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What is the difference between European and American German Shepherds?

German Shepherd dog lines are one of the most intelligent and most agile dog breeds today. The reason is that they have a fast, retentive memory which rolled over from their days when they were initially used as herd dogs. They are extraordinarily courageous, very loyal, and able to retain their training because of their extreme intelligence.

There are two main types of German Shepherds; European and American. They are very similar in the way they look, separated only by some minor variances.


German shepherds originated in Germany and were bred by Capt. Max von Stephanitz, in the year 1889. He wanted to breed dogs that could serve many needs, such as herding flocks, protecting both the Shepherd and his home while remaining friendly with children and other family members.

Capt. Max von Stephanitz had a lot of determination. He planned to cross-breed dogs from different species with all these desired qualities to develop a dog, the German Shepherd, that fitted his desired characteristics. Thus, the German Shepherd was born, a breed of dogs that are still recognized internationally because of their worth and quality breed.

German Shepherd bloodlines

The German Shepherds consist of two genetic lines; the working lines (European German Shepherds) and the show lines (American German Shepherds).

Dogs bred from the European working line of German Shepherds are usually smaller, more agile, and are more tolerant of pain than those born from show line. However, this genetic line tends to shows more aggression.

They should, therefore, get proper training and be carefully monitored around children. They are agile and robust, which makes them great police and military dogs. You could certainly keep them as home dogs; however, it is not advisable to do so unless you have skills and talent as a dog handler or if the dog is adequately trained.

American show line dogs are easier to control and train because they are more docile. People who breed show line German Shepherds tend to focus more on the dog's physique and appearance and their ability to stay calm and be more family-friendly.

Differences between the European and American German Shepherds


The European German Shepherd has more prominent and more powerful jaw muscles with a more potent scissor cutting bite force than its American counterpart. This is because the European German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs, making them stronger.


The European German Shepherd is smaller than the American German Shepherd. It can grow up to 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh 70 to 90 pounds, while the American German Shepherd can grow as tall as 28 to 30 inches with a weight of 110 to 130 pounds.

The American German Shepherd might look taller and more significant, but they are not as strong as their European counterparts. The European German Shepherd is mainly bred as a working dog, which accounts for its agility and strength despite its smaller size.


Overall, both European and American German Shepherds have good temperaments. As long as there has been an effort to socializing and training your German Shepherd, you will have a wonderful family dog that will protect you endlessly.


The European German Shepherd is more disciplined, thus can be easily trained. This makes it a great choice as a police or guard dog. The American German Shepherd is less disciplined but more tamable as a pet, especially if you provide an excess energy outlet. If you take it out for walks, play dates and engage them in tag and fetch games, you'd have depleted its excessive energy leaving it relaxed and happy. You must remember that this breed still has a working dog mentality, so you need to exercise your German Shepherd to avoid undesirable behaviors.


The European German Shepherd is more wolf-like, with broader shoulders, and walks with a trot instead of a skid. It has a more muscular, wider back, long neck, a robust hind side, and a big bushy tail. The American German Shepherd has a broader head and a steeper slope on its back with more angled rear legs.


The European German Shepherd has a longer hock than that of the American German Shepherd. This helps them trot more efficiently because of better angulation.


The European German Shepherds are bred as working dogs and are often used by the police, the military, and search dogs. In contrast, the American German Shepherds are bred as show line dogs and used as family dogs (pets) and therapy dogs.


With its slanted back, the American German Shepherd is more prone to develop hip problems (hip dysplasia) over time, while the European German Shepherds are less likely to experience the same issues. The standards for breeding European German Shepherds also make them less predisposed to genetic diseases, which improve their chances for longer, healthier lives. Typically, the average age range for both lines is 10-14 years. See our article here for 11 of the most common health problems for German Shepherds.

Tolerance to cold

Both genetic lines carry different versions of a coat, and these include:

Short (approx. 1") fur with a thick undercoat

Medium (approx. 2") fur with a thick undercoat - known as plush coat

Long (longer than 2") fur with a thick undercoat

Long (longer than 2") fur without an undercoat (American)

German Shepherds without an undercoat are not recommended for extreme cold weather climates or show events.


Suppose you want to buy a German Shepherd as a family dog. In that case, you should probably go for the American German Shepherd since it's more docile and friendly to children and people. It is also less aggressive and requires less training than the European German Shepherd.

Suppose you want to buy the European German Shepherd. In that case, you should go for one that has been appropriately trained by a recognized breeding organization. Although they can be aggressive, European German Shepherds are also extremely loyal and protect their masters and property.

When purchasing any dog, it is essential to ensure that they are appropriately trained and not aggressive lest you put your family and neighbors in harm's way. See our article here on how much you can expect to pay (whether from a breeder or adoption) for a German Shepherd.

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