German Shepherd Colors: The Standard & Rare GSD Coat Colors

Last Updated on April 21, 2023

German Shepherds (GSD) are iconic dogs often associated with the police force.

They have an intimidating demeanor, showing how brave they are and that they’re serious at their job as protectors. But GSDs are loyal and obedient, as well.

Portrait of two German Shepherds
GSDs with Classic Black and Tan colors

Did you also know that they don’t only have the classic black and tan color? Let’s see all the German Shepherd colors and find out which one’s your favorite!

The history of German Shepherd colors

When talking about the German Shepherd, we have to mention the father of the breed – Von Stephanitz.

Initially referred to as the Alsatian Wolf Dog and bred for herding, this versatile fido was developed to become one of the ultimate working dogs.

You’ll even see this purebred in conformation events!

You can adore their deep and rich coat colors, but if blue and liver colors were visible on their fur, it’s considered a serious fault and against their breed standard.

The different colors of German Shepherds

White is enchanting and can be registered, but they’ll be disqualified from the show ring because that color is a major flaw.

Did you know that sable is the original color of a German Shepherd?

Still, black and tan German Shepherds are most common, especially in the United States, Thanks to Rin Tin Tin, a pup rescued by an American soldier from a French village bombed during World War I.

That pooch eventually became a Hollywood star — The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin!

Are you ready to discover all the wonderful colors of the German Shepherd? Including those that aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC)?

What are the breed-approved German Shepherd Coat Colors?

Anyone who wishes to show their GSD should know that there are 11 AKC-approved colors for the Shepherd dog breed, but NOT all of them can partake in dog shows.

The ones that are favored are black and red, black and tan, or black.

The bi-color, black and cream, black and silver, and gray Shepherds are accepted in the show ring but often do poorly when compared to the deeper shades above.

Liver or blue can also be shown, but it’s near impossible for these hues to win at a conformation show, while white is entirely off the table.

Solid Black German Shepherds

Solid Black German Shepherd
Solid Black GSD

Black German Shepherds are solid-colored. Some can have a few stray white hairs on their chest or minimal brown on their paws, but they should look completely black.

Any noticeable markings or coloring will put them under the bi-color category.

They can come from two black GSD parents, or one of them is black and tan.

Black isn’t a dominant gene and is easily suppressed by other colors, which is why they’re often marketed as rare.

But before you buy a black German Shepherd puppy, we recommend that you adopt one from German Shepherd rescue organizations.

Due to the black dog syndrome, any dog of this color has a lower chance of being adopted.

Solid White German Shepherds

Solid White German Shepherd
Solid White GSD

Not to be confused with the White Swiss Shepherd, White German Shepherds are caused by a masking gene that suppresses any dark pigment.

As a result of recessive genes, they can still be produced from breeding two normal-colored GSDs. This also means you can get a litter of puppies from White Shepherds without any white.

White GSDs can be AKC-registered and compete in agility or obedience trials, but they can’t participate as show dogs. You may want to try with the UKC as they accept these beauties in show lines.

This solid color is completely banned in Germany that it got to the point where they cull white German Shepherd puppies. They believe that white causes hereditary issues and washes out the breed’s rich colors.

Despite being disproved with modern science, this rule stayed.

Black and Tan German Shepherd

Black and Tan German Shepherds
German Shepherds with Black and Tan colors

When GSDs are mentioned, people imagine this color. Most of the dog’s undercarriage has a rich tan, while its face and back are covered in black.

You can see in this video how the black and tan can be different for every GSD. Some have more black, and others have more tan. Some Germans have white tips:

But German Shepherds have other black variations.

Black and Red German Shepherd

Black and Red German Shepherd playing in the snow
Black and Red GSD

Black and Red Shepherds are mostly found in the show ring, as indicated by the kennel club’s preference for dark and rich coloring. The shade can range from a deep mahogany color to a strawberry blonde.

Black and Silver German Shepherd

Jumping black and silver German Shepherd
Source: / IG

This variant has replaced the usual tan with silver striking against its black marking. It’s unknown what causes this coloration, but the silver and black color is mostly found in GSD working lines.

Black and Cream German Shepherd

Black and Cream German Shepherd
Black and Cream GSD

They’re very similar to the black and silver Shepherds, but the ones with creams have a yellowish tinge to the fur that silvers don’t have.

Bicolor German Shepherd

Bicolor German Shepherd
Source: @septhegsd / IG

You’d think these GSDs are almost black because bicolor German Shepherds have a very minimal tan or silver markings around their chest and legs.

If you inspect them closely, they even have a hint of saddle that extends heavily over them.

Sable (Tri-Color German Shepherds)

Wet sable tri-color German Shepherd
Source: @kiera_sablegsd / IG

Sable is a classic for the German Shepherd and can come in different colors – gray, tan, or silver hair – with black tips.

A Sable tri-colored GSD puppy is usually born all tan, but once its guard hairs come in, the distinct wolfy coat becomes more noticeable, which is why they’re also called wolf gray or agouti.

Black sables, on the other hand, are born black with or without slight tan markings. But the most common variant of the sable is red.

Red Sable German Shepherds show the sable on their saddle area, but it can extend over their bodies, as well. This coloring causes each strand of fur to have two or three colors.

Look at the undercoat to know the base color of heavy-sabled GSDs. Lighter sables are easier to distinguish because they’ll retain some of a German Shepherd’s undercarriage’s classic markings.

This color does make this breed unique and good-looking, and no two dogs will look the same because the sable pattern and color will vary.

Being a dominant color, you will always get a sable even if you pair it with another color.

Gray German Shepherd

Gray German Shepherd in the water
Source: @pathofdirtypaws / IG

The Gray GSD almost looks like the Sable German Shepherd because of their wolfy features. However, this one doesn’t have any black pigmentation in its coat.

Liver (Brown) German Shepherd

Liver (brown) German Shepherd

Aside from their gorgeous russet coats, brown or liver German Shepherds can have piercing golden eyes.

Much like the Blue German Shepherd, this coloration is caused by a recessive dilute gene. It represses the black and makes it brown.

While livers can be registered with the AKC, they must be of solid color and not exhibit any tan or sabling.

Liver and Tan German Shepherd

Two German Shepherds in liver and tan color
Source: @irieshepherds / IG

Since the liver coloring has no pigmentation, it’s shade can vary from rud, rest, or brown.

It can even create a sable liver, bi-color liver, and the liver and tan saddle back German Shepherds. As mentioned above, these liver variations aren’t accepted as the GSD’s standard.

Blue German Shepherd

Blue German Shepherd in the woods
Source: @denaliwolfpup / IG

The blue coat color looks lovely and magical. Unfortunately, it’s often riddled with controversy because of the health issues and inbreeding that comes with the recessive dilution gene.

Unlike most dog breeds, though, the blue in German Shepherds doesn’t cause them to be more predisposed to any health problems, but they can have pretty steep prices due to their rarity.

It’s almost impossible to get a Blue German Shepherd puppy without intentionally breeding for it.

They are often solid blue, with a little white on the chest. Their pigmentation will show up as a cool steel gray rather than the generic black.

This doesn’t mean that they can’t have tan markings, but those with silver markings will be called a Light Blue Shepherd.

Isabella (Lavender) German Shepherd

Isabella (lavender) German Shepherd sitting on the grass
Source: @koda__isabellagermanshepherd / IG

Arguably the rarest color of them all., these dogs have double dilution genes responsible for both the liver and blue coloring. They can have the usual saddles but most often look like a solid-colored dog.

Their eyes can be light blue or hazel and won’t have any black pigment on their paw pads, noses, or eye rims.

Panda German Shepherd

Panda German Shepherds sitting in the backyard
Source: @novathepandashepherd / IG

As the name suggests, Panda GSDs are white dogs with black spots, not like the Dalmatian, but like a panda. Big black spots around their eyes, with a white undercoat, often shaded with tan.

Genetically, they are German Shepherds with the piebald gene – a rare genetic mutation that occurred in 2000.

Records trace back to a female Alsatian by the name of Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom. While DNA tests show that she’s a purebred GSD, naysayers have chalked her up to be a Collie mix.

German Shepherd markings

Their iconic black markings give the German Shepherd dog breed a range of colors and certain characteristics.

Its black mask is one distinction that this fido has, but there’s also a rare marking known as the Reverse Mask or Wolf Mask.

White GSDs are an example of this, but it’s also possible for black and tan Shepherds to inherit this maskless gene.

Maskless German Shepherd lying on the floor
Source: @charliehorsepup / IG

We’ve also come to associate a black saddle with the German Shepherd. Yet, another marking that is missing on the white Shepherd.

Isabella GSDs might also lack this iconic marking, as would livers and goldens.

The German Shepherd dog can also display the sable color or pattern, where its fur is black-tipped.

What is the rarest color of a German Shepherd?

Panda and diluted colors are infrequently seen in this purebred, mostly because of how genes are inherited.

To preserve the breed’s integrity, the AKC holds strict standards for GSDs to prevent certain undesirable traits from contaminating the bloodlines.

Is it okay to get a rare-colored GSD?

Rare colors are often seen as a marketing ploy by people attempting to make more money off the GSD litters that do not conform with its standard.

However, if you find a reputable breeder who has a rare-colored German Shepherd and is not intentionally breeding them, then there’s no harm in getting that puppy.

Specific color patterns, such as the Panda Shepherd, are spontaneous mutations, which means reputable breeders would stay away from breeding for a particular color.

On top of that, they are usually expensive, banking in at around $1,000 to $3,000.

How can you tell what color a German Shepherd puppy will be?

Adorable German Shepherd puppies

The ONLY GSD color variations that undergo significant changes are black and tan, as well as sable.

When German Shepherd puppies are born, they’re mostly black and have tan “socks.”

In their 6th month, their coat changes color as they grow, and the tans are starting to be more visible every week. Sables turn light or dark when they’re around six months to two years old.

If you want to know the genetics behind it, the agouti gene causing the sable color is dominant in the German Shepherd dog breed.

Standard colors, like solid black and black and tan, are variations from recessive genes.

Dilute or solid-colored coats are also considered recessive, with typical markings being the norm.

The German Shepherd breed’s bloodline is quite complicated, but it’s also beautiful in its own way.

Misconceptions about German Shepherd coat colors

Differentiating between all these shades and patterns might be slightly tricky for the untrained eye.

Many believe that black and tan is the same as black and red. While red is technically a deeper tan, it has more reddish undertones than tan, making it different.

Albino German Shepherd portrait
Source: @aimee_the_albino_germanshepard / IG

If you come across an albino German Shepherd, he would have a pink nose and pinkish-blue eyes.

White Alsatians still have chocolate brown eyes and black pigmentation around their eyes, nose, and paws. This is what sets them apart from albinos.

Liver or Blue GSDs are caused by a gene that modifies the color gene. If a Liver and Blue GSD have a litter, there’s a chance of getting Isabella puppies due to the double dilution.

Do German Shepherd colors affect behavior?

No, the color of your GSD should not dictate how he behaves. Temperament is determined by breeding, care, and training.

Germans of all colors should embody the characteristics of an alert, protective, obedient, and calm type of dog that the world has come to know and love.

However, it has been noted that White Shepherds make better family pets as they have milder personalities and less aggressive.

Do German Shepherd colors affect health?

The color white has long been associated with deafness, but a good breeder will always make sure their dogs are free of genetic defects before breeding them.

With that said, we believe that this is the only time that color should be a concern.

As a large breed dog, they are prone to shoulder or hip dysplasia, and bloat. This is due to the breed itself and NOT due to their coloration.

Don’t miss: German Shepherd Life Span

How about German Shepherd eye color?

Gray or liver-colored dogs might have amber eyes.

The rest of them can have chocolate brown, honey-colored, or blue eyes. The last one is especially common with blue German Shepherds.

German Shepherd close-up portrait

Taking care of your German Shepherd’s coat

These popular dogs have a thick double coat. Their guard coat or outer coat can have long, medium, or short guard hairs.

Short-haired German Shepherds have a denser topcoat that’s harsh and close-fitting. Long-haired GSDs have a coat that’s looser and softer. The medium-length coats are considered to be a short-haired variety.

Regardless of whether they have a short or long coat, they all require the same amount of grooming, which is daily. Plus, they tend to shed heavily at least twice a year.

Some people get a deshedding tool to help control the shedding.

Despite being outdoorsy, these dogs are naturally clean and don’t need frequent baths. You can go as long as 4 to 6 months without bathing them.

This is where the white color of White Shepherds might seem a bit high maintenance because they can get dirty easily.

Which German Shepherd color will you choose?

German Shepherd in different colors
Source: @germanshepherd_tm / IG

Personal preferences aside, think about why you want a German Shepherd. If you want your dog to enter the show ring, it’s much better to choose those shades or combinations instead.

Working lines are different from show lines, so if you’re not up to join dog shows or use your dog in a particular canine job, this versatile breed can also be a family pet.

And besides, your German Shepherd’s color or looks wouldn’t matter because that companion will never judge based on appearances, either.

As long as your GSD puppy came from a reputable breeder and had parents with excellent temperaments and health, physical qualities shouldn’t be a priority.

Now that you’ve learned all there is to know about the stunning German Shepherd colors, which one made your jaw drop? Share with us your thoughts by commenting on the box below.

Further reading: Learn more about GSDs


Leave a Comment