If you thought all German Shepherds come in black and tan, you are wrong, but you are not alone. Thanks to the famous Rin Tin Tin, German Shepherds with a black and tan coat are most common, especially in the United States.
However, there are fourteen other eye-catching German Shepherd colors, most of which are registered with various kennel clubs.
Most of these color varieties have some kind of black body marking, ranging from an overall “blanket” to “a classic saddle”, and some black masks.
Some German Shepherd dogs sport rare color variations, including black, white, liver, blue, and sable. Although the sable and all-black varieties are recognized according to most standards, the liver and blue varieties are considered to be serious faults.
In this article, you can discover all colors of German Shepherds, from the six old colors to the newly recognized color patterns, so you can choose your favorite!
German Shepherd colors: black & tan
This is the most common color, and probably the color most of us think of when we talk about a German Shepherd dog. With a rich tan undercarriage and a black back and face, this color of German Shepherds has been around since the very first dog was officially registered back in Germany at the end of the 19th century.
Although Horand von Grafrath (the first registered GSD) was a little darker than the black and tan German Shepherds we have today, the ancestry is evident.
The black and tan color is dominant over the solid black recessive gene, but it is recessive to the most dominant sable gene.
Usually born darker, tan and black GSDs often lighten as they age, with some even developing a grey-colored stripe down their backs. Often regarded as a “bitch’s strip”, it is far more common in female dogs of this breed than in male ones.
Some dog lovers think that a black GSD is somehow different from its black and tan cousins whereas others state that the color has no impact on their temperaments or characters.
Breeders who specialize in the production of pure black German Shepherd dogs may claim that these dogs are larger in size and more muscular than other types of GSDs, but there is no clear evidence to support this claim.
Some devoted dog owners claim that their black German Shepherds have coats that are more luxurious and “flowing” than the coats of some other varieties, but again, there is little to no evidence to support this either.
Given that some people still believe that meeting a pure black dog at night is a bad omen, and perhaps even a portent of death, it hardly comes as a surprise that so many false claims exist about the pure black German Shepherd.
All-black colored German Shepherd dogs are accepted by all major cynology associations, including the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Kennel Club (KC).
While most of us have already seen white German Shepherds, few of us probably have a clue of what we are looking at. With their dashing white coats, these pale creatures look more like Golden Retrievers with erect ears.
They are often confused with the even more uncommon Berger Blanc Suisse, or White Swiss Shepherd, and are the cause of great controversy (You also shouldn’t mistake white GSDs for white Huskies; a type of Husky coat color that looks very similar!).
According to the American Kennel Club, white canines are always disqualified from dog shows. The UK Kennel Club shares this opinion, going as far as to say that a very pale color on the inside of the legs or light markings on the chest is permissible, but undesirable, while all-white and near white dogs are highly undesirable.
The United Kennel Club is one of the handfuls that recognizes white German Shepherds, pointing out that these dogs come in many different colors, including white.
However, despite this, in the 1900s, Germany began culling white GSDs from the German Shepherd breeding bloodlines because they saw these dogs as albinos. Breeders believed that the white gene was responsible for genetic issues, and that it washed out the breed’s rich colors.
With its amber-colored eyes, and reddish-brown coat, the liver German Shepherd dog is both eye-catching and distinctive.
The liver color is produced by a recessive gene and, for a liver German Shepherd puppy to be born, both of its parents need to possess at least one liver gene, which is passed to the puppy in its genetic material.
Even though the American Kennel Club states that most colors are permissible in its GSD breed standard, and that strong rich colors are highly desirable, it also states that washed-out colors and livers or blues are serious faults.
Despite these seemingly contradictory and quite confusing statements, a liver-colored German Shepherd is still recognized by the AKC. However, the dog has to be a solid liver color. Any other pattern, such as liver and tan or black and liver aren’t acceptable as breed standards.
Liver GSDs are among the rarest you can come across, so it is highly unlikely that you will find one at a rescue center or an animal shelter. Most of these dogs are produced by designer and specialty breeding programs. However, some liver puppies may still appear randomly in litters or in regular breeding programs.
Photo from: @fenrisfangs
A blue-colored German Shepherd is a rare and beautiful sight. There is something almost other-worldly about a blue dog, and with amber or golden-brown eyes, they look even more fascinating, making them highly sought after.
Despite the demand for these dogs, like their white cousins, the blue coloring has been a cause of controversy in the German Shepherd world. This is due to the fact that the recessive dilution gene generally comes with inbreeding practices and health issues.
While it is true that both the blue or the “cool steel grey” color of their coats and the unusual eye color are due to a recessive dilution gene, there is no evidence that they are more prone to any health problems than the standard black and tan variety.
Blue GSDs may appear grey or even silver, and are often mistaken for Blue Belgian Malinois. Even though some would say that blue is a “bad color”, it doesn’t change the natural character and temperament of the dog. A blue German Shepherd will always have the same straightforward nature of a “gentleman” that a black and tan one has.
Photo from: @gsds_feature
This unique-looking coat color variation is another washout as far as the American Kennel Club is concerned, which is a shame given how dashing it is. The Isabella color originates from genetically combining blue and liver dilution genes.
Like the blue and liver GSDs, Isabella German shepherds often have different colored noses and unusual eye coloring. While liver German Shepherds usually come with a brown nose, and blue German Shepherds typically come with a blue nose, the
Isabella variety’s nose color will range from liver to pink and any shade in between.
Since the liver gene blocks all black pigmentation, Isabella German Shepherds won’t have any black pigment on their noses, eye rims, or paw pads, and will usually come with either blue eyes or hazel ones.
There is no proof that the Isabella coat color makes the pup more susceptible to health problems. However, this coloring is a recessive trait. Selective breeding for recessive traits always limits the gene pool and makes canines more susceptible to hereditary conditions.
German Shepherd colors: grey
Not to be confused with the black, blue, or silver German Shepherds, the grey variety looks more like a wolf with its dark coat.
This coloring is also known as “wolf-grey.”
While some people state that grey German Shepherds are a type of agouti or sable, as it is also known, grey is one of the six solid colors accepted by the AKC’s German Shepherd breed standard, despite the fact that the genes responsible for the grey color can also be found in the A series agouti genes.
Unlike the blue and liver color in GSDs, the grey color is produced not by a recessive gene, but by a dominant one, making it easier to breed for. This means that puppies need only one dominant gene from either parent in order to get a specific color.
On the other hand, in order to express a recessive color gene, a puppy will need to inherit two copies of that gene, one from each parent.
Most grey GSDs also lack any black pigmentation. Because of this, they are easily differentiated from the sable variety, which usually has black tips on their hairs.
Grey-colored German Shepherds are not as rare as, let’s say blue or Isabella, but they are still quite uncommon. You will be lucky to find one available for adoption; however, some breeders specialize in producing dogs of this striking color.
German Shepherd colors: silver
Photo from: @silversun.as
Similar to the grey GSD, silver is nonetheless accepted as a distinct color. Often grouped together, the grey and silver colors are produced by the same genes.
Finding a breeder that specializes in silver dogs of this breed is a lot easier than finding one that focuses on the grey variety.
Thus, this might be your best chance if you want to own a more exotic looking pooch.
Silver is an unusual color for German Shepherds, possibly due to the fact that silver comes from a recessive gene. Similar to the dilution gene, the silver recessive gene influences black pigment.
While there are also silver sable German Shepherds, the patterned coats mean that the dogs are categorized as sable rather than silver.
Even though they are recognized by the American Kennel Club, silver German Shepherds aren’t that common in the show ring as vibrant, strong colors are more desirable. However, these working dogs are often seen in the military and in the police force.
German Shepherd colors: red & black
Photo from: @max.lucy.gsd
If you’ve never seen a black and red German Shepherd, you are in for a treat! The rich red pigment replaces the standard tan one while the pattern remains much the same. Many red and black GSDs have the same saddleback and black mask of the standard black and tan variety.
The red color is produced by the pheomelanin gene. It can come in any shade of red, ranging from deep mahogany red to strawberry blonde.
Alongside black and tan, the red and black color combination is preferred over other color varieties by German Shepherd breeders.
Since both red and black are produced by dominant genes, this color combination is much easier to breed for. Therefore, many reputable breeders focus on producing purebred German Shepherds with deep red coloring.
Photo from: @tedthesablegsd
One of the classic colors of the German Shepherd breed, sable comes in a variety of colors, but each hair typically sports a black tip. Sable German Shepherds can be grey, red, black, tan, or silver, and are also known as agouti.
Agouti is not a type of coloring that is only found in German Shepherd dogs. It is also present in other dog breeds like the Agouti Husky, for instance.
In this unique coloring, each hair has several bands of black and brown, leading to a typical wolf-like coloration. Some of the founding members of this breed believed that this should be the only color present in German Shepherd dogs.
The sable color changes throughout the dog’s life. Black sables are born as pure black pups while tri-colored sables are born as tan and black puppies. Some German Shepherds may take as long as three years to get their final sable coloration.
Given that every sable German Shepherd is different, with the pattern and color both varying, each dog is eye-catching and unique.
Sable is a dominant color that is easy to selectively breed for. If you breed a sable GSD with any other color, you will probably get sable puppies. Sable-colored GSDs are not standard in German show lines, and they don’t do well in SV-style show rings.
You can mostly see these dogs in working lines.
German Shepherd colors: black & silver
Similar to the black and tan German Shepherd, a black and silver GSD usually has a silver saddle across its back. But, the hue and pattern of the saddle both vary from dog to dog.
Like the silver German Shepherd, the silver and black coloration occurs when the recessive intensity suppression gene is active.
Black and silver color is not common in the American Kennel Club show ring, and can mostly be found in working lines.
Different German Shepherd coat colors: bicolor
Photo from: @alba_thegermanshepherd
Bicolor German Shepherds appear almost completely black at first glance. But, in order to fit into the breed’s standard, these pups must have black legs, backs, heads, and tails.
Even if the paws of these dogs are brown, the heels must be black by the color standard definition.
Some German Shepherd enthusiasts have questioned if bicolor is actually a coat color or just a pattern of a different color.
Whatever the case may be, the AKC accepts bicolor as a recessive color in the breed.
And, even though bicolor German Shepherds are technically allowed in the AKC conformation events, they are also mostly found in working dog lines.
German Shepherd different colors: black and cream
The last officially recognized color on our list, the black and creamGerman Shepherd remains true to its origins as a faded version of the common red and tan coloring.
There is, however, some controversy surrounding the black and cream variation. Most AKC-approved breeders do not want them to participate in dog shows. Their goal is to breed darker-colored dogs that do not show the light cream coloring.
The black and cream color does little to change their character. So, you can expect black and cream German Shepherds to excel at obedience, rally, nose work, and agility courses, and to be as brave and loyal as their black and tan relatives.
Photo from: @fez_the_panda
A panda German Shepherd almost matches the appearance of a Border Collie. The first panda German Shepherd was Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom.
Some GSD enthusiasts claimed that she wasn’t a purebred German Shepherd, but a Border Collie x German Shepherd mix.
However, her DNA proved them wrong.
The panda GSD is created by a rare genetic mutation, and it remains unrecognized by some kennel clubs and breeders. The so-called piebald gene causes up to forty percent of a dog’s body to have a white color.
But, panda German Shepherd dogs have no white GSDs in their ancestry. The genes responsible for a patchy white body and an all-white body are two different ones.
Even though the American Kennel Club does not recognize panda German Shepherds as a breed standard color, it doesn’t stop these dogs from being popular!
There is a huge demand for Panda-colored GSDs, and unfortunately, this inflates the price and leads breeders to focus on color rather than genetic health. This is why you should only buy a German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder.
An albino GSD is an incredibly rare sight. Although several people have claimed to own an albino German Shepherd, on closer inspection, nearly all of them were white in color.
An albino of any dog breed lacks any pigmentation, including that of the hair, eyes, and skin, as well as the blood vessels, resulting in a pinkish tinge.
You can easily distinguish a white German Shepherd from an albino one by checking its nose and eyes. White German Shepherds will have some pigmentation usually resulting in brown eyes, whereas albino GSDs always come with pink or red eyes.
What is the rarest German Shepherd color?
Photo from: @alishaorwat
The rarest of the German Shepherd colors by far is Isabella due to the recessive combination of blue and liver.
If you wish to own an Isabella German Shepherd and none other, you will have to search a long time to get such a puppy. Also, be prepared to pay a hefty amount as its price will likely be through the roof!
What are the best German Shepherd colors?
The best color you can choose for competing in the show ring is black and tan. But, if you are not planning on showing your pooch through the AKC, you can pick any color you prefer.
As the breed founder, Captain von Stephanitz, stated, the color of a dog’s coat has no significance whatsoever for service.
In working circles, most people dislike white German Shepherds as they are thought to be “weak.” But, this is not based on any actual working ability. This prejudice is based on a myth that has been passed on through generations.
What was the original color of German Shepherds?
Given that the German Shepherd dogs were bred as working dogs, the first breeders focused on temperature rather than appearance.
Therefore, the original coat color of working GSDs was sable. Today, the most traditional color in the conformation and show rings is black and tan.
German Shepherd coat and grooming
As we mentioned above, this breed was originally bred to herd flocks in cold climates, and their medium-length double coat fits the job description perfectly. It acts as protection for the pup from rain and snow, and is resistant to picking up dirt and burrs.
The coat types of German Shepherd dogs are as varied as their color. Some GSDs are long-haired. However, the “ideal” dog of this breed has a double coat of medium length. The outer coat is dense and rough, with straight hair that lies close to the body.
Sometimes, the outer coat of a German Shepherd is wavy and wiry.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as “German Shedders,” these canines shed throughout the year and generally blow (shed a lot of hair at once, like a snowstorm) twice a year. If you want to own a German Shepherd, you should prepare for hair on your white couch, on your black pants, and pretty much everywhere else around your house.
As we’ve seen above, there are many German Shepherd colors to choose from, but each one of them sheds, so don’t think you will have a clean house if you pick the “right” color. There is no magic solution to shedding, and you just have to accept it.
With that being said, brushing two to three times a week will keep more of the loose hair on the brush rather than on your furniture. Also, a sturdy vacuum cleaner won’t hurt either.
Despite their notoriety as heavy shedders, German Shepherds tend to be fairly clean and odorless. Therefore, bathing shouldn’t be that often as it strips the coat of oils that keep it healthy. So, start running the bathwater only if your pooch really needs it.
Best German Shepherd mixes
Photo from: @amandaevanpelt
Now you know that there are plenty of German Shepherd colors to choose from. However, do you know that all of them can be mixed with other breeds to get spectacular colors in crossbred pups?
Not every German Shepherd mix must be black and tan. So, just imagine the following mixed bred pups with your favorite
German Shepherd color from above:
2. The Shug (German Shepherd / Pug)
3. Labrashepherd (German Shepherd / Labrador Retriever)
4. Chow Shepherd (German Shepherd / Chow Chow)
6. Shollie (German Shepherd / Collie)
7. Rottweiler Shepherd or Shepweiler (German Shepherd / Rottweiler)
11. Shepkita (German Shepherd / Akita)
12. Euro Mountain Sheparnese (German Shepherd / Bernese Mountain Dog)
13. German Sheppit (German Shepherd / Pitbull)
14. Saint Shepherd (German Shepherd / Saint Bernard)
On the other hand, if mixed breed pups are not really your style, there are plenty of German Shepherd look-alikes that might interest you.
German Shepherd colors: the bottom line
As you can tell from going through our German Shepherd colors guide, these canines come in many different colors. While you should always go for the coloring you like most, make sure to not choose your new furry friend based solely on its looks.
This breed is prone to developing hip and back issues. So, before buying a puppy for its color, make sure that the breeder has selected for health first and color second! Otherwise, you might get a puppy with a stunning color but poor health, which is never a good thing.
If you are still undecided on whether or not to own one of these awesome creatures, you should maybe take a look at what some of the most famous people in the world had to say about them. It might tip the scale to one side or the other!