German Shepherd types of breeds
When someone says “German shepherd” there is one stereotypical coloration pattern and body style that most people think of, unless they are involved in the breeding or rearing of one of the other types. This is the large, brown-coated shepherd, with black patches across his shoulders and back.
However, there are far more varieties of this breed than you might see at the American Kennel Club championship. In general, there are three different German shepherd types, but even in those types, there is still variation in coloring and temperament.
1. What Separates Different Types of German Shepherd Dogs?
There are three factors that are used to separate different German shepherd breed types. The first is coloration. Coloration plays an important role in determining different types of any breed of dog. Just as hair color, thickness, and texture is inherited by children from their parents and progenitors, the specific color, color pattern, and type of coat of a shepherd will denote his ancestry, and therefore his type.
Body shape can also play in a role in differentiating different types of German shepherds. While most shepherds will have very similar body shapes, there are some differences in leg length, girth, snout shape, etc. that can set one type apart from another. For example, some shepherds who are classified as Czech working German shepherds, have slimmer upper bodies than the American and German types. This, again, all goes back to ancestry.
The third factor is personality. While all German shepherds are intelligent, active dogs, some are bred specifically for their intelligence, while others are bred specifically for speed and power. Some are friendlier, some are more loyal, and some are more aggressive. While personality may not really vary significantly from one type to the next, some types are more known for their activity, others for their loyalty, and others for their working drive.
When looking for a dog to show, participate in agility competitions, or as a family pet, it is important to look at all the different types of German shepherd dogs available, instead of simply picking the most stereotypical-looking dog at the breeder. Some breeds, because of their coloration, may not really resemble the brown and black shepherds most people are acquainted with, but still have the German shepherd intelligence and loyalty.
2. American German Shepherd Show Lines
This is the type of dog that most people think of when they think of a German shepherd. While not every dog in this type is a show dog, this is the type that is shown in American and Canadian Kennel Club competitions. Even at the Westminster show, the American show line is the type that most handlers will show.
When they were first imported from Germany, there was very little difference between this type and the types that are more popular in Europe. However, over the years, as owners, breeders, and judges began to shift their preferences towards the larger, tan and black dogs and away from the more uniformly colored types, the American show line began to take shape.
In just the last thirty years, this has created a huge gap between American show lines and the German standard, both in physical appearance and in personality. Bred less for personality or for power and more for their appearance, these dogs have what is called an “extreme rear angulation, ” meaning that their bodies slant significantly downwards from the head to the rump.
Unlike other types of German shepherds that are bred specifically to herd animals or work in the fields, dogs bred in the American show lines are bred more for an easy temperament and trainability, in addition to the distinctive body shape and coloration. They are taller, longer, with narrower bodies, and are most commonly light tan and black.
There has also been a trend in recent breeding to eliminate the “schutzhund” characteristic, which is, in short, the personality trait that makes a German shepherd great for working in the fields, as a police dog, or in the military. In short, many breeders do not want this specific type of shepherds used for anything but showing.
A note of caution when looking to purchase a puppy from a litter that is designated American show line: many breeders, even those that claim they are American Kennel Club certified, do not properly test their dogs for hip dysplasia, other health problems, or temperament. Because neither health nor temperament are tested in the show ring, some will completely disregard anything but body shape and color. Always purchase a puppy from a breeder that uses responsible breeding practices and seeks for their dogs to be as trainable and healthy as possible. This advice goes for all types of German shepherds, not just the American show line, though irresponsible breeding practices are perhaps more common with this type than with any other.
3. American GSD Pet Lines
Very closely related to the American show line type, these dogs generally have the same personality and body characteristics, but they are bred as pets, rather than to be shown in competitions. Sometimes these dogs are even bred in people’s backyards, instead of by professional breeders, because the owners want to sell the puppies or just raise their own litter. This can be as dangerous as the actions taken by breeders who do not use responsible practices.