Few breeds can compare with the sheer intelligence of the German Shepherd. With their loyalty and an eagerness to learn, German Shepherds have become one of the world’s most popular dogs. In fact, the GSD is the 3rd most popular in America!
However, this breed is more than just the brains and brawn. The GSD’s handsome and dignified looks, along with their mesmerizing stance, also contribute to their lasting popularity. And of course, breed’s beautiful coat colors also play a huge part.
Though generally darker, GSDs come in quite a few color variants, along with some unique blends. If you thought they all come in the standard “black & tan,” then you’re in for a surprise. We take a look at some of the most stunning German Shepherd colors ever.
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11 Standard Colors of German Shepherds
Currently, there are 11 official standard colors of the German Shepherd, at least according to the AKC. But in reality, there are many more colors of these dogs.
It’s just that not all of these colors are considered “official” or even recognized by other major kennel clubs. As a result, these other colored German Shepherds are very rare, as less breeders breed for them.
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 them are 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 the ones I just mentioned, then you may need to spend extra time searching for a reputable breeder.
1. Black & Tan German Shepherd
This popular color combination is the bread and butter, so to speak, of the German Shepherd. For most people, when they picture this breed, it’s with this color. But even with this common color, there is plenty of room for variation.
The tan fur can range from deeper hues to a shade that almost approaches silver along the edges. The black color usually appears as a saddle-like pattern along the back and can vary quite a bit in size. But no matter the shade, it’s stunning.
Something to keep in mind is that GSDs born with this pattern usually begin life with a darker shade and slowly lighten as they mature. The best way to get an idea of how a pup’s coat will develop in adulthood is to meet the parents (ideally with both).
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 seen in the German Shepherd breed is the sand color. As a matter of fact, this opens the door for quite a few color combinations.
While other colors of this breed are largely defined by single colors, or bicolor ratios, sable dogs are a bit 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.
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. It’s an interesting sight, but you’ll have to take a close look.
The sable German Shepherd is allowed for exhibitions, but it doesn’t do well very 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 may seem like a variation of the black and tan German Shepherd. And there is some debate about whether bicolor German Shepherds are simply displaying a pattern or a distinct color on its own. We’d like to think its a distinct color.
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, the two-tone German Shepherd will be hard to distinguish from its solid black siblings. In fact, it may take months to start seeing changes. However, an indicator of whether the puppy will grow up to be a bicolor dog is if it has some brown color under the tail.
4. Black German Shepherd
The gene for a black coat is recessive in German Shepherds, so an entirely black dog will be somewhat hard to find. But not all “black German Shepherds” are completely black from head to toe.
Black GSDs might actually have a bit of brown fur on their toes or feet, and even some hints of white on their chest. It’s just a very small amount, though. As long as the rest of the German Shepherd’s coat is black, they are still considered to be in this color category.
While less common than other colorations, a black German Shepherd is by no means rare. So don’t be fooled by breeders. There will be some breeders that hike up the price based solely on the idea that these dogs are rare or special.
And while, yes, they are absolutely beautiful and worth taking home, just be sure the price is fair and do some market research beforehand.
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5. White German Shepherd
Although the white coloration disqualifies the dog according to the German Shepherd breed standard of the AKC, we’ve still included it because, well, look at this dog. The white GSD is downright gorgeous. And don’t try to convince me otherwise.
The white coloring really gives the dog a wolf-like look and lends it an air of mystery. They may often get confused for an athletic, slimmed-down Samoyed, but their poise and calmness begs to differ.
If you are looking for a German Shepherd to have as a companion, then white coloring isn’t a problem. Plenty of people, The Smart Canine included, see this coloring as one of the more desirable for a 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 because who really has the time to show their dogs?
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6. Liver (Brown) German Shepherd
A unique aspect of this liver/brown coloring is that the gene for liver fur tends to also appear along with a gene responsible for their beautiful amber eyes. Biology and evolution did well here by pairing these two genes.
Liver-colored German Shepherds tend to range from lighter browns to darker and warmer colors. And in some cases, even bordering on red. The coat can also have hints of other colors in it, smoothly blending in with the brown, here and there.
There are three variations of the liver coloring: liver and tan, liver and white, and solid liver. The good news is that all three of these are recognized by the American Kennel Club.
7. Blue German Shepherd
Contrary to what some people say, blue coloring in a German Shepherd is not an indication of fault and or poor health (unlike blue French Bulldogs). The reasoning for this belief could be due to the fact that blue coloring might indicate temperament or health problems in other breeds.
For example, some blue dogs may have hormone or skin issues. We call this condition, Color Dilution Alopecia. However with the German Shepherd, this is definitely not the case. Fortunately, it’s simply another variation of color rather than an indicator of genetic problems.
Plenty of breeders purposely breed for this color because of its rarity. Coming from a recessive gene, blue coloration does not occur often without specifically being bred for it.
While you might not have too hard a time finding a blue German Shepherd nowadays, be prepared to dig deeper in your pockets. Their scarcity can push up the price and will vary from breeder to breeder.
8. Red & Black German Shepherd
The red and black German Shepherd is something you don’t see every day. However, they’re starting to gain a lot of popularity – for good reason. They’re spectacular specimens that are undeniably beautiful no matter what 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 color is most commonly found on the dog’s back, tail, bottom and face (muzzle). The black is not limited to those areas of the body – it depends on the dog and the parents. However, black color around the dog’s muzzle is almost always guaranteed.
9. Black & Silver German Shepherd
The black and silver German Shepherd is another common color combination. Even though they look more exotic than your average German Shepherd, breeders still breed them, as they’ve been growing in popularity (as expected).
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 spectacular in terms of appearance, and it’s not difficult to see why they’ve been more prevalent among families in the United States (and probably the world).
10. Black & Cream German Shepherd
Another beautiful standard color of the GSD, the black and cream German Shepherd is another popular choice among owners around the world. They’re very similar in appearance to the black and silver, but with a different shade of “white.” But if you look closely, they’re quite different.
Instead of the metallic-like silver coloring, the black and cream has an off-white cream color. However, this cream color can vary from dog to dog, but usually 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 German Shepherd Color is Right For You?
It really depends. If you’re looking for a German Shepherd as a pet and companion, then personal preference should be the top criteria.
If you like how it looks, whether white, dark, or blue, then you should choose accordingly. There really is no “wrong” choice with color.
However, if you are considering breeding a German Shepherd or if you’re interested in exhibitions, then your color selection should lean toward richer colorations that favor blacks and tans.
Unfortunately, white German Shepherds will be out of the picture, despite its aesthetic appeal. It sucks because I’m a huge fan of white dogs.
Either way, coloration in a German Shepherd covers a wide range of options, and each of them are simply just colors.
No single color indicates better health, temperament, skills or anything like that. Instead, it’ll be up to you and how you train, treat, and raise the dog.
Which is your favorite German Shepherd color? And which one do you own? Let us know in the comments section below!
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