The German shepherd dog has long been known for its beauty, nobility, intelligence, and appearance. What many people don't realize - and this even includes some German shepherd owners themselves - is that many of these traits, specifically the appearance, can be altered through certain breeding tactics or methods.
When the German shepherd dog first came to be, it was a medium size dog with a somewhat longer and coarser coat and small, erect ears. It had a straight back, sturdy build, and was a working herding dog. Its gait consisted of a walk which covered a lot of ground quickly, and its trot was similar to a run, only with a more graceful appearance.
Through the years, German shepherd breeders have entered different bloodlines into the German shepherd, which has taken away many of their original traits - most importantly their straight back. The American line German shepherd is bred with more angulations through the body resulting in the sloping back you see in many of today's German shepherds. They are now being bred more for show than for their original working ability. The American Kennel Club has adjusted their requirements for what makes the "perfect German shepherd" based on these changes.
Many breeders of the German lines of German Shepherds have strongly disagreed with this type of breeding, going so far as to say they have ruined the best qualities of the German Shepherd dog and what they were originally designed for, which was to work. Their other complaint is that in breeding for "show" quality rather than working ability, they are creating dogs that look beautiful in the show ring, but do not have the correct temperament to be good working dogs or reliable pets. Many German shepherd dogs have been used for police dogs, but German breeders don't believe these American line German shepherd dogs have the right characteristics to be loyal, brave and faithful companions, and working dogs.
There has been much controversy between the German breeders and the American line German shepherd breeders regarding what the perfect German shepherd dog consists of. American breeders have been accused of being so concerned with the appearance of the dog that they have made sacrifices on the quality and temperament. In Germany, before two German shepherd dogs can be bred, they have to pass a Schutzhund test. To become a Schutzhund certified dog, they must complete training and testing based on working ability, drive, and temperament. Looks play no part in Schutzhund, so they know when they breed their dogs, they are getting good bloodlines.
Another concern the breeders have with the newer American line German shepherd dog is in the low slant of their back end and hips. With the back legs sloped as much as they are, the dog doesn't have the balance they would have if their back were straight - unless the dog is moving forward. They also believe this forced sloping angle is responsible for more shepherds developing hip Dysplasia.
The American line German shepherd breeders feel that the American bloodlines have added beauty to the breed and have not sacrificed any of what made the breed so popular in the first place. In the end, appearance is in the eye of the beholder in regards to which line of German shepherd each person prefers.