German Shepherd Sloping Back VS Straight Back

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The German Shepherds are handsome dogs but they are also very active and functional. This dog breed was designed to be a working dog but why do we frequently hear about GSDs with a straight back and sloped back? Getting an answer to this question entails a question after another. In this article, you will learn about the “What”, “When”, “How” and “Why” of the differences between GSD sloping back and straight back. 

What is the difference between a Straight Back and a Sloped Back German Shepherd?

Citing the difference between a straight back and a sloped back GSD reveals the dynamics of breeding German Shepherds. This dog breed has undergone several transformations. Although some breeders have tried to keep the original line, other breeders have focused more on the physical attractiveness of the GSDs. These different focuses have been divided within the GSD breed. 

Where is the GSD “back” located?

For us to differentiate the differences between the sloped back GSD and the straight back GSD, it is important to know the location of the “back”.  The GSD “back” is located in the GSD’s loin region that runs from the withers to the croup.  

gsd sloping back vs straight back

Differences between straight and sloped back GSDs

According to Captain Von Stephanitz, a GSD’s back should be moderately long and straight. It should also be leveled and strong. It should be able to perform its tasks as a herding dog. And having a straight back will help them trot, herd and protect sheep quickly and smoothly. German Shepherd no slope backs and straight backs are from the working line.

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Most GSDs from the show line are sloped backs. Their backs are curved with hips and knees going closer to the ground making their hindquarters look more angulated.

Why do German Shepherds’ backs slope?

GSD has evolved through the years which has resulted in many different bloodlines. From the original working line came the show line barely a few decades after the introduction of GSDs to the world.

Unfortunately, some influential breeders concentrated on the physical perfection of the GSDs. Their idea of a perfect GSD is a sloped back with bouncy movements and looked like floating in show rings. This resulted in sloping back and angulated hind legs.

According to some breeders and some GSD clubs, having sloped backs and angulated hind legs will give GSDs more force in their gait, allowing them to function better than straight backs. But some breeders went from sloped to extremely sloped backs which is way beyond the conformity of the show lines. 

German Shepherd Sloped Back Problems

GSDs with sloped backs might look perfect through the eyes of some GSD enthusiasts and breeders, but their sloping backs cause their hind quarter’s angulation and in effect will make them more prone to back disorders and problems.  

Joints and cartilage distress

Since their hips and knees are closer to the ground, they need to stretch back more when walking or running.

They also tend to use their hocks for standing and walking. These cause their gait to be irregular and may cause more joint and cartilage distress, fatigue, and lower back pain than straight back GSDs.

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Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is common in both sloped back GSDs and straight back GSDs. But having bent legs, sloped backs have become very susceptible to Hip Dysplasia. This disease is irreversible and in some severe cases, hip replacement is recommended. 


Although most senior dogs are affected by osteoarthritis, GSDs with sloped back tend to have an earlier onset. Moreover, it will greatly affect the quality of their life.

Straight Back German Shepherds

“Old Style German Shepherds” is what straight-back GSDs are also called.  Breeders who believe in the legacy of Max Von Stephanitz that GSDs should be bred for working, have kept his advocacies. Although straight back GSDs’ population aren’t as high as the sloped backs, one can be assured that they do not only excel in working but can also be great as family pets.

Straight Back Short Haired German Shepherd

Straight Back Short Haired German Shepherds are considered to be best as working GSDs. They are more focused on their tasks and more intense in carrying them out. Most police and military GSDs are straight backs with short hair

Long Haired Straight Back German Shepherd

Old German Shepherds, also known as Long Haired Straight Back German Shepherds are what their name suggests. They have long hair which gives them a unique look but rather made them unacceptable for a long time. Despite the long hair, their straight backs and sturdy appearance make them ideal for working and as a pet. 

Large Straight Back German Shepherds

Old Fashioned German Shepherds are large straight back GSDs. They are larger than modern GSDs and have thicker bones. They are much taller, with bigger heads and deeper chests. Rin Tin Tin is a great example of an old-fashioned large straight back GSD. 

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Amid the controversy surrounding the sloped back GSDs, one should never forget that the welfare of this dog breed is what counts the most. Choosing between a sloped back and a straight back GSD will always depend on the needs and capabilities of the would-be pet owner.

No matter what one’s choice is, proper care and maintenance will always determine how responsible a pet owner is.

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