Difference Between West German & East German Shepherd Dogs

By Rachel Schwartz

East German shepherds and west German shepherds represent two types among many types of the German shepherd dog breed (also called the Alsatian). The east and west German shepherd differences have been influenced by the conditions within their homelands while the country remained divided.

The East and West Division

The east and west division in German Shepherd lines occurred because of the division of Germany after World War II. Many of the differences between these two lines of the breed occurred because of conditions within their respective countries. West German lines have very pronounced differences between the dogs bred for show and those bred for working, although the show lines have more popularity. Some of the east German shepherds were bred for aggression, to attack people who attempted to cross the wall out of East Germany; others were bred for herding, show, or as pets.

East German Shepherd

East German shepherd dogs, also called DDR German shepherds (Deutshe Demokratishe Republik), tend to have dark pigmentation, a large, blocky head, big bone structure and a lean build. Their backs do not slope like the international show lines of German shepherds, but have a straight appearance. East German shepherds were bred more for their working abilities and have few problems with medical issues such as hip dysplasia. They have high energy levels and need sufficient activity (work) to keep them healthy.

West German Shepherd

West German Shepherds have a clear division between show and working lines. Show lines have been bred primarily for their physical appearance and do not have the courage and strong work instincts of their working counterparts. The show lines have the most representation outside of Germany, and high popularity within Germany. For many, the title west German shepherd refers to German show lines, while east German shepherd refers to working lines. The west German shepherds have a more sloped body than the east German shepherd, but not as much slope as American German shepherds. They retain a high energy level, so require lots of exercise.

Other Types of German Shepherd

American German shepherds represent most of the international show lines of German shepherds and have a very sloped back and sharp angle in their hindquarters. The American lines tend to be longer and leaner than both types of German lines. British German shepherds have large bones and a long, straight body. Both British and American lines have calmer temperaments and lower energy requirements than the German lines. The Czech German shepherd lines have many similarities to the east German lines, and some consider them the same type of German shepherd. Other less known German shepherd lines are the white German shepherds (not albino) and long-haired German shepherds.

Combining the Lines

While some breeders boast of pure west, east or other type of German shepherd lines, many breeders combine the different types of German shepherd to get the best characteristics of all the lines. A common combination attempts to combine the low incidence of hip dysplasia and strong work instincts of the east German shepherd with the refined physical characteristics of German shepherd show lines.