend to exhibit a more leisurely disposition, lending themselves better to family settings.

Compared to East German Shepherds, show-line West German GSDs have a more slanted back and don’t look as physically powerful and robust, though their back is straighter than that of American/ Canadian show lines. And the most common color for this type of German Shepherd is black and red.

European or West German show line GSDs are subjected to tests to evaluate the condition and health of their joints and hips to avoid conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia. And any undesirable attributes identified through screenings and tests will be removed from the breeding program to prevent the continuation of unfavorable traits.

And because of selective breeding, these pups are less likely to develop poor temperament-related issues. That also means if you plan to purchase a European Show Line GSD, expect to pay more for it than you would for their American Show Line counterparts.

American Show Line vs. West German Show Line German Shepherd

One main difference between American/ Canadian and West German show line GSDs is that the former is bred solely for shows. In contrast, the latter has a slightly more utilitarian leaning as they are also required to demonstrate proficiency in functional tasks.

In terms of appearance, the two variants differ mainly in their size and back. American/Canadian show lines have a heavier build, more slanted back, and appear to be larger in size. On the other hand, West German show lines are smaller with a straighter topline.

As for their temperament, American/ Canadian Show Lines tend to be more laid back and thereby better suited as family companions. Their West German cousins, however, are slightly more energetic and love to work. In fact, they are workaholic dogs who thrive on being given tasks to complete and enjoy participating in physical activities. Yes, that also means they’ll need more physical and mental stimulation.

And unfortunately, due to the sloping back of the American/ Canadian show line GSDs, you’re more likely to find dogs with hip and elbow dysplasia in this variant. While European German Shepherds are also susceptible to hip dysplasia, their straighter posture and balanced frame reduce the likelihood of developing such conditions. Meaning European/ West German show line GSDs are healthier overall.

Which Type Of German Shepherd Is Best?

It’s really difficult to determine which type of German Shepherd is best for you and your family. Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of lifestyle you have and what sort of temperament you’re looking for in a canine companion.

If you live a very active lifestyle and are looking for a dog that can go on hikes and runs with you and also plan to work with the pup, then the working lines are the way to go.

On the other hand, if you prefer having a more relaxed companion that doesn’t need as much activity or stimulation, then a show line GSD would be a more suitable choice. And of the two show lines, the American/ Canadian type would be the better option if you want a calmer and less energetic pup.

In any case, no matter which variant you choose, remember that owning a German Shepherd Dog comes with a lot of responsibility. They need ample exercise, socialization, and training to grow into well-rounded and well-behaved canines. So factor that into your decision before bringing home a GSD pup.