One of the most common question
ask is what is the difference
between a German line and an
American line German Shepherd.
There is a vast difference between
the two. Below I will explain some
of the differences between the
German Show lines, American Show
lines and the European Working lines and I
will show you a picture of all
LETS START WITH HOW GERMAN STANDARDS BEGAN
The German shepherd breed was
created in 1899 by Captain Max von Stephanitz,
in Germany. The captain wished to create a
single breed that could serve instead of the
several different highly specialized breeds
farmers were using to work their flocks of
sheep. He dreamt of a single, multi-purposed dog
that could herd sheep, protect boundaries,
defend against predators, protect the shepherd,
his property and his family and still lie down
in the house to play with the children at the
end of the day. He set out with determination to
select the best dogs exhibiting the desired
traits and started building his breeding
program. He was a very methodical man with a
plan, and he produced some very detailed
documents to guide breeders in their efforts.
He devised a breed worthiness
test, to insure that all German shepherd dogs
used in breeding were of good temperament, and
possessed pronounced working drives and
exhibited a correct structure. All dogs have to
obtain this certification in order to be
breed-worthy. It is called a breed survey and
gives us a detailed assessment and
recommendations in regards to the dog’s breed
worthiness. It entails a working title,
(herding, or schutzhund ) an endurance test, a
temperament test, an obedience test, a
conformation title and a courage test. This is a
very tedious, expensive and time- consuming
process, but it insures that only the best dogs
are used in breeding, therefore protecting the
standards of this breed we love so well.
The standard and breed worthiness
requirements are recognized internationally and
most countries in the world abide by the German
standards. So basically, the German shepherd
dogs we find worldwide are pretty much the same
and compete side by side in local shows and at
the World Sieger Show in Germany once a year.
THERE ARE TWO MAJOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF GERMAN
SHEPHERD DOGS WITHIN THE RECOGNIZED WORLD
STANDARD; THE WORKING LINES AND THE SHOW LINES.
The information below was used with
permission from the author, Jackie Athon and any
reprint must list her as author. To contact
Jackie go to
The working lines
smaller, have very little angulation, are
usually only KKL2 (permitted to breed, but not
recommended to breed).
All German Shepherds in Germany must get
Schutzhund titles before they are permitted to
breed, so obviously both types can do the work,
but not necessarily with the same amount of
Working lines are usually bred to have a very
high pain tolerance. This means they do not
respond very much to pain. This helps a Police
dog when a crazy man on drugs is trying to kick
the s**t out of him so he won't give up the
fight. It also means he will not respond to
normal corrections and requires much harder
discipline to get the dog to obey you.
Working dogs have more 'hair trigger'
aggression, and generally a higher Prey drive.
Because of this, they must be monitored
carefully around people, especially children.
Anything that moves fast becomes Prey (like a
rabbit) to be chased down and caught. If a
jogger runs by, or a child zips by running, or
is on a bicycle or on skates, the Working dog
may react to them as if they are Prey. They
can't grab with their paws, so they use their
mouth to grab (bite) to stop their Prey.
So what is best for you will depend on how you
intend to live with your dog (kennel dog or
house companion), how experienced of a dog
handler you are with aggressive dogs, and how
far you want to go in SchH competition.
With the higher pain tolerance, the higher
aggression and higher Prey drive, you had better
know what you are doing and how to handle the
dog in a safe manner if you want a working line
If you intend to compete in SchH 3 Nationals,
you will find the working dog is more likely to
get you to that level.
If you want a really nice quality dog with
relatively easy going temperament that does have
natural (but sensible) protection drives, that
can make it's SchH titles with proper training,
and is easier to live with and control than the
Working line dog, then you will do better with
the German Show line shepherd.
The show lines
were developed by breeders who are very focused
on the structure and appearance of the dog.
Although these dogs do have to obtain
in order to qualify for breeding, their working
drives are usually lower than those of the
working lines. The conformation lines are dogs
that are generally easy to live with, trainable,
stable, and calm, yet possessing enough drive to
work and protect. The structure of these dogs is
excellent, balanced, harmonious and efficient,
and their general appearance is quite
homogenous. They are mainly black and red, black
and tan or occasionally sable. Working and show
lines are still similar in temperament, with the
working line exhibiting a higher drive and more
intensity, making the show lines a better choice
for children when placing them in a family
environment. To read about the German Standards
and the meaning of each title in your pedigree
go to German
In North America,
we find American / Canadian shepherds.
They are very
different from the original German shepherds.
Although these dogs have common ancestry to the
German shepherd, they have become almost a breed
onto themselves. These dogs are bred for show
purposes, the breeders focusing almost
exclusively on looks and movement. They have
adapted the standard to their own preference;
the result is that these dogs differ greatly
from German shepherds found in the rest of the
They are generally larger, softer, heavier, and
have a lighter bone structure. There is often
less differentiation of the two sexes, the males
having less masculine heads and bodies, their
angulations being quite extreme and their very
structure being different from German shepherds.
Aside from their appearance being quite
different, the major distinction is the
temperament; The Canadian / American shepherd is
not a working dog.
Most of these dogs
do not have the required temperament to do any
sort of work,
with the exception of an occasional herding dog.
They have gone a long way off from the
temperament described in the breed standard.
The American / Canadian shepherds are not
required to pass any temperament test, or to do
Schutzhund, to undergo the endurance test, to
acquire a breed survey or any other requirement.
They are not even required to be free of
dysplasia. The only registry is the CKC or the
AKC, which do not control the quality of the
animals being bred. These animals retain a
potential for protective behavior and responses,
but without the courage, stability and clear
headedness to temper their actions. They are
often fear-biters, nervous and stressed, showing
inappropriate aggressive tendencies. They lack
the courage for true protection work, their
aggressive behavior being a result of
defensiveness and fear for themselves and not an
instinct to protect their master. This can be
confusing to a novice, but the end result is
very different; you cannot count on this type of
dog to protect and defend you in a threatening
Les Anges Gardiens Kennel,
Thank you Michelle, great article!
and then there is the......
American Back-yard Bred
There is a subset
of the American dogs, and that would be the
"Back-yard Bred" dog (BYB). These are dogs that
descend from American show lines, occasionally
with some European lines mixed in, but are a
generation or two, or more, removed from
responsible American show line breeding. They
are bred by people in their homes and backyards
(hence the name) who have all the wrong reasons
for breeding; puppies would be fun, the kids
could experience the miracle of life, easy way
to make a few dollars, and the list goes on. Not
only do they usually not title or health screen
their breeding stock, in most cases they aren't
even aware these things exist, much less their
importance. They know nothing about bloodlines
or pedigrees and don't care to, though they'll often advertise
their puppies in the newspaper as "champion
lines". They will breed
to a dog owned by a friend, family member,
neighbor, or someone they meet on the street
because it is easy, cheap and convenient.
Most of these breeders aren't bad people, and
they don't set out to produce substandard dogs.
They do so out of complete ignorance of what it
takes to be a responsible breeder, and the
importance of thoroughly testing the health and
temperament of breeding stock, and a lack of
interest in educating themselves on those
issues. Many actually believe that being AKC
registered or having a champion or two several
generations back in the pedigree makes for a
quality, breed worthy animal. But while they may
not intend to produce dogs with poor health and
temperament, that is generally the result.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of German
Shepherds in North America are this type. And
this is the single greatest reason for the poor
reputation the German Shepherd had gained in
recent years. Dogs bred by people who do not
understand the breed, don't test their dogs'
health and temperament, and are breeding only
for themselves instead of for the betterment of
the breed, are an accident waiting to happen.
Many these dogs are soft, nervous, spooky, prone
to separation anxiety and other behavioral
problems, and weak in character. Some so much so
that they are dangerous fear biters.
Never get a dog from a Backyard Breeder. This is
nothing but a game of Russian Roulette. Dogs
from responsible breeders may cost more
initially, but that is minimal compared to the
vet and training fees that can accumulate due to
health and temperament problems, a lawsuit
caused by a dangerous dog, an the heartache that
accompanies both. Below is a picture of both