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Alsatian and German Shepherd Dogs – Differences and Distinguishing Features

A very common question among dog lovers around the world is whether the Alsatian and the German Shepherd dogs are one and the same, or are they different. If you take a straw poll, I am pretty sure you are going to get contradictory answers. This is hardly surprising considering the fact that they look so alike. So, what is the truth then? The truth is they are the same dog with only different names.

Surprised? You should be.


What differentiates the Alsatian from the German Shepherd Dog?

There seems to be a raging debate among dog lovers for quite some time now, with many claiming that they are different, as different as apples and oranges and are bred for different purposes.  Some claim that there are structural differences between the dogs, others say that it is the size and color, while even others wants to stress on their places of origin. The proponents of the last theory say that Alsatian originated in Alsace in France while the German Shepherd in Germany.

With so many claims and counter claims, any dog lover is bound to get confused and helpless. So let me put things into perspective for you.

A Short History – The Role of German Shepherd and How Alsatians Evolved? 

During the world war, both sides were employing the German Shepherd in their ranks to attack, surprise and outmaneuver their opponents. The German Shepherd being a big working dog with high intelligence and a natural propensity for training was considered to be of great value by the armed forces and was therefore hotly pursued. However, the British were loath to using the name “German Shepherd” as the Germans were their arch-enemy and they (the British) didn’t want to associate with the Germans in any way, at least symbolically in this case. So, they coined a new name for the German Shepherd, Alsatian, which somehow some people has come to refer to as a different dog breed.

The Americans, however, had no such hangovers and the name German Shepherd was widely used. Once the war was over, the British also decided that the name Alsatian has outlived its usefulness and went back to its real and trusted name, the German Shepherd. This short anecdote should be enough to clear all your lingering doubts about the German Shepherd and an Alsatian and prove that they are the same thing.


The name Alsatian comes from the German French border area of Alsace-Lorraine, where the British were locked in a fierce battle with the German forces. The original name of the dog is German Shepherd Dog.

It was because of the relentless campaign by the breeders that in 1977 the Alsatian finally got back its original name, German Shepherd Dog. Today the German Shepherd Dog or Alsatian, as you would like to call it, is among the most popular dog breeds in the world. In the US it ranks as high as number two in the popularity stakes while in the UK it is constantly ranked in the top five. The German Shepherd is also known as GSD.


Hailing from Delhi, Prateek Tiwari is an avid animal lover who believes in Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” A graduate in Biotechnology, he has vast knowledge about different breeds of pets and pet food that are both nutritious and promote healthy growth. In order to make people aware about pets and pet care, he shares his expertise through his blog posts.

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20 Responses

  • […] Find out the key differences between Alsatian and German Shepherd Dogs.  […]

  • WHo is right?

    Strongly Agreed that This dog was used in world war 2 and you are saying this breed bred in the end of 19th Century………….
    I have orally cleared this confusion many times to the dog lovers and general public aas well.

    You will find people telling that there is difference in color between alsatian and German Shepherd. Some people act further intelligent to tell structural differences. Few say it is the size difference. An Alsatian is from Alsace in France and a German Shepherd from Germany.

    The name German Shepherd was used in America. The German Shepherds was used by both sides to fight during the war. But the British didn’t want to call their dogs German so they decided on the name Alsatian. Later, after the war, the Britisg changed the name back to German Shepherd Dog .There is NO difference between a German Shepherd Dog and an Alsatian. ( German Shepherd Training )

    The original name is German shepherd Dog. During the world war britishers named it Alsatian, after the German French border area of Alsace-Lorraine.

    In 1977, post numerous campaigns by breeders the name of the breed was changed back to German Shepherd Dog; known as GSD in the short form. the German Shepherd Dog (Alsatian) has become one of the most popular breeds with pet owners, who consider them loving and loyal companions

    • c cvb

      whats a britisher?

    • Miss Sophie

      As Alsace-Lorraine was part of Germany at the time the first
      Alsatians/German shepherds were bred, it does not seem to matter. The
      breeder, Max von Stephanitz, however, lived in Frankfurt, which is
      definitely not in the area.

    • rahul

      I think the original post is absolutely right…. I have read the same thing in other forums and websites…. It is so informative and precise article… 🙂

  • Reynardine

    I am aware that the Brits used the designation “Alsatian” for German Shepherds. There was, in the American Midwest, however, a farm dog called an “Alsatian”, which was not a German Shepherd. It was a much longer- coated dog, looking roughly like a cross between a Tervuren and a Beauceron, with smaller ears, a broader backskull, and a sharper nose than any of those breeds. I suspect it has gone extinct, as I have not seen one since mid-Twentieth Century.

  • Y'all Liars

    Both dogs are a myth!

  • AnasJabbar

    I am too much fond of german shepherd..
    From where I can get this in pakistan??

  • astra

    Yeah I thought so.i knew someone who was Dutch who named the GSD an Alsatian.
    Just goes to show you ww2 and racism and neugenics hasn’t gone away just yet

    German shepherd or Alsatian. .wwho cares..big deal…

  • yousafai ante

    i was surprised that german shephard is known as alsatian.
    actually i was about to buy great dane but when i heard that one of the largest dog in the world dies and the breed was great dane.
    the name of the dog was zeus.
    anyhow i love pets

  • Comfortably Numb

    hey ,can huskies live in warm places? like 45 degrees?

  • rahul

    Nice and informative article…. Thanks Prateek 🙂

  • Joseph Parker

    So did we change it from Alsace-chien to Alsation?

  • Upali

    This is a very good article and very clear how the same breed was called by two names.

  • diannelee

    There’s a great reason why I call my dog as alsatian. The insurance company charges as extra fee for a German Shepherd, but my Alsatian doesn’t seem to worry them at all.

  • Great to know the history of German Shepherds and Alsatians, it’s hard to tell them apart.

  • My brother suggested I might like this website.

    He was totally right. This post actually made my day.
    You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!