Undoubtedly, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is one of the most desired breeds out there.
Its intelligence, usefulness, and overall charm can surely woo anyone. But did you know there are many types of German Shepherd Dogs?
All in all, there are 14 types of German Shepherds according to their bloodlines, coats, and sizes:
- West German Working Line German Shepherd
- East German DDR Working Line German Shepherd
- Czech Working Line German Shepherd
- American Show Line German Shepherd
- European Show Line German Shepherd
- Saddle Back German Shepherd
- Solid Color German Shepherd
- Sable German Shepherd
- Panda German Shepherd
- White German Shepherd
- Short-haired German Shepherd
- Long-haired German Shepherd
- Dwarf German Shepherd
- Giant German Shepherd
Many fans of this breed may already know of these types, while some could still be in the dark due to confusion or lack of information. Even if you’re just starting to learn about the breed, you’ve come to the right place.
If you want to learn more about them, read along as we introduce each in detail.
The 5 Types of German Shepherds Based on Bloodlines
German Shepherd bloodlines are split into two groups: the working line and the show line. There are a total of five types in this category. These lineages indicate differences in a dog’s kind of breeding and their heritage.
West German Working Line German Shepherd
West German working line German Shepherds are considered the most similar to the original dogs bred by Max Von Stephanitz, the founder of the breed itself.
Stephanitz firmly believed that a dog’s abilities and temperament come first, and looks are just a bonus.
This means that rather than its appearance, West German working lines are specifically bred, focusing on its ability to listen, learn, and work.
Like any working dog, they are designed to have high pain tolerance, energy, and prey drive. West German working lines are considered high-quality due to their versatility. They can be great family pets and guard dogs.
Being hard workers, they also serve as search and rescue dogs, military dogs, service dogs, and police dogs. Physically, they are quite smaller and have less obvious, slightly sloping backs than their show lines counterparts.
This line from West Germany commonly has uniform black bodies, but they can also come in colors like black and sable or black and tan.
When the Berlin Wall was built, Germany was split into East and West, which led to the development of East German DDR working lines.
East German DDR Working Line German Shepherd
These GSDs were bred for military purposes under strict regulations in East Germany to produce high-quality dogs. East German DDR working lines were developed to endure long days of work and extreme weather conditions.
When it comes to their size, these GSDs are smaller than West German working lines. Meanwhile, they have more powerful heads and shoulders.
East German Shepherds don’t have a slope or arch on their backs since these working dogs were bred for patrol, and such asymmetrical structure could be a disadvantage.
Dogs from this line come in darker coats which are usually sable or brown-mottled.
Temperament-wise, East German working line dogs are loyal, obedient, and sweet. With the right training, they can be excellent family dogs for experienced owners.
Just remember that they need activities to keep them occupied; otherwise, they can be potentially destructive.
Czech Working Line German Shepherd
Compared to other German Shepherd breeds, Czech working lines are the most wolf-like. Like East German working lines, they were bred with strict standards, specifically to patrol the borders of Czechoslovakia.
Czech German Shepherds have an intense working drive. Along with this, they are agile, highly trainable, obedient, and protective. These traits make a German Shepherd from this line a good family dog, even for multi-pet homes.
However, they are excellent guard dogs, too. They are often recruited by search and rescue teams and other groups that would greatly benefit from their abilities and intelligence.
In terms of appearance, Czech working lines have less noticeable sloping backs, broad shoulders, and strong jaws. They are also the smallest in the working line types.
The coat colors of this type are often dark-colored, usually ranging from sable to black.
Take a look at these three types of working-line German Shepherds in the video below:
American Show Line German Shepherd
Sometimes referred to as Canadian show lines, American show line German Shepherds are a combination of many bloodlines. They are the most common type of German Shepherd, and they are also known as AKC lines.
Their breeding is focused on appearance, as they were mainly used to compete in dog shows. American show line dogs have a “flying trot” gait and extreme rear angulation, features that set standards in conformation shows.
Moreover, they are taller, longer, and have shorter muzzles and heads than other GSD types. American show lines often come in lighter colors, including light tan and cream. Also, their backs have a prominent black marking.
While trying to reach perfection in their looks, their health and personality are often put on the back burner. Backyard breeding often results in these dogs’ undesirable traits and health issues, most commonly hip dysplasia.
This also stems from energy and drive; they are more relaxed than the working lines. That said, a dog from this line would be a great family pet. They are obedient and eager to please, loyal, and good trackers and herders.
European Show Line German Shepherd
Among the different breed variations of German Shepherds, the European show line, also known as the West German show line, is hailed the most handsome. They are stockier and shorter than American show lines.
Their heads are also more masculine, and their backs are straighter. Breeding this line is strictly regulated to prevent excessive sloping, which usually results in hip dysplasia.
Unlike its American counterpart, the goal of European show lines is to produce a well-rounded dog, health-, temperament-, and conformation-wise.
European show line German Shepherd dogs generally have rich colors of red and black. Except for white, other colors are allowed in the standard. They also have lighter pigment than their working lines counterparts.
Although they have working dog blood in them, they are still slower-paced. Due to this, they are more suitable as family pets.
Overall, European or West German show line German Shepherds are healthy, well-tempered, and potential conformation champions.
The 5 Types of German Shepherds Based on Coat Colors
Some breed variations of German Shepherds fall under the coat color category. From the most common to the rarest, we will cover in this section the five different types of German Shepherds according to their coat colors.
Saddle Back German Shepherd
Saddle back German Shepherds are the most recognized and common among this breed. Their distinct markings and pattern set them apart from other types.
Their coats have two colors, which are usually black with a combination of red or tan. Also called the saddle coat German Shepherd, “saddle” refers to the black patch of fur on their back, resembling the shape of a saddle on a horse.
Others refer to this pattern as “blanket” as well, as it looks like a blanket put on their backs.
When it comes to color standards, although any color is acceptable, richer hues are preferred. Pale and washed-out colors such as liver and blue are severe faults in the German Shepherd breed.
Solid Color German Shepherd
Solid color German Shepherds that mostly come in black, white, lavender, or blue are less common than saddle-back German Shepherds. Contrary to what some people think, these pups are not considered a mixed breed.
They are recognized by the American Kennel Club as purebred German Shepherds. Accents of powdered blue color are a possibility in the solid color German Shepherd dog, but this does not qualify as a solid color.
In competitions, pigments as such result in losing points or rejection. While black German Shepherds are accepted, they are also often declared as defects.
On the other hand, white German Shepherds are immediately disqualified.
Sable German Shepherd
Sable German Shepherds are essentially agouti, or a wild color, in technical terms. This color pattern does not appear in patches but rather in various multicolor hairs spread all over their body.
It is a gene commonly found in wild animals like wolves. Like other color types of German Shepherd, having sable-patterned fur does not affect a dog’s temperament, as they still come from the same breed.
All it does is make Sable German Shepherds unique and beautiful through banded fur. A banded fur means each hair strand is multi-colored, coming in colors usually seen in a normal German Shepherd.
It will have two or three different pigments with black tips. They are born with lighter-toned hair, which gets darker as they age. Their fur changes color a couple of times before they reach adulthood.
Light and dark sable colors, bi-colored, and black sable are the sable German Shepherd types accepted by kennel clubs, including the American Kennel Club.
Panda German Shepherd
Otherwise known as piebald German Shepherds, panda German Shepherds have a pattern of unpigmented spots on a pigmented background. They also have black markings around the eyes, hence the “panda” in their name.
However, panda German Shepherds are not just black and white in color, unlike pandas. Most of them are born with a third color in their coat, which is usually tan. Due to this, they are sometimes referred to as tricolor German Shepherds.
Currently, this type of German Shepherd is not acceptable in various kennel clubs due to its white markings. It is tagged as a serious fault in conformation shows.
For this reason, panda German Shepherds are considered rare since breeders shy away from them.
White German Shepherd
The white German Shepherd is part of the solid color type. They are not different from the standard German Shepherd, except that they have the recessive white coat gene.
To set things straight, white German Shepherds do not have albinism. Albino dogs suffer from a lack of pigmentation. Their skin and nose are usually pink. They are rare and highly likely to develop health issues.
Meanwhile, white German Shepherds are generally healthy pups with dark or blue eyes and black noses.
While white GSDs are recognized in the breed standards, they are automatically disqualified from competitions. On the other hand, the United Kennel Club recognizes them as a separate breed.
Other Types of German Shepherds
Apart from show lines, working lines, and coat color types of the German Shepherd Dog breed, there are four other types that do not belong to these groups.
They are short-haired, long-haired, dwarf, and giant German Shepherds.
Short-haired German Shepherd
Basically, the other term for the standard German Shepherd, the short-haired German Shepherd, sets the breed standard.
These dogs have about one-inch-long double coats. This “normal-length coat” is brought about by a dominant gene, and its texture is coarse and dense.
Their double coats have dense guard coats and thick undercoats, which grow somewhat longer around their legs and neck. They serve as protection from extreme weather conditions.
Famous as they are, these pups are not rare at all. Having met the breed standards, many breeders opt to raise short-haired German Shepherds.
They are accepted by kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.
Functionality-wise, short-haired German Shepherds are all-around pups. They can serve as working dogs, show dogs, and companion dogs. But they can come off as less friendly whenever their working dog streak kicks in.
Long-haired German Shepherd
The less common counterpart of the short-haired variety, the long-haired German Shepherd, has a long, silky, single-layered coat. It is at least two inches long.
The coat near their belly hangs closer to the ground when standing on all fours. A long-haired German Shepherd dog is a product of a recessive gene.
That is why the short-haired type is more commonly seen since its dominant gene has a higher chance of surfacing. Only 10% to 15% of German Shepherds are long-haired.
Unfortunately, both the AKC and UKC consider long coats as serious faults. As a result, long-haired German Shepherd breeders are as rare as these dogs come.
Some might even be priced higher than the more marketable short-haired variety. Even though this is the case, long-haired and short-haired German Shepherds do not differ much in personality.
However, long-haired GSDs are a bit friendlier than short-haired ones because they have lower working drives. Other than that, they are just as smart, loyal, and affectionate.
Dwarf German Shepherd
Dwarfism, a condition caused by a faulty pituitary gland, can affect other dog breeds as well. Dwarf German Shepherds may be cute, but their health is compromised. GSDs suffering from dwarfism could have shorter lifespans.
Affecting 20% of the German Shepherd population, dwarfism is associated with poor breeding practices by puppy mills or backyard breeders.
Dwarf German Shepherd Dogs are common in their litter because they care more about profit than animal welfare.
Despite being smaller than a regular German Shepherd, dwarf German Shepherds are purebred. Given this, they should not be mistaken for miniature German Shepherds, which are GSDs mixed with other breeds.
Typically, a German Shepherd with dwarfism reaches a height ranging from 10 to 20 inches, and weighing from 30 to 55 pounds. Most of them stop growing around 2 to 3 months, and only a few of them live past five years.
Apart from having various health issues, hormonal abnormalities brought by dwarfism also result in them having temperamental issues. They are at a high risk of developing severe separation anxiety and unnecessary aggression.
Giant German Shepherd
From the name itself, giant German Shepherds are a larger type of this breed. They are products of crossbreeding other large dog breeds with the German Shepherd. These dogs could weigh up to more than 100 pounds.
While the height of a standard German Shepherd ranges from 24 to 26 inches, giant German Shepherds stand from 25 to 29 inches. The Giant German Shepherd breed has two other names — King Shepherd and Shiloh Shepherd.
The Shiloh Shepherd is a mix between the German Shepherd and a large breed like the Alaskan Malamute. Meanwhile, the King Shepherd is a combination of the German Shepherd and Shiloh Shepherd.
These dogs were crossbred to produce pups that are larger than the German Shepherd. The aim is to have its appearance and characteristics but also have fewer health issues and better temperament.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Breed of German Shepherd?
If there is one breed that stands out among the different types of German Shepherds, that would be the West German working line German Shepherd. They are known to be calm around other animals and new people.
Because they are more social than the other types of German Shepherds, they make great pets. Their easygoing nature makes families often look for their type. Despite this, they would still excel more in the working dog field.
That said, all German Shepherd dogs have their own specialty. Regardless of their type, these dogs shared the same history at one point in time.
In fact, all these GSDs shared the same name — Alsatian Wolf dog — somewhere along their lineage.
What Is the Difference Between Working Line and Show Line Types?
The main difference is that the working line is bred for temperament, whereas the show line is bred for appearance. Show line German Shepherds are primarily bred to meet the breed standard rather than health.
Show line dogs have sloped backs, angled hindlegs, and broad bodies, and they are bulkier in size.
On the other hand, working lines have straight backs, compact bodies, and powerful muscles. Show lines come in rich-colored coats, while the other is often in sable.
Both lines produce intelligent, protective, and confident dogs. However, working lines are high-energy compared to the more laid-back show-line GSDs. Working lines are also more aggressive than the friendlier show lines.
Health-wise, working-line German Shepherds are generally healthier pups than show-line German Shepherds since they are built more robustly. Show lines are usually bred to have sloping backs, making them prone to hip dysplasia.
What Is the Difference Between American and European German Shepherds?
The biggest difference between American and European German Shepherds can be seen through their appearance and size. An American GSD’s height is from 22 to 26 inches, while a European GSD’s height is 21.5 to 25.5 inches.
Compared to the short body and straight topline of the European German Shepherd, the American German Shepherd has a longer body and sloped back.
The American German Shepherd has a rounder and smaller head, whereas the European German Shepherd has a more angular, larger head. The head of the European GSD is viewed by many as similar to a wolf’s head.
As for their personality, European German Shepherds have the drive of a working dog that may appear to be aloof towards people and thrive on service jobs.
On the flip side, American German Shepherds are more social and can be family dogs.
Which Is Better Male or Female German Shepherd?
Depending on your needs, owning a male or female German Shepherd has pros and cons.
If you want a pup for military and police work, male German Shepherds are the better option. For a family dog, female GSDs would best fit.
Males are generally larger and heavier than female German Shepherds. Given this, males often display dominance and tend to be territorial and more aggressive than female GSDs.
In contrast, females are known to be gentler and better with children. The size of female GSDs is also advantageous if you live in a small space or plan to bring your dog along on trips.
The different types of German Shepherds only highlighted that they are such wonderful dogs to own. Who would have thought there is a type for every purpose?
With their versatility, it is no surprise why this breed is so popular. What we shared in this article could be your guide should you choose to own a German Shepherd.
But know that you are still getting the best breed, whatever type you choose. Nurture them, and you will have for yourself a loving companion.
What is your favorite among the different types of German Shepherds? We would love to know your thoughts in the comments section below.