The famous German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world.
This is mainly because of their intelligence, loyalty, loving nature, and working abilities that make them the perfect fit for many people.
All dog parents want to pick up the best German Shepherd. However, before they can pick them, they need to understand the types of German Shepherds.
So, What are the different types of German Shepherds? Mainly, there are two types of German Shepherds. They are Working Lines and Show Line German Shepherd. Both types have different personalities, purposes, physical appearances, and health problems.
How many types of German shepherd are there?
The two main different types of German Shepherds are working and show lines.
These lines are different and stem from how the German Shepherds were bred and the purpose that they were bred for.
Show lines from America, Canada, and West Germany are bred for color, body type, and appearance while Working lines are bred for their personality and health.
While Working Lines German Shepherds are bred and trained mainly to work in law enforcement and military.
Careful breeding and intensive training cause your German Shepherd to develop their endurance, minds, and strength when they are put in a tough situation.
Types of German Shepherd dogs
American and Candian Show lines
These dogs come from German origin; however, they have been bred with American dogs over the last 50 years.
However, this isn’t a requirement for them to become show lines.
They bred them with American dogs so they don’t import them from overseas while still breeding them for the best appearance.
These types of German Shepherds were bred for show rings and showing competitions.
The personality of American and Candian show lines
American and Candian show lines dogs have a lower working drive than working dogs. Also, they are much softer and relaxed than working dogs.
Even though they make good companion dogs, they can actually have temperament issues that they pass them to their puppies.
This mainly happens because they weren’t bred properly.
The appearance and traits of American and Candian show lines
The American and Candian show lines are bred for their movement and looks. They tend to be taller, narrower, and have a lighter bone structure.
Many Americans favor the American and Candian show lines.
However, they have many health problems that don’t exist in European German Shepherds such as having a sloped “frog back” which created many problems like hip and elbow dysplasia.
Also, the American and Candian show lines are very protective; however, they don’t have the courage, stability to control their emotions.
They may sometimes react aggressively and angry when they feel afraid or defenseless.
They also tend to be less athletic and energetic than working lines.
But, they are very smart to learn quickly different commands and can track small animals. This breed type is also good in herding.
The coat of American and Candian show lines
The default color and pattern of coat in American and Candian show lines is black and light tan or cream saddles coat.
American- bred pet lines
The American-bred pet lines are related very closely to show line types. They often have the same personality traits and body type as show dogs.
Breeders often breed them but aren’t highly experienced.
They don’t follow the best breeding practices and raise the litter without responsible practices.
So, choose carefully the breeder and the puppy from the litter. It’s important that you look for confident and strong dogs.
If you find the parent’s dogs nervous and fearful, it is important to not encourage breeding.
West German show lines
West German show lines are known to be more handsome than other breed types of German Shepherd.
Like American and Canadian show lines, they are bred to have a specific appearance.
The rules of the standards of the breed are set by the Club for German Shepherd Dogs. This club was the first to coin the German Shepherd name and breed registry.
The Club for German Shepherd Dogs has a criteria for German Shepherd dogs to be in this registry; they meet strict health and temperament guidelines.
Some of the criteria include that your dog should have a working title such as being a protection dog as well as certain measurements for their hips and elbows.
The appearance of West German Show Lines
Some people think that the West German show lines have the best appearance of all the lines.
They have a really strong build although they aren’t beefy as German Shepherd working lines.
Their backs aren’t angled or sloped as the American and Candian Show lines.
Also, they have similar height and length to American and Candian Show lines.
The traits and personality of West German Show Lines
Despite their beauty, the West German Show Lines are capable of being working dogs as they are good house protectors.
They aren’t inactive as the American and Candian Show Dogs; they require lots of exercises and to be trained frequently.
West German Show lines are perfect for families and kids due to their friendly nature.
West German Shepherd Working Lines
The West German Shepherd Working Lines is the most balanced in terms of appearance, temperament, and working ability.
They are believed to be the closest representation to the original German Shepherd bred by Max Von Stephanitz.
The working lines are the total opposite of the show lines.
The working lines are bred to work in fields such as protection, guarding, law enforcement, herding, and IPO.
They are really strong and can be used as working dogs who came from West Germany like West German Show Lines dogs.
The traits and personality of West German Working Line
The West German Working Line has a very balanced and stable temperament.
They were originally bred to have a strong working ability. Their stable temperament makes them excellent as companions or working dogs.
However, they will need to have both physical and mental exercise due to their high energy.
They are highly athletic so they can perform really hard tasks.
They are bred mainly in search and rescue teams and law enforcement.
The appearance of West German Working Line
West German Working Line dogs appear to be very beautiful as well as strong to be working dogs.
Their coat comes in pure and perfect colors. Their back has a slope than other breeds.
East German Working Lines
The East German Working lines are known as DDR. These dogs resulted from World War 2 which led to their existence by the Germans.
They were used for protection, tracking, guarding and many other duties during the war.
The East German Working Lines were preserved and wouldn’t mix them with other dogs.
The government controlled the breeding process by stoping any breeding that will change their genes.
They have high criteria for breeding German Shepherds where they got to be free of hip dysplasia and other health conditions or physical imperfections.
Puppies are also inspected to make sure that they have healthy coats, bones, and no health problems.
The traits and personality of East German Working Line
They are very strong and powerful with a highly athletic body that can do tasks that requires balance and flexibility.
The East German Working Line can complete tracking tests and search while there are blinds on their eyes.
Still, they are also bred to have a balanced and pleasant temperament when they aren’t on duty.
They are highly resilient when there are harsh weather conditions because of their breeding history when they were used to secure the borders of East and West Germany.
The appearance of East German Working Line
The East German Working Line dogs have strong bones which are seen by their strong head and broad shoulders.
They need to get exercise every day so they don’t get frustrated or bored.
Because of their high standard criteria for breeding, they are very intelligent performing a variety of tasks and overall have a beautiful appearance.
They have shiny coats and well-developed bodies.
Czech Shepherd German Working Lines
After War World 2, Czechoslovakia shared a border with East Germany.
When breeding the Czech Shepherd German Working Lines, they went through strict breeding practices.
The first Czech German Shepherds were a mix between East German Working Line and Czech dogs.
As they evolved, there was more strictness in breeding practices.
These dogs were used to guard and watch over the borders.
The traits and personality of Czech Shepherd German Working Lines
The Czech Shepherd German Working Lines dogs aren’t known to have a beautiful physical appearance because they were bred for their traits and characteristics to work.
They are highly energetic and full of endurance that they can work for very long hours. Having high agility and strength, they can perform tasks easily.
The Czech Shepherd German Working Lines were bred for patrolling and performing military protection duties.
They are characterized by their extreme focus, dedication, and awareness that makes them perfect for their role.
This type of German Shepherds has the same working ability as the East German Working Lines.
The physical appearance of the Czech Shepherd German Working Lines
They are very different from Show lines dogs as they have the following appearance:
- Dark black with saddle coat that is mostly black with a little bit of tan
- A large head with thick paws and a thick chest
- A thick bone structure where there are more muscles and less fat than show lines
- They have straight backs like the East German Working Lines unlike show lines
Mixed German Shepherds come from unregulated breeding practices.
These German Shepherds aren’t accepted by breeders because dog clubs want inbreeding of German Shepherds done carefully.
The personality and traits of German Shepherd
Their traits and personality are characterized by loyalty, calm temperament, and strong bodies.
They can have other characteristics from other dogs that they were bred with. This mainly depends on the type of dogs that they were mixed with.
The appearance of mixed lines
They don’t have a standard appearance as they are mixed with other dogs so they can actually look sometime different from German Shepherds a bit.
A comparison between Show and Working line German Shepherds
Working line German Shepherds have fewer health problems than Show dogs.
The reason is that Show Line German Shepherds are bred at specific criteria that don’t look at their health; they are bred for physical appearance.
Working line German Shepherds are more aggressive and sensing to any moving people or animals that they feel are like prey.
Also, they use their mouth rather than their paws to attack someone or an animal.
This behavior is the result of the training that they were exposed to which prepared them greatly.
By exercising their minds and reactions, they can know what to do in dangerous circumstances.
The main difference between the working and show line dogs lies in their body structure.
Working Lines German Shepherds have a thicker and straight body structure making them suitable for work.
While Show Lines German Shepherds are a lot thinner and have a slant back resulting from having shorter back legs than their front ones.
Most of the time, Working Line German Shepherds have a double coat that is medium in length to tolerate different weather changes.
Different types of German Shepherd coats
Types of coat
German Shepherds can either have single or double coats. Typically, a German Shepherd has a double coat meaning they have two layers of coat.
German Shepherds with double coats have a wiry and rough top coat. This is the top layer of their coat.
Underneath this topcoat lies the undercoat which is softer and lighter in color.
These two layers of a German Shepherd’s coat regulate your dog’s body temperature, protects them from UV rays, repels water, and protect their skin.
However, there are some German Shepherds who are single coated. They are often used in the dog show ring and referred to as smooth-coated Shepherds.
If you are to look closely at single coated German Shepherds, their undercoat is very thin that they are considered to only have a single layer of coat.
Single coated German Shepherds are considered a breed fault and isn’t recognized by the AKC.
Description of the coat
If you have a German Shepherd with double coats, which is very common, they will have a thick, dense, and straight outercoat with flat hair laying close to their body.
The undercoat is thick and soft in its texture. The neck area has a longer and thicker coat compared to the rest of the body.
Because of their double coat, they can handle cold nights.
You got to take care of your German Shepherd’s coat by brushing them often because they shed constantly but not heavily expect 2 times a year during spring and fall.
The German Shepherd is available in four coat lengths:
- short with an undercoat
- medium with an undercoat
- long with an undercoat
- long without an undercoat
Short and medium hairs with undercoats are preferred for show coats. The medium hair is longer and fuller than the short coat.
The long hair with an undercoat has feathering on the ears, back of legs, and tail.
Finally, the long hair without the undercoat has the same feathering but the difference lies in that the outer coat is soft instead of being rough.
The different color variations of German Shepherds
There are many color variations for German Shepherds. These color variations make a German Shepherd look beautiful.
They have many different color variations.
Black and Tan
This is the most common color for German Shepherds. Famous German Shepherds such as Rin Tin Tin and show rings German Shepherds may have this color.
Black and tan German Shepherds have tan or cream legs, underbellies, and necks with a black saddle-shaped color extending from their neck down to their tail.
They might also have black masks on their face. This color variation is seen in American and Candian Show Line German Shepherds.
Black and tan dogs are born darker in color but become lighter as they grow. Also, some may develop a silver strip over their back.
Mostly, black and tan German Shepherds are found in working lines.
Black and Red
Show lines German Shepherds mostly have this color. This color is also suited to Show Lines German Shepherds than working dogs.
They have the same pattern as black and tan German Shepherds. However, the tan part is red instead of being tan.
Sometimes the red areas appear lighter in color looking more of a strawberry blonde color.
They still have the black saddle in their back like the black and tan variation.
Black and cream
The black and cream is a lighter variation of the black and tan German Shepherd. They will also have a black saddle on their back and a black mask on their face.
The main difference lies in that they have a cream color that is very light looking like the color of a cappuccino made with milk.
Silver German Shepherd
This is a beautiful color variation found in German Shepherds in working lines. German Shepherds with lighter colors aren’t popular in show lines.
Because show lines dog’s criteria depend on appearance, your German Shepherd must have darker colors so they can participate.
The silver German Shepherd color is believed to be a result of a recessive gene that causes them to look this way.
They are a lot like the black and tan German Shepherd in their pattern; however, the only difference is that the tan is replaced with a silver color.
Sable German Shepherds
Sable German Shepherds look similar to a gray wolf. The first German Shepherd named Horand von Grafrath had this color.
Common in working lines than in show lines dogs, the Sable German Shepherd is characterized by having multi-colored hair in each strand of hair in their coat.
The most common colors are silver, brown, black, and red. Usually, these colors are masked with the color black.
The sable patterns that they look like include black and cream, liver over cream, black over red, and silver over cream.
While they are young, it is really hard to determine the sable colored pattern that they will look like when they grow.
Gray German Shepherds
Gray German Shepherds aren’t the same as silver German Shepherds; however, this color is different and is recognized by the AKC.
Gray German Shepherds are born with blue eyes but as they grow up, their eyes turn into light brown eyes.
The German Shepherd’s gray color exists because of a dominant gene.
German Shepherds with blue or liver color rarely show dogs even though they may be purebred dogs.
However, this change in color indicates that there was breeding at a time with different colors.
Depending on the level of darkness of blue, they may participate in show rings or not. Even though, this color isn’t desirable for breeders.
White or black German Shepherds
German Shepherds can either be white or black in their color. Both white and black German Shepherds are a result of recessive genes that cause them to have this color.
Black German Shepherds are born black and remain black throughout the rest of their lives. However, they may sometimes have a white pattern over their chest.
Can a German Shepherd be a dwarf?
There is a rare condition where a German Shepherd can be born a dwarf. It’s a rare condition where your dog will remain small and cute for the rest of their lives.
The main cause of dwarfism is genetic mutations that cause your dog to appear small in size.
Dwarfism can cause a lot of pain as well as make them have a low life expectancy where they won’t live past 5 years.
Therefore, they shouldn’t be used in breeding at all.
Dog breeds similar to German Shepherd dogs
1.) King Shepherd
King Shepherd dogs are giant dogs who result from breeding a German Shepherd with Shiloh Shepherds.
Despite their large size, they are very gentle, calm, and sweet with people, small children, and pets.
Just like German Shepherds, King Shepherds have very adaptable personalities; however, they are suited for homes with fenced space.
They are high maintenance just like the German Shepherd where they need grooming and exercises.
King Shepherd has a double coat so you can expect a lot of shedding. If you have a King Shepherd, you will need to brush their coat several times per week.
They are very intelligent dogs who can easily pick up new commands and training because they are quick learners.
They are highly energetic where they will need to get a high-intensity exercise just like German Shepherds.
Also, they can get really bored when they don’t receive enough exercise that they need.
2.) Belgian Shepherd
This breed originally came from Belgium. They are excellent working dogs, especially in herding.
They are well-known for their even personalities and playfulness which makes them adorable dogs.
There are four breed variations for this breed:
Just like the German Shepherd, they have strong and muscular bodies. They are very energetic and loyal toward their loved ones.
They need to have daily exercise so they can stay fit and release their pent-up energy.
If they don’t get the exercise that they need, they will become bored and destructive in their behavior.
Like German Shepherds, they will need to get trained so they grow into well-adjusted dogs.
3.) Dutch Shepherd
The Dutch Shepherd is known for their intelligence and high trainability.
Like German Shepherds, they can serve in many different roles such as police dogs, guide dogs, and family companions.
They need an environment where they will get physically and mentally stimulated so it will be great for them when they get exercised and trained.
A major difference between them and German Shepherds is that they don’t have a lot of medical illnesses like German Shepherds.
4.) East European Shepherd
The East European Shepherd has a similar appearance to the German Shepherd breed.
They have strong muscular and strong bodies like the German Shepherd.
Like the German Shepherd, they are very intelligent and love having a job to do.
They are also highly trainable and can learn many different commands and roles.
The East European Shepherd is highly energetic and needs daily exercise.
If your German Shepherd is bored, it will lead them to unwanted behavior such as chewing, digging, and excessive barking.
Also, the East European Shepherd needs to get regular grooming so their coat doesn’t have mats.
They will also need to get bathed but not regularly so the natural oils don’t get destroyed.
A German Shepherd comes in two different types which are Working Line and Show Line German Shepherds.
Both German Shepherds have different purposes, appearances, and personalities.
German Shepherds come in different colors like black and tan, black and red, black and cream, silver, sable, gray, and blue.
Share your experience. Do you have a Working or Show Line German Shepherd?