American Shepherd vs German Shepherd: Comparison


We’ve already put together a guide outlining the different types of German Shepherds – we make mention of the lines of GSDs in this guide.

When we compare the American Shepherd vs German Shepherd, there are two things that need explaining.

The first thing is that ‘American Shepherd’ is actually a term used by some within the German Shepherd community to describe the American bred AKC standard German Shepherd line.

These lines are in comparison to the German bred SV standard German Shepherd lines. Both lines belong within the German Shepherd breed.

The second thing is that there is actually a dog out there called the Miniature American Shepherd – which is a separate breed to the German Shepherd breed altogether.

Let’s look at both of these areas in more detail …


American Shepherd vs German Shepherd: What Are They? + Similarities & Differences


American German Shepherd AKC Lines vs German Shepherd SV Lines

The German Shepherd breed was first registered in 1901, in Germany – by a gentleman named Max von Stephanitz.

Around the time that WWII broke out, German got split into West Germany, and East Germany, that later became the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik).

The German governments in both East and West German took over the registration and breeding of the German Shepherd, and began developing different lines of the breed.

East Germany introduced an extremely strict breeding program to develop hard edge working dogs to help out their military and law enforcement organisations.

These were known as the East German/DDR working line German Shepherds.

West Germany allowed two lines – the West German showline, and the West German working line.

The showline were bred for their appearance and show ring conformance, but still had to pass health, temperament and working ability standards.

The working line were bred with more of an emphasis on working ability, in particular helping the West German military and law enforcement.

You can read further about each of those lines here:

East German/DDR working line German Shepherds

West German showline German Shepherd

West German working line German Shepherd


After WWII, the German Shepherd breed became quite popular around the world, particularly in America – but the first German Shepherd was actually first exported to America around 1907 and gained some level of prominence in dog shows by about 1913.

The Americans, over time, bred their German Shepherds to conform with the American AKC standard.

The interpretation of the AKC standard places an emphasis mostly on the appearance of the dog, and also their movement, with the ‘flying gait’ becoming a desired movement.

The American line German Shepherds had no real requirement to meet standards in relation to hip and elbow health, temperament and certainly not working ability.

The American line also have the most slope and an extreme angulation in their hindquarters compared to the German lines of German Shepherds.

Their coat pigmentation also tend to be lighter – black and tan, or black and cream saddle patterns, compared to the black and red, or black, and sable darker colors of the German lines.

You can read more about the American and Canadian lines here:

North American and Canadian line German Shepherds


It is these differences in appearance (there are other physical differences too), and differences in interpretation of the European SV standard compared to the American AKC standard, that has lead to some German Shepherd community members dubbing the American line as ‘American Shepherds’. 


Miniature American Shepherd

The miniature American Shepherd is a small-medium sized dog breed that belongs to the herding group of dogs.

They are not part of the German Shepherd breed.

The breed’s origins come from California in the 1960’s, where it is thought that Australian Shepherds were used as the first breeding stock.

They were bred to be working dogs, mainly in a herding capacity for livestock.

However, by the 1980’s they became popular as companions and pets because of their intelligent, friendly and active temperament.

In the 1980’s they were initially registered as the Miniature Australian Shepherd in the National Stock Registry.

By 2011, they were registered in the AKC as the Miniature American Shepherd.

Main colors of the breed are Black, Blue Merle, Red and Red Merle.

In modern times they fit in equally well as household pets, or as working dogs on farms and ranches.

Read more about Miniature American Shepherds.


More Information & Facts About The German Shepherd Dog Breed

We’ve put together this guide with over 100 interesting pieces of information and facts about the German Shepherd Dog Breed.


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