The German Shepherd Dog- Show Lines and Working Lines

A few weeks ago I wrote an article in which I explained that there are many types within the German Shepherd dog breed and that these types can be separated into two categories; dogs which have physical characteristics that exhibit their intended purpose and dogs who by their physical traits display their place of origin. In this post I will talk about the first case, which are the differences between Show Lines (or High Lines) and Working Lines.

There are many differences between these two types of German Shepherds, but the most noticeable one is their physical conformation. The physical conformation of German Shepherd dogs from Show Bloodlines is much closer to the ideal described in the breed standard, while German Shepherds from Working Bloodlines are bred with emphasis in their aptitude for the job, rather than in their physical conformation.

German Shepherds from Show Bloodlines recognized by the FCI are very consistent in type. A good German Shepherd dog from Show Bloodlines is a strikingly beautiful dog. Show line German Shepherds tend to be larger, more angulated and brighter in color than Working Line dogs. They are predominantly black and red and exhibit a fluid trot and sound temperament which is usually softer than that of Working Bloodline German Shepherds.

A Few Examples of German Shepherd Dogs from Show Bloodlines:

German Shepherd from Show Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Show Bloodlines

German Shepherd from Show Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Show Bloodlines

Solid Black German Shepherd from Show Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Show Bloodlines

German Shepherd Female from Show Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Show Bloodlines

A mayor misconception among the German Shepherd dog enthusiasts and even some breeders and trainers is that German Shepherds from Show Lines are only bred for conformation and are unable to work as efficiently as German Shepherds from Working Lines. This is not entirely true.

Let’s clarify this. The German Shepherd Show Line is the most popular breed type in Germany. It’s true that they are bred for competition in the show ring, but they must also have working titles. They compete world wide under the German SV system, which requires working titles of show and breeding dogs. Germans take great pride in their breed, thus they make sure that the dogs they breed are the best and they have very strict rules when it comes to breeding. All breeding stock is required to pass a hip certification and prior to breeding each dog must have at least a Schutzhund I title and pass an endurance test; and a courage test at each national show where they compete.

Representatives of this line can be successful show dogs, but they can also perform as herding dogs, service dogs, guide dogs, search and rescue dogs and sport dogs, and they make exceptional family companions and protectors. However, many show line dogs lack the energy and the nerves required of true protection dogs. Their energy and their nerves are what separate them from the working line dogs.

German Shepherds from Working Bloodlines on the other hand are bred mainly for their working traits rather than their appearance, thus the appearance of these dogs varies a lot. Although powerful and athletic, they are less likely to show the refined conformation typical of show lines; still, many due show excellent structure. They are oftentimes sable, but also come in a series of different colors. They can be black and tans, saddle backs, bi colors, solid blacks and pretty much every other color except white.

A Few Examples of Working Bloodline German Shepherds:

German Shepherd from Working Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Working Bloodlines

German Shepherd from Working Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Working Bloodlines

German Shepherd from Working Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Working Bloodlines

German Shepherd from Working Bloodlines
German Shepherd Dog from Working Bloodlines

Working Line German Shepherds also have more drive than the average Show Line German Shepherd dog. They are normally more energetic than Show Line German Shepherds and have a stable though stronger temperament, solid nerves and great disposition. They are also generally healthier. These dogs also make wonderful family companions, although some show more drive and aggression than would be wanted in a family or guide dog.

Crosses between these two types are as good or as bad as the animals used to make the cross. Generally, they do not show the extremes of either parent's type.

Both dogs make loving, caring, warm hearted friends and are great at a wide range of tasks. As I have mentioned in previous posts, one of the main things that separates the German Shepherd dog from other breeds is the fact that although there are breeds which are better at specific tasks, no other breed has mastered such a large array of skills.

21 comments:

  1. Very informative. I am fairly new to the German Shepherd world. I have 2 show line quality GSD, and have observed the differences in the working line vs show line you have described. The more I learn, the more I want to know. I want to learn more about SV. I hope to start my young male in SV training within the next few months. Merri

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  2. very thoughtful post... worthy of reading and will surely help the GSD enthusiast. Good going. keep it up. we really appreciate your effort.

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  3. Thanks. I have been reading your site too and it's a great site. Take care.

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  4. The dogs pictured are German. Clearly a huge difference form American Bred Show Dogs...
    One wants nothing to do with the other...thats
    how great the differences are.
    A German bred dog, would have a very hard time being shown in United States.
    Not, that it matters, but the dogs pictured about do not represent our American bred Shepherds.

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  5. Yes, you are right. I wrote a couple of articles on that topic a few months ago. If you want to read them, they are:

    “The German Shepherd Dog Breed- Which Are Better; German Lines or American Lines?” posted on November 15th, 2009 and

    “The German Shepherd Dog Breed- Difference Between German Lines and American Lines” posted on December 6th, 2009.

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  6. me parece un buen articulo y blog es muy interesante

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  7. Fantastic article!!! right on !!

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  8. Thanks for a fantastic article ... and I will also reed your article “The German Shepherd Dog Breed- Difference Between German Lines and American Lines” as the americans tend to chance everything and make it worse :( ... I hope that the German Shepherd will remain a German dog as the dogs in your photos. Thanks again / Annika

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  9. Gracias Lu-michelfer and thanks Joahnne and Annika!

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  10. Hawthorne Creek KennelsOctober 4, 2010 at 1:20 AM

    I am interested in checking out the post between the German line and imo altered American line of show dog. The show dogs here in the US just don't hold up. Our kennel breeds for working dogs that are show quality.

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  11. Sure, check them out. I wrote one in November 2009 and one in December. Let me know what you think.

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  12. Thank you for your objective and informative article. I'm a fan of Euro working lines myself, having raised both. I often have to wonder what Max von Stephanitz would think of the hip structure on modern show lines, especially American. They can't possibly work with those hips. I've seen so many representatives of show lines whose hocks actually touch with each step. That doesn't seem to me, at least, to coincide with the original purpose and intent for this breed. While your article was refreshingly fair and unbiased, what is your personal take/opinion on the difference in hip structure between the lines?

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  13. gudpm i am a dog lover from the philippines,very nice informations. i am a fan of german shepherds specially working lines. i saw few here in the philippines and one day i want to import some.

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  14. My anonymous friend from the Philippines, thanks for the comment and please come back to my blog and check out future posts.

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  15. Amanda, thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. It's hard to explain in few words what I think about the difference in hip structure between the lines, but I did write another article where I go into the topic more thoroughly. Maybe you would like to read it and let me know what you think. It is:

    “The German Shepherd Dog Breed- Difference Between German Lines and American Lines ” posted on December 6th, 2009.

    There I comment on the differences between American and German lines.

    I don’t have enough information to compare the hip structure of German show lines with working lines, but it is my understanding that working lines are generally healthier.

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  16. Hawthorne Creek KennelOctober 6, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    I really enjoyed the article on the German/American difference. You are spot on with your points.

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  17. Very informative. i was researching the differences between the German GSD of show lines verses the working lines.
    I am glad you confirmed that the show lines aren't just for show and conformation, they also need to pass some working tests as schtuzhund.

    Please give us more examples, explanation on what you mean by higher drive, stronger temperment, solid nerves... As a family/ protection dog, how will such difference affect expectations from the dog.

    Thanks, keep it going and good work.
    Shamel

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  18. Thank you nice article

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