How many types of German Shepherds are there? +variations

There are 5 main types of German Shepherds based on lines namely;

  1. American and Canadian show line German Shepherds.
  2. West German working line German Shepherds.
  3. West German show line German Shepherds.
  4. Czech Working line German Shepherd.
  5. East German DDR Working lines German Shepherds.

There are also 5 main Types of German Shepherds based on their coat color variations namely;

  1. White German Shepherd dog
  2. Panda German shepherd
  3. Black German Shepherd
  4. Sable German Shepherd
  5. Saddle coat German Shepherd

These dogs are loyal, hard-working, athletic, courageous, and alert dogs despite their differences in overall appearance and coat color.

Purebred GSDs come in different colors, sizes, and body styles that is why you must do your research before you decide that this is the breed for you.

In this article, we are going to tell you all that you need to know about the different types of German Shepherds and how you can make the best choice for you as you search for the next member of your family.

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But before we get into the details, let’s look at why the different German Shepherd types exist.

Why there are different types of German Shepherd

After the second world war, german Shepherds gained a lot of popularity.

During the first few decades, the European and American German Shepherds only had a few differences between them as far as physical appearance and temperament were concerned.

In this time, the European dogs performed better in shows. Many breeders crossed their local dogs with the European lines that were imported.

In the process, it became difficult to tell them apart, unless you knew which continent they came from.

Years after that, breeding practices began to change and the interpretation of the breed’s standards started to vary. This was done following the preferences of the show judges, exhibitors, and breeders alike.

The American show lines started to deviate from the standards that had been set by the German SV.

From that time, the focus of breeding shifted from the original purpose.

Breeders from the American show lines mostly focussed on the appearance, the flying trot, and the exaggeration of the rear angulation.

After several breeding generations, the show line German shepherds, especially those from America looked different from the original German Shepherd lines. This is why many European GSD fans refer to these German Shepherds as American Shepherds because of these very noticeable differences.

Now with all that in mind let us get right to it. 

Types of German Shepherds

There are only two officially recognized GSD types but under these 2 types, there are several types and varieties of the same breed.

The 2 main German Shepherd varieties are

  • Short-haired GDS
  • Long-haired GSDS.

It is also worth noting that not all German Shepherd types can be allowed in shows and competitions.

These Shepherd lines are an indication of their heritage, how the dog was bred, and what the purpose of breeding them was.

Technically, there are 5 lines of GSDs but 2 general lines;

  • The show lines
  • The working lines

Show lines were mainly bred for their body type, coloration pattern, and color over their health.

However, the working lines were bred to be work dogs just as their names suggest. Their breeding is mainly focussed on their health, personality, and stamina instead of their looks.

So, let us look at German Shepherd types based on their lines.

Types of German Shepherds based on their lines

1. American and Canadian Show lines

The American and Canadian show lines have been popular in North America since the 1970s.

These types of German shepherds have diverged greatly from the original German Shepherd.

There are generally taller and longer than the European GSD lines and also come in different colors like:

  • Sable
  • Bi-color
  • Tan and Black saddle
  • Solid black
  • Solid white

You should know that the American show lines German Shepherd dogs are generally lighter than the European ones.

Other than what you may see in German Show lines and working lines, silver, light tan, and cream colors are common in these lines. You may have been used to seeing the tan and red coats of the German lines.

They are more laid back, have less energy, and lower drive.

The reason for the huge difference from the original German Shepherds is due to breeding with other American dog breeds over the last 50 years.

Breeders preferred breeding American dogs to importing dogs from other countries. They did this while maintaining the GSD’s color, pattern coloration, and body style.

Why was the American Show Line Shepherd developed?

American show lines are mainly bred for show and conformation.

If you are looking for a great family pet you should consider the American show line. They are eager to please and also do well in agility, obedience, tracking, and herding.

However, some of their traits do not make them suitable for protection and security purposes.

There are only a few of these types of German shepherds that do well in the field. This is due to the elimination of the “Schutzhund” characteristics.

Schutzhund” is also a term used to mean protection or defense.

The only things that the AKC checks for a dog to be certified are the perfect body shape and coat colors.

When you are getting an American Show line German Shepherd always make sure that the breeder is responsible and has ethics and best practices.

For a breed like this, you want to be on the watch out for health and characters if you want to have a good pet.

american showline

2. West German show lines types of German Shepherds

The West German Show lines are known as the “handsome” ones.

They have astonishingly stunning looks, but that does not mean that they were bred only for beauty and conformation.

This dog is governed by the club for german shepherd dogs inc that is the original German Shepherd Club and registry of the World.

Just like their American and Canadian counterparts, they are bred to have a specific appearance.

Despite all these, they are required to prove that they can also perform as working dogs.

Although many dogs barely pass the obedience and agility tests, there is usually a good number of dogs that are loyal, obedient, and intelligent with the right looks.

West German Show lines are similar to the American Show lines in many ways, but they are preferably red with a black saddle rather than being tan.

Every dog in this line is required to have a working title and a hip and elbow health clearance before being allowed to pass their genes.

If you are looking for an amazingly adorable dog that can be a protector and a family pet then this is the right type of German Shepherd for you.

These are not lazy dogs and they will need a lot of training, exercise, and socialization.

west German Show line

3. West German Working lines

These dogs have the closest resemblance to the German Shepherds bred by Max von Stephanitz.

Max is the person that is responsible for the development of the German Shepherd and setting the guidelines of the standards.

Dogs in this line are bred for their ability to learn, work, and listen rather than their look and appearance which was the original intention of breeding the German Shepherd that you see today.

The main aim of breeding the west German Working lines was to get a GSD with a strong drive, excellent working abilities, and stable temperament.

Even though they have a strong drive they are still able to stay calm and settle down easily.

This does not mean that they are not bred to have stunning looks.

These pooches are considered to be of very high quality and a desire to please their owners.

Combining these qualities makes these types of German shepherds unparalleled working dogs as well as family pets.

They excel at different sports, search and rescue missions and even as guarding and protection dogs.

This line of amazing dogs has a uniform black body with brown legs, although some patterns and colors can vary from one dog to another.


4. East German DDR Working lines

This is a post-world war 2 line of German Shepherds that has its origin in the 1940s and the 1950s.

After the separation of West Germany from East Germany, trade was stopped resulting in the preservation of the East German working GSDs line.

In this period, the government took control of this working line of German shepherds, isolating and protecting them from outside influence.

This line of German shepherd types was not bred for their appearance or looks but rather their ability to work, especially for the military.

In East Germany, the breeding of these dogs was regulated heavily thus ensuring that they had large and strong dogs.

They ended up creating a very pure line of dogs ensuring that they have clean genetics and loyal and obedient temperament.

These dogs have a more wolf-like appearance than show dogs.

They come in more dark colors usually black or sable mottled with some brown.

Some of the features that you can see in this dog are back legs that are longer and a more stereotypical dog gait instead of having a flying trot that is typical in show dogs.

They have really strong bones, broad shoulders, and large heads.

What is strange is that not all dogs that are in this East German Working line are allowed to be breed. They are only allowed to breed only if they are completely free of hip dysplasia.

Every puppy in a litter is inspected, tested, and examined to make sure that they have the proper coat quality, temperament, and bone structure.

Some of the physical tests that they undergo are:

  • Walking on a beam balance
  • Climbing walls are 1.5 and 1.8 meters tall.
  • Being able to perform and accomplish a series of tracking tests.
  • Searching for blinds.

If you are planning to get this German Shepherd type, you should be prepared to make sure that he gets plenty of exercises. This is because they were bred for their working drive. If you fail to do this they may get bored and become destructive.

These incredible German Shepherds can persevere harsh weather conditions and work for long periods.

Something else that you should know is that they can be aloof and defensive.

If you are looking for a sturdy working dog then this is the dog that you should go out and get. With the right training, they can also make great family pets.


5. Czech Working lines

This Czech working line dog has the most wolf-like appearance when compared to all the other lines.

They have a distinguished coloration and body style that varies greatly from the American, German and Canadian lines.

German Shepherds from the Czech working line were specifically bred to patrol the Czech Border before the iron curtain fell.

One kennel in Czechoslovakia was responsible for the creation of these dogs.

The Pohranicni Straze kennel of the Czechoslovakian Army was mainly focussed on the working drive, agility, and trainability of these dogs.

These types of German Shepherds are known to have a phenomenal wor drive.

They have better agility and intensity than other lines.

Most of them are the remnants from former East Germany but they underwent a strict breeding program.

These German Shepherds are less common than other types of German Shepherds.

They still make excellent family pets and are still a good choice for search and rescue teams, security forces, and other working occupations.


Types of German Shepherds based on color

1. White German Shepherd dog

The white German Shepherd types came from lines of American and Canadian German Shepherds and even from other European imported dogs.

White GSDs are just like any other GSD it is just their coat colors that vary from the rest.

However, you should know that this stunning and adorable dog is only bred from German Shepherds that have a recessive white-furred coat gene.

If by any chance you are looking for a prestigious and beautiful white dog that has the loyalty and intelligence of a German Shepherd the White Shepherd might be the right dog for you. You should be ready for a few extra baths.

These are white fluffy miniature wolves when they are young. Any white German Shepherd puppy will get plenty of “awws” for sure even with a person that has a hard heart.

white Gsd

2. Panda German shepherd

The Panda German Shepherd is not a very common type of German Shepherd.

You may confuse this dog with other dog breeds because of their curious and striking appearance.

There is a genetic mutation that occurred in a litter in the USA that made them this way as opposed to people thinking that this is a mixed breed.

These German Shepherds have a white coat on their legs and abdomen but have tan and black on the other parts giving them that adorable panda appearance.

They are agile and strong and is a good choice for you if you are looking to get a family pet.

There is a controversy that surrounds them concerning the white marking that they have. Some people claim that this is because they were bred from inferior stock.

However, to this far they have average health when you compare them you other types of German Shepherds.

panda German Shepherd

3. Black German Shepherd

The Black German Shepherd is another type of German shepherd that is bred from parents that have a recessive black gene.

It is also possible for a black and tan German Shepherd to give birth to a solid black GSD.

He has the same temperament and personality just like any other average GSD but with a solid black coat.

This pooch is a brave, intelligent, and loyal.

The Black German Shepherd has a chiseled face and long muzzle. Black German Shepherds are perched on their rounded forehead and have semi-pointed and erect ears.

These guys certainly know how to keep you on your toes. But when all that is said and done, they love nothing more than curling up on the sofa at the end of the day.

They adore their family no matter the age; from babies to teenagers.

Types of german Shepherds

4. Sable German Shepherd

Agouti is the technical term for Sable German Shepherds.

This sable pattern does not manifest in patches but rather as various multicolored hairs over their bodies.

The color develops as the dog gets older and can be stronger in some GSDs more than others.

These colors can be a combination of:

  • Black
  • Gold
  • Gray
  • Tan

All of them start as tan and then develop darker colors as they get older.

Variations among these types of GSDs can be wide because of a dominant gene.

Sable German Shepherd

5. Saddleback coat German Shepherd

This is the most common variety of German Shepherds.

They come in two colors and it the distinct nature of the markings that give them their name. The saddle refers to the black patch of fur at their backs that is shaped like a saddle on a horse.

Some people may refer to this patch as a “blanket” pattern.

The colors that they most commonly have are either red or tan. When it comes to dog competitions, the more vibrant the colors are, the better you are going to score. You may be deducted points if your German Shepherd has a liver color which is not preferred.

These German Shepherds usually have a black muzzle that covers part of their face and their snout. Some tail areas may have black coloration.

saddle back german Shepherd

Now that you learned the most important things about the different types of German Shepherds based on their lines and their colors it is time to ask yourself the most important question.  

Which type of German Shepherd should you choose?

This will all depend on what you want you German shepherd to be doing.

Adopting the best show dog may not always be a great idea if you are just looking for a family pet.

These dogs were bred for show and they may have issues with fear and anxiety.

However, you may be looking for a show dog and in that case, then you need to consider the American, German, and Canadian show line GSDs and see what the best for you.

Also, make sure that the dog you are getting is from a responsible and reputable breeder.

You may be looking for a working dog that is tough and strong. You may also want him to be a family dog or give him the training to do certain tasks. It may be in your best interest to choose a German Shepherd that is from the working lines.

This is because these dogs were bred to be trainable, loyal, obedient, and intelligent at the same time.

With all these said it does not mean that you cannot get a show dog that can be used as a working dog.

They are still German Shepherds and getting one that can best fit what you want him to do is not hard.

There you Go WOOF!!!

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