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5 Types of German Shepherds: Your Ultimate Breed Breakdown

different types of german shepherds - working line and show line

There are many different types of German Shepherds, each with their own unique characteristics, purposes, and temperaments. 

Understanding these differences can help you choose the right type of German Shepherd for your lifestyle and needs.

If you’re looking for a companion dog that will be content lounging around with you at home, an American show line may be a good fit. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a dog that can keep up with your active lifestyle or perform specific tasks such as search-and-rescue or police work, a working line may be better suited to your needs.

The 5 different types of German Shepherds are:

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

Different Types Of German Shepherds

From the elegance of the West German Show Line to the robust working abilities of the East German Working Line and the agility-focused Czech German Shepherds, let me give you a snapshot of the diverse characteristics that define each type.

The following image aims to offer a concise and engaging overview of all five German Shepherd types, highlighting their strengths and characteristics.

different types of german shepherds
Types of German Shepherds with pictures

In the following sections of this article, we will discuss each of these 5 types of German Shepherds in detail.

But first, let’s talk about how the German Shepherd breed evolved into 5 different types.

German Shepherd Dog Breed: History

Origins of the German Shepherd Breed

The German Shepherd breed is a pure breed dog that originated in Germany in the late 19th century.

The first ever German Shepherd, Horand von Grafrath, was developed in the late 1800s by Max von Stephanitz. (Source)

first type of german shepherd ever registered

He wanted to create a versatile working dog that could be used for many different tasks such as herding sheep, guarding, and protection. 

Von Stephanitz saw potential in this breed and began breeding them with other dogs to create a new type of dog that would become known as the German Shepherd. (Wikipedia)

Evolution of Different Types of GSDs

Since its creation, the German Shepherd has evolved into different types or variations. (Source)

These variations are often distinguished by their physical characteristics or their purpose.

For example, there are show line German Shepherds that have been bred for their appearance and conformation to breed standards.

On the other hand, there are working line German Shepherds that have been bred for their intelligence and ability to perform tasks such as police work or search and rescue missions.

Here’s a comprehensive guide that provides valuable insights into the responsibilities and considerations involved in owning a German Shepherd.

German Shepherds have two main coat lengths: short and long.

Short-coated German Shepherds have a dense, straight coat that requires minimal grooming.

Long-Haired German Shepherds, on the other hand, have longer fur, often with a wavy or slightly curly texture, and require regular grooming to prevent matting.

Additionally, there can be variations within these categories, such as medium-length coats.

Types of German Shepherds With Pictures

German Shepherds can be categorized into two primary bloodlines, namely the show line and the working line GSDs, although there are actually five distinct types of this breed.

Show line German Shepherds consist of:

  • West German Show Line (European Show Line)
  • American/Canadian Show Line

Working line German Shepherds can be categorized as:

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

First, let’s talk about the Show line German Shepherds.

Show Line German Shepherds

1. West German Show Line German Shepherd

Types of German Shepherds - A west german show line german shepherd


West German Show Line German Shepherds (or European show line GSDs) are known for their striking physical appearance. 

They have a sloping back that is distinctive to the breed and gives them an elegant look.

Their coat is black and red, with the red being a deep tan shade. 

The coat has hints of light brown between the black and red, and they usually have a saddleback pattern. 

They are widely considered the most aesthetically pleasing of all the German Shepherd types.

Their deep chest provides ample room for their lungs to expand, which makes them excellent runners and agile dogs.

The large head of this German shepherd type is one of their defining features. 

It is characterized by dark eyes that are expressive and intelligent, as well as a black nose that complements their coat color.

Males can grow up to 26 inches and females up to 24 inches, with a 2-inch margin for the lower end. 

If you see a red and black GSD with at least a 24-inch height and a slightly sloping back, you can classify it as a West German Show Line German Shepherd.

Traits & Behavior

West German Show Line German Shepherds are confident and courageous dogs with a strong work ethic. 

They are highly trainable due to their intelligence and eagerness to please their owners.

This trait makes them ideal for police K9s or search-and-rescue operations where they can use their natural instincts to protect people and property. 

These dogs are also loyal companions who enjoy spending time with their families.


The primary purpose of breeding this type of GSD is to maintain the breed’s working ability while also emphasizing their physical beauty.

This type of European show line dog has been selectively bred over many generations to produce a dog that excels in both conformation shows and working trials.

Breeders aim to produce dogs that meet the standard set by the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Clubs (WUSV) while maintaining the breed’s original purpose as a versatile working dog.

2. American Show Line German Shepherd

Types of German Shepherds - An American/Canadian Show line German shepherd


American Show Line German Shepherds are bred for their appearance, specifically for dog shows. 

American Show Line males can be 24 – 26 inches in height while the females can be 22 to 24 inches tall.

They have a straighter back and sloping hindquarters compared to their working line counterparts.

This physical characteristic is often the most notable difference between the two lines of German Shepherds.

The straighter back of this type of shepherd is a result of selective breeding for a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

However, this has led to some controversy among breed enthusiasts who argue that it can lead to health issues such as hip dysplasia.

Despite this controversy, American Show Lines continue to be popular in dog shows due to their striking appearance and confident demeanor.

RELATED: Male vs Female German Shepherd: Key Differences

Traits & Behavior

In addition to their physical appearance, American Show Line dogs are known for their confident and outgoing personalities. 

They make great family pets due to their friendly nature and love of human interaction.

However, it’s important to note that they still require daily exercise and mental stimulation despite not having the same level of drive as working line German Shepherds. 

Neglecting these needs can lead to destructive behavior such as chewing or digging.

American Show dogs excel in obedience and agility competitions due to their eagerness to please and quick learning abilities. 

They thrive on positive reinforcement training methods and enjoy being challenged mentally.


As previously mentioned, this type of German Shepherd is primarily bred for dog shows where they compete against other German shepherd dogs based on physical appearance, movement, temperament, and overall structure.

While some may argue that breeding solely to be used as show dogs can lead to health issues in the breed, others believe that it is important to preserve the breed standard through selective breeding practices.

Regardless of personal opinions on breeding practices, there is no denying that American Show dogs continue to be a popular breed in the dog show world and are admired for their striking appearance and confident personalities.

RELATED: Working Line vs Show Line German Shepherd: The Real Difference

Working Line German Shepherds

3. West German Working Line German Shepherd

A West German Working Line GSD

Distinctive Appearance

With their muscular build and black and red coloration, West German Working Line German Shepherds are a sight to behold. 

These dogs have a straight back and sloping hindquarters that give them an imposing presence. 

Their thick fur is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions, making them ideal for working in the great outdoors.

These dogs are known for their strong, rich colors, with many appearing almost entirely black fur with cappuccino-colored shading around the mid-torso region. 

While black and tan colors are common, this type of GSDs can come in a variety of colors.

RELATED: Straight Back German Shepherd vs Sloped Back GSD

Traits & Behavior

One of the most notable traits of West German Working Lines is their high level of intelligence

They are quick learners and can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks. 

They are also fiercely loyal to their owners and will do anything to protect them. This protective instinct makes them excellent guard dogs.

If you’re considering getting this type of GSD puppy, it’s important to understand that these dogs are highly active and require plenty of exercise. 

They are also more compact than show-line German Shepherds, making them more athletic and demanding more stimulation.


Originally bred for herding sheep and protection, West German Working Line German Shepherds have since become popular in law enforcement and military roles. 

Their natural athleticism and intelligence make them well-suited for these jobs. They excel at tasks such as search and rescue, drug detection, and bomb detection.

Check out this video about 5 types of German Shepherds…

4. East German Working Line German Shepherd/DDR

An East German Working Line GSD


East German Working Line German Shepherds, also known as DDR German Shepherds, have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other types of German Shepherds.

These dogs were bred in the former Deutsches Demokratische Republik (DDR), which is now part of Germany. 

The breeding program was focused on creating a working dog with strong protective instincts and high endurance.

One of the most noticeable differences between DDR German Shepherds and other types is their straighter back. 

This feature gives them a more upright stance than other breeds. DDR German Shepherds have larger heads and thicker bones than other types. 

These physical characteristics make them well-suited for their original purpose as working dogs.

DDR German Shepherds are also known for their dark coloring, which can range from black to dark brown. 

They typically have shorter hair than other types of German Shepherds, which makes them easier to maintain.

Intelligence and Trainability

DDR German Shepherds are highly intelligent and trainable dogs, making them popular among law enforcement agencies and military organizations. 

Their intelligence allows them to quickly learn new commands and tasks, while their trainability means they can be trained to be efficient service dogs.

In addition to their trainability, DDR German Shepherds are also highly adaptable dogs. 

They can adjust easily to new environments and situations, making them ideal for use in various settings such as search-and-rescue operations or bomb detection units.


The purpose of breeding DDR German Shepherds was to create a working dog with strong protective instincts and high endurance. 

These traits make them excellent guard dogs that will protect their owners fiercely if necessary.

DDR German Shepherds have high levels of energy that require regular exercise to keep them healthy and happy. 

They excel at activities such as agility training or herding, which allow them to use their natural instincts and energy in a positive way.

RELATED: How Much is a German Shepherd Puppy?

4. Czech Working Line German Shepherds

A Czech working line Shepherd

Distinct Appearance: Lean Build and Dark Coat

Czech Working Line German Shepherds are a specialized type of the breed that stands out for their unique appearance. 

This German shepherd type a leaner build than other types of German Shepherds, with a more muscular and athletic physique. 

Their dark coat is also distinct, often featuring black or sable coloring.

The Czech Shepherd’s appearance is not just for show, but rather it reflects their working ability and purpose. 

The leaner build allows them to move quickly and efficiently, making them ideal for tasks such as search and rescue or tracking. 

The darker coat provides camouflage in certain environments, which can be useful in military or police work.

Traits & Behavior

Czech Shepherds are known for their exceptional traits and behavior that make them ideal working dogs. 

These traits include high energy levels, intense focus on the tasks at hand, and a strong protective instinct towards their owners.

Their high energy levels mean they require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. 

They thrive on challenging tasks that allow them to use their intelligence and problem-solving skills.

Their intense focus enables them to perform complex tasks with precision and accuracy. 

This trait makes them highly trainable for various types of work such as search-and-rescue operations or bomb detection.

Their strong protective instinct towards their owners means they will go above and beyond to keep their loved ones safe from harm. 

This trait makes them excellent guard dogs or personal protection animals.

Purpose: Military & Police Work

The Czech Working Line is bred specifically for its working ability, with an emphasis on health, temperament, trainability, quality genes that make these dogs stand out from other breeds. 

They are primarily used in military and police work due to their exceptional abilities in tracking criminals or detecting explosives.

These dogs undergo rigorous training programs from an early age to prepare them for their specialized tasks. 

They are taught to work in various environments, including urban and rural areas, and they must be able to perform under high-stress situations.

Czech Working Line German Shepherds are also used in other types of work such as search-and-rescue operations or as service dogs for people with disabilities. 

Their intelligence, trainability, and protective instincts make them excellent choices for these roles.

Pros and cons of types of German Shepherds

Show Line GSD or Working Line GSD: Which is Better?

When it comes to deciding between a working line shepherd and a show line shepherd, there are several factors that you should consider. 

One of the most important things to think about is your lifestyle and what you are looking for in a dog.

If you are an active person who enjoys hiking, running, or other outdoor activities, a working line GSD may be the better choice for you.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a dog that is more laid-back and calm, a show line GSD may be a better choice for you.

Pros & Cons of Show Line German Shepherds

European Show line German Shepherd


1. Predictable Temperament: Show line German Shepherds often have a more predictable and stable temperament.

They are typically well-suited for being companion animals and may be more adaptable to family life.

2. Aesthetic Appeal: Show line German Shepherds adhere closely to the breed standard in terms of appearance, making them visually appealing.

This can be important for individuals who are specifically drawn to the classic German Shepherd look.

3. Potential for Calmer Energy Levels: While they are still active dogs, show line German Shepherds may have slightly calmer energy levels compared to working line counterparts.

This can make them more manageable for families seeking a companion animal.

4. Suitability for Certain Activities: Show line German Shepherds can still participate in activities such as obedience, agility, and some level of training.

They may be well-suited for individuals who want a versatile dog that can participate in various dog sports.

5. Easier Integration into Family Life: Due to their more companion-oriented breeding, show line German Shepherds may integrate more easily into family life, including living in a household with children and other pets.


1. Less Emphasis on Working Abilities: Show line German Shepherds may have less emphasis on working abilities, as the breeding focus is primarily on appearance.

This can result in a decrease in certain working traits, such as high work drive and endurance.

2. Risk of Conformation-Related Health Issues: Breeding for specific physical traits in conformation shows can sometimes contribute to health issues.

For example, the emphasis on angulation in the hindquarters may be associated with an increased risk of hip and joint problems.

3. Not Ideal for Some Working Roles: Due to the de-emphasis on working traits, these dogs may not be as suitable for certain working roles, such as police work or search and rescue.

4. Less Adaptability to Harsh Conditions: The refined appearance of show line German Shepherds may make them less adaptable to harsh working conditions compared to their working line counterparts.

5. Cost of Maintenance: Show line German Shepherds may require more grooming and maintenance to keep their coat in top condition.

Regular grooming and attention to coat health may be necessary.

Pros & Cons of Working Line German Shepherds


1. Strong Work Drive: Working line Shepherds typically exhibit a high level of work drive and motivation, making them well-suited for tasks that require focus and commitment.

2. Intelligence and Trainability: These dogs are known for their intelligence and trainability. They can quickly learn commands and tasks, which is essential for their roles in various working environments.

3. Physical Endurance: With an athletic build and robust health, working line German Shepherds often have good physical endurance.

This is important for tasks that involve prolonged activity or demanding conditions.

4. Versatility: They can excel in a variety of roles, including police work, search and rescue, agility, obedience, and protection.

5. Sturdy and Healthy: Responsible breeding practices for working lines often prioritize the health and vitality of the dogs, resulting in sturdy and resilient individuals.


1. High Energy Levels: Working line Shepherds tend to have high energy levels and require regular physical and mental stimulation.

Without proper exercise and engagement, they may become bored or exhibit undesirable behaviors.

2. Need for Mental Stimulation: These dogs thrive on mental challenges, and insufficient mental stimulation can lead to behavioral issues.

Owners need to provide tasks, training, and activities to keep their minds engaged.

3. Strong Prey Drive: Some working lines may have a strong prey drive, which could lead to chasing behaviors.

Proper training and socialization are crucial to manage this aspect of their temperament.

4. Not Always Ideal as Casual Companions: If a family is looking for a more laid-back and relaxed pet, a working line GSD may be too energetic and demanding for their lifestyle.

5. Potential for Shyness or Aggression: In some cases, these dogs may be more reserved or cautious around strangers.

Early socialization is essential to prevent shyness, and proper training is crucial to avoid aggressive tendencies.

Different German Shepherd Coat Colors

German Shepherds are a breed known for their distinctive coat colors and markings. While the breed standard recognizes 11 colors, there are many different variations of German Shepherd coats. Here are some of the German Shepherd coat colors:


Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to selecting the best type of German Shepherd for you. It’s about finding that perfect match, a canine companion that complements your personality, living situation, and the activities you enjoy.

Before making a decision, take the time to interact with different types of German Shepherds, understanding their individual personalities and needs. Conduct thorough research, consult with reputable breeders, and consider adopting from shelters where these incredible dogs may be awaiting a loving home.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the two types of German Shepherds?

The two types of German Shepherds are the working line German Shepherd and the show line German Shepherd. The working line is bred for working abilities, while the show line is bred for appearance.

2. Do all types of German Shepherds have the same grooming needs?

Yes, grooming needs are generally similar among the different types. Regular brushing, especially during shedding seasons, is essential, but specific coat lengths and thickness may vary.

3. Which is the rarest German Shepherd breed?

The rarest German Shepherd is the East German Working Line (DDR) breed, which decreased significantly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Roughly 50,000 dogs were left to die, sold, or abandoned when the border opened, leading to a decrease in pure-breed DDR Shepherds.

4. What is the best type of German Shepherd?

The best type of German Shepherd depends on the owner’s preferences and needs. The working line German Shepherd is best suited for people who want a dog with high energy and working abilities, while the show line German Shepherd is best for people who want a dog with a calmer temperament and a focus on appearance.

5. Why do German Shepherds look different?

German Shepherds can look different due to differences in breeding goals. Some breeders focus on appearance, while others focus on working abilities. This can result in differences in size, coat color and type, and other physical characteristics. Additionally, individual dogs can vary in appearance due to genetics and environmental factors.

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