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Sloped Vs Straight Back German Shepherd: Complete Guide

The German shepherd dog breed has been a prominent breed of large dogs for more than a century. These dogs were introduced to America in the early ’90s because of their hardworking, intelligent, and obedient nature.

Since then, breeders have continued to modify German shepherd dogs for various purposes.

Nowadays, you can find both working line and show line German shepherds and sloped vs straight back German shepherds have been a point of contention between dog owners and breeders for a very long time.

We’ve prepared this complete guide to cover all the differences between the sloped and straight back German shepherd along with everything you need to know before deciding to raise one.

What is a straight back German shepherd?

A straight-back German shepherd like the name suggests has a long and straight back that starts from its withers all the way to the croup.

Captain Max von Stephanitz, also known as the father of German shepherds is attributed to developing the original which had a long flat back along with strong hind legs.

Straight-back German shepherds nowadays are referred to as old-fashioned because of their resemblance to the original dog.

These dogs were initially crossbred with the wolf when German farmers wanted a dog that could herd and control their livestock, especially sheep.

Because of their similarities, modern German shepherd dogs with a flat back have all the original traits of the dog bred by Captain Max von Stephanitz back in the late 19th century.

So, straight-back German shepherds outclass many other dog breeds in terms of intelligence, agility, and endurance. They are also known for their vigilance and loyalty.

What does a straight back German shepherd mean?

The straight-back German shepherd is the oldest breed of German shepherd dogs. The term “Straight back” refers to their distinctive skeletal physique.

They are generally defined as the working line of German shepherds because they were primarily bred for safeguarding cattle. These dogs have a flat back and don’t have angulated hindquarters like other German shepherd breeds.

The formal lineage structure of these dogs was introduced in the late 19th century and by the early 20th century, they were growing in popularity in America and winning positions in dog shows. Their agile and vigilant nature also made them perfect for guard duty.

Nowadays, you’ll find German shepherds all over the world working as part of the police and military for various purposes such as search and rescue dogs, K9 operations, and guide dogs for people with disabilities.

Straight-back German shepherds also make for excellent family pets because of their devotion and loyalty.

What is a sloped back German shepherd?

A sloped back German shepherd is a crossbreed of the straight back German shepherd. They have curved backs along with knees and hips that are closer to the ground.

As a result, this particular skeletal type makes their hindquarters look more angulated giving sloped back German shepherds a unique appearance and gait.

After Captain Max von Stephanitz introduced his original straight-back German shepherd dog, there were a few members of the breeding community who wanted to alter the appearance of the dog to give it a more exaggerated backline and peculiar gait.

With the increase in acclaim for these dogs in dog shows, breeders started populating the slant-back variety of German shepherds in the early ’90s.

Most sloped back German shepherds now are part of the show line as the sloping back and lower hindquarters were intended for cosmetic purposes only.

Sloped back German shepherd dogs are loved by enthusiasts who are looking for the particular appearance. However, these dogs can be more prone to health issues over time than their straight-back counterparts and are less agile.

Difference between straight back and sloped back German shepherd

The primary difference between straight back and sloped back German shepherds lies in their backline. The straight-back German shepherd has a long and flat back that stretches from its withers to the croup while the sloped back German shepherd has a slanted backline with angulated hindquarters.

Here are all the differences you need to know about before deciding between a straight-back and sloped back German shepherd:

The Backline:

As we previously mentioned, the backline is the most distinctive difference between straight-back German shepherd dogs and their slanted back counterparts.

The straight-back German shepherd comes with a sturdy leveled backline and no angulation in the hindquarters.

Conversely, sloped back German shepherds have a curved backline and hindquarters that are more angulated. As a result, these dogs have lower hips and knees along with a curved back.

The Gait:

The unique gait that comes from the skeletal difference between the two is another distinctive trait.

German shepherd dogs with a slanted back have a peculiar gait that is sought after by many enthusiasts which is the direct result of their angulated hindquarters. On the other hand, straight-back German shepherd dogs have a more natural stride.

Agility and Speed:

Straight-back German shepherds are faster and more agile than sloped back German shepherd dogs. This is because of their straight hind legs that allow them to jump higher and run faster.

Quality of Life:

Finally, the last difference between the straight back and sloped back German shepherd dogs is in their risk of running into health issues as they grow older.

Unlike straight-back German shepherds, sloped back breeds are more prone to having complications with their health. These issues include hip dysplasia, cartilage distress, and Osteoarthritis among others.

Why are German shepherds’ backs sloped?

There are a number of reasons for which breeders wanted German shepherds to have sloped backs. These are:

Work Line VS Show Line:

Captain Max V. Stephanitz’s original philosophy for breeding German shepherd dogs was that they should have a flat back line with no angulation in their hindquarters so their physique gave them an advantage in working to manage cattle efficiently.

However, as the popularity of German shepherd dogs increased all over the world, more and more breeders and dog owners became interested in breeding them for dog shows. As a result, their focus shifted towards the unique appearance of the sloped backs over functionality.

Genetics and Upbringing:

Genetics and upbringing are factors that also contributed to German shepherds’ sloped backs.

Breeders have modified the genetics of German shepherd dogs for over a century by crossbreeding to give their backs a more arched appearance and shorter legs to create a sloping backline.

Some breeders and owners also raise their dogs to have a more pronounced bend in their backline since puppyhood.

Is a straight back German shepherd better?

A straight-back German shepherd is definitely superior in terms of its physique when compared to other German shepherd breeds. This is mainly due to their hind legs which are often longer and easier to stretch.

As a result, German shepherds with straight backs are more active and agile than their sloped back counterparts.

Moreover, they are inherently less prone to getting health issues over the years due to not having exaggerated backlines.

Sloped back German shepherds can suffer from various health concerns such as joint issues, hip dysplasia, etc. due to the unnatural shape of their backs.

Bear in mind, however, straight-back German shepherds can also run into similar health problems if they are not given proper care and maintenance.

How long do straight backed German shepherds live?

The average lifespan of straight-back German shepherd dogs is 10 to 14 years. Here are the factors that can potentially affect the lifespan of your straight-backed German shepherd:

Mobility Issues:

Mobility issues such as back problems or arthritis are some of the most common reasons that affect a German shepherd’s lifespan.

While mobility issues aren’t usually the direct cause of passing, they can decrease the quality of life for dogs which can lead owners to consider euthanasia.

Hip or Other Joint Issues:

Hip or joint issues are also potential causes for cutting the lifespan of straight-backed German shepherds. These issues can also lead to further mobility issues down the line.

Proper Care:

Proper care and maintenance can affect the lifespan of straight-backed German shepherds significantly. This includes giving the dog quality food and supplements as well as grooming it followed by routine visits to the vet.

Regular Exercise:

German shepherd dogs are known for having a huge amount of stamina and energy. The likelihood of them developing mobility issues increases considerably without plenty of exercise regularly.

Final Thoughts

Straight-back German shepherd dogs have a flat back and long hind legs that give them an advantage in terms of agility and avoiding health complications. On the other hand, the sloped back German shepherd has a curved back and angulated hindquarters that give it an eccentric appearance and gait.

Choosing between the two depends on the personal discretion of the pet owner. No matter what your choice is, we advise going to a reputable breeder with a solid history for adoption.