The German Shepherd Dog Breed – Difference Between German Lines and American Lines

German Shepherd Dog

The first registry was developed in 1899. Captain von Stephanitz was the president of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (an association engaged in cultivating the breed). He created the first standard of the breed for the German Shepherd dog. In the standard he stresses the importance of the utility and intelligence of this breed. His and the Fédération Cynologique Internationales (SV’s) objective was to form a dog with a structure and working ability that was consistent as well as a dog that was high performance.


The German Shepherd dog was conceived as a herding dog. Herding dogs must trot on and off, for extended periods of time. This dogs must have considerable endurance, movement, vitality and fortitude.


Another important component of the German Shepherd dog breed is its character. The GSD breed standard specifies that a German Shepherd must be courageous, confident, alert, watchful, trainable, loyal and incorruptible. It must also be courageous, have fighting drive and hardness. All these characteristics make it appropriate to be a remarkable working dog, an exceptional guard dog, a preferred protection dog, a perfect companion and a superb herding dog.

German Shepherd Lines
German Shepherd Lines

In Germany the SV, a regulating entity that controls its breeding, has explicit requirements that have to be followed. Anyone can examine the hip rating, show titles and working titles on these dogs for generations. In the USA, the American Kennel Club has no control and does not have a rigid standard.


There are a lot of differences in structure and temperament between the GSD and the American Shepherd. I will talk about some of these so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about.


There are a few differences anybody can notice at first sight. Size is the most visible. German Shepherds of German lines are normally a little larger than German Shepherds of American lines. The color is another one. German Shepherds bred in Germany are normally darker in color than German Shepherds bred in America.

American Shepherd Lines
American Shepherd Lines

There is a difference that is the most obvious and important; it is stance. GSD’s of German lines have a more horizontal back. On the other hand, American style German Shepherd have a back that has a downward angle which starts at the head and ends at the base of the tail. Their hip joints are also very sharply angled. This makes the dogs bred in America seem longer and totally different from the ones German lines. These characteristics also give the American German Shepherd the flowing gait so appreciated in the American show ring. Some people think this looks good, but this is not about taster; it is more a matter of health. This stance is not normal in the GSD and it increments the probability of developing hip dysplasia. German lines have a lower chance of having hip problems, mostly due to the breeding requirements by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.


One of the most important traits in the GSD breed is temperament. The GSD is a great overall dog, it has good temperament, it is a great family dog and it is a very social and protective dog. American show breeders have been breeding for extreme angulation and the effect is that German Shepherds of American lines have lost their working ability, their drive, their temperament and their nerves.


In America and actually all over the world, extreme beauty wins dog shows. The fact that this dog has been bred for beauty and extremes in America, has made this dog what it is now. American lines are not being bred for their intended authentic purpose, which was to be working dogs. They are being bred to win dog shows. I think it is senseless to breed a dog only to show him on a conformation ring. The German Shepherd dog breed is one of the most versatile dog breeds to ever exist, but in order to keep that, it has to be bred for its intended purpose.


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