I get asked this question all the time so I thought I would write a blog about it. Before I get started, let me be clear that while I breed Berger Blanc Suisse (White Swiss Shepherd) dogs, my first dog was a White German Shepherd whom I loved greatly. I think all of these breeds can make great dogs. You might want to check out my blog article: Is Berger Blanc Suisse (White Swiss Shepherd) Right for Me?
Technically speaking, the Berger Blanc Suisse, White German Shepherd and White Shepherd are different breeds with different standards. Berger Blanc Suisse is recognized by FCI in Europe, the White German Shepherd is recognized by the AKC (although the color is disqualified for show) and the White Shepherd is recognized by UKC. Having said that, there is a lot of overlap in the history and characteristics of the dogs.
In general, I would place the Berger Blanc Suisse and White German Shepherd on two extremes with White Shepherds in the middle as a transition between them (and depending on the breeder, with characteristics that could resemble either).
AKC German Shepherd standards refer to the breed’s strong prey drive and “fearless and direct” personality. The breed is considered an excellent police and guard dog. The Berger Blanc Suisse standard calls for a mellower, more gentle personality and the dog is not stereotypically considered for police work or guard dog work but, instead, does well as a therapy or service dog. The personality of a White Shepherd represented by AWSA might reflect either and is likely dependent on the breeder’s standards and goals for their breeding program.
In terms of physical characteristics, the biggest difference between Berger Blanc Suisse and White German Shepherd would be hip angulation. The Berger Blanc Suisse standard calls for a more upright stance (see illustration below) whereas the White German Shepherd standard would follow AKC’s German Shepherd standard for a more severe angulation (see photo below). For more information see the exhibits below or our About the Breed page. Berger Blanc Suisse standards also call for dark pigmentation (for example, a black rather than pink nose) whereas there is not a specific standard for pigmentation for White German Shepherds (nose can be pink and coat can be cream colored). AWSA in the United States has done some great work documenting the history of the breeds on their site (http://www.awsaclub.com/history.html). They call their dogs “White Shepherds” and this is also the name adopted by the UKC. In my experience, this club supports some excellent breeders. The physical appearance of the dogs they represent seem to range between White German Shepherds and Berger Blanc Suisse, depending on the breeder.
Illustration of breed standard for Berger Blanc Suisse from FCI’s official breed standard document:
The photo below represents AKC’s breed standard for German Shepherd / White German Shepherd (the AKC site does not provide a white color example).
The photo below is from AWSA’s website, it reflects a stance that is somewhat between the highly angulated German Shepherd and the upright Berger Blanc Suisse.
You might find Is this Breed right for Me helpful.