The 6 Different Types of German Shepherds

Looking to add a German Shepherd dog to your family but don’t know which type to go for? Or, perhaps, you’re simply curious and want to find out which dog type your German Shepherd belongs to. Either way, here are the 6 officially recognized types of German Shepherds you should know about. 

German Shepherds can be divided into two categories, the show line, and the working line. There are 6 types:

  1. West German Working Line
  2. West German Show Line
  3. American Show Line
  4. East German Working Line DDR 
  5. European Show Line 
  6. Czech Working Line

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about these 6 types. I’ll discuss their similarities and differences and also give you my recommendation for your ideal GSD type. 

The 6 Types of German Shepherds

As mentioned previously, there are 2 lines for the GSD.

Show line GSDs are bred for their looks. They’re showcased in conformation events, so aesthetics take priority over factors such as strength, attitude, and athleticism. 

Working line GSDs, on the other hand, have evolved to become stronger and more athletic over the generations. Their frequent exposure to high-stress situations also makes them far less prone to freaking out. Generally speaking, they’re able to handle their emotions better. 

Those are the general differences between the two lines. Now, let’s take a detailed look at each of the 6 types individually. 

1. West German Working Line

The West German working line is considered the most popular type of GSD. 

It is believed to be the closest to the German Shepherds originally bred by Stephanitz (the dog breeder who developed the German Shepherd breed). 

The West German Working Line GSDs are medium to large-sized dogs. They’re slightly larger than their fellows from the other working lines. However, they’re also marginally smaller than dogs from the show lines. 

As working line dogs, this type is bred with an emphasis on physical performance. West German GSDs are level-headed dogs that know how to control their temperament. They can keep their emotions and instincts in check in situations where the stakes are high. 

This makes them excellent for employment as police, search and rescue, and guard dogs. Historically, they were also used as herding dogs.

But their calm temperament isn’t a benefit only in work-related scenarios; it makes them great family pets as well, especially in households with toddlers and children. 

The West German Working GSD is also vigilant, aware, and protective and will gladly put itself in the line of fire to protect its owners. 

However, since it’s a part of the working line of GSDs, it’s naturally very energetic and has a ton of stamina to expend before getting tired.

If you choose this type, you’ll likely have to dedicate more time and energy to exercising your GSD. You’ll also have to provide him with plenty of mental stimulation. 

Pros:

  • Calm and level-headed. 
  • Well-mannered. 
  • Very receptive to training. 
  • Vigilant and protective. 
  • Physically strong, despite not being as large as the show line GSDs. 

Cons: 

  • Is energetic. Needs more frequent and intense exercise to be satisfied. 
  • Has a high prey drive. However, it’s easily kept in check with good training. 

Overall, the West German Working Line GSD is a great pet for more physically active families. 

2. West German Show Line

In contrast to its working line counterpart, the show line GSD is slightly larger. Its muscles are more evenly distributed on its frame, giving it a more elegant and presentable appearance. 

And that’s precisely what show lines are bred for. Now, unlike the American and European show lines, the West German show line GSD still retains some of the bulkiness and mass typical in working lines. 

The West German Show Line GSD is perfect for you if you want a compromise between looks and physical capability. 

Pros: 

  • Larger than your average GSD. 
  • Sleek physique and balanced muscular structure. 
  • Has a lower prey drive than working line dogs. 
  • Needs plenty of exercise, but not as much as working line dogs. 
  • Is slightly less likely to suffer from hip dysplasia and similar genetic diseases due to strict breeding practices. 
  • Offers a great balance between aesthetics and athleticism. 
See also  The Disappearing Sit

Cons: 

  • May be less motivated to engage in work-related activities, but that’s only to be expected. 
  • It is, on average, more expensive than working line GSDs. 

3. American Show Line

Like the West German Show Line, the American Show Line has been bred for several generations with a prime focus on the dog’s aesthetics. The two types share many similarities but have developed a few differences over the generations. 

Something that stands out about American Show Line GSDs is their long, fluffy coat that is of a lighter color compared to native german GSDs. However, this also means they tend to require more grooming and care to stay in peak health. 

Additionally, American Show Line GSDs have a streamlined build with a smaller head and a more lengthy body, which is generally seen as favorable in conformation shows. 

The American Show Line has a markedly lower prey drive and poorer work ethic than the work lines dogs and even the West German Show Line. Unfortunately, the American Show Line has lost much of its similarity with the original GSD breed due to lax breeding standards. 

That’s okay, though, since this type is geared towards winning conformation shows or just being friendly and beautiful pets – and American GSDs do that just fine!

As you may expect, the American Show Line GSD is the most common type in the U.S. and Canada.

Pros:

  • Aesthetic and visually pleasing appearance. Has a longer and fluffier coat than other GSDs. 
  • Slightly larger than your average GSD. Taller and longer than the average GSD. 
  • Very friendly and outgoing. 

Cons:

  • It is not as well-disciplined as the order GSD types on this list. May act based on emotion or instinct. 
  • May not maintain comfort around strangers. Is less stoic; more likely to feel nervous or anxious when in a stress-inducing situation. Less courageous and more likely to flee from a fight. 
  • Needs to be exercised thoroughly to prevent misbehavior. 
  • Needs more grooming due to its longer, more furry coat. 
  • Not as strong as working lines; therefore, it is not commonly employed in police work. 
  • May be more prone to suffering from genetic disorders due to lax breeding standards, especially if you purchase from the wrong breeder. 

4. East German Working Line DDR 

East Germany’s DDR (Deutsches Demokratische Republik) GSDs are another widely recognized dog type. They were split with their Western brethren and sistren after WW2, and, as such, are very similar to them. 

Both breeds possess a high prey drive, kept in check by a calm temperament and an ironclad work ethic. Despite being a working line and not being bred with size in mind, DDRs are notably larger than most other types.

Additionally, DDRs have a thick double coat, likely owing to the fact that they often had to work in freezing temperatures post-WW2 (and still do today). 

They’ve been military and police dogs for generations, and it shows in their strength, focus, ferocity, and relentlessness. 

Unfortunately, DDRs are so naturally geared towards police work that they usually don’t make the best family pets. Of course, there are exceptions. And I’m sure a DDR can learn to behave appropriately around children and other pets with proper training. 

However, this is a commitment you have to be ready to make before purchasing/adopting a DDR. 

They’re also very rare so you may have to go out of your way to find up for sale or adoption. 

DDR German Shepherd: Everything You Need to Know

Pros: 

  • Large and strong. Has a robust bone structure and is muscular. No wonder the DDR was so heavily employed by German law enforcement. 
  • Courageous; will protect its family. 
  • Intimidating aura. This can be a pro and a con depending on how you see it. Intruders and aggressors will think twice before approaching. 
  • Very reserved and stoic in nature. Can remain calm under stress-inducing situations. Unlikely to get nervous or anxious. 
  • Has high endurance, both physical and mental. 
  • It can tolerate cold temperatures and harsh weather due to adaptations such as its double coat. The outer coat is waterproof. 
  • Extremely strict breeding standards. Dogs with genetic disorders are not allowed to be bred. Puppies are inspected for genetic defects. Simply put, you’re unlikely to run into genetic health problems. 
See also  10 Surprising Reasons Why Your Husky is So Small (+ What To Do)

Cons: 

  • It is not the friendliest; it needs a strong and confident owner who can respect its independence. You need to be a leader. 
  • It can be aggressive towards strangers – And this is the last dog you want to face when it is angry. 
  • Has a high prey drive. Combined with its high stamina, this means you’ll have to give the DDR plenty of exercise to avoid the development of problematic behaviors. 
  • Rare. The population has dwindled since the late 90s. You may have to put in some work to find a reputable breeder. 
  • Expensive. This can be owed directly to their rarity. 

5. European Show Line

European Show Lines are cousins to American Show Lines.

They’re bred to be showcased in conformation events in Europe. Although uncommon, they’re also employed by law enforcement. 

The biggest difference between European and American Show Lines is the coat. The ones in Europe don’t have a remarkable long coat, unlike the ones in America. 

Also, European GSDs are subject to somewhat stricter breeding standards, making them comparatively less likely to suffer from congenital health defects. 

European Show Lines make excellent pets. While not intimidating and powerful like the native German working lines, they aren’t timid either. So they’re at a healthy mid-way point in terms of mental fortitude, which is ideal for a family dog. 

Pros:

  • Healthy. Is unlikely to suffer from genetic health defects due to fair breeding standards. 
  • Friendly and mild-mannered. Doesn’t get too, but it is not too reserved either. 
  • Great with children and toddlers. 
  • Has a beautiful light-colored coat and possesses the beauty typical of a show line GSD. 

Cons: 

  • Needs mental and physical stimulation to remain well-behaved.  

6. Czech Working Line

The Czech working GSDs are employed mostly as search and rescue dogs. They are, on average, smaller than the other GSD types – even the working lines. This means they are less frequently utilized in police duties that involve direct confrontation with human suspects. 

However, they are very friendly and have little to no behavioral problems. They’re very affectionate, which instantly makes them a great option if you’re a dog lover. 

Additionally, their minimalistic coat requires little grooming and maintenance, which is a nice plus. 

Pros:

  • Very affectionate towards owners. You’ll have a great time with this GSD type if you’re a dog person. 
  • Have a comparatively shorter and thinner coat that does not require much grooming to keep in healthy shape. 
  • Obedient. Czech GSDs tend to not have bad habits and can be easily trained out of them if necessary.

Cons: 

  • Like most other GSDs, they’ll need exercise and stimulation to stay well-behaved. 
  • While they still have the incredible physical prowess of a GSD, they are a bit smaller. 

Which Type of German Shepherd is Right for me?

So, now you know all about the 6 widely recognized GSD types. How do you tell which one is right for you?

Well, if you’re looking for a strong, muscular, and well-tempered dog, go with one of the German working lines. 

If you care more about looks, go with the American or European Show Line.

If you want a mix of both, you’ll probably find the West German Show Line well-suited to you. 

Also, remember, this is all relative. So, when I say, for example, that the American Show Line GSD isn’t as well disciplined as its working West German counterpart – I’m purely drawing a comparison between the two. 

American Show Lines still have great discipline by dog standards. Of course they do; they’re German Shepherds, after all!

Photo of author

Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!