East German Shepherd vs West German Shepherd: Origins, Differences, & Similarities


Within the German Shepherd breed, there are different bloodlines.

We’ve already put together a guide outlining the different types and lines of German Shepherds.

In this short guide, we compare the East German Shepherd vs West German Shepherd lines.

The East German Shepherd has working lines only, whilst the West German shepherd has both showlines and working lines.

If you want to read the individual guides on each of these lines, you can do so here:

East German/DDR working line German Shepherds

West German showline German Shepherd

West German working line German Shepherd


The origins and development of these lines is fairly interesting, so let’s get into it …


(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 Shepherd vs West German Shepherd: Origins & Differences + Similarities

Before we explain the origins and other information about these lines, you should be aware there are two other bloodlines in the German Shepherd breed.

These are the:

North American and Canadian showline German Shepherds

Czech working line German Shepherds

As their names suggest, these lines were developed in America and Czechoslovakia as opposed to Germany, but all original bloodlines come out of Germany.


East German Shepherd vs West German Shepherd: Origins

German Shepherds were first registered as a breed in 1901 after the breed creator Max von Stephanitz picked up a dog from a dog show in 1989 that he believed possessed all the traits and characteristics he was looking for to create the ‘ideal working dog’.

After WWII in 1945, Germany was divided into East Germany (which later became the DDR – Deutsche Demokratische Republik) and West Germany.

Around this period of the war ending, the German Shepherd breed came close to dying out because of the few resources even for humans, let along animals.

However, the respective German Governments, which officially became separate East and West states around 1949, took over the breed registration and regulation of the breed.

The East German government had the strictest regulations in place, putting a focus on breeding dogs with a hard edge working ability to work with the East German military.

These dogs had incredibly healthy DNA (dogs with health issues like hip and elbow problems weren’t allowed to breed), great physical attributes, and excellent stamina and focus to work.

West Germany developed both show lines and working lines.

The show lines were visually attractive, with a focus on appearance and show ring conformance according to the German SV standard.

They also had to pass health, temperament and working ability standards.

The working lines were bred more for their working ability – in particular working with the East German military and law enforcement.

But, they also had a stable temperament as a companion.

The West German working lines are thought to be the closest bloodline to the original German Shepherd breed standard.


East German Shepherd vs West German Shepherd: Differences + Similarities

West German Show Line

Originally bred in West Germany – mainly for appearance and show conformance

Had to meet health, temperament and working standards

Some people think these are most beautiful in appearance of all the lines

Mostly Black and red saddles/coats – but also come in colors of black and tan, sable, bi-colors and black.

Angle of back and hindquarters isn’t as extreme as American show line, but is more than the East German working lines

Slightly smaller in height and length that American lines

More working drive than American lines

Better health than American lines

Less athleticism and less of a working edge than East German and West German working lines


West German Working Line

Originally bred in West Germany mainly for working ability

Thought to be the closest in appearance, temperament, working ability and companionship qualities to the original German Shepherds

Good balance between working drive and ability, and temperament to be a companion dog/pet

Coats and saddle colors are somewhere between West german show lines and East German working lines i.e. they are black and red or black and tan, but possess more black and dark pigmentation than West German Show lines

Angle of back and hindquarters is similar to West German show lines

More working drive and edge, and athleticism than West German show lines

Less hard edge and more stable temperament away from working applications than East German working lines


East German/DDR Working Line

Originally bred in East Germany mainly for hard edge working ability

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 > darker than any other line

a large blocky head, and thicker paws than show lines

thick chests

Most athletic of all the bloodlines

hard edge working temperament, intelligent and great stamina – were bred mainly to work with the East German military and support squads

thick bone structure  – more muscle and less fat than show lines

straighter backs than any of the West German lines

Weren’t bred to be a household pet


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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