German Shepherds have long been one of the most popular and prized dog breeds all over the world. And rightly so. They are big, bold, intelligent, protective, lovable, and oh-so-handsome.
Their big size and rich coat color further add to their dignified appearance and is one of the major reasons behind their lasting popularity.
The multitude of German Shepherd colors makes this dog breed even more popular among lovers.
Just like there are people who love German Shepherds because of their personality traits, there are also people who adore them because of their coat colors.
If you are considering bringing this lovely dog into your home, it is only wise to know your options.
What Colors do German Shepherds Come In?
Just like their unique personality, German Shepherds have some distinctive color variations. While these dogs are available in a variety of colors and combinations, the American Kennel Club recognizes the following 11 as the standard German Shepherd colors:
- Black & tan
- Black & red
- Black & cream
- Black & silver
While all the colors of German Shepherds are beautiful and not even related to their temperament, behavior, and health, they are not valued the same way. Some are not even considered the colors of purebreds while others are believed to be the results of faulty genes.
For example, white German Shepherds, despite being recognized as a standard color, aren’t allowed to participate in performance events. The white coat color is considered a disqualifying fault for German Shepherds.
Some other German Shepherd colors that are undesirable or are considered disqualifying include solid blue, liver, fawn, pure red, and spotted black and white.
The Qualified German Shepherd Colors
Here are the German Shepherd colors that are considered qualified or correct by all organizations and breeders:
1. Black and Tan German Shepherd
Although black and tan is the most common coat color of German Shepherds, it is the result of a recessive gene.
The tan is usually spread on their chest, underbellies, sides, and necks whereas black appears primarily on their backs, in shape of a saddle, and part of their faces; on the nose and around eyes and jaw.
While the tan color is prominent in adult dogs, the coat color of German Shepherd puppies, from this category, tend to be predominantly black. It continues to get lighter as they grow up, turning tan as they reach maturity.
However, the shade of tan is not the same even in adult German Shepherds. It often varies across different dogs, depending on their parents and genetic makeup.
Rin Tin Tin – the international start of motion pictures in the early 1900s was a male black and tan German Shepherd.
2. Black and Cream German Shepherd
These German Shepherds only differ from their black and tan counterparts in that they have a cream color instead of tan.
The pattern of markings is similar. The cream color, however, further enhances the black markings, making these dogs look strikingly beautiful.
3. Black and Red German Shepherd
Another variation of black and tan German Shepherds, the tan coat color here is a lot stronger and darker. While in most cases, the tan is replaced with a dark reddish-brown color, it can sometimes be lighter and somewhat like strawberry blonde.
The pattern of markings in red and black German Shepherds is the same as black and tan and black and cream varieties.
Black and red coat color is generally associated with show German Shepherd bloodlines.
4. Silver German Shepherd
A variety of German Shepherd from the working bloodline, the silver color is believed to be the result of a recessive gene.
Silver German Shepherds look quite similar to black and cream ones.
5. Sable German Shepherd
Caused by the ‘agouti’ dominant gene, sable German Shepherds do not exhibit distinctive and solid color patches like most other varieties. More often than not, their hair is a mixture of different colors and shades, creating an ombre effect.
Although sable German Shepherds have been around since 1895, they are not among the most popular German Shepherd varieties.
Like silver German Shepherds, they also come from working bloodlines.
For those who do not know, the agouti gene is responsible for the distribution of melanin in mammals.
6. Gray German Shepherd
Just like sable, gray coat color is also the result of a dominant gene. However, German Shepherds with gray coat color look fiercer and more like wolves.
Unlike most German Shepherd dogs that change coat color as they grow up, gray German Shepherds change their eye color.
Gray German Shepherd puppies are born with blue eyes, but they change to honey or light brown as they reach maturity.
7. Bi-Color German Shepherd
This coat color is also a variation of the classic black and tan coat. But, here, black is the dominant color– about 90% of the dog’s coat is black.
Bi-color German Shepherds are often confused with black German Shepherds. But, no matter how little they are, if a dog has tan markings on its body, it is considered a bi-color German Shepherd.
Clipper – the Kennedy Family Dog – has so far been the most famous bi-color German Shepherd in the United States.
8. Black German Shepherd
The bold and striking solid black coat color of German Shepherds is surprisingly the result of a recessive gene.
In most cases, a black German Shepherd is only born to black parents. However, in rare circumstances, a pure black puppy can also be born to a black and tan parent.
The Disqualified German Shepherd Colors
As mentioned above, white, liver, blue, fawn, pure red, and spotted black and white are considered disqualified and the results of faulty genes. However, these coat colors are not related to any health or behavioral issues.
So, you can get a German Shepherd in any of these colors if you don’t plan to take your dog to showings. They look as beautiful as other German Shepherd varieties.
White German Shepherds were previously considered to be suffering from albinism (a genetic disease).
However, research has long confirmed that white German Shepherds are not albinos – they only have a significantly lower melanin level than other varieties.
Which German Shepherd Color Should You Opt for?
The personality and character traits of all these German Shepherds are the same, so it really comes down to your personal choice.
There’s no right or wrong choice for people looking to keep their German Shepherd just as a family dog. But, if you want your dog to stand out of all others around you, get one of the rare color varieties.
However, if you plan to take your dog to showings, make sure you get one from the ‘qualified’ varieties.
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A big-dog lover, successful marketing executive, and website developer, Brian founded Canine Weekly in 2016. Brian lives just outside of Seattle with his wife and child. Brian grew up with labs and the family is eager to get another Labrador once their newborn is a little older. Brian is the former owner of Canine Weekly.