German Shepherds used to be synonymous to herding dogs. But after decades of breeding, what used to be a herding dog has branched in different blood lines. Each blood line has different traits, some very close to the “herding dog”, but some has diverged into almost another breed.
Different Kinds of German Shepherds
German Shepherds are the most popular large dog breed. Their intelligence, trainability and loyalty makes them an ideal furry companion. But not all GSDs are similar. They might have come from the same gene but outbreeding and inbreeding has changed them. But how many types of German Shepherds are there? Well, they are categorized according to their body types, coat and hair color.
German Shepherd Body Types
The first known GSD was designed to be a working dog. But since the popularity of GSDs, demands increased and so did different preferences. Thus, the birth of show lines. At present, there are 2 kinds of GSD show lines and 3 kinds of GSD working line. All of which are recognized by their respective GSD regulatory bodies.
- East German Working Lines
Originally bred for military purposes, this line has been preserved and being bred under very strict standards. Dogs with hip dysplasia are not allowed to be bred , including dogs with health issues and physical defects. In fact, each and every puppy is checked for their temperament, bone structure and coat quality. Standard East German Working GSDs have incredibly strong bodies that can withstand extreme weather conditions. They usually have big heads,broad,solid shoulders and shiny coat. Modern Easter German Working dogs are the top choices in military and police work. As police or military dogs, their tests include walking on a balance beam, searching 10 blinds, undergoing tracking tests in series and scaling a 1.8 and 1.5 meters straight wall. Being energetic, having a calm demeanor and protective instincts make them great family dogs even around kids especially if they will be trained.
- West German Working Lines
The West German Working Line is the continuation of the legacy of Max Von Stephanitz. They are very active and can work for hours even in stressful situations. But sometime in the past they were also bred without regulation, hence it is not unusual for them to have health issues. Being calm, intelligent, determined and capable to understand complex tasks, make them perfect for Search and Rescue Operations, detective and police work. They have sloped backs that are not as angled as West German Show Lines but not as straight as the East German Working Lines. Having a body structure for working, this working line is also known to have a stunning appearance which is evident in their color. Most of these dogs are sable, pure black, black and tan or bi-color. Coming from the working line, these dogs are very athletic that they will be perfect for active families.
- West German Show Lines
Germans have a very clear distinction between show lines and working lines. The idea of creating a distinction between the two lines led to the West German Show Lines uniformly having a saddle back with a color combination of red-brown with black, yellow and light yellow or black and grey. They are the most popular GSD blood line in the world They might be bred primarily for show rings but they are required to have an obedience and temperament test prior to I.P.O. The I.P.O. or Internationale Prüfungs-Ordnung is a breed suitablity dog sport that includes tracking, obedience and protection. Even though they were bred with lesser working ability, they are as still as energetic and as athletic as the original GSD line so they would require a lot of exercise. Furthermore, prior to breeding, a hip and elbow health clearance is required to avoid passing down bad genes. Their temperament is more stable than their American counterparts as breeders strictly follow and comply with German Shepherd Association ‘Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) e.V.’ requirements. Bearing the genes of the original working dog, they are not only good in dog sports competition but they are also very reliable family protectors and loving pets.
- Czech Working Lines
Hailed as the most intense among GSD BloodLines, they have very agile, powerful and well proportioned bodies. They might have some similarities with the East German Working Lines, but they differ in characteristics. Czech Working Line dogs are very well-rounded and probably the most powerful among GSD bloodlines this is due to the implementation of stiffer breeding program. Due to very strict regulations, even their coats look very masculine, dark pigmented, shiny and smooth. Loyal, protective and extremely intelligent, these qualities are what makes Czech GSDs suitable to be guard dogs. With proper training, they will definitely make protective pets.
- American and Canadian Show Lines
After the German Dog Show held at Newcastle and Philadelphia in 1907, Americans never stopped being drawn to this breed. Post World War I, Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart, both GSDs shoot to stardom, so did the GSDs’ popularity. The demand for GSDs in the market rose, puppy factories sprung across America but only to produce low quality dogs which resulted in GSD popularity deterioration. GSDs rose back to popularity again after World War II as working dogs. American breeders then began creating the perfect looking GSDs thru inbreeding. There were no regulatory board, so they were free to breed GSDs according to their own preferences. As a result, American and Canadian lines have now become show ring superstars and physically more attractive than other GSD lines. They have completely veered away from the original design. In the show ring, dogs are judged according to their movement, built, size, body angles, colors and breed resemblance. In effect, the American and Canadian lines have more proportionate bodies, smoother fur, taller, muscular built and longer physique. Indiscriminate breeding to achieve such perfection has caused serious repercussions for these lines’ health. They are more predisposed to quite a number of health issues. However, their temperament has become more mellow and they are more easy going which definitely makes them great pets.
German Shepherd Dog Coat Types
Different types of German Shepherds are also categorized according to their coat types. These coat types are a result of inbreeding and outbreeding. Although American Kennel Club accepts any coat type except white, it is important to know if coat types affect the GSDs behavior and health.
- Sable German Shepherd
Did you know that the first registered GSD is a sable? A sable dog has two or three different colored hair strands and also a coat color pattern that resembles a gray wolf. Sable GSDs are normally seen in the working lines. For a GSD to be sable, at least one parent should be a sable. A dominant sable or a homogeneous sable dog has received one sable gene from its parents and will definitely reproduce only sables regardless of its partner’s coat. Having sable parents is not a guarantee to have sable puppies because they might inherit the recessive gene instead of the sable gene.
- Panda German Shepherd Dog
The rarest GSD coat type is Panda. Franka, the first Panda GSD, came from pure bred GSD parents. After testing its DNA, it was discovered that Franka’s Panda coat was caused by the mutation of the KIT gene. There are no known causes for the mutation as it can also happen to other species. To reproduce such rare coat, one parent should have a clear mutated KIT gene. Since there are no known health issues about Panda coat, there a number of breeders who are keen on reproducing them. But a responsible breeder will always prioritize their pets’ health over its colors.
- Solid Color German Shepherd
Black GSDs or Solid Black GSDs are naturally black from birth and won’t change coat color. Their solid color will be more obvious at 8 weeks. Solid Black GSDs are usually larger with long coat and have a straighter back. Black gene is recessive in almost all GSDs. But to produce a solid black GSD, both parents should possess a recessive gene. Another way is to breed two solid black GSDs.
- Saddle Back German Shepherd
Saddle Back is a classic GSD coat color and mostly seen in show ring dogs. The famous Rin Tin Tin is a saddle back GSD. Saddle Backs have black face masks and a black saddle running from their necks down to their tails. They have color combinations of black and tan, black and red, and even black and silver.
German Shepherd Dog Hair Types
The term “stock” to classify coat types means that only specific coat types with undercoats are appropriate as “breeding stocks”. According to the Society for German Shepherds,there are three main types of GSD coat types.
- Stock Hair
In Germany Stock Hair type is also called Stock Haarig or Stockhar Coat. GSDs with stock hair usually have lustrous,fuller hair. It should be short on the face and the body with hair not to close to the skin. They have an undercoat that sheds twice a year.
- Long Stock Hair
Longstock Coat or in Germany Lang Stockhaarig or Lang Stockhaar GSDs tend to have feathery hair and a longer coat than the Stock Coat. GSDs with this coat type are in demand because they have heavily coated neck almost like a lion’s mane which makes them look glamorous. They have an undercoat similar to Stock Coats that lets them endure harsh weather and changes with the season, usually thinner in summer and thicker in winter.
- Long Hair
Long Hair or also called Lang Haar in Germany are quite rare. Such coat is from a recessive gene and considered as a genetic fault. Long-Haired GSDs may not be great for herding and hunting as they don’t have undercoats. Their hair might appear very long and attractive but they have similar traits with the two other types. They have an upbeat personality that makes them ideal around children.
What is the Best Type of German Shepherd?
There are many types of German Shepherd breed and may continue to increase in the future. Some breeders are dedicated to preserve GSDs from the original lines and some breeders are more keen on breeding according to their clients’ preferences. The best type of German Shepherd will be according to the owner’s needs and environment. GSDs are generally very active, so a wide space is ideal for them. As family dogs, they are very loyal and protective but with children around, owners should choose GSD puppies instead of adults. As puppies grow along with children, they will be more accustomed to each other.
Knowing the German Shepherd evolution can help GSD owners or would-be owners to better understand their pets’ behaviour, other characteristics and even health issues. German Shepherd kinds are varied and so are there personalities and physical aspects. Their coat colors definitely don’t affect their behaviour, at least not scientifically proven. Would-be owners should choose what best suits them and purchase only from reputable breeders.