What do you know about Sable German Shepherds?

Last Updated on April 23, 2023

At first glance, one might mistake the Sable German Shepherd for a wolf! They share the same daunting features as well as the coloring of a wolf.

The Sable German Shepherd has something that other GSDs don’t, the agouti gene, also known as the wild-type gene. Does this affect the way that they act or think?

A Sable German Shepherd standing in the middle of a field with snow

Find out in our comprehensive guide to the Sable Alsatian below!

What is a Sable German Shepherd?

The German Shepherd comes in more than 13 color variations but the agouti or sable color is the original coloring, as Max von Stephanitz intended.

This dominant gene is responsible for the wolf’s coloring and provides ample camouflage in the wild. It is also observed in other animals such as deer and rodents.

In dogs, this gene shows up as banded fur that is often black-tipped. They can come in various shades, the most common are red sables and the rarest are black sables.

The color that most resembles the wolf would be the dark grey or silver sables. 

Alsatians first made their appearance in Germany in 1899 and were accepted by the AKC in 1908.

The American Kennel Club recognizes that the German Shepherd dog breed is a versatile dog that comes in many various colors. 

There’s the White German Shepherd and other color patterns such as the Panda, but they treasure the Black and Tans or Black and Reds in show lines. Sable colored dogs have a more prominent role in working lines. 

While sables are accepted in the show ring, it’s no secret that the richly pigmented saddle patterned dogs are much more favored.

For that reason, you’ll most likely find them in-field lines since working dogs require brains and temperament overlooks and beauty.

Today, GSDs are the second most popular breed of dog in the United States, beaten only by the Labrador Retriever.

They are hardworking dogs that are receptive to training. While they aren’t the most suited for first-time owners, as long as you have the patience and determination, there’s no such thing as a bad choice for a first dog.

What does a Sable German Shepherd look like?

A working Sable GSD wearing a red dog vest standing on a field
Source: @thewrathof_hades / IG

Being the original German Shepherd, they fit into the breed standard like a glove.

Where most show or conformation dogs might have more of a pronounced slope, sables generally have straighter and more functional backs.

This is because a large population of them go on to be herding or working dogs, where functionality is important.

When viewed from the side, their topline will be at a slight angle, with the rear on the shorter end. They should also be longer than they are tall, giving them a streamlined appearance, with their tails hanging low.

Aside from that, you can expect the same intelligent brown eyes, erect ears, and proud posture.

They are built with power and stealth in mind, which is what makes them excel as police dogs, service dogs, and border patrols.

Size: How big does a Sable German Shepherd dog get?

German Shepherds are a medium to large dog that doesn’t grow over 26 inches (66 cm) tall, with the smallest males being 24 inches (60 cm).

Females are usually smaller and are often around 22 to 24 inches (55 to 60 cm). If you come across an even smaller GSD, there’s a good chance that he’s a Miniature German Shepherd!

For their weight, males are generally 65 to 90 lbs (29 to 40 kg) and females are 50 to 70 lbs (22 to 31 kg).

Taking their size into consideration, the best properties to house them include a lard yard or a pen, with indoor access.

Unless you are able to fulfill their daily activity requirements, apartments are not recommended for the Alsatian.

In terms of maturity, both genders should reach their full height potential at 2 – 2 ½ years of age. For Sable German Shepherds, it takes their coat another year to mature and will only settle down at the 3-year mark.

Do Sable GSD puppies change their color?

Sable German Shepherd puppies have a tendency to change color as they grow. They can darken or lighten, or have parts of their coats darken while others lighten!

Dark sables are often born tan, with their darker fur coming in later. Silver sables would have the opposite effect and be born dark, lightening along their sides as they age.

Aside from their ever-changing fur, the agouti gene can manifest in a recessive manner.

I’m talking about the black agouti, whereby a Black German Shepherd inherits the agouti gene and doesn’t express it quite simply because his fur is already black.

The banding in its individual hairs will not be apparent, making them look solid black.

According to dog genetics, there are three distinct types of sabling. Clear sables will look like red dogs. Shaded sables have minimal black pigment around their ears, back, head, and tail.

They sometimes have masks. Shaded sables are red dogs with dark fur and often have masks. This doesn’t apply to GSDs because they are not technically sables

The confusion comes from the fact that agouti and sable both come from the A gene series and are exhibited identically through black-tipped fur. 

Let’s take a look at Prima, a Sable German Shepherd, and watch her owner demonstrate how her coat differs from other non-sable dogs:

The key difference is that agouti markings in GSDs look similar to black and tan dogs, whereas true sables will not have the same saddle pattern or tan points. Furthermore, sables are all red dogs.

Sable represents a different type of coloring for other dog breeds, but for the German Shepherd, it is used interchangeably with agouti.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Sable German Shepherds can be different shades. As previously mentioned, red is the most common and is probably why they were confused for sable dogs.

The silver sable is one that is the most striking since they can look eerily like wolves, especially if they have long coats.

Yes, that’s right. German Shepherds can have short to long hair, and everything in between.

Medium coats fall under short coats though, but if you’d like to learn more, you can check out our guide to German Shepherd colors!

Is the Sable German Shepherd temperament different to any colored German Shepherd?

The Sable German Shepherd is as hardworking as any other colored GSD.

Their agouti genes don’t make them any wilder, and with proper training, socialization, and when given an appropriate lifestyle, can get along swimmingly with kids and other pets.

Golden Retrievers are popularly kept with German Shepherds as they get along extremely well.

One thing that German Shepherds are prized for is their tendency to protect their pack or charges.

They might feel the need to intervene if they see your child roughhousing with his friend, or if a stranger approaches you. They are alert and ready to protect.

Four Sable GSDs smiling while laying down
Source: thewrathof_hades / IG

You can’t expect that your GSD will be a perfect dog from day one. Little puppies need lots of learning to do.

Fortunately, housebreaking them is a breeze. Also, once they get the hang of training, you’ll have little trouble teaching them. These little canines are eager to learn and please.

Socialization is a crucial part of training as it can help them stay calm and confident. Also, it could curb their tendency to become overly attached and clingy.

Separation anxiety can become hard to live with, especially if they become destructive when you or your family member is not around.

How to take care of your Sable German Shepherd

Short Haired Sable German Shepherds often have dense undercoats which allow them to adapt to both hot and cold weather. They don’t need much protection from the elements.

However, if you’ve acquired a Long Hair Sable Alsatian that has a very minimal undercoat, more care should be taken during summer and winter.

The lack of a double coat equates to a lack of protection, which is why you should never shave a double coated dog unless advised by the vet.

Exercising your Sable German Shepherd

A Sable GSD biting a toy wood dumbbell while laying down
Source: @thewrathof_hades / IG

German Shepherds are high energy dogs and coat color makes no difference. The German Shepherd breed needs at least one to two hours of activities every single day upon maturity.

If you can’t commit to that kind of routine, you might want to consider getting another dog instead. 

Starting from when they are a puppy, you’ll hopefully be exercising them for five to ten minutes daily and increasing that duration as they grow.

Before they reach the age of two, it’s important not to overstress their joints as this could lead to joint problems. Keep activities low impact and mindful of their developing body.

Grooming: Do Sable German Shepherds shed?

Unfortunately, no double coated dog is hypoallergenic. If you have allergies, you’d probably have better luck with Poodle-mixes or small companion dogs like the Maltese Shih Tzu

German Shepherds, regardless of color and hair length, all require moderate grooming.

That’s to say you should be spending two to three times a week brushing out their coats with a slicker brush and metal comb to get rid of the dead hair. This will prevent tangling too.

When it comes time for them to blow out their coats, you will need to brush them daily, or deal with the large amounts of fur that will be left on your couches and furniture.

Bathing them during this time could help, as a strong hair dryer will be able to dislodge the loose fur.

However, you shouldn’t bathe the German Shepherd dog regularly. They don’t have much of the doggie smell and only require a bath when absolutely necessary. 

Feeding: Sable German Shepherd Food Consumption

Depending on how old, how active, and how much your dog weighs, you should be feeding them different volumes, or even entirely different kibble.

A working dog would require more calories than an active pet, but a lactating female would require even more than either one.

When your puppy is young, you might want to give him several small meals a day to sustain them. They are often fed four times a day until they are four to nine months, depending on their development.

Adult dogs will generally need 3 to 4 cups of high quality kibble to keep them going.

Since GSDs requires discipline, it’s much better to feed them fixed meals rather than allowing them to free feed.

Giving them their meals at the same time and same place every day allows a sense of routine and can help instill good habits in your dog.

If you’re wondering what’s the best dog food for your German Shepherd, you can check out our in-depth breakdown here.

What health problems do Sable German Shepherds have?

There have been studies concerning color and health, but Sable German Shepherds have the same health issues that other German Shepherds have. Namely, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. 

A GSD Sable laying down in bed giving the puppy eyes
Source: @allonsy.kennels / IG

These are the most common health problems that plague the breed. Diet and proper exercise can help curb the problem, but getting your puppy from a reputable breeder is key in preventing it from being inherited. 

Getting your puppy from a dependable source will also help your pooch meet its maximum lifespan of 10 to 13 years.

Poorly bred dogs are often sickly and won’t live very long. To learn more about what affects the GSD’s lifespan, you can give our guide a read.

German Shepherds are considered to be a healthy breed. Common but minor problems can affect their skin, ears, digestive system, and eyes.

Aside from that, you might want to keep an eye out for epilepsy, pancreatic insufficiency, perianal fistulas, and Willebrand’s disease.

How much is a Sable German Shepherd?

German Shepherds have rather large litters of 5 to 9 German Shepherd puppies. This doesn’t mean that they come cheap.

While you can get a puppy for $300, they are most likely from a puppy mill. Reputable breeders often let their puppies go at around $1000 to $2000, depending on their pedigree. 

An adorable German Shepherd Sable puppy licking his face
Source: @falyn.vonunitedpride / IG

If you want a guard dog from an established line, you might even find yourself paying upwards of $5000, even more if they have a champion father or if they are imported from the Czech Republic

Sable German Shepherd breeders

A common problem is mixed dogs being sold as purebred Sable German Shepherds to unsuspecting new owners.

Since they don’t have the classic coloration of Alsatians, you could bring home a Gerberian Shepsky and be none the wiser. 

Try to find a reputable breeder with a strict breeding program for Sable GSDs and have them take you on a tour of their kennels.

It should be clean, with no foul smells, or excessive barking. Their dogs should be well mannered and be friendly. 

Make sure you talk to the breeders about the kind of dog you’re looking to adopt.

Since many Sable German Shepherds are used for work, if you’re looking for a house pet, it is something that you should definitely mention so that breeders can pair you with a suitable puppy.

  • Bellevue GSD (Sacramento, CA)
  • Coyote Creek Ranch

Sable German Shepherd rescue / for adoption

As you know by now, Sable Alsatians are rather high maintenance due to their hard work ethics.

This is one of the reasons why they are often left at shelters or abandoned. With the right owner, they will be able to flourish and fulfill their potential.

Rescuing a Sable German Shepherd gives them the second chance that they need.

On top of that, you’ll be able to see exactly how their adult coat looks like, and if they have any health conditions.

While color-specific rescues are rare, you can check out your local shelters to see if there’s a Sable Shepherd or try a German Shepherd rescue:

  • German Shepherd Rescue & Adoptions
  • All Shepherd Rescue (Baltimore, MD)
  • Shep Rescue (Hill St, LA)

Sable German Shepherd VS Belgian Malinois

A laying Belgian Malinois dog laying on the grass
A Belgian Malinois smiling while laying on the grass

These two dogs do have quite a lot in common, with the same tan color and large erect ears.

The Belgian Malinois was also originally created to herd sheep, much like the German Shepherd. However, they don’t have the black saddles that Alsatians are known for.

They are also smaller than GSDs, weighing about 40 to 80 lbs (18 to 36 kg), depending on gender. Both breeds are smart and highly trainable.

However, neither is usually recommended for novice owners, especially if they don’t have the mental capacity or dedication for these high-energy dogs.

Belgian Malinois, or Mals, as they are affectionately called, are extreme workaholics.

While the German Shepherd is keen to relax with its owners after a day of hard work, the Maligator would much rather go for another run or try to keep themselves busy. 

If not properly socialized, these dogs would chase cats and other small animals due to their extremely high prey drive.

Young children that don’t yet know how to behave around dogs are not recommended to play around Mali, as they might nip or try to herd them.

Who should get a Sable German Shepherd?

A Sable German Shepherd close-up image with tongue out and wearing a dog collar
Source: @thewrathof_hades / IG

If you’re looking for a house pet that will lie at your feet all day, you won’t find him in the German Shepherd. These dogs were built to work and will not be happy unless they have a purpose in life.

They need stimulation and active lifestyles. If frequent hikes and hard work sound like your cup of tea, then you’re looking at your dream dog.


Leave a Comment