5 Different Types of German Shepherds

It goes without saying that before you buy a dog of any breed, you must do some proper research and find out some basic information about the breed, its inherent characteristics, and the health complications associated with it. This will help you determine whether the specific dog is a good fit for you or not. Over the next few minutes, we will examine the different types of German Shepherds and why they may be a perfect fit for you and your family.

The German Shepherd is a darling to many, thanks to its social attachment to its owners and the ability to learn fast. Most people want to have a dog that can follow commands and provide companionship just like the GSD (German Shepherd Dog). That said, there are 5 different types of German Shepherds available one can choose from and they each have their own particularities.

Although they may not have major differences in DNA, they have adapted to different cultures and lifestyles inherent to specific conditions. In this respect, you need to be careful when choosing so that you do not choose a German shepherd that may not be good for your living conditions. Know that all GSDs also showcase differences in their physical appearance.

American and Canadian Show Lines


Not many people know this but the American and Canadian GSDs have deviated largely from the original German Shepherds. They have been brought up in association with other North American dogs for at least half a century and have been bred according to American preferences. Having been in North America for long, however, does not qualify the dog to be an American or Canadian show line.

The American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club offer specific requirements for physical appearances when it comes to breeding German Shepherds. North American GSDs are required to have an extremely rare angulation (flying trot gait) whereas most North American GSDs have tan legs with a black saddle coloration. Most importantly, a dog that is considered an American show line GSD should have short hair. The American and Canadian observation of the breed is more focused on physical appearance than on the dog’s traits.

When getting an American GSD, you may get a dog that has fewer characteristics of the original GSD despite the looks and general behavior. Fortunately, there are some breeders that try to maintain the original traits of the GSD. So the best thing to do before getting an American or Canadian GSD is to enquire with the breeder to know whether the dog has its inherent traits preserved or not.

West German Show Lines


The West German show lines are different from the West German Working Show lines. Just like the American and Canadian GSDs, the West German show lines are bred to have a specific appearance. However, they are also required to prove certain skills beyond reproach. With this breed, the aim is to breed dogs that show high agility and obedience. The aim is to produce dogs that are loyal, friendly, obedient, and intelligent like all Shepherds should. While most GSDs have these characters, there are some that are more stubborn than others.

It should be said that the breeders of West German Show Lines try to focus on producing breeds that show the highest standards of loyalty. In that regard, these dogs are similar to the American and Canadian GSDs in looks but they are preferred to have a red body with black saddle other than tan as it is with the American GSDs.

West German Working Lines


Max Von Stephanitz was the first breeder of German Shepherds and is credited with developing the breed and setting the standards a long time ago. The West German Working lines form the breed that is the closest representation of the dog developed by Max. As opposed to the American and West German Show Lines, these dogs are focused on traits rather than looks. The dogs should have a stable temperament, strong drive, and unmatched working ability. As such, the breed is a combination of a good work ethic and obedience.

You should also understand that the West German Working Lines are characterized by a calmer demeanor and complete colors. The black-colored West German is a bit sloped as compared to the DRR working lines. One thing with the West German breed is that they are a bit more vulnerable to health complications. In the past, health standards were not very strict, which explains why some of the dogs may have health issues. That said, they still retain roughly the same genes as their fellow counterparts.

As their name suggests, the West German GSDs are bred for work. They excel at guarding, protection, and search rescue operations as their American counterparts. They are also very intelligent and quick to follow commands. Although the West German GSDs have a strong drive to work, they know when it is time to calm down. In this respect, know that you should be prepared to provide a lot of physical activities for your Shepherd. Furthermore, your GSD will require attention and will need some work.

East German DDR Working Lines


Not many people know this but the Berlin Wall actually helped preserve the DDR lineage that still exists today. The DDR/East German line was originally produced for military purposes, most other aspects of society were affected as well. The insular nature of East Germany allowed for the breeding of the GSD to be controlled by the government — thus helping in breeding and secluding the breed from the outside world.

These dogs have very high breed standards compared to the other types of GSDs. They are characterized by their resilient bodies, strong bones, large, and extremely broad shoulders. Interestingly enough, the DDR/East German dogs were not allowed to crossbreed, a standard that remains valid to this day. Only a chosen few dogs that are free of hip dysplasia are allowed to breed and each puppy must be inspected to ensure that it has a proper bone structure, coat quality, and temperament.

The DDR German Shepherd puppies must also undertake other tests including scaling a high wall of 1.5 to 1.8 meters, walking on a balance beam, completing tracking tests, searching blinds among others. This type of GSD is also bred to withstand tough weather and long working days. This is because their main task was patrolling borders while also provided tracking services. Just like the West show lines, the DDR has strong endurance and athleticism. Even so, they are also more defensive and aggressive.

Czech Working Lines


The Czech GSDs are the most distinct among all types of German Shepherds. They are wolfish in body type with coloration that varies distinctly from both the North American and West German dogs. The Czech GSDs were bred to patrol the Czech borders long before the iron gate fell. Because the Czech GSDs were bred with the aim of attaining agility, working drive, and training ease, they are among the most active GSDs but are also quick to learn and obey.

If you are looking for a dog that can offer guard services but also obey your orders the Czech GSD will surely suit you. The Czech working lines may be rarer than the other types of German Shepherds but they still make great pets and are excellent police dogs. You can get a Czech GSD from a reputable breeder in Europe and some parts of North America. However, make sure that you buy a breed that has its original traits preserved because many breeders, especially in North America, tend to do away with the dog’s original traits.

Which Line Should I Choose?

The line you choose depends entirely on the purpose you wish your dog to serve. In this respect, you should only adopt a dog that fits into your family setting. Bear in mind that some GSD lines do not have a good temperament for a family setting. The DDR, for instance, are military dogs and are very aggressive. They may not be good at home and may hurt your children or other pets at home. If you are looking for a pet, stick to dogs that are less aggressive and crave attention like the American and Canadian lines. You should also look into the health and environmental requirements of each line since some breeds are prone to diseases while others are not good for some environments.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a German Shepherd that will work as a guard or for some sort of job, you should go for the working lines. The working lines are good for ranchers who need guard dogs to help drive animals. They are also good for police departments and military departments that are in need of search dogs and guard dogs. All the working lines are bred for loyalty, work drive, and trainability. This means that you can train them to do pretty much anything and they will be happy to work for you whenever prompted to do so.

It is also possible to get a show line that is hardworking and trainable just as the working lines. The most important aspect is ensuring that you get the right breeder and have a look at the puppies’ family tree. As such, you should only buy a puppy that has had fewer health complications along its lineage. When choosing the breeder, try finding one that gives the dog’s health a priority by providing the ideal living conditions suitable for the upbringing of a GSD. This means that you must visit the breeder’s premises so that you can observe the environment under which the puppies are bred.


Know that there are five main types of German Shepherds and each line has its advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking for a family pet, it is advisable to choose among the show lines since they are more cultured towards a family setting. On the other hand, if you need a guard dog or a search dog, it is advisable to opt for the working lines. All in all, it usually comes down not only to personal choice but necessity as I’m sure many of you would agree.

Caroline Jones

Caroline has been a dog lover since she was only 6 years old, when her parents got her a rescue Boxer. Since then her love for dogs has lead her to study Dog Behavior & Welfare. She now educates people on how to properly raise and care for dogs, through her online site, Bark Friend. Now, she's a proud owner of a beautiful German Shepherd.

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