Popular in North America since the 1970's, the American and Canadian show lines dominate the national kennel clubs and are intended to conform strictly to the standards set by each of the governing kennel clubs. The American line dog is what you see most commonly here in the US, or a variation of it. Also referred to as the Canadian Shepherd, they have a common ancestor in the original shepherd, however, they are really a breed of their own and are much different than shepherds found in the rest of the world. Typically they are large, heavy, have more angulation, thinner bones, and significantly smaller heads. They do not have the required temperament to be a working dog, and most are not capable of protection work. Health issues such as hip issues and skin allergies are a concern that may result in a very expensive total cost of ownership or untimely death.
The most popular type of GSD in Germany, the West German show lines are bred to conform to the SV standard which also requires the dog to gain health clearances for hips and elbows and a working title (often herding or IPO) along with their show title prior to being bred. The "look" of this type is very specific and typically very uniform, most commonly presented as a black and red saddle back.
The German Show Line dogs are large, beautiful dogs. Most have deep, rich pigment. They have an excellent temperament, strong nerves, and are instinctively protective. Females should be in the 22-32Kg weight range (about 48-71lbs), and males should weigh in at 30-40Kg (66-88lbs). They are meant to be not just a companion but a family member, guardian to their pack, may be used as working, and are very energetic. Socialization and exercise are mandatory. They are bred according the German Shepherd Breed Standard.
It is important to note that most people getting these dogs have absolutely no desire to show them, which is fine. They do not need to be shown, and this is an extremely time consuming hobby.
The dogs of West German working blood are often said to be the closest of all types to the original dogs produced under Max von Stephanitz. Focus is given to correct working structure, solid temperament, and especially to correct, strong working drives and ability. West German working line German Shepherds excel in many different sports, real working jobs, and positions of service. Like every German Shepherd should, they also make phenomenal active family pets. This GSD is primarily bred to be a working dog. SAR (search and rescue), law enforcement, etc are great positions for these dogs. Many people also use them as family companions; however, an experienced handler is a prerequisite. Physical appearance may be diverse and they come in a variety of colors. They should have a high drive and intensity. Decent breeders typically deliver healthy puppies.
Originating in the communist Czechoslovakia and built on a foundation of working dogs used primarily for border patrol work, the Czech bloodlines are dominated by dogs who have a foundation of popular border patrol dogs and Czech military dogs. Unique to this type, the original breeding of Czech dogs revolved around the Czechoslovakian Army’s Pohranicni Straze kennel. Some of the Czech bloodlines contain phenomenal working drives and tend to be intense, agile working dogs.
Developed after World War 2 from the remaining war dogs, the DDR / East German dogs were maintained strictly by the government of East Germany. Rigid control of the original DDR bloodlines resulted in a very distinct look. Best known for their typically correct working structure, large heads, large bone, and dark pigment. The DDR bloodlines are also known for being very sound dogs, though working drives can vary. Older DDR bloodlines are valued for their phenomenal genetics and temperament.