Working Line German Shepherd

Working Line German Shepherd

Have you ever wondered about the differences between the working line German Shepherd and the show line GSD?

Here, we explore the differences between these breeds, their history, and the distinct types of working line German Shepherds.

Surprisingly, the temperaments of both breeds are similar, but their physical form is different. However, the working line German Shepherd is more suitable as a work animal than as a pet.

Despite these variations, the working line GSD still carves out a valuable niche for itself in society as among the best working dogs in multiple environments.


What Is a Working Line German Shepherd?

What Is a Working Line German Shepherd?

Working line German Shepherds are bred explicitly for a range of jobs. Because German Shepherds were initially used to protect livestock, it is in their nature to work.

Their character traits ensure they have highly protective, are extremely alert, energetic, and intelligent.

All these characteristics are conducive to training these breeds for specific purposes.

For example, working line German Shepherds are sought after to work in military environments and law enforcement.

People train these animals to work in security, sniffer dogs for narcotics detection, search for corpses, and many other purposes.

The working line German Shepherd is also typically quite an aggressive animal and has a high prey drive, which is ideal for catching criminals on the run.

Trainers take advantage of these characteristics to train working line German Shepherds to react to commands appropriate for work in high-risk environments.

From a physical perspective, the working line German Shepherd has a straight back.

Their musculature is sturdier than show line German Shepherds, and their leg heights are proportionate to their torsos, with the back legs being slightly longer than their front legs.

There are various working line German Shepherds, but they typically have a medium-length double coat because they all originate from cold climates in Europe.

A medium-length coat means that the working line German Shepherd is suitable for work in most environments as they can tolerate cold and warm temperatures.

History And Origin

History And Origin

Working line German Shepherd history goes back to the middle of the 19th century.

Max von Stephanitz took a liking to the original German Shepherds that farmers used to protect their livestock.

Von Stephanitz later attended a dog show in Germany in 1899, where he was further impressed by the performance of a dog named Hektor.

He purchased this animal, renamed him Horand von Grafrath, and began his breeding program.

Horand’s father was Kastor, the offspring of a champion dog, Pollux. His mother was Lene.

This line of animals resembled the wolf with a thick coat and tail, slim snout, and pointy ears. Horand’s reportedly had a grey-yellow color with mottling.

Von Stephanitz decided to mix the shepherd dogs in Thuringia (Northern Germany) with those in Wurtemberg in the south of the country to combine the best characteristics of both breeds.

Horand became the father of the original working line German Shepherd when Von Stephanitz officially registered him with the society he created to breed working line German Shepherds.

This organization was known as the Society for German Shepherds (Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde), and Horand’s registration number was SZ1.

As a military captain and with veterinary training, Von Stephanitz had all the necessary qualifications to begin a breeding program.

He also disagreed with breeding the German Shepherd as pets for monetary gain. Von Stephanitz believed these animals were born to be working dogs.

Thanks to the efforts of Von Stephanitz, these animals were used as working dogs in the First and Second World Wars.

After the Second World War, breeding continued, eventually transforming into show line and working line German Shepherds.

Working Line vs. Show Line German Shepherd

Working Line vs. Show Line German Shepherd

Show line German Shepherds have a sloping back, with back legs that are shorter than the front legs.

This structural form is the opposite of the working line German Shepherd, which has a straight back. As mentioned earlier, the work line GSD also has longer back legs than front legs.

Work line GSDs have sturdier torsos with much more muscularity than their show line counterparts. Work line German Shepherds are also more aggressive than show line dogs.

While both breeds can be aggressive and prey-driven, the work line’s characteristics are more suitable for training to work in high-risk occupations.

Where the coats of show line animals must meet specific standards, the work line German Shepherd’s coat must have a medium thickness.

This double-coat must be of a medium thickness to ensure that the animal can tolerate diverse environments when working.

Work line German Shepherds are also explicitly bred to have specific characteristics that make them suitable as work animals.

For example, they must be aggressive, have an exceptionally well-developed prey drive, and be easily trainable.

These dogs work under arduous conditions at times, so they must be responsive to commands. They are also highly loyal, are one-person dogs in the workplace, and are super-intelligent.

All these characteristics ensure that the work line German Shepherd is preferable for training to work in various environments.

In contrast, breeders focus on breeding the show line German Shepherd for events.

Their personalities are calm, and they’re also responsive to commands when they undergo training, making better pets than working line German Shepherds.

To achieve a better understanding of work line German Shepherds, it will help to explore the various breeds in this line.

What Breeds Are Considered Working Line?

What Breeds Are Considered Working Line?

There are three primary breeds of work line German Shepherds. These working line GSDs score high regarding an ideal balance between their appearance, work dogs’ performance, and temperament.

Historians all trace the working and show line German Shepherds back to Horand, Max Von Stephanitz’s first working line German Shepherd.

As far back as the late 1800s, Horand came from a line of working dogs, with his father, Kaster, siring the multiple award winner of dog shows, Pollux.

Work line German Shepherds and show line animals all directly or indirectly link to these origins.

Since the late 1800s, three distinct working line German Shepherds have made their appearance on the world stage.

All three of these breeds are notable for their work abilities, performance under stressful conditions, and their willingness to help humankind in various high-risk situations.

These three work line German Shepherds include the:

  • West German working line
  • East German working line
  • Czech work line German Shepherd

#1 West German working line

Of the three working line German Shepherd breeds, the West German one is the most balanced.

This breed bears the most resemblance to Max von Stephanitz’s vision of the original working line German Shepherd as far as its temperament, personality, and appearance are concerned.

Although the show line German Shepherd looks little like Horand, the working line GSDs bears a far stronger resemblance to this animal.

This is because the breeding of the West German working line ensures that the animal has a robust frame, able to withstand demanding work conditions.

Unlike the show line GSD, the working line German Shepherd doesn’t have the noticeably sloping back and short hind legs, compromising its health and ability to perform strenuous activities in the workplace.

However, the West German working line dog does have a slight slope to its back, which is different from the straighter backs of the other working line German Shepherds.

The head and shoulders of this animal are also less bold and muscular than the East German working line German Shepherd, although they are all bred for their impressive bite power.

This West German working line dog is also excellent in sporting activities as its genetic makeup focuses on speed, strength, and agility.

#2 East German working line

The DDR or Deutsches Demokratische Republik are known as the East German working line German Shepherd. The Federal Republic of Germany typically used these dogs for policing before and after the Second World War.

Although most German Shepherds originate from Horand, these dogs were bred in Eastern Germany by the Communist Party for use in the military in the cold war.

A strict program ensured that breeding was only undertaken with the best specimens, resulting in working line animals with an avid interest in working at high-performance levels.

This high-performance work ethic caught the attention of the police, military, and other areas where additional protection and skills were necessary.

As such, the East German working line German Shepherd grew in popularity in line with the increasing security needs of the country.

Complementary skills such as the capacity to withstand icy weather and the agility to clear six-foot walls ensured that this animal was ideal for tracking down defectors.

The speed, strength, and endurance of the East German working line German Shepherd captured the attention of authorities across the region, ensuring that this breed earned a permanent place in these industries.

The East German work line dog has a bulkier head in terms of appearance than its West German counterpart. Its chest is broader. It has larger paws, a sturdy bone structure, and little fat.

The back of this animal is also straighter than the West German or Czech breeds and a tremendous bite force that reaches up to 230 pounds.

#3 Czech German Shepherds

Like the East German Shepherd, the Czech GSD also comes from a communist background. This breed stems back to 1955 but only became popular after the fall of the wall dividing East and West Germany.

Although breeders initially bred raised this animal to do border patrols with their handlers, they were bred more as pets after Germany broke down the Berlin wall.

Before this time, the Czechs managed the breeding of this animal, later interbreeding them with the DDR Shepherd.

Now, the Czech GSD is slightly smaller than the DDR breed, although they still have a robust physical profile. Also, they have full chests, impressively strong jaws, and large paws.

This breed also tends to have a stronger prey drive than the DDR or any other working line German Shepherd.

The Czech working line German Shepherd also has a reputation for possessing strong nerves, which is valuable in various work positions.

Moreover, like the other working line breeds, it is also highly intelligent and loyal.

Temperament Of Working Line German Shepherds

Temperament Of Working Line German Shepherds

Despite the working line German Shepherd having a capacity for aggression, it also possesses typical dog temperaments. This animal can be playful, curious, and mischievous under the right circumstances.

The working line GSD is also sensitive, bonds well with handlers, and is a prime example of an excellent working animal.

In the work field, it possesses superior skills when assessing threats, is motivated to work hard and long under the most trying conditions, and has boundless energy.

The working line German Shepherd has a stable temperament. It is obedient to commands and performs per requirements in diverse environments.

However, leave this animal alone, with nothing to do, and it will find an outlet for boredom–usually at your expense.

Are They Good Pets?

Are They Good Pets?

If you want to go for a working line German Shepherd as a pet, prepare yourself to keep it active.

If not, you’ll probably end up replacing furniture regularly, getting landscaping services every other month, and spending your savings on these replacements.

However, if you train your working line German Shepherd, you’ll have an excellent guard dog that is willing to sacrifice its life for you and your family.

Ensure you stimulate this animal with frequent exercise and games to challenge its intelligence.

Take it on long family hikes, runs, or cycling, as it must have a constructive outlet for its intelligence and energy.

If you wish to purchase a working line German Shepherd, ensure you buy one from a breeder who deals in raising these dogs as pets.

You’ll want to ensure that the animal comes from a heritage with an even temperament that makes it suitable as a family pet.


Working line German Shepherds come from a long, illustrious history that ensures their place in contemporary society. These animals are perfect as working dogs.

They have a stable temperament; a remarkable work ethic and they can make good pets if you’re prepared to invest as much time and energy in them as possible.

 If you are keen to get one of these animals as a pet, be sure to do your research and find a breeder specializing in raising them for the home environment.


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