Man's best friend: The German Shepherd - Working line or Show?

Dogs have been our loyal companions for centuries, but none more so than the German Shepherd. Known for their strength, intelligence, and obedience, these large working dogs have been used in various roles such as herding and guarding sheep, and even in police and military work.

German Shepherd - Working line or Show?

However, in recent decades, the breed has been divided into two distinct lines – the working line and the show line. This has caused some controversy as many argue that the new show lines have compromised the health of the breed. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two lines and discuss whether the show lines have truly ruined the health of this beloved breed.

Origins of the German Shepherd

The German Shepherd breed was developed in Germany in 1899 by Max von Stephanitz. They were originally bred for herding and guarding sheep due to their strength and intelligence. However, their abilities quickly caught the attention of police forces and military personnel around the world, and they were soon employed for other roles such as search and rescue, tracking, and protection work.

The Working Line

The working line is considered to be the original German Shepherd, true to its origins. These dogs are known for their straight backs, healthy physique, and powerful build. They have a strong drive to work and are highly trainable. Many believe that these qualities make them one of the best protection dogs out there.

At Protection Dogs Worldwide in Hull, UK, they specialize in training protection dogs descended from the true working lines. According to them, these dogs are consistent, loyal, and have a strong drive – making them perfect for their line of work. They also claim that the show lines have introduced defects such as low sloping backs and weakened hips.

The Show Line

In contrast, the show line has been criticized for compromising the health of German Shepherds. These dogs are bred specifically for their appearance, with a sloped back and a longer coat. However, this has caused concern among many as it is believed that these features have led to defects such as hip dysplasia and other health issues.

One of the main concerns with the show line is the sloped back. This is caused by selective breeding for a specific look, but it can have serious consequences for the dog's health. The sloped back puts extra pressure on the hips and can lead to hip dysplasia – a painful condition where the hip joint does not fit together properly. This can cause lameness, arthritis, and other health issues.

Another concern is the longer coat seen in some show lines. This can make grooming more challenging and increases the risk of skin infections and other health problems. The longer coat also means that these dogs may struggle to regulate their body temperature, making them more prone to heatstroke.

Health Concerns

While there is ongoing debate about the effects of breeding for appearance rather than health, many experts believe that the show line German Shepherds do, in fact, have more health issues than their working line counterparts. According to the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia, "the exaggerated angulation seen in some show lines can cause several structural problems including hindquarter weakness leading to lameness and joint problems."

In contrast, the working line German Shepherds tend to have fewer health issues due to their straight backs and healthy physique. However, it is important to note that this does not mean that all working line German Shepherds are free from health issues. As with any breed, there are still potential health concerns that come with owning a German Shepherd, such as hip dysplasia and allergies.

The Fabulous Finn


One of the most famous and beloved German Shepherds in recent years is Finn – a retired police dog from Hertfordshire who was stabbed while protecting his handler PC Dave Wardell. The incident resulted in a UK law known as "Finn's Law," which protects service animals from abuse and attack.

Finn's heroism and resilience have made him a household name and a symbol of the unbreakable bond between man and dog. He is a testament to the incredible abilities and loyalty of German Shepherds, regardless of their line.

The German Shepherd will always hold a special place in the hearts of dog lovers around the world. While there is ongoing debate about the effects of breeding for show lines on the health of the breed, one thing is certain – these dogs are incredibly intelligent, loyal, and trainable. Whether you prefer the working line or show line, one thing is for sure – German Shepherds will always be man's best friend.


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