Types of German Shepherds | American Show Lines, European Working Lines, Backyard Breeders | thegermanshepherd.org
As to the types of German Shepherds that are being bred today, this can essentially be broken down to the four following categories: 1. American bred German Shepherds. 2. European bred German Shepherds. 3. Backyard breeders. 4. And lastly, the all “others” category. Let’s take a look at each of these types of German Shepherds to try and better understand their evolution and overall history.
As for the American bred German Shepherds, this technically encompasses all of North America, which includes Canada. This type of dog has generally been bred for show, that is, a dog used extensively for ring competition, whereby a strong emphasis is placed on the dog’s looks, gait, and overall appearance. Secondary has been that of the German shepherd’s temperament and mental soundness, and as a result of this type of breeding, many describe the American German Shepherd as far different from the dogs original bloodlines. And though the American bred German Shepherd is without question a great family pet and companion, they often lack the essential “working” line characteristics found in the European breeding stock.
From a physical perspective, American bred German Shepherds also display extreme sloping and rear angulation, often displaying a bigger, softer, and rounder appearance when compared to European German Shepherds. Critics of the American German Shepherds often decry these dogs as mere shadows of their true lineage for which they are void of the mental hardness, seriousness, and drive of their European bred counterparts.
It’s important to note that the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) provide what can best be considered as mere recommendations and guidelines for the breed standard, and nothing more. This minimal enforcement, which in turn allows for the large and varying types of German Shepherds seen in North American today, is a notable point of criticism towards American bred German Shepherds. And because the North American German Shepherd is generally not seen as a dog with true working lines-one that can be successfully used for security work and protection-many organizations find themselves searching abroad for alternative blood lines. In fact, many local, state, and federal agencies in the United States look to the European bloodlines when obtaining German Shepherds for security and protection work. The confidence they have in the North American bloodline has continued to decline over the years. However, there are a number of reputable American German Shepherd breeders that continue to work very diligently in maintaining the dog’s working line characteristics, often supplying their dogs to law enforcement and selected families.
That’s not too say that American bred German Shepherds are inferior dogs. They still can make great family companions and are seen as very sociable on many levels. They just differ in many ways from the European German Shepherds. In summary, the American German Shepherds exhibit a different build structure, have a softer temperament, and are seen more as a family companion, a dog void of many working line characteristics found in the European German Shepherd. As such, the protective nature of the North American German Shepherds has waned considerably over the years, leaving many pet owners to seek out European lines for finding a dog with a strong drive, sound temperament, a true willingness to work, and natural protective instinct.
As for the European lines, these types of German Shepherds are considered to have a much more hardened temperament, a very high energy level, a strong desire to engage in strenuous mental and physical activities, along with exhibiting a sound and stable disposition. Moreover, these types of German shepherds are bred primarily for their working line characteristics and not for looks and appearances, thus their physical characteristics vary greatly. It’s also important to note that German Shepherds decedent from European lines can and do come from a variety of Western and Eastern European countries, such as Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and others. Breeders in these countries have worked very hard over the years in maintaining the true working bloodlines of German Shepherds, placing a strong emphasis on all aspects of the dog, ranging from physical health to mental soundness. And unlike the ACK and CKC, the SV, which is the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV), the official club for the German Shepherd dog in Germany, takes a more active role in promoting the overall quality and soundness of the breed.
European German Shepherds also make great family pets and companions, as their sound temperament, alert nature, and noticeably more serious demeanor (when compared to American German Shepherds) allow them to demonstrate a high level of maturity and confidence in their actions. In short, a dog with a strong and sound mind will not be intimidated, frightened, overly agitated, or become overly aggressive.
And there’s the backyard breeders; individuals who engage in unethical breeding for purposes of solely making money. They in turn do more harm to the German Shepherd breed than anybody else, selling puppies with little or no care for the dog’s physical and mental health. And to no surprise, it’s hard to tell the types of German Shepherd dogs that result from this type of ill-conceived breeding practice. It could range from a well-mannered, highly socialized, yet protective companion, to a disease-riddled, dangerous animal with a fragile temperament. It’s best to stay away from these breeders, and unfortunately, these types of German Shepherds.
Lastly, the all other category for types of German Shepherds consists of any other scenario not described above or commonly seen, such as dogs being imported from other countries that are not European bred, accidental breeding (dogs do get loose!), or any other scenario.