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German Show vs American Show vs Working


In Europe during the 1850s, attempts were being made to standardise breeds. The dogs were bred to preserve traits that assisted in their job of herding sheep and protecting flocks from predators. In Germany this was practiced within local communities, where shepherds selected and bred dogs that they believed had the skills necessary for herding sheep, such as intelligence, speed, strength, and keen senses of smell. The results were dogs that were able to do such things, but that differed significantly, both in appearance and ability, from one locality to another.

To combat these differences, the Phylax Society was formed in 1891 with the intention of creating standardised dog breeds in Germany. The society disbanded after only three years due to ongoing internal conflicts regarding the traits in dogs that the society should promote; some members believed dogs should be bred solely for working purposes, while others believed dogs should be bred also for appearance. While unsuccessful in their goal, the Phylax Society had inspired people to pursue standardising dog breeds independently.

Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain and former student of the Berlin Veterinary College, was one such ex-member. He believed strongly that dogs should be bred for working.

In 1899, Von Stephanitz was attending a dog show when he was shown a dog named Hektor Linksrhein. Hektor was the product of few generations of selective breeding and completely fulfilled what Von Stephanitz believed a working dog should be. He was pleased with the strength of the dog and was so taken by the animal’s intelligence, loyalty, and beauty, that he purchased him immediately. After purchasing the dog he changed his name to Horand von Grafrath and Von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog). Horand was declared to be the first German Shepherd Dog and was the first dog added to the society’s breed register.

Horand became the centre-point of the breeding programs and was bred with dogs belonging to other society members that displayed desirable traits. Although fathering many pups, Horand’s most successful was Hektor von Schwaben. Hektor was inbred with another of Horand’s offspring and produced Beowulf, who later fathered a total of eighty-four pups, mostly through being inbred with Hektor’s other offspring. In the original German Shepherd studbook, Zuchtbuch für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SZ), within the two pages of entries from SZ No. 41 to SZ No. 76, there are four Wolf Crosses. Beowulf’s progeny also were inbred and it is from these pups that all German Shepherds draw a genetic link. It is believed the society accomplished its goal mostly due to Von Stephanitz’s strong, uncompromising leadership and he is therefore credited with being the creator of the German Shepherd Dog.

German Show line


This particular line of German Shepherds is renowned for their striking appearance, often leaving people taking a second glance. However, their beauty is not the only impressive aspect of this breed. They are also known for their stable and level-headed temperament, displaying nerves of steel.

Although originally bred for their aesthetic qualities and calm demeanor, this type of German Shepherd is not just a pretty face. The breed is governed by the SV (Germany) rules, which require dogs to possess a working title and obtain health clearances for hips and elbows before being bred. Despite requiring a working title, the German Showline GSDs do not possess the same intensity as their working line counterparts. Nevertheless, they still display enough drive to protect and work, making them an excellent choice for a family pet, especially those with children. Furthermore, they need to obtain a IPO working title to be shown in the VA class. The exact same Working titles the (Working line)  has. In essence this version of German Sheherd is the whole package. 

Their amenable nature makes them easy to train and live with, and they possess the ideal temperament for a family home protector or sport. German Showline GSDs are known for their level-headedness, which allows them to excel at any task they are given. This breed is physically closer to the German working line standard, with less hind end angulation compared to American/Canadian Showlines. Additionally, they are typically larger in size than working line dogs.

These dogs are usually found in traditional black/red or black/tan saddleback colors, with the occasional sable color. In summary, German Showline GSDs are not only beautiful but also possess excellent temperament and are an ideal fit for families looking for a protective yet loving pet.

Working Line



This line of German Shepherds was developed and maintained exclusively by a kennel owned by Czechoslovakian Army's border patrol, founded in 1955. The kennel focused solely on breeding and training dogs for military border patrol, using remnants from former East Germany and dogs from the Czech Socialist Republic in their strict breeding program. These German Shepherds are similar to the working lines of East Germany, being agile, powerful, and having dark pigment. With a strong work structure and high work drive, this line excels in obedience, agility, and protection sports. However, these dogs can be intense and require plenty of mental and physical stimulation.

One kennel, established in 1955 and owned by Czechoslovakian Army's border patrol, developed and maintained this line of German Shepherd. The kennel's sole purpose was to breed and train dogs for military border patrol, utilizing remnants from former East Germany and dogs from the Czech Socialist Republic. This strict breeding program produced agile dogs with a powerful build and dark pigment, similar to the working lines of East Germany. This type of German Shepherd excels in obedience, agility, and protection sports, owing to its strong work structure and high work drive. However, they can be intense and require ample mental and physical stimulation.



After WWII, the development of this German Shepherd continued with strict pedigree registration under the Deutsche Demokratische Republik and 40 years of closed breeding. The result is a distinctive dog with dark pigment, a large head, deep chest, athletic body, supreme intellect, and stamina. This breed has a sound temperament and high work drive, although this may vary. They require experienced handlers and plenty of mental and physical stimulation.


West German line

This type of German Shepherd closely resembles the dogs produced by Max von Stephanitz and emphasizes strong working drives, stable temperament, and excellent working ability. They excel in a variety of sports and can make good pets for experienced families despite their strong work drive. Working line dogs typically have a shorter and coarser coat and are smaller with less angulation than American/Canadian and German Showline dogs. They also have a higher prey drive and can be sensitive to fast-moving objects or people, requiring an experienced handler. While they may not be ideal family companions due to their breeding for work, they excel in sports and other working activities.

American show line


The primary purpose of breeding this line of German Shepherds is for showing, although many owners have found success in agility, herding, and obedience work. The focus of breeding in this line is on side gait and conformation, and it became popular in the early 1970s. Compared to working line dogs, these showlines have a narrower head and more rear angulation and are generally larger in size.

Unlike European dogs that are registered by the SV, hip certification is not required in the United States or Canada for registration, but reputable breeders will still conduct health clearances for hips and elbows. If bred well, this type of German Shepherd is known for its laid-back personality and is less physically demanding than working line Shepherds, making it an excellent choice for a family pet and companion.

While Canadian/American showline Shepherds may not excel in Schutzhund work due to their temperament, they still do well in herding, agility, and obedience. However, this line of Shepherds can lack courage, stability, and clear-headedness, so it's crucial to purchase from a breeder who is dedicated to improving the breed. Fortunately, many reputable breeders prioritize sound temperament, conformation, and health in their breeding programs.

These dogs usually come in black/tan, but solid black and some sable colors are also seen.

Written by:
Jason @ Loyalist Shepherds

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