Best German Shepherd Dog Breeds

Key Points

  • No matter the line of German shepherd, they all need training to overcome being overprotective.

  • The larger the paws, the more likely your German shepherd is a working dog.

  • Working dogs require more training to keep their minds busy.

As a lover of German shepherds, you're aware that they're much more than just a single breed. Each line of German shepherd brings its unique attributes and qualities to the table.

Rambo, a military German shepherd, doesn't know when to stop working, even after a rocket attack ended his military career. He shows just how tough these dogs are and how not even a rocket can stop them from doing a job they love.

This article dives into the specifics of each major line, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of these stunning dogs.

American German Shepherd

The American German shepherd, as the name implies, is bred primarily in the United States. Although they share a common ancestry with the German shepherd from Germany, they have developed distinct characteristics due to different breeding lines. Unlike their German cousins, the American Kennel Club (AKC) regulates the American German shepherd.

Physical Characteristics

The American German shepherd is bigger than the European one. You'll see that the American side has a longer body and their rear end slopes more than the European German shepherds. When looking at the dogs side by side the difference is clear as the European side has a straighter topline.

You'll also notice a smaller and rounder head on the American side. Many people describe the European's head as similar to a wolf's head.

These dogs have the same coat texture and coloring. They usually have sable, black, or tan coat colors. The coat length varies from long to short.

Temperament and Training Needs

On average, your American German shepherd is happier to be a family pet than their European cousins. They are more laid-back but don't let that trick you into thinking they don't need exercise and mental stimulation. Sure, the American German shepherd is all about that afternoon snooze but they still need around 60 minutes of exercise a day.

Overall, the American German shepherd is less intense than their cousin. They are still aloof to strangers and take time to warm up to them.

These dogs still need training. Make sure you give your dog early and consistent socialization to get them used to being around others. Protective breeds that aren't socialized turn into overprotective dogs.

Their eager-to-please nature makes them highly trainable, although they require consistent mental and physical stimulation to prevent destructive behavior.

Czech Working Line German Shepherd

The Czech working line German shepherd originated in communist Czechoslovakia as part of a state-run program in 1955. These dogs guarded the borders and controlled strangers who dared to cross. Even now, Czech German shepherds maintain a place in the military as working dogs.

Physical Characteristics

The Czech German shepherd shares many of the characteristics of their East German DDR cousin (more on DDR below). The biggest differences show up in their weight and height. The Czech German shepherd has a heavier and bulkier build thanks to their strong muscles and denser skeleton. These dogs range anywhere from 66-88 pounds for males and 49-71 pounds for females.

They look more aggressive thanks to this build but looks don't determine the personality. This breed has a beautiful sable color with a pattern that mimics that of a wild wolf.

These dogs have thicker paws, a broader chest, and stronger stamina than their cousins, making for the perfect intimidating look. Compared to the American line, they also have a straighter topline.

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Temperament and Training Needs

With the Czech German shepherd being a variation, they share many of the characteristics you'd find in any German shepherd. They are typically calm and well-mannered in a home environment, given enough exercise.

Many think these dogs are aggressive thanks to their background, but the truth is they are stubborn and don't like taking orders from people they don't consider family. It is why socializing them early on is so important for them. Without it, you risk your dog becoming overprotective and not letting anyone near the people they consider family.

These dogs love to work, making training easier. This variant snaps into working mode almost immediately. Czech working line German Shepherds require consistent physical and mental activities and often excel in police, military, and search and rescue jobs.

East German DDR German Shepherd

The East German DDR German shepherds, also known as Deutsche Demokratische Republik German shepherds, are a bloodline that comes from East Germany during the Cold War period. They often accompanied police and other military officials that do protective work.

Physical Characteristics

DDR German shepherds typically have a solid black or sable coat with undercoats that are denser than you'd see on a show dog. This thick coat suits the harsh German winters.

These dogs don't have the show line's signature sloped back, and as a result, these dogs are less prone to bone and joint issues later on. You will see these dogs have broader chests, which are perfect for the rigorous physical work they enjoy doing.

Their paws are larger, which suits them on rougher terrain and for long days of work. These strong paws do mean they climb and scale walls with ease.

Temperament and Training Needs

Want a dog with a strong work drive? These dogs are perfect for that as they are confident and courageous. The downside is without proper training these dogs are more aggressive. They need an outlet to keep their mind occupied.

They have plenty of energy, and if left untrained, it means destruction and other bad behaviors. They require a lot of mental and physical stimulation, with an inclination towards working tasks.

European Working Line German Shepherd

European Working Line German shepherds is a collective term for the German shepherds bred in Europe for working purposes. They stay true to their name, as these dogs are working dogs through and through.

Physical Characteristics

European working line German shepherds typically have more muscular and square builds with a straight back. Like all German shepherds, these dogs have an undercoat but not as thick as their East German cousins.

For the most part, you'll see these dogs with reddish-brown fur, but like all the German shepherd lines, these colors vary greatly. Working dogs have larger paws, perfect for different terrains and long working days.

Temperament and Training Needs

These dogs have an amazing work ethic, as well as incredible intelligence, and versatility. These dogs are very active and require regular physical and mental stimulation. European working line German shepherds are often used as police, search and rescue, and service dogs.

West German Show Line German Shepherd

West German show line German shepherds started in West Germany following World War II. They are a happy medium between the American German shepherd and the working line. These dogs start with the intention of adhering to a specific standard of appearance for dog shows.

Physical Characteristics

These dogs typically have a calmer demeanor and a more angulated rear end compared to working lines. Most have a red and black coat, although other color variations also exist.

The American Kennel Club states, "In terms of show presentation, the German shepherd dog has a unique stack or 'pose' featuring one rear leg under the body and one extended as opposed to the conventional 'square' stacks or extended stacks." This makes them recognizable right away.

Temperament and Training Needs

West German show lines are bred for their temperament and trainability. While they are more laid back compared to their working counterparts, they still require regular exercise. These dogs are great family pets and also perform well in various dog sports.

Two german shepherds lying in leaves

Paws Full of Love

Understanding the different lines of German shepherds gives you a deeper appreciation for the breed. Each line has distinctive qualities that make it unique, from athleticism, work ethic, and temperament, to physical attributes. These shared and divergent traits are why German shepherds continue to be beloved by dog enthusiasts worldwide.

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