Many dog lovers know the black and tan German Shepherd. It is easy to spot one of these dogs. Sometimes they are faithfully standing by police officers’ sides. Other times they are on the big screen in Hollywood movies.
We see these black and tan Shepherds everywhere! Many people are surprised to discover that this is not the only color of German Shepherd.
More experienced owners may know about white, sable, and even black German Shepherds. But have they heard of liver or panda Shepherds?
German Shepherd colors are not limited to four or five shades. They can have 13 different coat colors! In this article, we discuss each color and give you a few fun facts about what makes that color so unique.
Table of Contents
What Are The Colors Of A German Shepherd?
Traditionally German Shepherds were sable or solid white or black. These dogs had working bloodlines and were able to perform the hunting or farming tasks asked of them.
These colors changed over time as owners wanted dogs for more than just working purposes.
Some owners prefer the black and red color so they can show their dog in a conformation ring. Others would rather have a blue German Shepherd that was bred for just companionship. Some might even be drawn to the idea of rare colors such as liver or panda.
There are now 13 German Shepherd colors. These different colors can be seen on working, show and companion dogs. Certain colors are more suited for work, but that is not determined by their coat color, rather their bloodline:
|Black and Tan||Work and show|
|Black and Cream||Work|
|Black and Red||Show|
Breeding for a specific color is not easy. It requires careful genetic selection, especially when dealing with rare colors such as panda.
Sometimes coat color is determined by a recessive gene (e.g. silver or liver). Breeders must ensure that both parents are carriers of that gene. Even then, they may end up with no puppies of that particular color. Genetics are tricky.
Color may make them look different, but it will not make them act different. It has no impact on temperament or personality. Their parents’ genetics, bloodline and how they were raised can make them act very different from each other.
Which Colors Are Official?
The American Kennel Club, and other kennel clubs, accept certain colors, but do not recognize others. They list them as ‘serious faults’.
Their decisions on coat colors rarely change and are recorded in the official breed standard. These standards are written for preserving the temperament, appearance, structure and nature of a dog breed.
Liver, blue, or diluted colors such as grey or silver are considered serious faults by the American Kennel Club. These dogs are not often seen in show rings because they are not given high scores.
Panda, black and white are not recognized and are completely disqualified.
It was once believed that white German Shepherds, when bred with other Shepherds, would dilute the coat color of puppies and create less concentrated coat colors. Now we know that holds false.
Most coat colors are ‘accepted’ by the AKC, but are considered ‘serious faults’:
|Black and Tan||Yes|
|Black and Cream||Yes|
|Black and Red||Yes|
|Silver||Yes – but considered a serious fault|
|Liver||Yes – but considered a serious fault|
|Steel Blue||Yes – but considered a serious fault|
|Grey||Yes – but considered a serious fault|
German Shepherd Colors
Black and Tan German Shepherd
The Black and tan German Shepherd is the most common color.
This beautiful coat is famous for the black “saddle” on their back. It is called a saddle because it is a rounded shape on the center of their spine that appears as if they were wearing a horse saddle.
Normally they also have a black mask on their face, but the rest of their body (i.e. chest, side, belly, and neck) is tan. This tan color can either be light or dark, depending on their parents’ genetics.
Although this variation is the most popular color, it is actually caused by a recessive gene. This means that both parents must be black and tan, or be carriers of the black and tan gene, for a black and tan puppy.
These beautiful dogs are considered ‘best’ for conformation shows. However, their bloodlines actually trace back to working dogs, making them suitable for work and show.
Black and tan puppies are often born completely black. They do not begin to develop their tan coloration until they are six months old. By two years old, their coat color will stop changing and they will keep this pattern for their adult life.
Black German Shepherd
The Black German Shepherd is entirely black and does not have any other color on their fur. If they have the slightest amount of tan, white or red, they are classified as bi-color. The black color is caused by a recessive gene.
Black Shepherds were bred for work. They are able to blend in with the night sky and protect their flocks from predators.
Some breeders claim these dogs have a straighter back, this has not been proven.
White German Shepherd
White was one of the most popular German Shepherd colors, especially when they were first bred. Their white fur allowed them to blend in with flocks of sheep.
Over time breeders determined that these dogs were not as hard-working as other colored dogs, so they stopped breeding specifically for white. White is a recessive gene that must be carefully bred for. This is why white dogs are much harder to find.
Kennel clubs refuse to recognize this color and have banned them from all dog shows.
Panda German Shepherd
Their bodies are 30 to 40% white and the rest of their body is black and tan.
Pandas are produced by mating a pure black mother and a black and tan father. This is an extremely rare color that only happens when there is a piebald gene present in one parent. Currently, this piebald gene is only present in one German Shepherd bloodline.
Many breeders say that panda-colored dogs are smaller than average. This has not been proven but is widely accepted amongst breeders.
Pandas are from working bloodlines. They are great for farm work, guide dog work, or hunting.
Red German Shepherd
The red sable German Shepherd has the same Ombré effect that Sable German Shepherds have. The difference is that they look like a deep red or brown from a distance, and not tan and black. They can look like a red golden retriever.
Red sable puppies also change color. At around six months of age their fur begins to lighten or darken.
Liver German Shepherd
Many dog breeds can be liver: Australian Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Cocker Spaniels and Dalmatians. German Shepherds can also be liver, but it is not common for them.
Liver German Shepherds come from a diluted black gene. They have a reddish-brown tint to their coat.
Their fur can either be a dark liver which is a vibrant red or brown color. Or it can be light liver which is a red or tan color. They are often mislabeled as brown, chocolate, or red because their fur is a combination of these three colors.
This color is one of the most unique colors as it does not have any black. They do not have a black saddle or mask. Instead, their saddle and mask are brown. Interestingly, these dogs can still have the traditional black nose of a German Shepherd, but some may have bright pink noses!
Although this color is beautiful, it is considered a serious fault.
Dog owners looking to compete in dog shows will not adopt a liver dog. Despite not being fit for show rings, they still make loyal and intelligent pets.
Blue German Shepherd
Blue German Shepherds may look black or dark grey at first sight. But when the sunlight hits them, you can see they are a dark, navy blue! This stunning dog also has a grey nose, which makes them even more unique.
These dogs are extremely beautiful, but they are rare and hard to find.
Very few puppies are blue, so they often cost at least $1,500! Their rarity is caused by the fact that the blue coat requires both parents to be blue, or they must both be carriers of the blue gene.
Kennel clubs recognize this color. However, it is considered a serious fault.
This dog was bred to be a beautiful family pet.
Sable German Shepherd
Sable German Shepherds have the most complicated coat color.
Rather than having different fur colors scattered over their body, each individual hair is a combination of colors. Although each hair has different colors, they can still look like a tan and black German Shepherd (when you look at them from afar).
Each hair follicle has an Ombré effect. The hair starts out light and gets darker until the end of the hair is black.
This unique Ombré effect is caused by an agouti gene. This is a dominant gene that can also be seen in many other dog breeds. It produces beautiful hair colors that are not restricted to one solid color.
An interesting fact about sable German Shepherd puppies is that their fur can get lighter or darker over time.
The color they are born will not be their adult color. This color change begins at six months and ends at two years old. Sable puppies are hard to predict!
Black and Cream German Shepherd
Black and cream German Shepherds are very similar to the black and tan color above. These dogs still have the black saddle and mask, the only difference is the shade of tan their fur.
These dogs have a beautiful cream color that is much lighter than tan. This difference in color is due to a dilution gene which dilutes the tan color into a lighter cream.
Black and cream German Shepherds are very common. They are as popular as their black and tan siblings. They are also recognized as purebred dogs by the American Kennel Club.
Black and cream German Shepherds were bred from working bloodlines. Traditionally they were bred for herding sheep. They are highly intelligent and excel at tasks such as police work, guide dog work, and dog tricks.
Black and Red German Shepherd
The black and red German Shepherd has a black saddle along the middle of their back. Also they often have a black face mask. Instead of a tan or cream color, the non-black fur they have is a deep red or brown color. This pigment is much stronger than tan.
Black and red colored puppies are slightly less common than their black and tan siblings. But, they are still recognized as purebred by the breed standards. This allows them to compete in conformation shows.
Like the black and tan variety, the red and black has a show dog bloodline
They are better suited for conformation shows than farm work. They are equally as intelligent, they just do not have the same work ethic that cream and black German Shepherds have.
Silver German Shepherd
Unlike the first three German Shepherd colors, Silver is much less common. Fans of the breed consider this color very rare.
The silver color is likely caused by a recessive trait. However, not much research has been done into this breed color. More research has been done into other silver dog breeds, such as the Silver Labrador Retriever, which is the result of a diluted gene.
Silver German Shepherds are similar to the black and tan variation as they still have the black mask and black saddle. The difference is the silver color on their belly, sides, legs, and bottom.
These dogs are occasionally accepted by Kennel Clubs, but Silver is seen as a fault. This results in them rarely being seen in show rings. Show dog owners tend to prefer the more traditional colors.
Silver Shepherds are from working bloodlines and have much more working potential than having their beauty shown off. They were originally bred to herd sheep, but are now skilled at hunting and assisting police officers.
Grey German Shepherd
A grey German Shepherd has more of a wolf like appearance, rather than a dog. They are commonly mistaken for an American Alsatian or a silver German Shepherd because their coat colors are so similar.
Grey Shepherds have a beautiful dark grey color and blue eyes.
Unlike many of the rare colors, grey is produced by a dominant gene. This gene is a diluted gene, meaning that darker pigments (e.g. black) are diluted to produce a grey.
Kennel Clubs recognize this color, but it is considered a serious fault.
There are also grey sable German Shepherds that are often mistaken for just gray.
Bi-Color German Shepherd
Bi-color German Shepherds are almost identical to solid black German Shepherds.
The rule for bi-color Shepherds is that if they have a black coat and show any sign of color in their fur, they are classified as bi-color. This coloration can be as minimal as the tip of their tail, a spot on their belly, or a small amount of tan on their arms.
In many cases, these dogs have a 9:1 ratio of black to another color.
These dogs are black and tan, but they have much more black fur than tan. They can also be black and silver, black and gray, and black and brown.
Clipper, the beloved dog of John F. Kennedy, is the most well-known bi-color German Shepherd. He helped showcase the unique bi-color pattern to the general public and increased their popularity.
Commonly Asked Questions
What Is The Original Color?
The very first German Shepherd had a sable coat. This handsome dog was born in 1895 and was called Horand von Grafrath.
Although the first German Shepherd was sable, the two most popular colors during the breed’s early history were pure white and pure black.
White dogs were able to blend in with flocks of sheep during herding, while black dogs could move undetected at night. White and black Shepherds are still popular in Germany, but they are not frequently seen in the U.S.
What Is The Rarest Color?
The rarest color is panda. Pandas require a piebald gene that only exists in one bloodline. Very few German Shepherds are Panda colored. Even if they have the gene, a mutation must also occur to give this beautiful color.
Because there are so few panda German Shepherds, you can expect to pay $3,000 for one.
Blue puppies are not as rare, but they are still very difficult to find.
What Is The Best Color?
Black and Tan German Shepherds have stolen the hearts of Americans and have quickly become the most popular color variation. But, there is no definitive answer to this question.
Some dogs are best suited for working (e.g. white, black or sable GSDs), while others are bred for dogs (e.g. black and red). Some are just bred to be loving pets (e.g. panda or blue).
Some owners prefer the rare colors of liver, panda, gray, and blue. Others would rather have the classic black and tan, black and cream, or black and red.
Regardless of the color of your German Shepherd, you can be sure that you will have an intelligent, active and devoted companion for life.
There are 13 German Shepherd colors. Choosing which German Shepherd you will welcome into your home is a big decision. Coat color can be a factor for some owners.
The color of a German Shepherd’s fur can tell you whether they are from working, show or pet bloodlines.
Color can also have an impact on the price you will pay. Blue and Panda German Shepherds are the most expensive at $2,000 to $3,000. Black and tan, black and cream, or black and red puppies can be purchased for less.
Regardless of their color, all German Shepherds are intelligent dogs. They make a wonderful family dog and just happen to come in many different colors.
Let us know your favorite color!