And the answer is… Everything!
The German Shepherd began as a herding and working dog. Put through a series of tests over the years through service and Schutzhund/IPO work. Generations of Germans put their time and efforts into creating a breed that could stand the test of time. A breed that could herd sheep and protect our children. A versatile breed able to track lost children and take down a suspect.
American Show Line Shepherd (ASL)
Unfortunately when the German shepherd reached the American soil it became another breed altogether and was no longer bred for service or working ability but simply to be a pretty show dog. Over the years the rear angulations got more and more severe until their hocks grazed the ground and their rear ends sloped so badly they are no longer useful for any function other then the show ring. Along with their bone structure their temperaments also changed. No longer bred to serve a purpose their temperaments began to be unstable and often unreliable. The AKC puts no regulations on breeding dogs and any dog that is registered with them can be bred. So as the American show line breeders continue to breed underage, unproven and untitled dogs with faulty hips, our German shepherd as it once was continues to be lost.
German Conformation Line Shepherd (GSL)
The main difference in the German show line and the American show line is that in Germany they are required to have a Schutzhund title and clear hips and elbows to be bred. With the Germans putting some amount of regulations on who can be bred, the German show line has not been as affected by the rear angulations and sloppy breeding standards of the Americans. However, most German show lines can be traced to roughly three different dogs and run the risk of being over/in bred. They come from basically three differant kennels; Arminius, Wienerau, and Wildsteiger Land and they are, like the American show line, bred to be a show dog and therefore are not bred to be anything more. With their working temperments bred out of them they most often barely pass their Schutzhund trials and are then used for breeding. Therefore you see very few going on to make a career out of civil work such as police, border partol or even a prolonged Schutzhund career. Their coloring is virtually always black and tan with the traditional saddleback. They are a heavier build then the American line and have bigger, blocker heads.
European Working Line Shepherd (WL)
The European working line shepherd is bred for a job. They generally have a smaller build and have a wide variety of colors (not white). The working lines could include Czech, DDR (East) and West German working lines, (not West German show lines) I myself have found great success in crossing the DDR lines and the West working lines to produce very nice family companions who are structurally sound as well. The working line breeders put a strong emphasis on working ability and temperament testing. And of course if the dog is not structurally sound it cannot perform its working jobs. So dogs with fair hips and poor angulations would never hold up in a working environment. The working lines have little to no rear angulations and their hocks are straighter, making them healthier and more agile animals. Their temperaments have been a top priority for years and remain stable today. I truly believe that the working line is the shepherd that Max von Stephanitz had in mind when he created the breed. A dog that could do any job put before them and at the end of the day curl up under their children’s feet and protect the house at night.
Costa von Karthago, of Neumond German Shepherds, is an example because of her increadable working pedigree and body structure. You can clearly see how closely she resembles the great foundation sire Bernd vom Lierberg below.