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german shepherd colors

When most people think of the German Shepherd, they bring to mind the common black and tan color. But did you know there are actually a variety of different German Shepherd colors?

The German Shepherd is one of America’s most popular dog breeds, and there are a number of reasons why. Alongside being a loyal and wonderful family companion, the German Shepherd makes an excellent working dog and has exceptional versatility. These dogs are known for being guide dogs, police and military dogs, herding dogs, search and rescue dogs and drug detection dogs!

These pups are strong and muscular and they love to stay active. They are best brought up with a family who likes to exercise so they can join in the fun, otherwise they can become bored and frustrated when not kept entertained. Their personality can be a little aloof and they can be wary of strangers, but when raised correctly this breed is extremely loving and even gets on well with children!

German Shepherds are a medium to large breed of dog. A male will weigh between 75 and 95 lbs, while a female will weigh between 50 and 75 lbs. While they can be prone to some health issues, the German Shepherd has an average life expectancy of between 10 and 14 years.

A German Shepherd has either a medium length or long coat, but did you know that this coat could come in thirteen different colors? Read on below to find out more about this wonderful breed and the different German Shepherd coat colors.

History Of The German Shepherd

The German Shepherd was first discovered by Von Stephanitz who spotted them at a dog show and decided that this breed was the perfect standard for a working dog. He adopted one of these dogs and named them “Horand” and then created the “Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde”, the Society for the German Shepherd Dog.

Horand was the first breed standard for the German Shepherd breed and was bred alongside dogs with a similar appearance to give German Shepherd litters. They are thought to have first appeared in the United States in 1906 and were recognized by the AKC in 1908.

German Shepherd Colors

Like many dogs, German Shepherds come in many different colors. There are 13 different colors for the German Shepherd, although some are not as popular and can be considered faults by major Kennel Clubs.

The most popular German Shepherd colors are black and tan, black and red, black and cream and black and silver. German Shepherds will have one of two coats, either a medium coat or long coat. They are both double coats, having a more dense guard layer with a softer undercoat.

When the German Shepherd first began to be bred, breeders didn’t focus on the coat color but on the size and build of the dog because they were used as working dogs. However, later, more attention began to be focused on the coat color and some thought that a lighter coat color meant a weaker dog.

Although this is not true, all-white breeds are still not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Fortunately, the United Kennel Club (UKC) allows pale and white German Shepherds to take part in it’s shows.

As a puppy, German Shepherd’s are born with a coat that looks nothing like their adult coat! Their coat develops as they grow and will reach their final adult color at around three years old. Interestingly, each hair strand has multiple colors, so no two German Shepherd’s are ever identical!

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors

Here are the thirteen most popular German Shepherd colors.

Black and Tan (German Shepherd)

1) Black and Tan

Black and tan is the most common color combination for the German Shepherd and is probably what you think of when you picture a German Shepherd. The black and tan coloration is actually caused by a recessive gene.

The black appears on the saddle and they may also have black on their face like a mask. The tan coloring will appear their chest, sides, underbellies and on their necks.

Black and tan puppies will appear more black than tan until their adult coat has grown in at around 2 to 3 years old.

Black and Red (German Shepherd)

2) Black and Red

Similar to the black and tan GSD, with a black and red German Shepherd the black coloring will appear on their saddle and on their face. Instead of a tan chest, side and underbellies, the color will be more of a strawberry blonde, although it can also be a dark red that is more pigmented than the tan GSD.

This colorway is very popular among show dogs and is not often seen on working dogs.

Black and Cream (German Shepherd)

3) Black and Cream

The black and cream coloring is, again, similar to the black and tan coloring for the German Shepherd. In fact, it is just a lighter variation and is caused by a recessive gene, much like when humans have blonde hair. It is still presented in the same way across the body, with the black on the saddle and face.

Due to this lighter color, these dogs are often not allowed to partake in dog shows because they don’t meet the breed standard. However, they can partake in obedience competitions.

4) Black and Silver

The black and silver German Shepherds are also simply known as silver German Shepherds. You will find the black coloring on the saddle and face of the dog, with the side and underbelly a silver color, very similar to the markings of the other GSD’s we have mentioned above.

This color of GSD comes from the working bloodlines of these pups. This is one of the least common colors for a German Shepherd dog. Again, because of their lighter color they are often not allowed to partake in dog shows. It is not known why this color appears, but it is thought to be down to a recessive gene.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

5) Bi-Color

The bi-colored German Shepherd is another variation of the black and tan GSD. Although they are labelled bi-color, the majority of their coat is black and there are tan markings around their feet and legs, and maybe on their face. It is said the ratio of black to tan on these dogs is 9:1!

Often, bi-colored Gemran Shepherds are mistaken for black German Shepherds. However, if a GSD shows any sign of another color on their coat, then they are considered a bi-colored pup.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

6) Black

This dog must be solid black to be considered a black German Shepherd! As we mentioned above, if there is any sign of another color in this dog then they will be considered to be a bi-color dog.

This color can be expensive and difficult to find because it is very rare. They are recognized by the AKC as a purebred dog and have the same origins at the other purebred German Shepherds, but they are just less common.

A black German Shepherd puppy can be born to either two black parents or a black and tan parent. The black pigment trait is not a dominant gene and is, interestingly, a recessive gene.

It has often been thought before that black German Shepherds have a straighter back than their different colored cousins, but this is yet to be proven as true.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

7) White

The white German Shepherd is one of the most striking variations of this dog. There is a popular belief that these dogs are albino, however they are not and actually have a genetic disease known as “albinism” which is characterized by a lower rate of melanin production.

The solid white color was bred intentionally by breeders and is not a genetic flaw. However, it was seen as a weakness when bred through the working lines of the GSD, and is still to this day not recognized by the American Kennel Club.

The white color gene is a recessive gene which means that both parents need to carry this gene to create a white German Shepherd puppy.

White Shepherds usually have longer coats than other variations of this dog and therefore shed more. They are also a shyer and more skittish dog but are very gentle by nature and make excellent family dogs.

8) Blue

The blue German Shepherd is one of the rarest variations of the breed and may cost up to five times as much as traditional black and tan variations. This color is declared a serious fault and therefore these dogs are not allow to compete in shows, although they are recognized by the American Kennel Club.

The blue pigment is down to a recessive gene and breeding them means that both parents need to carry the gene. These dogs commonly have blue eyes and their coat can come in three different variations — blue and tan, blue and sable or blue and black.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

9) Gray

The gray German Shepherd is often confused with the blue or black and silver GSD, but it is it’s own distinct color and is recognized by the American Kennel Club. The color is produced due to a dominant gene in one or both parents.

The grey color comes from a dilution of darker pigment genes. Often, these dogs are born with bright blue eyes that turn a honey color or light brown as they mature.

These pups are not popular as show dogs, but due to their distinct color are popular as companion dogs.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

10) Liver

Another rare color variation, the liver German Shepherd is bred due to recessive genes, which means it must be carried through both the sire and the dam to produce a liver colored puppy.

The liver color appears all over the German Shepherd and, unlike many colors in this list, does not have any areas of black on the saddle or face. The mask and saddle are actually brown, because the liver gene blocks the black pigmentation.

This is another color that is not popular among show dogs and is thought to be a fault.

11) Panda

The Panda German Shepherd is one of the rarest variations out there! It’s appearance is exactly like the name — their coat looks like a panda’s coat! Contrary to popular belief, this dog is not a mixed breed and is a purebred German Shepherd.

These pups come from the working lines of GSD’s and the mother will have pure black fur and the father will be of the black and tan color. The Panda German Shepherd is created due to a rare genetic mutation.

These dogs still have the more normal black and tan coloring, but there will be white spots on their coat. In fact, around 35-40% of their body is white.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

12) Sable

The sable color runs deep into the German Shepherd genes, with the very first German Shepherd having a sable coat. It is caused by the “agouti” dominant gene and comes from working lines.

The sable coloring is not a solid color and a single hair can actually be a mix of a lot of different colors. Each hair has a black tip, while the rest of the hair can be gray, tan or golden. This is why no two sable GSD’s will ever look the same.

Despite their history, they are still not as popular as black and tan German Shepherds.

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner

13) Red Sable

Red sable German Shepherds are very popular and these puppies can be easy to find. A variation of the sable coat, these dogs also carry the agouti gene.

In the red sable GSD, a deep reddish brown replaces the usual tan in the sable pattern. The red and brown is spread throughout the body, much like the different colors in the sable dog we mentioned above. For this reason, no two red sable dogs are ever the same.

German Shepherd Dog Care

German Shepherd’s can be a handle to care for. They have large grooming needs, a hungry appetite and need a lot of exercise to keep them entertained. However, it’s always worth it!

You should ensure that you are exercising your German Shepherd for 60 to 90 minutes a day. This includes walks, playing and mental games. Your doggie will want a big back yard to run around in too, so they will not be getting the exercise they need if you live in a small apartment. Without adequate exercise, they can develop unwanted and destructive behaviors due to frustration and boredom.

The German Shepherd is a very intelligent dog and is therefore very easy to train. Their ease of training means that they make a great family dog as well as a dog for couples or individuals. However, they can be a little stubborn, so you should never punish them or scold them.

If you’re lucky and have a medium coated German Shepherd dog, you may be able to get away with brushing them twice a week. However, if your dog has long hair, then you’re going to need to brush them daily to prevent knots and tangles forming. They can shed a lot too, so their grooming needs can be difficult.

Because the Shepherd is a large dog, their diet should also be large. It is recommended that you feed them a diet specially formulated for large dog breeds and you should always check the back of the dog food packet to see how much of a certain food you should be feeding your dog based on their weight.

Experts recommend that a German Shepherd should be eating 20 calories per lb of body weight a day, which may come to around 1500 calories. This is around 3 cups of food. Take a look below at the food we recommend for the German Shepherd.

Best Dog Food For The German Shepherd

Diamond Naturals Extreme Athlete Real Meat Recipe High Protein Dry Dog Food

13 Most Popular German Shepherd Colors - Animal Corner BUY ON AMAZON

We recommend the Extreme Athlete dog food from Diamond Naturals for the German Shepherd. Formulated for very active dogs such as the German Shepherd, this food will ensure your pup gets all the nutrients they need. Included in the recipe is high-quality chicken that provides an excellent source of protein for strong and lean muscles.

There are also vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables and superfoods included in this formula, all of which are easily digestible. Even better, this food contains K9 Strain Probiotics which is bacteria that supports their immune systems and helps your dog maintain an active lifestyle.


The German Shepherd is a loving and loyal companion for many families as well as an excellent working dog. With so many different color variations, you certainly have a decision to make when it comes to picking one of these pups. Each color has a different history and can tell us so much about where these dogs originated from. Remember, the color of their coat has no affect on their temperament, so you can go for your favorite color when welcoming one of these wonderful pups into your home.

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