German Shepherd Bloodlines and Breeding: Expert Advice and Tips

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Josh Billings is credited with the quote…

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than himself.

That saying never rings more true than it does with German Shepherd Dogs.

Since this canine is specifically bred to meet the specialized needs their owners require, having one is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If you are considering making a GSD part of your life, keep in mind that a German Shepherd is one of the most powerful dogs on the planet!

I’m Cindy Kelly, and at Regis Regal German Shepherds, we know how important it is for you to adopt a German Shepherd that is a good fit for your personality and lifestyle.

German Shepherd Bloodlines and Breeding

To make sure that happens, it’s best to get you familiarized with the different German Shepherd bloodlines and breeding practices.

For starters, if you want to purchase one of these lovely fellows or ladies, it’s vital to understand the main differences between the attributes and traits each bloodline offers.

To that end, I’ve put together the following history and background on this world-famous dog’s bloodlines.

The History of German Shepherd Bloodlines

There are more than 20 dog breeds that originated in Germany. And breeders in Germany take great pride in producing canines that are national treasures.

From Doberman Pinschers to Great Danes to German Shepherds, dog breeds originating from the Deutschland have different and robust bloodlines.

Just over a hundred years ago, German Shepherd Dogs were bred in Germany to be medium-sized for herding purposes.

Later, their increased popularity as a guard dog led to selective breeding for more confidence and a larger size.

The result created a line of working dogs that could serve the specialized needs of everyone.

German Shepherd Bloodline Breeding Requirements in Germany

German Shepherd Bloodline Breeding Requirements in Germany

German breeders adhere to the strictest and most challenging breeding requirements.

To ensure that the German Shepherd bloodlines they produce are the finest, Germans adhere to strict and challenging breeding requirements.

The country has established the most comprehensive system of any other breed in the world.

And every dog must demonstrate worthiness before passing its genes on to its progeny.

Before breeding, a German Shepherd must have, at the very least, the title of Schutzhund I, or the equivalent. This is no small feat and challenging to achieve.

Breeding stock must pass hip certification and have a stable temperament. Additionally, German Shepherds must pass rigorous physical endurance tests.

These requirements ensure that only the best and healthiest stock go on to produce future generations.

Different German Shepherd Bloodlines

Due to admiration and demand for the breed, separate types of German Shepherd dogs have come into existence.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular breeds and the main differences between them.

American German Shepherds

American German Shepherds were selectively bred to win dog shows. And dogs coming from this particular bloodline are considered a different breed.

This is because the breeders who promote them don’t adhere to the stringent international German Shepherd breeding standards.

Recent breeding of American German Shepherds has increasingly focused on cosmetic traits, emphasizing looks and the dog’s movement.

Deep slopes in the dog’s back and hindquarters have become one of the most sought-after traits by dog show enthusiasts.

According to a major study, this type of cosmetic breeding approach is thought to be linked to the breed’s current predisposition to health complications and mortality.

The study came a year after the outcry at the annual dog show Crufts in 2016. At the center of the controversy was a female German Shepherd that won “Best of Breed.”

After her showing, critics noted she had a back so drastically curved that it seemed to interfere with her ability to walk.

Health complications that seem to be more prevalent among the American breed of Shepherds include allergies, bloat, hip and elbow dysplasia, certain types of cancers, and frequent shedding.

The regulation of these dogs’ temperament and health is sorely lacking, leading to irresponsible and vast overbreeding.

If you decide to get a German Shepherd from the American bloodline, I recommend that the following two requirements must before adopting them.

  1. Ensure that at a minimum that four generations, including the dog’s parents, have OFA-certification; this indicates they have healthy hips.
  2. Verify a stable temperament of the dog’s parents.

West and East German Shepherd Bloodlines – Why The Split?

West and East German Shepherd Bloodlines

Due to Germany’s divide by the Berlin Wall, the pre-existing differences between East and West German Shepherds became even more pronounced.

Germany was divided by the Berlin Wall after World War II. When that happened, ways of living varied greatly on each side of the Wall.

Living conditions weren’t just different for humans, but for their canine counterparts also.

Therefore, the pre-existing differences between East and West German Shepherds became even more pronounced due to the unique ways they were bred on each side.

For instance, German Shepherds produced from Eastern bloodlines were bred to be more aggressive because they worked alongside East German authorities.

This attribute played a role in stopping people from scaling the heavily-fortified Berlin Wall and escaping East Germany.

East German Shepherds – Military Precision

East German Shepherds - Military Precision

The East German Shepherd (DDR) has an incredible amount of focus on the tasks they are assigned and perform miracles in obedience

East German Shepherds also known as DDR German Shepherds. The acronym DDR stands for the former Soviet zone of occupied Germany, known as Deutsche Demokratische Republik.

If you are looking for a hard-working dog that will search for contraband, drugs, or has capabilities that allow it to function and aid search and rescue teams, then look no further…

An East German Shepherd is perfect for you.

Since East German Shepherds are bred to have high drive and energy, they retain an incredible amount of focus on the tasks they are assigned and perform miracles in obedience.

Although they have plenty of drive and a desire to work, an East German shepherd from a good working line is not hyperactive.

They are always on point 24/7 and looking to get involved in the next task.

A well-bred Shepherd from this bloodline should also have a stable temperament, great disposition, and know ways to relax.

East German Shepherds rarely make suitable pets, and I strongly recommend against trying to own one as a family companion.

While any dog is trainable, they require a deep level of professional handling and training and are solely bred for protection and work.

Remember, German Shepherds are one of the most powerful dogs in the world, and there is no margin of error when it comes to handling one.

It’s also important to note that the market is flooding with this particular bloodline due to lax regulation and minimal breeding expenses.

West German Shepherds – Protection You Can Hug

West German Shepherds - Protection You Can Hug

West German Shepherds are a popular working line choice, they also make great family pets if their owners invest enough time in them.

The West German Shepherd is also known as Sieger or show line breeds. And this bloodline is thought to be the closest to the original breed created by the Germans.

They are a revered working line, and as with all working lines, the emphasis is placed on their personality and behavior, rather than cosmetic traits.

This practice leads to a much healthier and active bloodline.

While West German Shepherds are a popular working line choice, they also make great family pets if their owners invest enough time in them.

Renowned as “protection you can hug” these dogs are the best choice for companionship and family security.

The breeding of West German Sheps is heavily regulated, and those that breed them must adhere to the strictest of standards.

Because of that and much more, I recommend adopting dogs from the West German bloodline if you are looking for a companion dog for you and your family.

Regis Regal produces West German Sieger dogs, and in addition to making excellent family companion dogs, they are used regularly as therapy and service dogs.

German Shepherd Breeding Practices – Line-Breeding vs. Out Line-Breeding

German Shepherd Breeding Practices

Line-breeding is the Gold Standard for producing excellent temperament and health in German Shepherd litters.

It’s critical to understand best breeding practices when purchasing your German Shepherd.

Regis Regal always uses line-breeding, which is the best practice for producing excellent temperament and health in German Shepherd litters.

Read on to find out what we mean by line-breeding and out line-breeding…

Line-Breeding – The Gold Standard of German Shepherd Breeding

Line-breeding, not to be confused with inbreeding, is when a German Shepherd sire and dam have familial ties.

For the pups’ best health and temperament, line-breeding must not be closer than three generations. It must also stay within 12 to 14 generations out.

A breeder who practices line-breeding has spent tremendous time and expense, making sure that the elbows and hips of many generations of shepherds are healthy.

In addition to line-breeding assuring that litters have similar health and temperament like their parents, every puppy in the litter looks alike.

Before getting your puppy, verify line-breeding by ensuring that all the ones in the litter look exactly the same.

Out Line-Breeding – The Cheap Knockoff Breeding Practice

Most breeders in the United States use out line-breeding because it is cheaper. Also, the practice doesn’t meet any of the requirements of in line breeding.

Unfortunately, when you breed two German Shepherds with no familial ties, you get inferior results.

In this case, the progeny will inherit the worst temperamental and physical traits of the sire and dam’s last 10 to 12 generations.

Out line-breeding frequently leads to a host of health problems for the resulting dogs.

When out line-breeding is practiced, issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia, along with renal gland issues, are commonly seen in litters.

You can easily recognize out line-bred pups because they’ll have different colors, sizes, and head shapes.

The result of out line-breeding is a breeder that can’t guarantee the dog’s current or future health and temperament.


The Team at Regis Regal German Shepherds

With over 30 years of experience in raising, training, and breeding some of the best German Shepherds in North America, Regis Regal loves helping match people with the perfect German Shepherd!

As you can see, the absolute best option for a pet is to adopt a West German Shepherd from a reputable breeder that utilizes line-breeding. That’s precisely what you’ll get when you choose Regis Regal!

About the Author

Author Cindy KellyMy name is Cindy Kelly and I’m the owner of Regis Regal German Shepherds in Illinois. A small family-run business with over 30 years of experience. We breed world-class German Shepherds, provide expert dog training, and also has top quality dog boarding facilities at our premises.

Image Attribution

Unless otherwise stated all images are the property of Regis Regal German Shepherds.

DDR German Shepherd Dog – Rgsd at en.wikipedia / Public domain

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About the author: Gabriella is a certified professional dog trainer with the Victoria Stilwell Academy. She has a special passion for teaching GSD guardians to train their dogs with kindness and clarity using positive reinforcement methods without force, pain, or fear. Join “Dog Speak” for free dog training tips and advice from a professional dog trainer.

  • Stephanie

    I have a question. We rehomed/rescued a German Shepherd puppy awhile back. We were told from a breeder that our pup was from Russian bloodlines. I’m not seeing much information about this online. She is completely black with large bone structure. I do have her AKC paperwork, but I can’t find much information on her past.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Thank you for your comment. It might be a case of your dog having some DDR or East German genes since this line was taken over by the Soviets after the fall of the Berlin wall. My young pup has Czech genes from his mom. But his bone structure is not large. So in your case it might be that your girl has some West German or even American line genes too, on account of the larger bone structure.

      I hope this helps.

  • Lisa McCroskey

    Hello! Thank you so much for your work in breeding such outstanding GSD’s! My dream is to have one someday but I’ll probably never be able to come up with the money you deserve. I’ll continue to love them from afar though lol. Take care! Lisa

  • Lois Boehl

    Are there breeders in the U.S. that breed German Shepard without the horribly sloping back? personally I don’t find it attractive and it seems to contribute to hip problems. Any US breeders follow the strict German requirements?

    • Hey Lois!

      Thanks for your question, it’s a good one!

      The best way to find a reputable and ethical breeder who breeds for preservation instead of looks and money is through word of mouth.

      I can direct you to Lane who is based in Texas. If she cannot help you, she’ll definitely know of breeders like herself. She wrote a great blog post about working-line German Shepherds for this site. You’ll find a link to her website where you’ll be able to contact her.

      Hope this helps!

  • Marcello Fabila

    Hi team German Shepherd Corner. I am Mr Marcello Fabila from Papua New Guinea. I purchased a pup locally from a security personal and he said the pup is a female Bicolour German Shepherd. Are able to identify her breed. I could attach pictures for confirmation. Thank you.

    • Hi Marcello,

      Thanks for reaching out with your question. A bicolored GSD will be predominantly black with some tan. But with any Shepherd, their full colors are fully developed when they have matured. So you’ll see some changes as she grows. You can send a photo via email if you’d like.

  • Linda hazel

    Can u explain what a 5,5 zamp vom thermodos means on pink papers from Germany.

    • Hi Linda,

      As far as I can tell, Zamp vom Thermodos was a well-known stud dog. But it would be best to reach out to your dog’s breeder and ask them. 🙂

  • Dr. Jeff Wachtel

    Just Lost my 12 yr. old Rottie Sarah. I have had 3 great G.shepherd’s for the last 45 yrs. I’m 75 yrs old and still practice 3 days/wk. for 5 hrs/day. I’m looking for an obedience trained and housebroken dog with great temperament that is about one to 3 yrs. old. What do you suggest? JW

    • Hi Dr. Wachtel!

      Thank you for your detailed question.

      I would like to refer you to two trainers I know of who are reputable and ethical. If they are not able to assist you with a dog meeting your criteria, they may be able to refer you to someone who is able to.

      Lane is a working line breeder and she’s penned a beautiful piece on working line German Shepherds for my blog. You’ll find a link to her website and contact details in that article.

      Cindy is a show line breeder and she has also written an excellent piece on show line German Shepherds for my blog. You’ll also find a link to her website and contact details on that page.

      I hope this helps you on your journey to finding the perfect canine friend. 🙂

  • Ernest Fitzpatrick Jr

    I want to thank you for the information but I’m really interested in producing the best quality GS so with that being said I’d love for someone maybe you to contact me about breeding I’m just getting started and need to know more.

    • Gabriella

      Hi Ernest,

      Thank you for your comment.

      From your comment, it seems you are not experienced in canine breeding or in producing high-quality pups. And so personally, I wouldn’t encourage you to begin breeding these dogs.

      Anyone who wants to be an ethical breeder needs to work with an already established ethical breeder for at least a few years to learn the ropes of breeding programs and how to produce puppies that not only preserve the breed but better it. Getting into breeding with less than a few years of learning from an established ethical breeder is in my opinion only going to perpetuate the already dire position this breed is in. And do a total disservice to the breed.

      The best place to begin is to reach out to the GSD Federation in your country to enquire about whether there are ethical breeders who are open to working with a new breeder. Or alternatively, reach out to the SV in Germany. I’d avoid the American Kennel Club in this regard since they are not as strict on breeders as the SV or GSD Federation is.

      That being said, please keep in mind that there are already thousands and thousands of so-called breeders who are in it only to line their pockets. While there are very few ethical breeders, so chances are you will have a hard time finding someone ethical to work with. And not working with someone who has years of experience with this breed will likely end up with more puppies that will continue passing on the issues that this breed has.

    • Barrie gillanders

      Hi my gsd is 11 moths old he has skin problems can you give me some tips please cause we can’t afford the vets bills 😔😔

    • Hi Barrie,

      Thanks for your question. Sorry to hear your pup is experiencing skin issues. It’s a tough one to sort out because it’s essential to first determine the cause. This could be anything from food, environment, home cleaning materials, or even certain skin parasites/protozoa.

      Have you sought out a second opinion on your pup’s skin issues? This is something I’d look into if it was me.

  • Grace G

    It’s great to read about the GSD from a breeder’s point of view. Thank you, Cindy for taking the time to share this information.

    It’s refreshing to learn about what to look out for when searching for a breeder to work with and how to choose a puppy. I’m sure you’ve even “stepped on some unethical toes” by sharing this information. but I think the only way to preserve and better this breed, folks like you must speak out.

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