The East German Working Line German Shepherd, or the DDR German Shepherd as it is also called, is one of the 5 lines of the German Shepherd breed.
We listed and summarised the other lines in our guide on the different German Shepherd types.
In this guide we discuss interesting bits of info about the East German/DDR working line such as their bloodline, history, temperament, appearance and more!
Let’s check out the information in deeper detail!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
East German/DDR Working Line German Shepherd: 9 Most Important Facts
First, A Reminder About The GSD Lines…
Before we jump into this guide on the East German Working line GSD, let’s get something explained first.
When we describe any line of German Shepherd in a specific guide or across the website, it is a general description/profile of the the original dogs in that line.
The reality is that breeding is not as heavily regulated or strict in most parts of the world now, so it’s becoming increasingly possible you can be sold a particular line of GSD with diluted and different characteristics to the original line.
Even if you come across a well regulated bloodline, some programs are starting to move away from the original mold of the line to introduce new characteristics.
It’s also very possible to have an East German Working line GSD from strong working line bloodlines, who doesn’t have a strong drive to work, but thrives around people and is extremely sociable and loveable.
Find that hard to believe? Well, here is an example – type ‘Gavel Police Dog’ into Youtube, and watch the video from Inside Edition.
Gavel was probably picked to go through the police puppy training academy because of his working line bloodlines – most likely East German Working line ancestry. How did he turn out? He got fired from the academy because he didn’t possess the working drive and loved people too much! He was too nice!
How is that possible? That’s just the luck and chance of the genetics game – you can have a GSD with ANY mix of characteristics, traits, temperament and so on (but obviously strong bloodlines give you a better chance of breeding for a particular line with the matching characteristics, temperament etc.).
Aside from the DNA of the individual dog, and how the dog is treated, socialised, trained and bonds with its owner also play a role in how the dog acts and behaves.
1) East German/DDR German Shepherd Bloodlines
All current lines of German Shepherds were bred from the first officially registered German Shepherd – Horand von Grafrath.
A German man named Max von Stephanitz saw Horand at a dog show and thought he possessed all the desirable features to become the ‘ideal working dog’, and in particular as a herding type breed of dog.
Max purchased this dog who became a sire for the foundation breeding stock..
This dog along with the regional/native shepherd dogs in Germany – the Thuringian, the Wurttemberg sheep dog and the Swabian service dog are where all modern day German Shepherds can trace their DNA back to.
In 1901 the German Shepherd was registered as a breed.
From this original Alsatian DNA, the lines of Alsatians were developed by different breeders in different parts of the world – starting in Germany/Europe, and branching out the US and Canada primarily.
There are two types of lines of GSD (German Shepherd Dog) – working and show lines.
Show lines were mainly bred for their appearance and their movement in the US, whilst European show lines also have to conform to health standards (hips and elbows certified, as well as have some form of working ability and an even temperament. The show lines have more angled backs and the US show lines dropped hips.
Working lines were bred specifically to have a good working ability in different fields and areas including but not limited to agility, tracking, military, police, protection, patrol, rescue, therapy, entertainment and much more! The working lines have more straighter backs.
The 5 types and lines of purebred or full breed German Shepherds are:
- North American and Canadian Show Line German Shepherds
- West German Show Line German Shepherds
- West German Working Line German Shepherds
- East German/DDR Working Line German Shepherds
- Czech Working Line German Shepherds
In the modern day, German Shepherds can be bred across the lines, and even with other breeds.
If you want to be absolutely sure of the lineage of your dog, get a family tree which traces all the way back to the original line of German Shepherd you think you are buying.
2) East German/DDR German Shepherd History
We now know where the East German/DDR German Shepherd main bloodlines come from.
But, when, where, why and how did the East German/DDR German Shepherd lines come about from the main bloodlines? Who originally bred them, and what happened?
East German/DDR Alsatians were originally bred in East Germany, when the area was separated from West Germany by the Berlin Wall, after World War II (1949 to 1990). West German Working and Show Line German Shepherd were bred in West Germany at the same time.
The term DDR comes from the official name of East Germany during this time, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR). West Germany’s official name was the Federal Republic of Germany.
DDR German Shepherds bred specifically for their working ability and high working drive.
They were bred for protection and military services for the East German army – guarding, patrol, tracking and attack and so on.
Because breeding was so well isolated from outside influence and government regulated in East Germany, the standards and discipline of the breeding programs for this line were kept extremely high – in particular the health, temperament and working pedigree standards.
Only dogs free of hip dysplasia were bred together, so they had very few joint problems and other health issues that the German Shepherd breed suffered from as a whole.
Genetically, the early generations of the East German working lines GSDs were almost flawless.
3) East/DDR German Shepherd Bloodline Chart
Von Ultimate put together a really cool free bloodline chart which traces the Czech and DDR bloodlines back to their Thuringian type descendants.
You can view he East/DDR German Shepherd bloodline chart here.
4) East German/DDR German Shepherd Temperament
East German Alsatians displayed high intensity, high energy and what can be described as ‘hard edge’ working drives.
These dogs had to possess many of the qualities human soldiers do in order to thrive in their working roles – they had to have endurance, iron will and focus, courage and high intelligence.
Not all DDR’s in modern times are like this though. Some are quite laid back and more friendly than focussed. They might enjoy playing with their favorite dog toy or laying around the house with you as opposed to being a high drive dog.
5) East German/DDR German Shepherd Physical Appearance and Traits
The DDR German Shepherd physical appearance and makeup is that of a dog with a strong working structure.
They compare most closely with the Czech German Shepherds, and most differently to the American Show lines.
Their general profile was as follows:
- dark pigmentation/saddle/coat – mostly black or sable with tinges of tan on the feet or on the legs or in the face/around the ears,
- a large blocky head, and thicker paws
- thick barrel chests
- hard edge working temperament, very athletic, intelligent and great stamina
- thick bone structure – more muscle and less fat than show lines
- straighter backs than any of the other lines
Their athleticism was superior in the dog world – very agile/quick and strong, with great leaping power and excellent stamina. They had the ability to scale 6-8 feet walls with ease, and have measured a bite force of 238 pounds of pressure. For comparison sake, humans measured in at 120 pounds of bite pressure.
They were particularly well suited to the German Shepherd sport of IPO, which focuses on tracking, obedience and protection work. They were also great for agility, dock diving, jumping events and really any specialised or athletic form of dog sports.
We have had some ‘experts’ contact us, or owners of East German working line German Shepherds and question the statement about the straighter backs (among other statements).
Our answer to that is to go back and check the pedigree/DNA and family tree – every individual parent – back to the original government regulated lines of your dog.
Also, go back over the evolution of the German Shepherd over the years. German Shepherds have their origin out of Germany, not the US.
If you analyse the earlier black and white photos of each line out of Germany, or study the evolution, you will see the straighter backs, which have become more angled, and in the American Show line’s case, a severe angle in the hindquarters over the years.
It’s interesting that some people show you modern day color images to show you what each line should look like, when the dogs they are showing you are usually the result of inconsistent breeding or are actually the evolved form of a particular line.
Here are two good articles to read that illustrate our opinion:
6) East German/DDR German Shepherd Coat Colors
The East German/DDR German Shepherd is the darkest colored coat of all lines of German Shepherds.
They are predominantly black sable, or sable, but can also be solid black on rare occasions.
A striking feature of this line of GSD is their primarily black face which looks like they’ve buried their face in a bucket of coal or ashes.
7) What Might Be The Best Way To Buy, Or Adopt An East German/DDR Working Line GSD?
Of all the lines, the East/DDR German lines are probably the most rare – especially well preserved bloodlines.
The most common way people buy an East German DDR German Shepherd is by contacting a specialised breeder either in the US, or more commonly in Germany, or other places in Europe or Australia.
We don’t recommend or favor any one breeder over another, but when it comes to East/DDR German Shepherds, two examples of higher quality breeders that are knowledgeable about this bloodline are:
However, it is also very possible to find an East German working line in a shelter or rescue centre – people may get them as puppies, and then abandon them when they start growing. This is sad but a reality.
Here are some very helpful guides on considerations for breeders and rescues/shelters, and where to find good breeders and shelters/rescues:
- Things To Consider When Adopting or Rescuing A German Shepherd
- What To Look For When Buying A German Shepherd Puppy: Ethical Step By Step Guide
- Where To Find A German Shepherd Rescue or Shelter Near You
- Where To Find The Best German Shepherd Breeders Near You
8) How Much Do East German Working Line German Shepherds Cost?
People can pay a lot of money for the East German and Czech working line German Shepherds.
If the bloodline and characteristics of the dog are well maintained, and breeding has been well regulated, you can pay thousands of dollars for a puppy.
Many people will try to source a breeder in Germany where the breeding is better regulated, and ship them over to their country of residence. Please be aware of the dangers of animal and pet plane shipping if this is your intention.
As a comparison, for a standard black and tan show line type GSD, you might pay:
On average, you might pay anywhere from $500 to $1500 for a pet, or family dog type German Shepherd from a breeder.
For German Shepherds with pedigrees, papers, working titles, specific lines, and puppies who have a proven regulated breeding history – you can pay thousands of dollars.
Don’t get ripped off or buy from shady or unethical breeders – read this guide carefully.
When adopting a German Shepherd, you might pay anywhere from $50 to $500 – which covers adoption fees.
9) Pictures and Images of East German/DDR German Shepherd Dogs and Puppies
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