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East and West German Shepherd – Facts, Origin & History

Did you know that there is such a thing as an East German Shepherd and a West German Shepherd? The East GSD is better known as the DDR German Shepherd, which stands for Deutsches Demokratische Republik German Shepherd (this translates to the German Democratic Republic, which was a socialist state in Eastern Germany starting in 1949).

How exactly are East German Shepherds different from the West German Shepherds (GSDs) we all know and love? If you would like to learn more about these beautiful dogs, we go over their origins, history, appearance, and temperament.

History of the East German Shepherd

Back in 1949, after the end of World War II, the Soviet Union occupied part of Eastern Germany, which is when it became the German Democratic Republic. At this time, Germany was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany and the Democratic Republic. In the U.S., we knew these areas as “West Germany” and “East Germany.”

The East German Communist Party took over the German Shepherd breeding and pedigree registrations as a way to make German Shepherds part of their military. From here, this is where we see the beginnings of the East German Shepherd

or DDR dog.

East German Shepherd Origins

There existed breed Wardens on both sides East and West Germany. On the East German military placed strict breeding criteria on these dogs, Any perceived flaw in a DDR German Shepherd took the dog out of the breeding program. Flawed temperament and any health issues, such as hip dysplasia, would see the removal of the dog from breeding.

The breeding wardens on the East GSD's were also looking for a specific appearance and would check every litter for the right temperament, coat quality, ear set, bone structure, teeth, and overall appearance. They were looking for dogs with strength and large heads and with the capacity for athleticism and power.

East German Shepherd dogs were used as part of the Border Police (Grenzschutz Polizei) patrols, where they were responsible for guarding the East German border, which is 850 miles long, and the 100-mile Berlin Wall. These dogs acted as an attack, tracking, and guard dogs and were also part of a special unit that would track down deserters throughout the countryside.

The Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, and Germany’s borders opened up. The guards and the East German Shepherd sentry dogs were no longer needed, so many of these dogs were abandoned, sold, or euthanized. The breeders of the DDRs were thought to have given or sold some of these dogs to friends and family as a means to preserve the line.

The color of the DDR’s coats is one of the first differences that you might notice. They tend to be darker than the GSDs we’re familiar with and have predominantly black or sable coats. You sometimes see a small amount of tan coloring on the legs and feet and sometimes on the face and around their ears. But they tend to have dark faces.

These dogs were driven working dogs that were bred for guarding and attacking. They were high-energy and active dogs with focus, endurance, intelligence, great stamina, and courage.

One of the most important things that owners need to know about DDR German Shepherds is that these are dogs that thrive on a lot of activity. The DDR German Shepherd is a result of four decades of exclusive breeding. These dogs were designed to be more aggressive, more territorial, and more resilient than other GSDs.

Like all Shepherds, they require more fulfilling lives than existing ignored in a backyard.

An activity that should be a part of every German Shepherd’s everyday life is a brisk walk once or twice a day. Taking a dog on walks helps provide stimulation.

Another advantage of walking is that it helps to provide better bonding between both of you.

About West GSD

One of the most revered working lines of the breed is the West German Shepherd dog. It is believed to be the line that is closest to the original breed created by Max von Stephanitz; this line is bred not just for color and body shape, but for working drive. The West bloodline focuses strongly on looks and what should be considered the standard.

As with all working lines, the emphasis is put on the dog’s behavior and personality, rather than on just their body shape and gait, which makes for a much healthier and more active line. While many people choose the West German Shepherd working line when they are looking for a working dog, these dogs also make great family pets if the family invests enough time in their family members.

West German Shepherds are a bit different than their DDR counterparts.

  • They're Both Working Dogs and Show Dogs: They comprise a large majority of the dogs that were bred to be in show lines at the time. They were considered the standard of how this breed should look. The type is split between working dogs and show lines. Like any other show line of dogs, they are made to have a striking appearance. While their aesthetics may flourish, they regularly don't have the same degree of strength and courage as dogs that are bred to be a part of the working class. In my opinion, this depends, some bloodlines are just as powerful and work-ready as their Eastern counterparts. But on average you'll see differences and there are more people breeding this stereotypical looking German Shepherd as family dogs.

  • They Have More of Slope: These dogs have a bit more of a slope on their backs, though not nearly as much as you would find in their American-bred counterparts.

  • They Like to Keep Busy, Too: They have a lot of energy and need to be kept occupied with high-intensity activities, otherwise, they’ll become restless.

Coat Colors

The average West German Shepherd is going to be

mostly black, with tan legs and some tan on his face. You will often also see white tufts on his back legs and tail. The coloring of these dogs is going to vary greatly when compared to show lines. There are some dogs that are completely black, with only a little bit of tan on their legs, while other dogs, even from the same litter, may be mostly brown.

In general, these dogs are not the same tone of brown and black that the American line exhibits. The black will be darker and less uniform, while the tan will usually be lighter. There is also a fairly common occurrence of sable in the West German working line.

Build/Body Shape

As for body shape, you are going to see the regal head and shoulders, though there may be less bulk in the front of the body. These dogs are generally more balanced, as they are bred both for speed and agility, and bite power.

This breed type does have a more sloped body than the East breed types. However, they don't have that much slope compared to show lines and in particular most American show lines. Just be careful, because of the inbreeding in the recent past some do also suffer from hereditary hip en joint issues.

American-Bred Dogs and Others

As mentioned earlier, German Shepherds aren’t just divided into the East and West variety. Since the breed has become increasingly popular, others have begun to breed the dogs.

The most common type of German Shepherd aside from these two is the American German Shepherd, one of the most popular show dogs on the planet. They have a significant slope to their back and very haunched hind legs that give them a unique trot that is ideal for helping them perform well in shows.

There are also British variations. Like the American ones, the British-bred dogs have very calm temperaments. While they may be more energetic than some other dogs, they are still less energetic than the average East or West German Shepherd.

What Type of Dog Do You Need?

If you are considering getting a German Shepherd, it’s important to consider what you want to get the dog for. There are many differences between the East and West genetic lines.

If you’re hoping to get a hard-working dog to act as a professional guard dog, you may want to invest in an East German Shepherd. If you want a family dog, A Companion, A family Protector, or you are interested in competing in shows, a West German Shepherd might be more what you are looking for. Remember all West German Dogs have to pass the temperament and Courage tests to be accepted to be used as stud or Breeding stock, they have to prove they have their working abilities and have soundness and health. But overall we are talking about averages, you'll find excellent dogs in most breed types if you know what to look for.

These dogs need work and play, so make sure you are up to it. They are friendly with people and with other animals, are naturally loyal, and protective. These dogs will want to play and they will be very driven to fall your directives and do what they are told.

For these reasons Southernwind requires the Puppy Application forms, it is very important for us to know and learn about your expectancies on the puppy you are acquiring. We want to be certain we do the correct match!!

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