Just like people train differently for different jobs, dogs are bred differently depending on if they are going to spend their life working, showing off or curled up on your bed. German Shepherds and border collies, two of the most popular and intelligent breeds, have different standards based on the expectation of how the dogs will spend their days.
When you think of police or military dogs, the type that most often comes to mind is the handsome German Shepherd. These highly trainable, highly intelligent dogs are bred for specific characteristics that are necessary for the sometimes dangerous work they perform. Dogs that act as trackers and scouts are bred for agility and endurance. Dogs that assist police in their apprehension of suspects must be fearless. German Shepherds bred as show dogs are generally larger with longer hair than their working dog counterpart although many show line German Shepherd breeders also offer working lines. Both show and working line German Shepherds must be loyal and easy to train, but the show line dogs tend to be less energetic.
Border Collies are the stars of the agility show ring, but they were originally bred to herd livestock. Described as “workaholic” these agile dogs are incredibly energetic. Working line border collies need to possess an intelligent eye characterized by a penetrating unblinking gaze. Pups are introduced to livestock at a young age after they have learned basic commands. They herd naturally, so commands can be taught based on what they already do. Instinct is most important in working line border collies, so there is little conformity to a certain look or size. Show and agility line dogs are bred with less energy than the working line, but in a nod to their working dog origins, a wide variety of coat colors is allowed.
Show lines and working lines are similar but not the same. Certain characteristics are emphasized based on the expectations placed on the dogs. Reliable breeders know what is required for each line and breed accordingly.