Few breeds can compare to the sheer intelligence of the German Shepherd. Their trainability and loyalty have kept them in high demand consistently. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that German Shepherds are the second-most registered breed by the American Kennel Club.
But this breed is more than just its brains. Their proud and dignified looks contribute to their lasting popularity as well. And coat color plays a big part in this. Before you get up close, coloring is the first thing you’ll notice about a dog.
Though generally darker, they come in quite a few color variants, along with some blends. Below we take a look at some of the most striking German Shepherd colors.
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Table of Contents
- Standard Colors of German Shepherds
- Which GSD Color is Right For You?
Standard Colors of German Shepherds
Currently, there are 11 official standard colors of the German Shepherd, at least according to the AKC. In reality, there are many more colors of these dogs. However, not all of them are considered “standard” or even recognized by major kennel clubs. Consequently, these other colored German Shepherds are very rare.
These standard AKC colors for the German Shepherd include:
- Black & Cream
- Black & Red
- Black & Silver
- Black & Tan
Though all these colors are standard for this dog breed, not all of widely bred. Breeders choose to avoid colors such as liver, white and blue, despite being standard colors. So, if you have your heart set on one of these, then you may need to spend extra time searching for a reputable breeder.
1. Black and Tan German Shepherd
This is the bread and butter, so to speak, of the German Shepherd. For most people, when they picture this breed, it is with this pattern. But even with this most common coloring, there is room for variation.
The tan fur can range from deeper hues to a shade that almost approaches silver along the edges. The black usually appears a saddle-like pattern along the back that varies in size.
Something to keep in mind is that dogs born with this pattern usually begin life darker and slowly lighten as the mature. One way to get an idea for how a pup’s coat will appear as an adult is to meet both of the parents.
Darker, especially black, coloration is recessive in the German Shepherd, so if both the parents display the black and tan coloring, then the pup is more likely to as well.
2. Sable German Shepherd
The most common color in the German Shepherd breed is a sand color. This opens the door for quite a few combinations actually.
While other colors of this breed are largely defined by single colors, or bicolor ratios, sable dogs are somewhat more homogenous. That is, the coloring is more even throughout without distinct areas of one color or another.
Within this coloring the shades can range from lighter greys to darker colors, such as more grey or shades approaching red and brown. In fact, if you were to look at any single hair of a German Shepherd with this coloring you might notice that their hair can have two to three colors on each strand.
This coloring is allowed for exhibitions, but it tends not to do well. As such, they are much more popular in the work line or as pets. They are especially popular in the K-9 units of a police force.
3. Bicolor German Shepherd
At first glance, this might seem a variation of black and tan. And there is some debate about whether two-tone German Shepherds are simply displaying a pattern or a distinct color on its own.
A bicolor German Shepherd will have black and tan colors, but the black with be much more dominant here. Almost the entire body will be black, with only a few areas such as the legs or chest displaying fur that ranges from tan to brown.
At birth, a two-tone German Shepherd can be hard to discern from its purely black cousins. An indicator that the pup will grow up to be bicolor is to look for some brown under their tail.
4. Black German Shepherd
The gene for black fur is recessive in German Shepherds, so an entirely black dog can be somewhat harder to find. In fact, they often might have a bit of brown fur on their toes or feet, and even some hints of white on their chest.
But so long as the rest of their coat is black, they are still considered to fit in this color category.
While less common than other colorations, a black German Shepherd is by no means rare. Don’t let breeders hike up the price on you based solely on the idea that these dogs are rare or special.
While, yes, they are absolutely beautiful and worth taking home, just be sure the price is fair and do some market research beforehand.
5. White German Shepherd
Though white coloration disqualifies a dog according to the German Shepherd breed standard of the American Kennel Club, we’ve still included it because, well, look at this dog. It is gorgeous. The white coloring really brings out its wolf ancestry and lends it an air of mystery.
If you are looking for a German Shepherd to have as a pet, then white coloring isn’t a problem. Plenty of people, we here at The Smart Canine included, see this coloring as one of the more desirable for a companion German Shepherd.
And, in any case, the AKC does allow them to be registered, but simply not as a show dog. For most owners, this is fine.
6. Liver (Brown) German Shepherd
A unique aspect of this coloring is that the gene for liver fur also tends to appear along with a gene that results in beautiful amber eyes. Biology did well here pairing the two genes.
Liver-colored German Shepherds can range from lighter browns to darker and warmer colors, even bordering on red. The coat can also have hints of other colors in it, blending in here and there.
There are three main variations of the liver coloring: liver and tan, liver and white, and solid liver. Each of these is recognized by the AKC.
7. Blue German Shepherd
Contrary to what some people say, blue coloring in a German Shepherd is not an indication of fault or poor health (unlike blue French Bulldogs).
The reasoning for this incorrect thought could be attributed to the fact that for some other breeds, blue coloring might indicate health or temperament problems if it is the tied to a gene that causes a hormone or skin issues.
With the German Shepherd, this is definitely not the case, as it is simply another variation of color rather than an indicator of genetic problems.
In fact, plenty of breeders purposely breed for this color because of its rarity. Being from a recessive gene, blue coloration does not occur often without specifically being bred for.
However, while you might not have too hard a time finding a blue German Shepherd nowadays, be prepared to face a bit more expense. Their rarity can push up the price, though this varies from breeder to breeder.
8. Red and Black German Shepherd
The red and black GSD is something you don’t see every day. They’re spectacular specimens that are strikingly beautiful no matter your taste in dogs.
In a way, the coat pattern of the red and black German Shepherd looks almost like a brindle or merle. In other words, you’ll usually get a GSD with a dark mahogany (red) base coat, with patches of black around the coat.
The black is most commonly found on the dog’s back, tail, bottom and face (muzzle).
However, the black is not limited to those areas of the body – it depends on the dog and parents. Black color around the dog’s muzzle is almost always guaranteed, however.
9. Black and Silver German Shepherd
The black and silver German Shepherd is another common color combination. Even though they look exotic, breeders still breed them, as they’ve been growing in popularity.
Most of the time, color distribution may vary from dog to dog. However, they will typically have a silver base on the bottom of their body and black on the top half on their body.
The hue of black can range from a dark gray to a deep black. In some instances, the German Shepherd may have silver with multiple shades of black on the coat.
These dogs are truly amazing in terms of appearance, and it’s not difficult to see why they’ve been becoming more prevalent among families in the United States.
10. Black and Cream German Shepherd
Another beautiful standard color of the GSD, the black and cream is another popular choice among owners around the world. They’re very similar in appearance to the black and silver, but a difference shade of “white.”
Instead of a metallic-like silver color, the black and cream has an off-white cream color. This cream color can vary from dog to dog, but has a hint of yellow to it.
Like the black and silver, this colored German Shepherd will have a bottom that’s primarily cream and a top that’s primarily black. Again, the black can come in different hues and it’s not uncommon to see different shades of black on this dog.
Which GSD Color is Right For You?
It depends. If you are looking for a German Shepherd as a pet, then personal preference should be the top criteria. If you like how it looks, whether white, dark, or blue, then you should choose accordingly.
However, if you are considering breeding a German Shepherd or are interested in exhibitions, then your color selection should lean toward richer colorations that favor blacks and tans. Unfortunately, white will be out of the picture, despite its aesthetic appeal.
Either way, coloration in a German Shepherd covers a wide range of options, and each of them are simply that: colors. No single color indicates better health or temperament. That will instead be up to you and how you train, treat, and raise the dog.
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