Different Types of German Shepherds: From Working Dogs to Family Pets

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The German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. They are intelligent, loyal, and versatile working dogs. However, not all German Shepherds are alike. There are different types or “lines” of German Shepherds bred for different purposes. Here is an overview of the major types of German Shepherds:

Key Takeaways

1. There are working lines, show lines, and blended lines like West German show lines. Each is bred for different purposes.
2. Working lines have high drives and energy, needing an active home life and job. Show lines are calmer family companions.
3. Appearances differ, with working lines being leaner and show lines having a broader head and bone structure.
4. Long coat German Shepherds have longer hair but the same traits as their variety. It’s just a recessive coat gene.
5. Czech, East German, and West German lines reflect breeding origins but all types are German Shepherd Dogs.
6. Trainability, energy level, and purpose varies between lines so choose one that fits your lifestyle.
7. With proper care, socialization, training, and healthcare, all types can make wonderful companions with life spans of 10-14 years.

Working Line

Working line German Shepherds are bred for intelligence, drive, and ability to perform demanding jobs. Common jobs include police work, military work, search and rescue, service dog tasks, herding, and dog sports like Schutzhund.

  • Appearance: Leaner build, more angular features. Ears are often more erect. Coat can be a variety of colors.
  • Temperament: Confident, focused, energetic. Needs both mental and physical exercise daily. Bond closely with their handler or family.
  • Best For: Active families or owners who can provide a job or purpose, like dog sports. Not ideal for low energy households.

Show Line

Show line German Shepherds are bred for their adherence to the breed standard for showing in conformation dog shows. Their appearance reflects the ideal for the breed.

  • Appearance: Heavy bone structure, broad head, black saddle-shaped markings on back. Coat colors are tan and black.
  • Temperament: Calm, loving family companions. Less driven than working lines but still moderately active.
  • Best For: Families wanting an affectionate pet and companion. Their looks often attract people.

West German Show Line

West German show lines originate from Germany, where strict breeding practices aim to maintain working ability alongside conformation to the breed standard. They are a blend of working and show lines.

  • Appearance: Substantial bone structure with rich pigment and color. Black saddling on back.
  • Temperament: Balanced temperament suitable for work, sport, and companionship. Intelligent and trainable.
  • Best For: Families who want both an active working dog and loving companion. Also suitable for many canine jobs.

East German Working Line

East German working lines were bred for military and police work in former East Germany. They have strong work ethic, resilience, and obedience.

  • Appearance: Medium sized, athletic build. Rich black and red colors. Large blocky heads.
  • Temperament: Fearless protectors yet sensitive. Hard working and eager to please. Strong loyalty to handler.
  • Best For: Experienced owners able to give them intensive training and a job. Excel at police, military, and protection work.

Czech Working Line

Czech lines come from a long lineage of working dogs in the former Czechoslovakia, bred for temperament, trainability, and resilience.

  • Appearance: Medium to large athletic build. Rich pigment and colors, often black and tan.
  • Temperament: Confident, courageous, highly trainable. Intense focus when working. Devoted to family.
  • Best For: Owners able to properly socialize and channel their energy into dog sports or rigorous work. Excel at many working roles.

Long Coat German Shepherd

Long coated German Shepherds have longer hair growth, though the coat lies flat. The longcoat gene is recessive.

  • Appearance: Medium to long length coat up to 6 inches. Feathering on ears, legs, and tail. Otherwise same as varieties above.
  • Temperament: Same as variety they originate from. The long coat does not affect temperament.
  • Best For: Those who enjoy the beauty of the longcoat. Grooming needs are higher.

Comparison Table of Types

TypeOriginsAppearanceTemperamentBest For
Working LineGermanyLean, angularDriven, energeticActive owners/jobs
Show LineGermanyHeavier bone, broad headCalmer, lovingFamilies
West German Show LineGermanySubstantial bone, rich colorsBalanced drivesFamilies and work
East German Working LineEast GermanyAthletic, black & redHard working, loyalExperienced owners
Czech Working LineCzechoslovakiaAthletic, black & tanConfident, trainableOwners able to channel energy
Long CoatGermanyLong top & undercoatSame as varietyBeauty of longcoat

Frequently Asked Questions

Are working line German Shepherds good family pets?

Working line Shepherds can make excellent family pets but need extensive exercise, mental stimulation, and training. They bond very closely with their family when their needs are met.

What type of German Shepherd is best for novices?

Show line and West German show line Shepherds are best for novices, as they have mellower temperaments. Working lines require more experience to handle their energy and drives.

Do long coat German Shepherds shed more?

Long coats surprisingly do not shed more than other German Shepherd varieties. Their topcoat catches much of the shedding undercoat. Regular brushing helps with shedding.

Are white German Shepherds a separate breed?

White German Shepherds are not a separate breed. White coats are caused by a recessive gene mutation that can occur in standard German Shepherd breeding. They have the same temperament and abilities.

Which type of German Shepherd lives the longest?

There is little difference in lifespan between the types. With proper care, diet, exercise and vet visits, a German Shepherd of any line can live 10-14 years or more.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website TrainYourGSD.com - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.