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You definitely saw this breed subtype plenty of times as the American show-line German shepherd dog is a common choice in the US. They have featured in many series and films whilst bettering countless homes with their presence.

In the United States, the American show-line GSD is probably the best-known variant of the breed. Usually, the working line German shepherds in the US are imported from Europe, so the show line GSD has carved out its place in the hearts of breeders and dog owners across the states.

Today is the day we will analyze the traits of a show-line GSD and explain why they are called the American show-line German shepherd. Trust me, it makes sense.

American Show Line GSD Breakdown And Main Traits

german shepherd on the green grassgerman shepherd on the green grass

The breed standard for the show line and working line of GSD has plenty of things in common but also some obvious disparities. One is considered more elegant and dog-show-ready, while the other is bred for its working capabilities.

The general idea of show vs working line is pretty clear, but what specific traits make it American? Well, the American show line German shepherd has a pedigree that originates from the United States, and it is almost identical to the European show line GSD.

When talking about show lines, a thing of great importance is dog breed standards. The American Kennel Club (AKC) does not allow working-line GSDs to participate in dog shows. It is only rational to allow the type bred specifically for shows but not the one for work.

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The breed standards consider the show line more elegant due to the elongated body frame, larger size, and longer, finer coat. Clearly, the show line was created to take conformation events by storm.

We have to take into account that both have things they excel at, and the American show-line German shepherd is better family pet material. The name alone is enough of a hint at what type of competition they perform best in.

Since physical appearance and temperament are the most important things in conformation events, the body proportions and the coat are two focal points that determine a dog’s chances to win.

With GSDs bred as working dogs, their performance and health take the spotlight from looks. Since the topic is their more fancy counterpart, the following sections will focus on defining their main features. First up, the physical appearance.

Show-Line High Shine

German shepherd champion stand outdoorsGerman shepherd champion stand outdoors

Right from the start, if you saw two photos of a working line and show line GSD side-by-side, you would figure out which one is which. Although both types are equally purebred, their bloodlines are quite dissimilar.

An American show-line German shepherd should be twenty-four to twenty-six inches tall (male) and weigh between sixty-five and ninety pounds. Females come in at twenty-two to twenty-four inches in height and fifty to seventy pounds in weight.

The show-line GSD has a body that is longer than it is tall, so the elegance element comes from its ten to eight-and-a-half body proportions. However, that length does not come from a prolonged back, but rather from the dog’s hindquarter and forequarter.

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Hearing that the American show-line German shepherd’s back legs are shorter can make you question its uses, but not everything is as it seems. They only appear to be shorter than the front legs.

In addition to the slanted back, the leg length is actually not that drastically shorter than in the working line, but the hips are very angulated, leaving an impression of being less lengthy.

What does that mean? Essentially, the hip is set in such a way that the hind legs and back are “pulled” inward. However, the working line GSD also has a “roached” back, but a lot less pronounced compared to its show-line equivalent.

The skull is broader in show-line GSDs than in the working line, leading to an overall look that says “teddy bear”, rather than “workhorse”. Wondering what the heck a “Canadian show-line German shepherd” is? Just a patriotic spin on the exact same dog as the American variant.

Coats And Colors

American show-line German shepherds should have a medium-length double coat, with a very rich palette of color options. By far the most common color show-line GSDs sports is black and tan or sable, but there are ten more options that are all breed standard.

Black, black and cream, black and red, black and silver, blue, gray/silver, liver, sable, white, and bi-color are all possible, but some are much harder to find. The rarest color is definitely blue in a German shepherd.

If you would like to know about all the colors whether they are breed standard or not, read this article on fifteen German shepherd colors. Since the breed is a heavy shedder, some information on it alongside grooming tips could be useful.

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A Custom Bred Temperament

German shepherd in the summer in the parkGerman shepherd in the summer in the park

Even with its main role as a show dog, American show-line German shepherds are a jack of all trades. They do not have the athleticism, stamina, or work drive like the working line GSD, but they balance that out with some other traits.

Most notably, their aggression levels are much lower than the working line’s. That makes training them for a family environment much easier. This type of GSD is more patient and tolerant of children and strangers, without losing the protective instincts.

There is no guarantee a working line GSD is going to be a better guard dog than a show line. Dog training is the main factor that influences their performance in a specific domain. This is why both types are used as both service dogs and police dogs.

Although show-line GSDs require a lot of mental stimulation, the aggressive nature of the working line needs an experienced dog trainer or handler to raise a balanced dog.

The same goes for socialization — other dogs and strangers have to be introduced early for the dog to understand how to behave in that scenario. Law enforcement really uses the working line to the best of their ability with a focus on taming the high prey drive and channeling it.

Because herding is this breed’s primary historical and genetic role, the GSD is the type of dog that will try and put strangers or children into line. Good dog training and socialization will eliminate this trait considered undesirable for a family pet role.

Do not forget the breed’s high energy levels. Playing fly ball once or twice a day is definitely not going to be enough, so make sure you take a few long walks a day. Alternatively, you can also run, ride a bike with your GSD, and be surprised how good of a hiking dog they are.

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Who Started The Rumour That American Show-Line German Shepherds Have Poor Health?

two german shepherds running togethertwo german shepherds running together

Having very pronounced angulation on the hind legs, stories about show-line GSDs having a bad track record of hip dysplasia. However, this is simply not true. What makes it seem as though the breed subtype is at fault is backyard breeders.

Due to the American show-line German shepherd’s popularity in the US, many people decide to use genetically unhealthy males and females as breeding stock. Your best friend might be suffering from hip or elbow dysplasia because of unethical breeding.

Health issues are present in both the show and the working line of the German shepherd, so do not avoid getting one purely based on empty talk. A responsible breeder will screen his dogs for genetic health problems.

What Is Hip Dysplasia?

It is a congenital disease well known to all dog owners and is not exclusive to the American show-line GSD. During puppyhood, while the dog is still developing, the femur head does not fully develop, leaving a gap between it and the hip bone.

Because the fit is not perfect, the cartilage between the two bones wears off with movement, leading to arthritis. Dogs with hip dysplasia usually have symptoms like difficulty moving, refusing activity, whimpering in pain, irregular gait, etc.

Although there is no cure for it, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to manage the pain, while different types of surgery can solve the problem permanently.

There are several, depending on the age of the dog, but most of them include removing part of the bone and adding plates to support the connection, allowing for a much better fit of the two bones that form the hip joint.

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One Ancestor For All GSD Types

Pure breed champion German shepherd dog in show stand on green grassPure breed champion German shepherd dog in show stand on green grass

The entire German shepherd breed as we know it today is based on Horand von Grafrath. The name itself sounds magnificent, and this GSD truly was that. His owner, Captain Max von Stephanitz, is the father of GSD breed standards.

Not coincidentally, Horand von Grafrath was the first registered GSD. Yes, von Stephanitz was a utilitarian with his focus on the GSD’s “utility and intelligence” aspects, but with time it was inevitable seeing different types of the breed.

Many were not subscribers of this pragmatic approach to breeding the German shepherd dog, so different lines developed before and after the Second World War. The West German show line features as the zone where the working line meets the show line.

In post-WWII Germany, the East German Shepherd dog or DDR GSD was used as a guard and police dog due to its deeply rooted protective instincts. As a working line GSD, the subtype has led to countless high-quality bloodlines across the world.

A Simple Explanation Of The Czech Working Line

It is just a Czech take on the DDR German shepherd dog. They were purposefully bred to work as patrol and protection dogs. The only reason why they are called Czech is that the Czech army bred them to their own liking back when Czechoslovakia was a member of the U.S.S.R.

There are no major physical differences between this working line and other working lines except for some potential coat color variations.


The American show-line German shepherd dog is a mouthful to pronounce, and a mouthful to raise and socialize properly. Do not let its less aggressive nature fool you — they are equally intelligent and physically strong dogs that can work just as a working line can.

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If your goal is to win some awards for best of breed or something similar, then an American show-line is the way to go. Even if you are simply looking to add a canine to your family, there is no better all-rounder than the show-line German shepherd.

Working lines can be a tough challenge and are not recommended for first-time dog owners. However, wanting them is not bad, especially if there is work to be done. Whether protective or service work, they will be on it.

By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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