Working Lines German Shepherd vs. Show Lines

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German Shepherd Dogs are not just mere breed of dog, it is also a functional animal. If you are not yet aware or has no interest about dogs especially on German Shepherd, you will really be surprised when you know about their characteristics. In this article, you will understand the difference between working lines German Shepherd and show lines but first, it is necessary to have an overview of what is the history of the German Shepherd lines.

Historical Background of Working Lines German Shepherd

Human race history is a very interesting topic to study but would you believe that dog breeds also have its significant history? One of these exciting dog stories, is the history of the German Shepherd working lines.

When was the idea of German Shepherd Lines began?

It was during 1850s that breeding of dogs were standardized in Germany. The main purpose was to produce dogs in assisting the shepherds in protecting their flock from predators. Throughout this period, there was also contentions of belief about whether bred dogs should be used for display of appearance only or should be for working functions as well.

Until such time when a German captain and a former student of veterinary science, Max von Stephanitz, who strongly believed in standardizing dog breeding to produce working dogs, advocated such idea.  His advocacy started after watching a show and was amazed with the performance and ability of a dog, Hektor Linksrhein, and eventually after buying it, he changed its name to Horand von Grafrath who was known to be the first German Shepherd Dog.

Since then, the breeding of working lines German Shepherd became popular. Stephanitz’s effort in formulating methodical breeding programs contributed greatly in the field of breeding German Shepherds especially of working lines. His work became internationally acceptable and are being used until now.  

How did the German Shepherd Lines evolved?

The discovery of Horand’s ability and genes became the core of the breeding system of working line GSD. Stephanitz continuously worked on the inbreeding procedures using Horand’s bloodline. The results were successful when out of Horand came Schwaben and Beowulf which became the origin of the present German Shepherd worklines.

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In 1907, German Shepherd Dog became more popular in America when its first exposure happened there. It was in America, where GSD shows became more famous because of this new breed.

The development of the cross-breeding process of working line GSD greatly improved during the Second World War in order to help both the Axis Powers and Forces for both military and paramilitary activities.

After the war, both America and Germany became highly strict in breeding and training program of the German Shepherd working lines.

Presently, the breeding program of German Shepherd lines can be either for working purpose or for show or domestic purpose which will be further discussed below.

Difference between Working Lines German Shepherd and Show Lines?

To clearly distinguish these German Shepherd lines, it is better to look at their differences in purpose, physical and personality.

Purpose Difference

Basically, working lines German Shepherds are bred and trained to work especially in law enforcement and military functions. The breeding process and training is so intensive to develop the dog’s endurance to strengthen its survival rate and pain tolerance.

On the other hand, show lines German Shepherds are being raised primarily to produce well-structured and good appearing breed of GSD. These lines are actually intended for dog shows and of course to be pet dogs at home.

Physical Difference

Working German Shepherds have thicker and a straight body structure so they can work harder for long hours.  While show lines German Shepherds are thinner with slanted back because their back legs are shorter than their legs in front. Unlike the working lines GSD, legs in back are longer than front.  

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photo by Tarra du Shaman

Working lines German Shepherds are preferably to have double coat medium in length for more tolerance in climate. However, there are standards for show lines where color is a requirement such as strong rich colors like black, black and red, gray, black and tan, blue, or black and silver.

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There is also a sable working line German Shepherds are preferred in military and police works. Sable German Shepherd Dogs are being bred by top working line German Shepherd breeders in the world.

Personality Difference

Working lines GSD are more aggressive and is very sensitive to any fast-moving persons or animals because they assumed it to be a prey. They also use their mouth to bite or attack rather than their paws. This aggressiveness is an effect of the severe training exposures. The training requires more special exercises that will develop its physical strength and intelligence in order to be prepared in hazardous field of work.

German Shepherd Show Lines are calm, more tamed and home-friendly but still requires cautions because they can be also dangerous when improperly handled. However, their aggressiveness are usually expressed when there is situation that they need to defend themselves.

Breed Types of Working and Show Lines German Shepherd

For those who are planning to have a German Shepherd Dog, it is not enough that you know about their types of functions but it is also essential to be oriented about the major types of breeds of German Shepherd Lines.

Below are some of the famous breed types of German Shepherd working and show lines. Specific details about this topic can be read in our article, “Type of German Shepherd.”

East German Shepherd

This type of working German Shepherd is also known as DDR (Deutshe Demokratishe Republik). They have straight body structure, darker color, and big bones. DDR is usually bred and trained to be working line GSD.

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They are more energetic and needs to be involved in many activities for them to maintain good health conditions. Most of them are trained by European working line German Shepherd breeders.

West German Shepherd

West German Shepherds are being bred for show purposes rather than for working functions. They are very popular when it comes to show lines GSD breed. They have a more sloped appearance compared to East German Shepherds.

There is also a working line West German Shepherd which is considered to be closer to the breed of dog bred by Stephanitz. This West German Shepherd is excellent both in working tasks and even as a family pet.   

Czech German Shepherd

This type of German Shepherd is famous to be working in the government. They are assigned to become protectors of territory and are being bred from the East German Shepherd lines.

Although Czech German Shepherd Dog originated from the East German (DDR) Shepherd bloodlines, it has its difference from it such as its color which is lighter than of the DDR and masculinity where it has greater than the DDR.

This kind of breed also undergoes intensive training to enhance health and muscle strength to be fit in military exercises. It is as well characterized by its dark color, strong nerves, intelligence and loyalty.


Working German Shepherd Lines are bred to develop working abilities rather appearance as compared to German Shepherd Show Lines. Although both have differences in purpose, physical attributes, and personality, owners and breeders should be very careful in handling them to ensure safety whether they are at workplace or at home.

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