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German Shepherd Types: 5 Breed Variations (With Pictures)

German Shepherds are admired for their loyalty, work ethic, and aesthetic beauty. Your reasons for buying a GSD may vary from others. Some buy the dog for its perfect canine beauty. Others would love a protective guard dog. Different types of German Shepherds excel in different areas.

The different types of German Shepherds are West German Show Line GSD, American Show Line GSD, and working line German Shepherds from West Germany, East Germany, and the Czech Republic. The show line shepherds look the best, while the working line variety has the strongest work ethic.

In this article, you will learn more about each German Shepherd type mentioned above. Among the things you’ll discover are the dogs’ looks, including color and size, breed-specific pros and cons, and whether you should buy one.

Five GSDs laying on the grass. German Shepherds Types

What Are The Different Types of German Shepherds

We can sort German Shepherds into two bloodlines, the show line, and the working line, but ultimately there are five different types of German Shepherds. These are:

  • West German Show Line
  • American Show Line
  • West German Working Line
  • East German Working Line (DDR)
  • Czech Shepherd

You can learn more about all Working Line German Shepherds here. However, if you’re more interested in Show Line GSDs, this may be the article for you, Show Line German Shepherd: Care, Training, Health & Cost.

If you’re unsure of the bloodline and type, let’s look at the show line dogs first.

Show Line German Shepherds

American Show Line German Shepherd

American Show Line German Shepherd

American Show Line shepherds, also referred to as Canadian Shepherds, come in caramel to tan color with a prominent black area usually around the dog’s back. These colors are featured heavily across the German Shepherd breed, but the exact location of tan and black may vary. 

This dog doesn’t stand out by color alone, but if you cross its color and size, you’ll be able to spot an American Show Line GSD at first glance. These dogs can grow up to 26 inches at the shoulder for males and 24 inches at the same stature for females. 

The size of American Show Line GSDs can depend on stud quality and nutrition but ranges about 2-inches below the breed maximum. In other words, American Show Line males will be between 24 and 26 inches while the females will reach 22 to 24 inches. Breeders can make a near-accurate guess of this whilst the dog is still a puppy.

The American Show Line is typically different than other types of German Shepherds found around the globe.

In addition to their large size, they are more angulated and have a thinner face than their European show line counterparts. In other words, you can tell an American Show Line due to its sloping topline.

American Show Line German Shepherds can cost between $2000 and $2500 depending on rarity, breeder competition, and stud quality. Some people visit states with more breeders to get a better price. Others find it more convenient and even wallet-friendly to go with the more expensive breeder who happens to be close by.

But before you make that commitment, you must ask yourself if the dog is ideal for you in the first place. American Show Line German Shepherds are best for those impressed by the GSDs look but don’t expect too much (work-wise) from the dog. 

It is also ideal for getting this GSD type if you cannot put up with the high-energy activity demands of other GSD varieties. American Show Lines are family dogs but can be adopted by single owners as well.

West German Show Line German Shepherd

West German Show Line German Shepherd
My dog Willow is a West German Show Line.

West German Show Line GSDs (European Show Line German Shepherds) have a significantly higher temperature hue than their American counterparts. They have black and red fur, with the red bordering on deep tan. There are hints of light brown between the reds and blacks in the dog’s coat, and they predominantly display the saddleback pattern.

They are considered the most beautiful of all the German Shepherd types. The West German Show Line also has an angulated topline; however, it is nowhere as severe as the American Show Line. I’d describe them as having a slightly arched lower back.

My German Shepherd Willow is a West German Show Line; however, we don’t show her. We chose her for a mix of temperament, color, and looks.

These dogs, too, grow up to 26 inches as males and 24 inches as females with a 2-inch buffer for the lower-end. When you see at least a 24-inch adult male GSD with prominent red and black areas and a slightly sloping back, you can classify him as a West German Show Line German Shepherd. A similar diagnosis applies to a 22-inch female adult.

Tip! Remember to keep the breed maximum in mind when getting a dog crate or accommodating his space in your home. Check out this article, 8 Best Dog Crates for German Shepherds (and Playpens).

However, when you buy the dog, you’ll get him as a puppy with little to no information about how much he will grow. That’s why it’s always a good idea to see the sire and dam beforehand, as this can help give you an indication of size and quality. Talking to a reputable breeder helps.

You can expect to pay $2000 to $2500 for a high-quality Show Line German Shepherd puppy. Seeing the stud usually inspires confidence and helps justify the price tag. It is also advisable to check with a few different breeders before making a buying decision.

West German Show Line German Shepherds are great for families as well as those interested in dog pageants. This German Shepherd is loving, protective, and eager to please but leaves a lot to be desired in stamina, compared to working bloodlines, although many can also be working dogs. Consequently, it has fewer physical activity requirements but is still pretty lively and is certainly not lazy. 

If you consider yourself mildly active, this type of German Shepherd is perfect for you as he can accompany you on your walks. European breeders have to submit their dogs for health and fitness testing and hence export more temperament-regulated dogs. Health testing includes screening for hip and elbow dysplasia.

Since Show Line dogs bred in America don’t have to go through a similar process, getting West German Show Line dogs means that the stud (or the stud that birthed him) is likely to be healthier.

Working Line German Shepherds

West German Working Line German Shepherd

West German Working Line German Shepherd
Working Line GSD (Search and Rescue)

West German Working Lines come in various colors, but you’ll find most of them to have strong, rich colors. Many can appear almost entirely black with hints of cappuccino shade closer to the mid-limb region. Black and tan colors are common.

However, this description is expansive enough to cover many working variety GSDs and shouldn’t be taken as the sole identifying indicator of West German Working Lines. In addition to being visibly darker, these dogs are also more compact than their show-line counterparts. 

Their smaller bodies make them more athletic, which means they demand more stimulation. But if you actually want a dog that can engage your family with high energy, then a Working Line GSD is perfect. This perfection also comes on a budget. 

Show Line dogs are usually more expensive than the working variety, and you can expect to purchase a West German Working Line GSD for $1500 to $1800. Some breeders release working line puppies for as little as $700, while others charge over $2000 for a similar dog. Ultimately many business factors like supply, demand, experience, reputation, and cost of doing business need to be factored in.

One might think that with working line dogs, standard best practices like visiting the stud do not apply. That’s not true. You must always ask the breeder to show you the puppy’s parents, and you must observe the breeding conditions.

The environment plays an important role not just at the breeder’s but also at home. So, before you get a West German Working Line GSD, you must ask yourself if the dog’s right for you. 

It is said that the West German Line is the closest to the first dogs produced under the breeds’ creator, Max von Stephanitz. Their strong working drive makes them into today’s working dogs used in the Police, Military, Search and Rescue, protection work, and loads more.

If you are athletic or have a teenager who is highly interested in physical fitness, then the dog’s nature aligns with your family’s lifestyle. Aside from stimulating physical activities, West German Working Line German Shepherds also crave attention and appreciation. 

This type is more suited to owners with some breed experience in general due to their strong temperament and drive.

World of Dogz

While one must be prepared to give attention to any pup one brings home, this is especially true for working line dogs that are bred to be eager to please. So before bringing this type home, make sure you are ready to make the emotional commitment. 

Finally, West German Working Line dogs have an intimidating presence, a great deterrence for intruders and even pests. So, whether you are a farmer or an investment banker, they will make efficient pets.

East German Shepherd / DDR German Shepherd

East German Shepherd Dog

East German Shepherds hail from East Germany, which once used to be a separate country called Deutsche Demokratische Republik, shortened as DDR. While you don’t have to figure out how to pronounce Demokratische or Deutsche, you need to learn how to handle these high-energy dogs. 

Read More: DDR German Shepherd: Rarity, Guarding, Protection, & More!

With cappuccino and tan swapped with sable or sober grey, East German Shepherds have a darker appearance with prominent black fur across their backs. They are smaller than Show Line GSDs but not by too much. At least height-wise, the bigger DDR Shepherds match smaller show line shepherds. 

Their backs alongside their fur color give away the difference, though. There will be no arch or slope in an East German Shepherd’s back because they were literally bred for patrol, and asymmetry between front and back limbs would be disadvantageous for such work.

Though working line German Shepherds are relatively cheaper than show line shepherds, East German GSDs might be an exception as their prices can come pretty close to the top tier show variety. 

That’s because pure DDRs are hard to find and live healthier due to genetic predisposition to the illness being ruthlessly bred out at the stud-selection stage back in the days of Deutsche Demokratische Republik. 

Aside from living longer, these dogs work better due to discipline and work readiness being factored in by the DDR’s breeding program that led to the breed’s creation.

Consequently, the dog is fit for physically fit single owners and families that might want a guard dog. Their intimidating presence alongside their devotion to not just you but your entire family makes them the perfect, practical companion.

You will need to have a lot of space at home and should expect to invest in a big dog bed, such as the Big Barker Orthopedic Bed, so the dog doesn’t suffer from joint problems. My GSD uses this bed as it’s scientifically proven to improve joint function and quality of life. You can learn more about it in my review here, Big Barker Dog Bed: An Arthritic Dog Owner Weighs In!

Despite being almost immune to most disorders and diseases that most GSDs are prone to, East German Shepherds cannot defy physics and come with the same drawbacks as any big dog: the wrong crate, crate pad, or bed can seriously affect their joints.

Czech German Shepherd

Czech Alsatian

Czech German Shepherds originate from the Czech Republic, or else they would have a different name. They are also working variety and come relatively cheaper than show line shepherds. You can learn more about them here, Czech German Shepherd (Working Drive, Training, & Care).

You might not spend a lot of dollars getting them, but you’ll spend a lot of calories keeping up with them. At first glance, they might look like any other Working Line GSD, but a few traits are sure to set them apart.

They are almost entirely black, sable, or a mix of the two and resemble DDR Shepherds in many visual traits. Their sizes are pretty similar, but it is best to get confirmation from the breeder. 

To tell DDR Shepherds apart from Czech Shepherds, you’ll need to focus on the non-black areas of the dog’s body. You’ll witness sable where there are greys in an East German GSD. Still, this isn’t an iron-clad rule.

Aside from being similar in looks, these dogs are also pretty close to DDR Shepherds in personality and maintenance demands. You will need interesting puzzles and games to keep him occupied throughout his development. 

Daily walks are a must, and you’ll have to engage in games of catch and fetch or race with your doggo to keep him occupied. You’ll need to raise the dog to be social so he doesn’t get unnecessarily spooked. A dog that cannot distinguish between normal occurrence and danger can attack people, especially strangers, even when there’s no threat.

Czech Shepherds can cost the same as DDR Shepherds, and while prices vary based on availability, you can expect to pay at least $1200 for a Czech GSD. 

But before you put in the effort to find a suitable breeder, you must be positive that a Czech GSD is the right fit.

This dog is best for those on the fence between show line shepherds and working line dogs. 

World of Dogz

While Czech GSDs fall strictly within the working line category, they are lighter than many Working Line German Shepherd varieties and are visually more appealing. 

However, the visual appeal aspect can be subjective, and looking at the stud can help you assess whether the puppy will grow into the kind of pet you have in mind.

A lot more than the looks need to be factored in when you’re selecting a dog. Czech Shepherds have incredible stamina and an intense need to be liked. This makes them the perfect cross between guard dogs and family pets. 

Like most working lines, they will love you and your family and jump to protect what they love. That also comes with a drawback: you need to teach your Czech Shepherd to differentiate between threats and norms. If what you consider normal is seen as a threat by your dog, you’ll end up with an attack incident in seemingly normal conditions.

Fortunately, Czech Shepherds are intelligent enough that if you train them right early on, they can be quite social and discern between true threats and the normal. Finally, the rule about fitness applies to this variety of German Shepherds as it does to any Working Line GSD. Czech Shepherds are full of energy and need an outlet. 

As the dog’s guardian, you need to provide that outlet in the form of games, walks, and other activities. If you have problems with productivity, then getting a Czech Shepherd might not be the right call. But if you are an active individual with enough space in your home and your heart for an eager, high-energy dog, then this breed is ideal for you.

Learn More About The Different Types of German Shepherds…

German Shepherd Types - 5 Types of German Shepherds

Which Type of German Shepherd is Right For You?

There seem to be as many categories of German Shepherds as there are actual German Shepherds. But ultimately, your choice comes down to two options: the working line dogs and the show line ones.

You’ve learned more about the specifics of each type within the working and show categories, but here are a few pros and cons to consider which type of GSD is right for you.

Pros of American and West German Show Line GSDs:

  • Considered better-looking by most people. 
  • Bigger and bulkier can deter intruders in metropolitan settings. 
  • Can enter pageants and dog shows.
  • Lower working drive, so require fewer active hours.

Cons of American and West German Show Line GSDs:

  • Can have more health complications because looks are prioritized over health inbreeding. 
  • They are more expensive because of generally higher demand.

Pros of West German Working Line GSDs, DDR Shepherds, and Czech Shepherds:

  • Higher stamina and work ethic can double as practical guards and helpers. 
  • Can be trained to be hunting partners.
  • Darker, look more intimidating (better suited for suburban settings).
  • Cheaper because people flock towards show line Shepherds.

Cons of West German Working Line GSDs, DDR Shepherds, and Czech Shepherds:

  • More suited to owners with some experience. 
  • Require more active engagement.

If you’re looking for more detail between the working and show bloodlines, check out this article, Working vs. Show Line German Shepherds: Key Differences.

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