Different types of German Shepherd breeds
While these are all considered German shepherds, each is its own “line.” These lines usually indicate the heritage of the dog, and the differences between the types of German shepherds usually stems from how these dogs were bred and for what purpose these dogs were bred. While there are technically seven different lines, there are only two general lines: show lines and working lines.
Show lines, from America, Canada, and West Germany (just Germany now), were bred for body type, color, and coloration pattern over healthy and personality, while working lines are more typically bred for personality and health, instead of to achieve a specific “look.”
American and Canadian Show Lines
These are dogs who have diverged largely from their German origin, having been bred just with other American dogs for at least the last fifty years. This isn’t a requirement to be considered an American or Canadian show line German shepherd, breeders have preferred to breed from North American stock, rather than importing dogs from overseas, to retain a consistent body style, coloration pattern, and coloring.
The AKC and the CKC both have fairly strict regulations when it comes to what they want their dogs to look like—not act like, but look like. They want “extreme rear angulation, ” and what’s known as the “flying trot” gait. They also want the tan legs with a black saddle coloration. The dogs should be short haired, and while some breeders do try to maintain strong personality traits, many breeders forgo protecting the typical German shepherd temperament, in favor of looks and gait.
West German Show Lines
Like American and Canadian show lines, these dogs are bred to have a specific appearance and gate. They are, however, often required to prove that they are just as skilled at “working” as they are at being shown. While there are many dogs that just barely pass the agility and obedience trials, there is usually a better attempt at breeding dogs that are both loyal, obedient, and intelligent, as well as dogs that just have the right look.
These dogs have very similar body styles to the American and Canadian German shepherd types, but it is preferable that this dog be red with a black saddle, rather than tan.
West German Working Lines
These dogs are considered to be true to the dogs bred when Max von Stephanitz, the founder of the German shepherd breed, was alive. Von Stephanitz believed deeply that the best dogs would have the right personality and temperament first, and the right looks second. This means that his dogs (and this line, by extension), are bred for their ability to work, learn, and listen, rather than for a specific coloring or color pattern.
These dogs are considered very high quality, with a drive to work and a desire to please their owners, which makes them unparalleled working animals and family pets. They usually have a uniform black body, with brown legs, though specific colors and patterns can vary wildly from dog to dog.