The Perfect German Shepherd: American vs. German

The debate has been on the table for a long time. The American line and the German line have disagreed on the various qualities that make the German Shepherd great. The controversy is through each sect’s love of the animal and quest to decide which traits make the perfect dog.

In the American line, “ [The] German shepherd is bred with more angular [features] through the body, resulting in the sloping back you see in many of today’s German shepherds.” Because many American German Shepherds aren’t intended for their working ability, they don’t need the straight back that allows them to run quickly. They’re family pets or show dogs over here!

Through the years, German shepherd breeders have entered different bloodlines into the German shepherd, which has taken away many of their original traits – most importantly their straight back. The American line German shepherd is bred with more angulations through the body resulting in the sloping back you see in many of today’s German shepherds. They are now being bred more for show than for their original working ability. The American Kennel Club has adjusted their requirements for what makes the “perfect German shepherd” based on these changes.

Photo: Alan Chan

German breeders think the Americanized German Shepherds aren’t able to perform the tasks and live up to their renowned traits the way they should be able to. The thing is, appearances don’t affect ability. Regardless of how they look, if a German Shepherd can pass the Schutzhund Test of their abilities, they’re winners.

In the case of the American vs. German line battle, the verdict is that perfection is in the eye of the beholder.

16 thoughts on “The Perfect German Shepherd: American vs. German

  1. My only qualm is that most of those dogs are show line dogs. Nobody should eexcpt real protection out of a show line dog. Anybody with dog sense can chase off 95% of show line dogs with no equipment on and a LOT of bad guys have plenty of experience with dogs. Heck, even at the 4:23 mark you can tell the difference in intent and drive in the working line sable male there vs the show line dogs. Also you have females as protection dogs which is iffy at best. Show line females? More than iffy.

    1. Have to disagree…worked with a German Show line Breeder for years and worked with German shepherds who performed in schutzhund. The well bred ones were amazing at the sport. While you obviously have other breeders who cut corners and produce nervy and fearfull dogs, the ones who are held to the real standards are strong and courageous. I’ve had certified helpers that do the bite work for world competitions praise some of these dogs as better than working line shepherds.

  2. I prefer the German line with the straight back.I don’t see how a sloped back Shepherd can move as agile as the German line. Police and military rarely use the American line anymore for that exact reason. They use the Belgium Malanwah (wrong spelling I know).They are agile and quick ,unlike the American line. My opinion only.

    1. I too worked with show lines only because of my now ex was a breeder. I myself have for over 20 yrs been in working lines. Show line see it as a game. When it came right down to it…they would run from a real threat. And I’m speaking of show lines from Germany….so I’m sure the americans would be even worse. Working lines are for real. Yes its fun but when the real threat comes they will stand thier ground and fight.

    1. I have had American German Shepherds in the past and I presntly have a Belgian Shepherd Malinois. Mandy is about 27 months old and I rescued her 9+ months ago. Aside from their similar looks, there is no comparison. Both have great features and both have drawbacks. It depends on what you expect. Mandy is far more agile than any of the Geerman Shepherds I have had but she is not really suiable around young children.Tis gal loves to be utdoors running and playing and the German Shepherds were more adaptable as house dogs.

  3. I’m so glad somebody has finally told everyone bout the 2 different gs we have had 3 straight backs n they get pretty big so when our 1st gs passed we started liking for a new pup after 2 yrs n our lid breeder was not breeding anymore I talked to so many supposedly breeders n when I would mention the old world german shephards they would get to ignorant n say such mean things or tell me that this wasn’t a trus gs n if I wanted a big one I should go buy a Great Dane so it’s so refreshing to here this my 3 gs’s wete n r awesome dogs my 1st named hogan was a 210 pure muscle big gentle giant he was my bff n still miss him horribly but to each they own so I really would like these people that continually degrade the german gs’s to quite bashing them cause each version either the American or the german breed r both awesome dogs there’s no other breed that can melt ur heart like these guys do I’ve heard that they have a nickname called the Velcro dogs n I have found this to be so true aleast that’s how my 3 r never leave my side luv these guys with all my heart so thank you for ur input hopefully more breeders will read this n chill out

  4. Love love love the old world large straight back shepards. I had Zoe for 9 yrs till we had to put her to sleep due to bone tumer. We got another female this past September. Same breeder. Love them very much. I don’t care for the slope back shepards.

  5. I love the straight back old world. But I did have 2 American, zowie was very wary of people and very protective she died just before she turned 11. And Gina she was skittish and was stolen from my yard in Texas years ago. But my boys were straight backed Nd german. Love my gsd’s

  6. What a trully contrevercial issue. I fell in love with German Shepherd’s years back “Rin tin tin”. This year I adopted a dog resembling a German Shepherd but, his back does not slope or looks like a roach back. We had a German Shepherd Collie mix and her extremely sloped back took a toll on her hips. Also I found an article that basically referred to them as not having a straight, slope or Roach back, however it is more in the rear legs. I have seen people get really nasty about straight, slope or Roach backs. They were genetically altered (Point being they are German Shepherd’s) as long as their weight and health is kept in check be thankful for the breed.

  7. I think the german and chez lines are a more stable dog. The american lines are to me too skitish. I had a male cross between american show and german hs had problems with disposition. Now have a dark sable female who is so so sweet i chose her because i dont want to work her her dtive is to play but thats what i wanted. So even tempered she is german and chez lines the best dog i have ever had…. i dont like that big slope on american lines plus the poor breeding has led me away ftom then… sad but the lune i have much stablier and so adirable

  8. Straight backs are fearless and have less problems with hips. Having owned both I will only have straight back German working lines in the future.

  9. The whole article is very contrivesial, I had mentioned on FB that my Shepherd is a straightback. Within minutes it was slopped or straight backs. (Please no nasty comments). American, West or East German Shepherd’s we all have our own preference. However they are related either way. The look of the slopped is appealing but, I can see drawback’s. Either way they are amazing dog’s.

  10. I have a “slope back” German shepherd and I adore her! She’s loyal, protective, and so loving. Put her in a “straight back” and I’d adore her the same. She’s loved and I’m loved by her that’s all that matters. Hope the same for all breeds and owners alike!

  11. I have a German show line . However , Iblike them all . I would have a German working line if I had the time . Maybe in a few years . They all bring something unique to breed. I do not , however, understand the desire to have extremely large shepherds. Too much potential there for joint issues . That is just bad for the breed. .

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