There is a major split in the German Shepherd Dog breed between the American and German line dogs. You can visit my previous article to read about the American show lines. Within the German lines, you also have a few other splits as well, although not as drastic. The largest population is the West German show line dogs (also sometimes called “High Lines”). Even though they are called “show lines”, they are extremely different than the American show line dogs. German line dogs (Working and Show) are bred to the WUSV standard.
The West German show line dogs (WGSL) are typically black and red in color (although you will occasionally see a lighter sable dog) and tend to be somewhat uniform in appearance. Most tend to have more of a saddle back pattern, to be larger in bone/substance and it is not uncommon to have long stock coat puppies pop up in these lines.
Even though they are “show lines”, in Germany they must still meet the minimum requirements before being bred which includes a show rating, a BH, working title (such as SchH/IPO or HGH) and a passing hip/elbow certification. Most will also go on to earn their AD in addition to the other requirements in order to receive their breed survey (Kkl).
You will find that some breeders of these lines may not care about working ability and only care about winning in the show ring, but fortunately there are others who care about the breed as a whole and breed for an all around dog. WGSL dogs generally do well in SV/USCA style conformation shows and can also be seen on the Schutzhund field. They are often found in other venues such as AKC obedience, rally, agility, herding, SAR and sometimes even police work.
As with any line it is important to find a good breeder. The term “German lines” is starting to become a selling point with backyard breeders. They are catching on that people want “German lines” so will tell you what you want to hear. However, even if there is one or two German imports in the fourth generation (for example) does not mean that the dog is from German lines. Unfortunately because the WGSL’s are so common, it is easy for irresponsible breeders to get their hands on these dogs. Just because a breeder buys a well bred dog, does not mean that they are breeding responsibly. If you want to find a breeder of West German show lines, a good place to begin your search is the United Schutzhund Clubs of America (USCA)’s website. Here you can find a breed directory where you can search for breeders by state.
You will find good and bad breeders breeding the WGSL dogs. Even though these dogs are from German lines, it is important that they are also registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Visit my past articles on “What to look for in a good breeder” and “Questions to ask a breeder” to help you sort through some of the good vs. bad breeders. Always do your own research and homework and never just take a “breeders” word as fact.
The different GSD bloodlines: West German working lines
The different GSD bloodlines: American show lines