Newbie questions on working v. show lines and pedigree - Page 2

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by gsilas on 03 December 2022 - 19:12

It’s a complicated question you ask as far as adding working ability. It should but all working lines aren’t created equal. It’s too complicated for me to explain in a single post.


by Sunsilver on 04 December 2022 - 14:12

Yes, it's complicated, and in order to understand it, you have to know it was affected by the countrys' politics and the politics of the dog show world. The DDR dogs came into being as a result of the split in Germany after WWII. The East German dogs were primarily bred by the governments as border patrol dogs, therefore were working dogs. There wasn't a great deal of difference between them and the West German dogs until the Martin brothers came along in the 1970's. This thread in the PDB explains what happened fairly well: 

Of course, when you start to focus on appearance rather than working ablility and temperament, you sacrifice working ability and temperament. Koos Hassing, the owner of the Dutch working line kennel. van Tiekerhook, had some harsh things to say about this when he heard about the results from the Sieger show (I am unsure of the year - think it might have been 2015?)

Friday evening, after the courage test at the “Hauptzuchtschau” in Ulm was over I got an alarmed phone call from a sport friend who was there and told me that many of the SchH 2 and even more of the SchH 3 dogs did not pass protection. Sunday evening I calculated  that 63 males and 49 females failed. Furthermore, we are talking about exclusively KKL 1 dogs here who had received the rating of “TSB pronounced”  in their ZtP/Körung. I doubt that the number of failures had ever been that high. My information showed that protection may have been judged marginally harder but not significantly harder than in years past. I was even told that had the helper work been consistent for all the dogs there would have been even more failures.

There were glaring differences between dogs from performance lines and those from show lines. OK, that may not be such a big deal, but it clearly accentuates how big the differences are.

Only a few years ago I myself was a witness to the way protection was handled at the “Hauptzuchtschau”. 
I came to the conclusion that some assessments were at the very bottom of the rating “pronounced”, some even below.  Dogs who came off the sleeve during the attack on handler still got a rating high enough to remain in the competition.

I strongly recommend you click on the link and read the whole article, which is rather lengthy. Anyway, as a result of this split, the German dogs have split into two very different lines, and could almost be considered different breeds. The 'show of shows', the annual Sieger show, features the black and red dogs, while the top working dogs compete in show like the BSP or the WUSV Championship, which are judged solely on the dog's performance in tracking, protection and obedience.

Here's the top German show dog for 2017:

And  here is the top working dog, winner of the WUSV championship for the same year:



by Hundmutter on 05 December 2022 - 17:12

I think its also worth saying that puppies vary in potential, even in litters specifically bred for one particular purpose among the several available. It is the training and working of a dog which will show you how well s/he suits the role the dog was bred for.


by KKB on 07 December 2022 - 15:12

Thank you everyone! This discussion and the links are very helpful. I knew there seemed to be a big difference between the American line GSDs and the 'German' lines, but never knew about the split of the German lines into show and working, and the subsequent issues being seen.

@Sunsilver: Wow! Amazing difference in looks between the two dogs you linked to. Thank you for the great Leerburg article as well.

As a side note, I read an article recently from an AKC conformation judge (offhand, can't remember his name) criticizing the GSDs in that venue. I recall him talking about the deviation from standard, and how the handlers race around the ring at top speed, rather than concentrating on showing the dogs at a speed to show a correct gait. He also talked about temperament issues in many of the dogs he was seeing.

I wonder if the breed will ever lose the split?

@Hundmutter: In the past, my GSDs were American bred, and other than pet obedience training, I never attempted anything else. My current boy, Canadian born and bred, was a different dog all together. In the hands of someone experienced, I have no doubt he would excel at whatever was put to him. In spite of my newness to all this, he shines in nose work and tracking, and does everything I ask as I learn the ropes in formal obedience. His temperament is rock solid, and nothing phases him.

One thing I've noticed is that we exist in a kind of limbo. He's not what AKC conformation judges want to see (not that I mind, as I don't see any working titles on those dogs), working line GSD people thing he's too WGSL, and WGSL people don't think he's enough.

Just my musings...I'm learning so much from all of you. Thank you!


by Sunsilver on 07 December 2022 - 17:12


My first registered GSD was a cross between German and American show lines - same thing! I wasn't able to show her in either venue!

And no, I don't think the breed will ever become one again. :( Though I DO see a trend where ASL people are bringing German blood into their dogs. Of course, they have to go at least 2 generations of mating the progeny with ASL dogs before they can get a dog that can actually win in the American show ring.

And you're right about the dogs being gaited so fast that you can't really judge if their stride is correct. 

Another thing that bugs me about the ASL dogs is very few of the show dogs have any sort of working title. When I attended the Canadian GSD championships a number of years ago, NOT ONE of the dogs taking part in the obedience trials was also being shown in conformation. As a matter of fact, a number of the dogs doing obedience weren't even GSDs! The breed founder, von Stephanitz, said “Make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog for I have struggled all my life for that aim!”  He also said if breeders stopped breeding working dogs, they were no longer breeding German shepherds. (Just so you know, Canadian show line shepherds are pretty much exactly the same as American, as a matter of fact, many breeders show in both countries.)

In Canada, a number of breeders fought hard against considerable resistance to require both a temperament test and a working title before a GSD could get an 'excellent select' show rating. The United States still has no such requirement, though some well know breeders (Jimmy Moses, for one) are doing their best to title their show dogs in at least one dog sport.


by KKB on 07 December 2022 - 20:12

@Sunsilver: Jimmy Moses...yes, that's who was interviewed in the article. I remember the article being about 10 years old, so I don't think his recommendations about correct speed and gaiting have made much headway.

I get the German Shepherd Dog Club of America magazine, and you're so right. It's very rare to see anything but a CGC title on the champions. I have a friend who breeds Bearded Collies. They not only have their championships, but are titled in obedience, agility, scent work, and/or herding to name a few.

One more question, if you don't mind. You said Canadian show line shepherds are pretty much the same as American. Does this show up somehow in their pedigree, or how do you tell? Someone in an earlier comment said my dog's pedigree showed WGSL on the sire's side, and 1/2 WGSL and 1/2 DDR on the dam's side. I'm trying to figure out how he fits into the whole line discussion. Or doesn't he? : )

Also, after your first German/American cross, which direction did you go? Do you have dogs in the data base that I could peek at?

Thank you so much.


by Sunsilver on 08 December 2022 - 00:12

You tell mainly by looking at the dog's registry. CKC is Canadian Kennel Club (okay, there's a Continental Kennel Club, but they will register anything with 4 legs, and don't care much if it's purebred!) AKC is American Kennel Club, and SZ is the German registry.

You can also tell by titles and the dog's appearance. An ASL showline will have conformation titles like Ch., GV (grand victor) Sel. Exc (excellent select.) A German showline will have a rating like VA (excellent select, only given at the Sieger show) V, (excellent) SG (very good) or G (good). Working lines will also have conformation ratings, but usually only a G or SG, and rarely a V. Both showlines and working lines will have working titles (IPO, Sch 1, 2 and 3 (schutzhund) FH (tracking dog) etc.

I've been at this for around 20 years, and I STILL don't know what all of the titles mean, but they are a good indication of what sort of dog it is, and what venue it is being shown in.

Forgive me if this rambles a bit - really need to go to bed, but the registry doesn't ALWAYS tell you what type of dog it is. German dogs are imported and bred in N. America, and will therefore be registered with the appropriate N. American registry. You can tell what sort of dog it is by the appearance and looking at its ancestors to see where they came from and what titles they have. Here's my German/American girl. She really had a 5 star pedigree - her German grandfather Ursus was the 2000 Sieger, and her American grandfather was the top ASL dog for the herding group for that same year. She also had 5 siegers/segerins (female seieger) in the first 5 generations of her pedigree! Unfortunately, her pigment faded, which was a big fault, and she also x-rayed as mildly dysplastic at ag 2, so I had her spayed. I had hoped to breed her to a male with better pigment, and possibly show the progeny, but alas, that didn't happen.

I really love you boy. He's the sort of dog i would look for - he has all the good points of both his German and American relatives, and none of the bad ones! His angulation is moderate, and he lacks the hump in the back that many of the German dogs have. The only thing I'd want to change would be for his pasterns to be a little stronger - they've got a bit too much slope. But that's pretty common with the American dogs, and certainly is no big deal


After I'd had Star for a number of years, I decided i wanted to do schutzhund. She got her BH, but then I was told she really didn't have what it took to get an IPO1. So, I started looking for a working line puppy, and was fortunate to get this dog:

However due to health problems, I wasn't able to take her past the BH. :( 



by Hundmutter on 08 December 2022 - 04:12

KKB -  What you say about being 'in limbo' is very true also of the UK situation.

We have similar splits - compare the (now majority) 'Germanic' type showdogs here with the remains of the older-style UK 'Alsatians', dogs which are and have been bred to get as far from their German origins and development as possible while still remaining part of the same popular breed. These dogs have long been somewhat favoured by the official Kennel Club influences (though they deny that), and are still being exhibited and shown, although some breeders among them have given in to the almost inevitable, and have crossed / are in process of crossing to modern German-style breeding. These dogs are comparable to North American (ie US & Canadian) showlines, in that they emphasise a longer, 'ski slope' topline, more erect head & neck carriage, a lower-to-ground stance often contributed to by heavier bone, sometimes (but by no means always) shorter leg length. While a lot of the resulting outline is led by skillful handlers who pose the dogs making the most of those features, there is no doubt that deliberate breeding has led to the emphasis on producing a distinct structure.

And the strictly 'pet' market is a law unto itself !  What both sets of breeders have in common (unlike at least some of their Germanic-favouring counterparts) is a generalised reluctance to get into training & working their dogs. Just like the majority you noted in the N.American showlines.

Those breeders / exhibitors who have the dogs most like those from today's Germany [and many countries in wider Europe] including importing from and breeding with current German, or Italian etc, stock are gradually showing more interest in Surveying, training & trialing their dogs, gaining BH, AD & IGP qualifications. It is by no means all of them yet, but its a step in the right direction toward dogs being judged on not just their good looks and fine lineage but also the working ability of the 'whole dog'. While dedicated Working people pour scorn on the SVs giving a generous pass to many competitors, at least they are doing something !

The other thing we need to watch for here, too, is that we produce fewer overbuilt or 'hinged' spines which are equally not displaying the correct topline - again, emphasised by handling styles and leg placement, and indicative of the flexibility of the dogs' backbone, but nonetheless being exascerbated by careless breeding; and of poor hock structure, which does nothing for the wonderful movement of our breed ! Nor for Showdogs reputation among Working Dog people !



by Sunsilver on 08 December 2022 - 12:12

Well said, Hundmutter!

by JackelnHide on 08 December 2022 - 18:12

Sunsilver, do you mind discussing what health issues prevented Eska from going past a BH?


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