Working Line German Shepherd: Origin, History, Pictures & Facts

Working line German Shepherd sitting outdoors

As a highly functional dog breed, the German Shepherd has several types that were developed for different purposes. One of the most well-known varieties of this breed is the working line German Shepherd.

Working line German Shepherds also have different subtypes that have their own unique characteristics. This makes it hard for potential owners to choose which variety is suitable for them.

So if you’re interested in owning a working line German Shepherd, then you found the right article! Here, we will cover everything you need to know about it, from its origins, types, traits, health issues, and more.

What Is a Working Line German Shepherd?

Two working line German Shepherds running side by side

The working line German Shepherd is a variety of the breed developed to have stronger physical abilities and work ethics. There are three types of working German Shepherd: the West German working line, East German working line, and Czech working line. Each has its own origin and traits.

Generally, working line German Shepherds have better health, high energy, and improved stamina. Their wolf-like posture, physique, and athleticism are noticeably more remarkable than the average German Shepherd dog.

You can easily spot a working line German Shepherd due to its firm stance and confident bearing. The other types may share common physical attributes, but they can come in different coat colors depending on their genetics.

These dogs can come in 11 registered coat colors such as solid black, black and tan, and black sable, among others.

They usually have short to medium coats. Some of them have double coats to tolerate extreme weather changes.

Working line German Shepherds are purebred canines that meet official breeding standards. They are recognized by various kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club, German Shepherd Dog Club of America, among others.

Working Line vs. Show Line German Shepherd: What’s the Difference?

Working line German Shepherds are bred for their working abilities. These canines have the desire to function or work and the willpower to perform under pressure. They are relatively easier to train as well.

Meanwhile, the breeding of show-line German Shepherds focuses on appearance or aesthetics. They are often produced to have well-structured German Shepherds that are intended for dog shows and raised as family pets.

Typically, show line German Shepherds also have lower energy and more health issues compared to the working-class German Shepherd. Show line German Shepherds don’t go through several health status checks, too. 

On the other hand, the working-class German Shepherd is considered healthy as they undergo medical tests and evaluations to be certified working line canines. With fewer health problems, they don’t require excessive care.

In terms of looks, the working line German Shepherd usually has a thicker and straight body structure than the show line German Shepherds. Their hind legs are also often longer than the show line German Shepherds.

A working German Shepherd dog may also have a different coat compared to show line German Shepherds. It can have a medium-length double coat for higher tolerance in colder weather conditions. 

When comparing the working line vs. show line German Shepherd, it’s also necessary to know that their physical and personality traits still depend on various factors like genetics, upbringing, and proper training. 

Collectively, German Shepherds are known for intelligence, devotion, and dependability. Whichever line a German Shepherd comes from, you can expect it to be a smart and reliable canine that can make an excellent family pet.

Working Line German Shepherd History and Origin

Working line German Shepherd on a leash side profile

The origins of the working line German Shepherd can be traced back to the 1850s in Germany. This was when the breeding for canines was standardized. 

It started with the intention of helping shepherds protect their flocks.

During this time, there were conflicts on whether the dog breeding standards should focus on appearance only or if the canines should have working functions, too. 

One German army captain and former vet science student named Max von Stephanitz advocated for standardized breeding of these dogs. His advocacy was inspired by a dog called Hektor Linksrhein in a dog show.

After seeing Hektor’s performance and abilities, he purchased it and changed its name to Horand von Grafrath. Horand was the first German Shepherd dog. 

From then on, the breeding of working line German Shepherds has become popular. The German captain also contributed efforts in creating methodical breeding programs in the field of breeding working German Shepherd lines.

Later on, Horand’s genes and abilities became the core of the breeding system for the working line German Shepherd. It has also set the groundwork for developing the other types of working German Shepherds lines. 

Max Von Stephanitz continuously worked on inbreeding strategies using Horand’s bloodline. These were intended to produce dogs that were used for working purposes. The program proved to be successful.

Out of Horand came the two most known and considered successful pups, Schwaben and Beowulf. They became the origin of the existing working German Shepherd lines.

It wasn’t until 1907 that the German Shepherds became renowned in the United States. They became one of the most sought-after breeds in history. Due to the new working line of the breed, German Shepherd dog shows also emerged. 

During the second world war, the developments in the cross-breeding processes of the working-class German Shepherd improved further. At that time, German Shepherds assisted in military activities. 

Even post-war, both Germany and the United States embarked on meticulous breeding and training programs for the working German Shepherd lines. 

Types of Working Line German Shepherds

Working line German Shepherds have distinct physical and behavioral characteristics that differentiate them from the show line German Shepherds. Here, we will cover each type of working line German Shepherd.

West German Working Line German Shepherds 

West German Working Line German Shepherd out in the woods
Image credit: i_am_kodiak_t / Instagram

The West German Shepherd is considered the most balanced in physical appearance, behavior, and working abilities. It’s also referred to as the closest breed line to the original German Shepherd created by Max Von Stephanitz.

The West German working line was developed by breeders who wished to retain the original looks of the German Shepherd breed while improving its endurance. Its history began when Germany was split into the East and West.

West Germany breeders focused more on the correct working structure in their breeding. They were breeding for stable temperament, vigorous abilities, and strong working drive.

Unlike the West German show line, West German Shepherds were bred specifically for real jobs in service positions. Their bodies were structured to take on more functions, such as protection and law enforcement work.

Like the West German show line, they can also be excellent canine companions, especially for active households. As highly-energetic dogs, West German Shepherds need daily mental stimulation and exercise. 

When it comes to their appearance, they share common attributes with the West German show line. Though usually, West German Shepherds are characterized by their backs’ slight slope. 

They also appear less bulky in front of their bodies compared to West German show lines. Their build lets them have a relatively balanced structure which showcases their agility and power.

East German Working Line German Shepherds

East German Working Line German Shepherd with a leash sitting beside the fence
Image credit: hera_the.gsd / Instagram

Also known as Deutsches Demokratische Republik (DDR), East German Shepherds came from guard dog lines initially bred in East Germany after World War II. They were known for their police work.

The term came from Germany’s official name during the period, Deutsches Demokratische Republik, which translates to the Federal Republic of Germany. 

It was when the East German communist party bred dogs with a strict breeding program. These German Shepherds were used in the military during the cold war era. From there, the East German Shepherds emerged.

These dogs then became famous for their high working abilities and drive. They were deemed very useful as the breeding program was also established to keep pace with the transitions in the security demands of East Germany.

The superior East German Shepherds were utilized in dealing with police and military work. They were bred to be resilient to challenging cold weather conditions and with the capacity to scale high walls. 

The breeding of the East German working line GSD was also isolated from external influences. It was highly regulated, which maintained the breed standard and discipline.

Besides their high and intense energy levels, East German Shepherd dogs were also known for their eagerness for mental stimulation and capability to adapt and thrive. Their qualities greatly complemented human soldiers.

They were deemed as the animal counterparts of the soldiers because of their high endurance, willpower, intelligence, courage, and ability to maintain focus. But in recent years, not all DDR dogs proved to exhibit the same traits.

In terms of looks, they resemble the West German working line. However, their primary attributes are their large blocky heads, thick chests, and thicker paws. They typically have lower fat composition and more muscles.

Czech Working Line German Shepherds

Czech Working Line German Shepherd sitting among the flowers
Image credit: nakoathewolf / Instagram

The Czech working line German Shepherds, also known as the Czechoslovakian shepherds, were bred as working dogs in the Czech Republic in 1955. 

More than three decades later, their popularity rose when East and West Germany reunified. Since then, Czech working line German Shepherds have became more renowned than the East German working line German Shepherds.

They were initially bred for border control jobs and played a major role in protecting the Czech border before the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. But after the reunification of Germany, they were bred more as family dogs. 

The kennels used for breeding them were first managed by the Czech army. They possess many of the East German Shepherd traits such as intelligence, working potential, and loyalty. 

Generally, they have higher drives than the East German or West German working lines. They’re considered the rarest type as they are bred for highly specialized work.

In terms of physical appearance, they appear to be smaller and leaner than the two other German Shepherd lines. They usually have more slender yet dense bodies, giving them a powerful demeanor.

Curious to see a Czech German Shepherd in action? Watch this video on Youtube: 

Czech German Shepherd, Zeva Grace.

Working Line German Shepherd Size and Weight

Working line German Shepherds typically weigh around 50 to 85 pounds and stand about 22 to 26 inches tall. Just like other dog breeds, the size and weight of a working German Shepherd may vary based on different factors.

These factors include genetics and gender, among others. Male working line German Shepherds usually weigh around 65 to 85 pounds with a height of between 24 to 26 inches.

Meanwhile, female working line German Shepherds weigh around 50 to 70 pounds with a height of between 22 to 24 inches. Overall, working line German Shepherds are medium to large-sized canines.

Working Line German Shepherd Temperament and Personality

Happy working line German Shepherd breed laying down

These versatile dogs are known for their unmatched work rate, but German Shepherd working lines have so much more to offer than being working dogs. They also have an amazing temperament that makes them great family pets.

Some working line German Shepherds can have laid-back personalities. Though most of them are known to be more aggressive, some working line GSDs can display a more gentle behavior.

While still being protective, these magnificent dogs will show owners their devotion and loyalty. They have an easy-going nature that makes them suitable even for young children. 

As they have strong guardian instincts, they tend to be wary of strangers or those they consider a threat. But this can be managed with proper socialization.

These working dogs are also bred to have a high pain tolerance. This makes them more valuable in their respective functions. They are confident, alert, and vigilant, making them excellent watchdogs, too.

However, due to their high energy levels, they tend to have higher prey drives as well. If their tasks aren’t fulfilled, they may develop boredom. This may lead to destructive behaviors. 

Luckily, they’re also easy to train due to their high intelligence. With this, it won’t be too hard to have a well-behaved working line Shepherd. They are cut out to be canine companions that have good and stable temperaments.

Working Line German Shepherd Lifespan and Health Issues

Generally, working line German Shepherds have a lifespan of about 10 to 13 years. They live just as long as other German Shepherd varieties but usually, they stay healthier and remain stronger.

As working dogs, they are bred to be healthier, so it’s not a surprise that they’re less prone to diseases than other German Shepherd types. Much like other dogs, working line Shepherds’ longevity and health depend on many factors.

Working German Shepherds rarely suffer from hip dysplasia, but they are susceptible to developing other diseases. Hip and elbow dysplasia is common among large dogs, so it’s a relief if your working line dog won’t suffer from this.

Here are some of the common health issues of the working line German Shepherd:

  • Gastric Torsion: Commonly known as bloat, gastric torsion or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening gastrointestinal problem among canines. This condition affects deep-chested dogs like working line German Shepherds. It occurs when the dog’s stomach expands and sometimes twists because of excess gas, putting pressure on the dog’s vital organs.
  • Pancreatitis: A syndrome called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is common among working line German Shepherds. This is caused by insufficient production and secretion of digestive enzymes by the pancreas. Symptoms of this condition include excessive eating, weight loss, and diarrhea. 
  • Diabetes Mellitus: As medium- to large-sized dogs, working line German Shepherds may tend to overeat. One cause of diabetes mellitus in German Shepherds is obesity which can be prevented with a balanced diet. Unfortunately, this disease has no cure, but most dogs can be treated with insulin shots or any other treatment recommended by the vet. 

Your working line German Shepherd’s overall health still depends on your efforts, such as providing proper nutrition, exercise, environment, and quality time. A healthy pooch should also be happy, satisfied, and well-loved.

How Much Does a Working Line German Shepherd Cost? Puppy Prices & Expenses

Working line German Shepherd during training

A working line German Shepherd puppy usually costs around $1,500 to $3,000. The buying price can go as high as $4,000 depending on the pup’s bloodline, size, health screening, and the breeder’s location and experience.

Other German Shepherd lines that are trained to become working or service dogs for the military or police may cost a whopping amount between $10,000 to $20,000

This is because the breeders take lots of time to produce and train them at an early age. The price of German Shepherd puppies is also quite high compared to other breeds because of the increased demand.

You should also be careful of puppy mills or backyard breeders. Most likely, if you’ve found a working German Shepherd for a lower price, the purity of the bloodline and the breeding practices could be questionable.

Below is a list of all the initial expenses for a working line German Shepherd puppy:

Type of ExpenseCost
Food and Treats$80 – $150
Bowls$15 – $40
Toys$30 – $100
Beds$50 – $300
Collars and Leashes$15 – $50
Crates and Carriers$60 – $500
Grooming Essentials$50 – $250
Initial Vet Visits$100 – $500
Initial Vaccine Shots$50 – $300
Deworming, Flea, and Tick Medications$40 – $300
Neutering or Spaying$50 – $500
Microchipping$40 – $60
Dog License$10 – $20
Other Essentials$30 – $80
Total Initial Cost$620 – $3,150

With their size and high energy, it’s only fitting that working line German Shepherds require more food and supplies. You may opt for less costly goods, but make sure that they have good quality, too.

One key factor that can also help you save money is that you can expect fewer medical or health-related emergencies. As they are relatively healthy, you won’t need to worry that much if they get sick easily.

Places to Find Working Line German Shepherd Puppies for Sale and Adoption

It won’t be hard to find working line German Shepherds as they are popular breeds. However, it can get quite strenuous since you also need to dedicate enough time and effort to look for a reputable breeder.

Don’t fret, as we have prepared a list of trusted working line GSD breeders to ease your search! 

Here’s a list of reputable breeders where you can find working line German Shepherd puppies for sale:

  • Kraftwerk K9 – Based in Washington, Kraftwerk K9 has proven the quality of their German Shepherd working lines through joining and winning different national and international canine events. Their puppies are bred with the highest standards and are trained to be excellent working dogs, family pets, and top-level competition canines. 
  • Taylor Made Working Dogs – This California-based breeder of GSD working lines is a full-service kennel specializing in top-quality dog training. They follow a strict breeding program, and all their working German Shepherd dogs are picked for top genetics. They are the only breeder in California that offers a lifetime guarantee against all genetic health issues for their dogs.
  • Grothaus K9 – Located in Oregon, Grothaus K9 breeds working line GSD puppies with excellent health, strong nerves, and solid temperament. Grothaus K9 puppies come with American Kennel Club registration papers, a three-year health warranty, and contracts, among others. They are raised to be confident on the sports field and are bred for reliability to work in the street or as family working dogs. 

It’s easy to search for working line German Shepherd breeders online, but it’s best if you take enough time to research and inquire about your concerns. 

If you prefer to adopt a working German Shepherd instead, here are some rescues you can check out:

  • Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue – This group of volunteers is dedicated to rescuing and placing German Shepherds, including working German Shepherd dogs, throughout the mid-Atlantic area. They are active in Maryland, northern Virginia, Washington, and south-central Pennsylvania. This rescue has various supportive programs, including education efforts and fund-raising projects.
  • Bay Area German Shepherd Rescue – This volunteer organization rescues abandoned working German Shepherds and finds them loving forever homes. Based in California, each dog that comes into their program is evaluated thoroughly and placed into a foster home. 
  • Mit Liebe German Shepherd Dog Rescue – Founded in 1998 in Wisconsin, this rescue is named after the German phrase ‘Mit Liebe’ that means ‘with love.’ Their goal is to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome abused, neglected, or unwanted German Shepherds, including working line German Shepherds. They provide housing, vetting, and support to ensure the relationship between the dogs and their owners.

But before adopting a pup, you have to be prepared. It’s best to assess your capabilities first and the things that you’re willing to sacrifice for your pooch. Remember that rescue dogs require more patience and affection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Black working line German Shepherd tongue out

Are Working Line German Shepherds Good Pets?

Yes, working line German Shepherds have a loyal behavior and loving nature that make them good pets. On top of this, they are also highly receptive to training, so they can do other tasks other than being dog companions.

Potential owners tend to weigh up the pros of working line vs. show line German Shepherd, especially in terms of being good pets. This is because of the reputation that working German Shepherds are only bred for work.

With this, most would assume that they are too challenging to be family pets. But both working and show line German Shepherds have an amazing temperament. So, with a working German Shepherd, you’ll have a good-natured and helpful family pet. 

Are Working Line German Shepherds Aggressive?

Working line German Shepherds are known to be more aggressive than the show line German Shepherds. This behavior often accentuates the contrast between working and showing German Shepherd dogs.

This is because the aggressiveness of working German Shepherds is deemed as an effect of extreme training. However, this behavior is also seen as useful for hazardous fieldwork such as protection or security functions.

Do Working Line German Shepherds Live Longer?

Yes, they often live longer and remain healthier. As working dogs, they have improved health and go through various health screenings.

Working line GSDs also have lesser hip and elbow problems compared to their show line counterparts. To fortify their healthy nature, proper care and nutrition are needed, too.

What Is the Best Working Line German Shepherd?

Choosing the best working line German Shepherd primarily depends on an individual’s preference or liking. The type that is suitable for someone may not be the right choice for another. So it’s best to assess based on your standards.

If you’re looking for a more balanced working dog, then the West German Shepherd could be the one you’re looking for. The West German Shepherd is also a well-respected type among the canine community.

Meanwhile, you can opt for the East German Shepherd if you’re particular with a better-preserved bloodline. For highly specialized functions and higher drive, the Czech German Shepherd may be best for you.

Final Thoughts

Do you fancy a healthy German Shepherd breed with working abilities? If you do, then you should consider getting a working line German Shepherd! It could be the perfect dog for any dog lover if provided with the proper care it needs.

As they are bred as working dogs, they have higher energy levels and might be quite demanding for you to own if you have a less active lifestyle. You’ll also need enough space and time to accommodate their needs.

Do you have experience owning a working line German Shepherd? Let us know in the comments below!

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