German Versus American
Technically speaking, all German shepherds are descended from German dogs. For some dogs, you might have to go back fifty or sixty years to find the most recent dog registered with the SV (Germany's German shepherd club). For others, you only need to see one of the parents to find the most recent import. But does this make a difference in the quality of the dog? It depends on what kind of shepherd you are looking for and what qualities the breeder hopes to achieve by introducing certain dogs into her line.
In Germany, German shepherds are registered with the SV. The SV will not register any puppies from a litter unless both parents are registered with the SV and have proven (through a series of tests) that they are suitable for breeding. This organization places very strong emphasis on maintaining in their breeding dogs the qualities necessary to perform as working dogs (such as intelligence, functional form, endurance, self-confidence, and courage). If a dog does not have the correct conformation and the ability to work as a K-9, she will not be approved for breeding.
What does it mean when someone says that German-bred dogs are “sharp”?
“Sharp” is a term used to describe a dog that has a lower threshold for biting. In other words, it takes less of a threat to initiate a bite from the sharp dog than from the dog with a higher threshold. A German shepherd with the proper nerves for working is less prone to responding with a bite than the nervous, fearful, or anxious dog.
A German dog is similar to a working K-9 in that she is likely to be far too much for a novice owner to handle. Of course, even if you have the experience and training abilities to enjoy a German-bred dog, most quality breeders in Germany are not likely to part with their well-bred dogs or puppies to an “unknown” in the United States. You will need to have references or make a trip to Germany yourself before you will be taken seriously, and even then you are not guaranteed a pup or an adult dog.
Dogs that are said to be from German lines are American-bred dogs that have a lot of German blood in their parentage. In terms of a German shepherd's pedigree (a record of three generations or more), a breeder should be happy to relate what each dog's German titles are, what they represent, and how each dog contributes to the breeder's line.
German-bred dogs appear in the pedigrees of conformation, performance, and working-dog lines in the United States. Just because a dog has German-bred German shepherds in his pedigree doesn't necessarily make him a better dog. A quality shepherd is one that comes from generations of titled dogs with good health and excellent temperaments, and whose breeder is working to better the breed.
Quality American-bred German shepherds can be from working, conformation, or performance lines — or any combination of these. The dogs may have a lot of German influence or very little, and some don't have any SV-registered dogs in at least the first three generations. Simply put, the American-bred dog can fit any of a number of different categories.
As a result, American breeders vary in opinion as to what the ideal German shepherd is and how to achieve the “perfect” dog. In the United States, there are wide variations within the breed as far as conformation, working drive, activity level, and temperament.