How many types of German Shepherd are there?
The first distinction within the German Shepherd breed is that there are two main breeding lines : the working line and the show line . These, in turn, are divided into 5 types or general lines :
- Western working german shepherd
- Eastern working german shepherd
- Czech Working German Shepherd
- American Show German Shepherd
- Western show german shepherd
Before delving into each of these types, it is important to know the differences between a working German shepherd and a show one .
As the name suggests, working German Shepherds have been bred to work. They are dogs with a high level of energy, great prey drive and a natural predisposition to perform tasks to please their owner.
In addition, they are very intelligent, athletic, self-confident, courageous, and protective.
For their part, show German Shepherds are bred to show off and please breed admirers who want a calmer and less demanding dog. While they remain active, protective, and hard-working, what matters most is appearance and certain temperament traits.
With that said, let’s look at details on all types of German Shepherd and their characteristics …
It can serve you: German Shepherd Dog
Lines or types of work
1. “Western” working German Shepherd
This type of working German Shepherd is said to be the most similar to the dog bred by Max von Stephanitz, creator of the German Shepherd breed. He describes himself as a high-quality pastor with a willingness to work, learn, listen, and please his master.
It is also good as a watchdog , protector , as well as a service dog for search and rescue tasks.
In addition, it adapts very well to family life . His stable temperament makes him an excellent companion, as long as his requirements for exercise and mental stimulation are met.
The western line of work is divided into 5 sub-types or variations; this includes the German-Dutch Shepherd and the German-Belgian Shepherd. Each variation exhibits specific traits in color and coat type, but they are still considered the same dog.
How it looks?
The western line working German shepherd can be sable, black, bicolor, or black and tan. Compared to the eastern line dog, its coat is less dark. He also has a more inclined back .
2. “Oriental” working German Shepherd
According to experts, the eastern breeding line originated between the 1940s and 1950s, when East Germany broke away from West Germany. These dogs were not bred for their looks , but for their viability.
The breeding process, highly regulated by the government, guaranteed the development of a large , strong , loyal, hardy, and obedient German Shepherd . In other words, a pure breeding line was obtained, which is still highly valued for its excellent genetics and strong temperament.
Some of the roles in which he excels are guard dog , police or military service .
This is an ideal type of German Shepherd for hard work , but it can also make good as a family pet. Keep in mind that it was bred to boost the drive to work, hence its owner must make sure to keep it active. Otherwise, it can get bored and potentially destructive.
How it looks?
The East German Shepherd type is usually dark in color, either sable, black, or black-sable. It has a robust, elegant body with strong bones, a not so sloping back, and a remarkably large head. Compared to the western working pastor, it may be smaller .
3. Working “Czech” German Shepherd
The Czech-type dog is considered the least common among working German Shepherds . This line was created specifically to patrol the Czech border after the Second World War. They are high-drive specimens who like to be challenged.
They are said to be more agile than any other line and their motivation as a watchdog is superior.
Currently, the Czech German Shepherd is highly valued for his work in police departments and search and rescue teams, among other jobs.
Although it can be good as a household pet, this is not recommended if you cannot give it all the exercise and stimulation it needs. You cannot lose sight that you have been raised to work .
How it looks?
The Czech working German Shepherd has the most wolf-like appearance among his close cousins. It is also usually the smallest. Their coat is predominantly dark, varying between wolf gray, dark brown, and black. This dog’s ears are slightly smaller and its jaws are powerful.
Lines or types of display
4. “American” Show German Shepherd
Very popular in North America during the 1970s, the American show line departs considerably from the original German Shepherd . It should be noted that it includes both the American and Canadian show dogs, but together they are known as the American breeding line .
The breeders give up protecting the typical temperament of the breed, in favor of appearance and gait. As a result, this type of German Shepherd is more relaxed and has less drive; Their energy level is lower compared to working German Shepherds.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t active, or that they don’t like being useful, but they usually don’t have the same stamina . They often excel at crawling, agility, and obstacle courses.
Since they do not have the temperament of a working dog and do not have the same instinct for protection, they are often excellent as pets .
How it looks?
The American Show German Shepherd has been bred to maintain a specific body style and coloring pattern. They are generally taller and longer in body , with a smaller head and extreme rear angulation (body sloping downward from head to rear).
The short, thick, and typically lighter coat can be a variety of colors, including black and tan, solid black, sable, bicolor, and solid white. The legs should be tan with a black-brown coloring.
In the United States there is also a pet German shepherd line, which is closely related to the show line. These dogs are bred as pets, but they have the same body type and personality traits.
5. “Western” Show German Shepherd
Like the American show line, this German Shepherd is bred for a specific appearance; however, you must also show job skills . It is not considered a relaxed dog. In fact, you need a lot of exercise and training.
It is often described as very smart and easy to train . He has a stable, alert and instinctively protective temperament.
Compared to its close cousin, the Western type is more versatile , as it can be good as a protector and as a family pet.
How it looks?
The Western Show German Shepherd is similar to the American, but more robust . His body also has a tilt from head to rump, but not so much. The typically deeper and richer coat color can be black and tan or black and brownish red, the latter being the most desired.
The 13 colors of the German Shepherd
When we think of the German Shepherd, we usually envision the typical black and tan dog . But you will be surprised to learn that this breed exhibits a much wider variety of colors.
Taking into account that the color of the coat depends on whether the genes are dominant or recessive, there are usually 2 types of colors : common colors and rare colors .
Common colors in the German Shepherd
- Black and tan
- Black and red
- Black and silver
- Black and cream
- Saber red
Rare colors in the German Shepherd
Note . Most of the so-called “rare colors” in the German Shepherd breed are not recognized by the official breed standards.
1. Black and tan / tan
This is the classic color that we see in the working German Shepherd . The dog is mostly tan on the head, chest, legs and lower body, with the “saddle” pattern on the back in black.
Black is also present in the face mask and tail.
Tan or tan can range from light to dark.
A tan and black German Shepherd puppy may appear more black than tan, but his coat will begin to thin as he matures.
2. Black and red
The black and red German Shepherd looks a lot like the black and tan color, only instead of the tan hue, it exhibits a deep red-brown or mahogany color . This red pigment is much richer than the tan pigment.
This color is usually best suited for show line German Shepherds, not the working dog.
3. Black and silver
Another very similar variation, but less frequent, is black and silver .
As in the previous colors, these specimens have a light silver tone in most of the body and the pattern in black on their back and tail. The black face mask remains.
4. Black and cream
The black and cream German Shepherd refers to the type of dog whose main coat is noticeably light, much lighter than the tan hue . This cream color makes the black areas look even more accentuated.
This color is considered a variation of black and tan. The bicolor German Shepherd has a predominantly black coat with gold or brown-hued markings on the legs, chest, and under the tail. Sometimes the spots can spread to the face, jaw, inside of the ears, and eyebrows.
There is always more black than tan , but it should not be confused with the pure black German Shepherd. As long as there is an area of color on a black coat, it is a bicolor specimen.
The Sable German Shepherd is one of the prettiest colors in this breed. This pattern describes a mixture of hairs of different shades , such as gray, cream, tan, silver, and red. The grayish color of the coat and the black of the back create a shaded effect, giving it the typical wolf look.
Depending on the different shades, different types of saber German shepherd can be distinguished , including the black saber, tan saber, and red saber.
Did you know…? The first German Shepherd was a gray-yellowish sable color. His name was Horand von Grafrath and he was born in 1895.
7. Red saber
This is one of the most common variations of the Sable German Shepherd .
The coat shows a deep reddish hue instead of the usual tan that we see in the sable pattern. The dog sports a mixture of red and black throughout most of its body.
Black is not very common, but it still stands out within the breed. A black German Shepherd is solid black in color, with no other shades on his body. The only exception is the presence of some white spots on the chest when they are puppies, but they usually disappear little by little.
Black puppies are normally the result of breeding between two black parents, however a black and tan parent can also produce a pure black puppy.
Remember : Apparently black German Shepherds with different colored spots are not black, but bicolor.
The stunning white German Shepherd is one of the less common colors . Many people mistakenly believe that this is caused by albinism, but it is not. They still have black eyes and nose.
The pure white coat is due to the presence of a genetic trait that masks the black parts of the dog. Since this color fading is not accepted in dog shows, the white German shepherd is rarely bred.
To produce a white puppy it is necessary that both parents carry the responsible recessive gene.
Another of the rarest colors in the German Shepherd breed is blue. This refers to a powdery blue-gray tone , and may show small areas of tan, sable or black color. In fact, among breeders there are 3 types of blue: blue and tan, blue and sable, and blue and black.
The German Shepherds blue s are distinguished by clear eyes and nose in a deep gray. Here there is no dark face mask.
The panda is a very beautiful and unique pattern . Typically, the German Shepherd Panda has at least 30% of its body white, combined with black and brown patches. There has been debate for a long time as to whether these dogs are actually a mixed type of German Shepherd , but everything seems to indicate that they are pure.
Experts say that the panda pattern is caused by a genetic mutation. The dog still retains the usual combination of black and tan, however, this anomaly causes white spots on much of the body.
The liver German Shepherd is a striking and unusual dog.
In this case, the coat is a vibrant shade of brown , which can vary in intensity. As in the blue dog, the liver color does not have a black face mask or back . The nose is brown and the eyes are usually clear.
Often times, the gray German shepherd is mistaken for the silver wolf, the saber, and even the blue one.
But the truth is that this color is pale faded blue, a faded cream-black, or just any faded shade with very little trace of black .
Gray German Shepherd puppies are born with blue eyes, but they turn honey or light brown as time goes by.
Types of German shepherd according to the coat
The vast majority of German Shepherd dogs have a double-layered coat : a slightly ruffled and rough outer or top coat, and a softer, lighter undercoat in color. But there are also some whose inner layer is so thin that they are considered 1-layer specimens .
On the other hand, the coat is not always the same length . Depending on the length of the coat, a German Shepherd can be one of these 3 types:
How can you tell them apart?
Short haired german shepherd
Specimens with short hair have a mantle double layer reaches only 2.50 cm (1 inch) , or less , in length. This is a very important characteristic of the working German Shepherd, as it does not run the risk of being trapped or losing visibility in the field.
Usually all the German Shepherds that we see working as a service dog or police dog are short-haired.
Medium-haired or plush German Shepherd
Also double-coated and 1-2 inches long , the medium coat is somewhere between short and long hair. This type of German Shepherd has a fluffier and slightly plush appearance. For some kennel clubs, including the AKC, it is the most desired .
Long haired german shepherd
When the coat reaches more than 5 cm (2 inches) in length , then it is considered a long-haired German shepherd. There are long-haired with double coat and long-haired with single coat.
This dog’s coat is usually thick, but silky. It is typically longer around the face and has feathery hairs on the ears, belly, tail, and back of the legs.
Of the 3 types, the long-haired German shepherd is the one that requires the most maintenance , as it is prone to tangles.
Some clubs consider this trait as a disqualifying foul in the exhibition rings.
Mixed German Shepherd Types
Considering that the German Shepherd is one of the most intelligent, dedicated, loyal and hardworking dogs in the canine world, it is no wonder that breeders have chosen him to create new breeds.
Here is a list of 7 types of mixed German Shepherds …
- Golden shepherd (cross between German Shepherd and Golden Retriever )
- Shug (cross between German shepherd and pug )
- Chow Shepherd (cross between German Shepherd and Chow Chow )
- Sheprador (cross between German Shepherd and Labrador)
- Shollie (cross between German Shepherd and Collie )
- Shepweiler (cross between German Shepherd and Rottweiler )
- Shepadoodle (cross between German Shepherd and Poodle )
Note . The numbers in the image correspond to the breed number in the list above.
Quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a type of dwarf German shepherd?
Yes. German Shepherds can suffer from a condition called pituitary dwarfism , in which the pituitary gland does not produce enough growth hormone. As a result, you get a much smaller dog. These specimens are known by the name of dwarf German shepherd .
In addition to growth disorders, they suffer from different health problems and have a shorter life expectancy.
If at about 2 years old a German Shepherd still looks like a puppy , then it is likely a dwarf.
Is there a type of miniature German shepherd?
Yes. However, this type of German Shepherd is never purebred . The German Shepherds miniature are the result of crossing with other smaller breeds such as border collie and poodle. Once mature, a miniature will be 38 to 50 cm tall, and weigh no more than 50 pounds (22 kg).
These measurements may vary because there is no official standard .
The type of breed it is crossed with often has an impact on the miniature dog’s appearance, but its temperament remains similar to that of the German Shepherd. They are known to be agile, alert, intelligent, and very easy to train.
How do I know what kind of German shepherd I have?
One of the main characteristics to take into account to know what type a German Shepherd is is the breeding line to which it belongs. That is, differentiate if it is a working dog or a show dog .
Typically, a working German Shepherd will have a sturdier and more compact body, with a not so pronounced rear lean angle; his back is moderately straight. Also, the head is usually larger.
For its part, the exhibition German shepherd differs by its extreme leaning structure. These specimens are larger and have a rather downward sloping silhouette, from the shoulders to the end of the back. The hind legs look significantly angular.
Other classifications to determine what type of German Shepherd you have are color and coat.
What Kind of German Shepherd Is Best For Me?
Deciding which is the best type of German Shepherd will depend on what you prefer as an owner, and what you are capable of handling.
The working line German Shepherd may be best suited for those looking for a strong , intelligent, hardworking dog with high energy levels . This is the ideal type for people who live on farms and may assign you some kind of task (herding, guarding, guarding). Not recommended for inactive or inexperienced owners.
Instead, the show-line German Shepherd may be the best option for those who admire the breed , but prefer a more laid-back companion . Although these specimens retain intelligence, spirit and protective instinct, they are less demanding in terms of mental and physical exercise. They are generally considered better pets for the average owner.
How do you know if a German Shepherd is purebred?
One of the main recommendations to ensure that a German Shepherd puppy is pure is to seek out a reputable breeder. These breeders can usually offer some type of record or documentation that vouches for the purity and pedigree of their bloodline.
But it is also important to examine some of the key characteristics that should not be missing in the dog . A healthy purebred German Shepherd will always have:
- Strong and well-proportioned body structure, with a deep chest.
- Dense and moderately short coat, close to the body.
- Pointed, long and triangular ears.
- Long bushy tail, hanging low when the dog rests, but slightly raised and curved if the dog is alert.
- Very intelligent and energetic behavior.
These and other characteristics will be more visible if the German Shepherd is already a youngster or an adult. If it’s fully grown, make sure it has :
- The typical colors of the breed, especially the black pattern on the coat (face mask, saddle, tail).
- The angle of inclination towards the rear of the body.
- An average height of 55 to 65 cm, and a weight of 22 to 40 kg.
- A strong instinct for protection, loyalty, intelligence and trainability.
- A high energy level.