Long Haired German Shepherd Differences, Coat & Controversy

We all know the German Shepherd for its beautiful black and tan coat. Most people recognize this dog with just a simple glance. After all, it is the third most popular dog breed in America.

Yet, what a lot of people don’t know is that there is more than one type of German Shepherd.

Have you ever seen a Shepherd with long flowing hair and a majestic lion-like mane? If so, you have seen the long haired German Shepherd!

Their long hair may look similar to their regular short haired siblings, but their coat is actually considered to be a genetic fault. Keep reading to learn why these dogs are controversial and what makes them unique…

Long Haired German Shepherd

Long Haired German Shepherd
These dogs are known as long stock hair Shepherds.

Long haired German Shepherds are actually a variation of the regular German Shepherd dog we all love. They are not a different bloodline or breed.

Whether long or short haired, all of them originated from the old herding dogs of Germany. This means they all have the same personality, work ethic and temperament.

The most significant difference between the long and short hair varieties is their coat.

What makes long haired German Shepherds look different from the short-haired variety is their long top coat. All long haired GSDs inherit a top coat that is much longer. They should also have long tufts of hair around their ears and legs and in between their paws.

This long coat is caused by a very rare recessive gene. For a GSD to have a long coat, it must inherit two long haired genes, one from each parent. If a puppy inherits just one short coat gene they will have a short coat. This is because the short coat gene is dominant.

The American Kennel Club and the German Shepherd Dog Club of America consider a long coat to be a genetic fault. This means the long-haired variety is actually not accepted as part of the breed standard.

However, they are accepted by European kennel clubs such as the International Canine Federation (Federation Cynologuique Internationale) and the German Shepherd Association (Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde).

Both associations consider the long hair as a standard Shepherd. They state the bred has two hair coat varieties: short and long.

Long haired German Shepherds are rare in America because breeders tend to align with the American Kennel Club, and not European standards.

Any GSD with a long coat in America is considered to be faulty and cannot participate in dog show competitions. While you might not see them in dog shows, you might find one serving as a police dog, military dog, or service dog.

Just because the American breed standard does not accept a long coat, does not mean that they are any less desirable. They can still serve the same purpose.

Breed History

Long Haired German Shepherd Puppy

German Shepherds are herding dogs that were bred from the native sheepdogs of Germany. It all began with Captain Max von Stephanitz who crossbred various types of German herding dogs from the central and northern regions of Germany.

His goal was to make the perfect herding dog that was fit for purpose.

In 1899 he was successful in breeding the first German Shepherd. Shortly after, in the same year, he created the first dog club for the breed. This club was called the German Shepherd Association (Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde).

This association created the first standard for how the breed should look. Unfortunately for the long haired German Shepherd, its coat did not make the cut for von Stephanitz.

Captain Max von Stephanitz was a strong believer that this dog should not have long hair. His opinion was that long hair would be too troublesome for his ideal working dogs. Long hair could get easily matted, freeze during the winter when wet, and become muddied and hard when they were out on the field.

Because of this, they were considered undesirable. For years breeders throughout Europe and America disregarded these dogs.

Some breeders considered them to be undesirable to the point where they were trying to remove them from the gene pool. The same breeding practices happened the blue German Shepherd too.

It was not until the last two decades when the German Shepherd Association started recognizing the long haired variety.

The association specifically amended their rule in 2010 and allowed long haired German Shepherds with an undercoat onto the show ring. However, they are still not allowed to be crossed with short-haired Shepherds and must have an undercoat.

Long Haired German Shepherd Coat

Long Haired German Shepherd Mane
The American Kennel Club considers this dog’s coat a genetic defect.

All German Shepherds should have a double coat. This means that they should have an undercoat and a longer overcoat. The undercoat is designed to provide these dogs with insulation. It keeps them warm in the winter and protects them from the heat in the summer.

Undercoat texture and length is the same in any German Shepherd.

The difference between these two dogs is in their overcoats.

In a long haired gsd, the overcoat will be longer than a regular short haired. A long haired coat must be at-least two inches long, but it can grow to over six inches. Classic short haired GSDs should have an overcoat between one and two inches long.

The International Canine Federation describes the coat as being long, soft and dense.

They should also have tufts of hair around their ears and legs and in between their paws. Their tail should be bushy with tufts of fur too. Around their face there is a huge, majestic lion-like mane too. All short haired Shepherds lack this mane.

Despite having more fur, their coat color will not be any different.

Single Coat

There is also long haired variety with a single coat. However, this variation is not accepted by any kennel club.

As a rule, German Shepherds across all prominent kennel club registries must have a double coat. Those without an undercoat are considered faulty.

Dogs that do not have an undercoat cannot insulate themselves as well as others with the double coat. Single coat Shepherds are considered as faulty because they lack the undercoat.

The long haired variety with a single coat will look very similar to its double coat siblings, but their fur will be long, soft, straight, and silky. It is also shinier because of the lack of the undercoat.

Single coats cannot tolerate cold weather because they are not as well protected from the weather. This has made some believe that they are less protective, gentler and friendlier than the classic GSD used today as working dogs.

Therefore, these dogs are kept more as family pets.

Most people prefer to have them as pets due to their magnificent and beautiful fur.

Colors

The Long Haired German Shepherd’s coat color will not be any different from their short haired siblings.

German Shepherds are most famous for their tan and black coats. Most will also have black markings on their face and back. This might be the most well-known coat color, but there is a whole range of other coat color possibilities. These include:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Sable
  • Liver
  • Gray
  • Black and Red
  • Black and Silver
  • Bi-Color

Rarer colors like white, black and white, fawn and solid blue are also possibilities. However, these colors are not accepted by the breed standard. All of these colors are due to genetic mutations.

Short Hair vs Long Hair Differences

German Shepherd
The long haired German Shepherd is the same physically, it just has a longer coat.

It is not hard to spot the difference between a long and short haired. The most distinctive feature will be their large mane. This makes them look like a proud lion.

A long coat will also be two to six inches in length. Regular short hair coats should be no longer than two inches.

If you cannot tell how long their coat is, you can look for some characteristics that are unique to them.

Long haired German Shepherds will have feathering around their ears and behind their legs, similar to a cream Golden Retriever. They also have hair in between their paws and their tails will be very bushy. The short haired variety has none of these features.

If you are still not sure, you can look to see if your dog has an undercoat. All short hair GSDs will have a double coat. If the undercoat is missing, you know that you are looking at a type of long hair.

The long haired German Shepherd can be identified from as early as ten weeks young. These puppies are born with their mane, feathering and long coat. It does not change as they grow.

Temperament and Personality

Breed Characteristics
Family Friendly★★★★(4)
Energy Levels★★★★★(5)
Ease of Training★★★★★(5)
Shedding Frequency★★★★★(5)
Price★★★★★(3)

Long haired German Shepherds share mostly the same personality and character traits. This is because they are actually a type of German Shepherd. They do not come from a different bloodline or breed.

They are well-known for their defining attributes of being courageous, intelligent, confident, and loyal.

Some people believe that the long haired variety is a bit more mellow, this is true. They will still have the same drive and energy, but they will be a bit friendlier around people outside the family.

This is because long haired German Shepherds were kept more as family pets and not farm dogs. They developed the traits and personality of a companion animal instead of a working dog.

These dogs make excellent family pets because of their playfulness and guarding skills. They are super friendly to children and love to please their family and receive affection.

As descendants of herding and working dogs, all German Shepherds are a very energetic breed. They carry within their blood the need to work and herd. They will run around and chase after small animals all the time, if allowed to do so. They simply love physical activity. This is true for both short haired and long haired variations.

It is rare to see these dogs herding sheep, but that does not mean that they are not as equally of a hard worker as the short haired variety.

A long haired German Shepherd that is not exercised daily will become bored and destructive within the house.

Some Germans Shepherds love to cuddle with you on the sofa and relax after a long day. However this is only after a long working day. It needs to feel like it has a purpose and a job to do.

Mental stimulation is also important for keeping this breed happy.

These dogs are so intelligent and eager to please, they very quickly learn commands and are easily trained. Since these dogs are so hyperactive, smart, and independent, training should begin as early as possible.

Socialization should also begin at an early age. This is because they can be very aloof to strangers. It is their natural instinct to guard and protect. They are known to become very overprotective of their family.

With early socialization your dog can learn to be comfortable around other dogs and strangers. Without socialization then they can become very aggressive around people out of fear.

Working dogs are also prone to separation anxiety because of how attached they are to their owners.

Socialization and training are great ways to teach them that they can be happy on their own.

Health Concerns

Black and Tan Long Haired German Shepherd

Long haired German Shepherds have a lifespan than ranges from 9 to 13 years. This is no different to that of the regular short haired breed. Their coat length does not make them defective or any less healthy than a standard short-haired.

However, all German Shepherds are susceptible to the same hereditary conditions.

These hereditary health conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy and heart disease.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are the most common health issues for any Shepherd. Dysplasia can cause limping or lameness, especially at a later age. Watching for these signs can help catch the disease early and treatment can help to slow its progression.

Fortunately some hereditary diseases can be prevented through genetic testing.

Testing for diseases such as elbow and hip dysplasia, pituitary dwarfism, Von Willebrand’s disease and degenerative myelopathy are available.

If you want to buy a long haired German Shepherd from a breeder, they should have tested the parents for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy. These test will determine if they could pass any of these traits to their off-spring. Parents that carry the genes for these diseases should not be bred.

This breed can also suffer from epilepsy, digestive problems, heart disease, eye problems, and skin conditions. Eczema is especially common in long haired German Shepherds without an undercoat.

A balanced diet is very important for their health.

High quality kibble that is designed for larger working breeds, and has joint supplements, is a good way to help reduce the risk of developing bone and joint diseases like dysplasia.

Grooming A Long Haired German Shepherd

German Shepherd Dog

Long haired German Shepherds shed. A lot. These dogs will shed more than the short haired variety. They will also have more coat matting because of the silky texture and length of their hair. Because of this they will need a lot of grooming.

Expect to brush these dogs at least three times a week.

A long haired German Shepherd sheds so much that you will definitely need to constantly be picking up after their loose fur with a vacuum all over the house. While they shed all year long, their shedding is the heaviest during the Spring and Fall.

To start grooming, use a metal brush that has long teeth to get all the way down and untangle the knots. Make sure to work through the knots and matted hair gently. Each brushing session should last for between 10 to 15 minutes to remove all of that dead hair.

If you have a single coated German Shepherd, then be especially careful.

Some people think that because these dogs do not have an undercoat they are easier to groom. But that is actually not true. They have delicate fur as they do not have an undercoat. Brushing roughly with a metal brush could irritate their skin.

Sometimes people decide to trim their long haired German Shepherd to avoid knots and matted hair. The best places to trim their coats are behind the ears, the back of the legs and the bushy tail. Whether you should trim your dog’s coat or not is up to you.

Completely shaving your German Shepherd is not recommended.

Shaving will remove their undercoat. A dog’s undercoat is important for them to regular their body temperature. It protects them against the heat and cold.

Just like any other GSD, they will also require bathing, nail clipping and teeth brushing to stay healthy.

How Rare Are Long Haired German Shepherds?

Long Haired German Shepherd

Long haired German Shepherds are very rare. It is estimated that less than 5% of all German Shepherds are long haired. While they are rare, their hair is not caused by a mutation and it is perfectly natural.

The vast majority of GSDs have the classic short hair coat. This is because they inherit their coat through a recessive gene.

The short hair gene will always be dominant over the long hair gene. It only takes a puppy to inherit one of the short hair genes for it to have short hair. For a puppy to have long hair, it must inherit two long haired genes, one from each parent.

It is possible for long haired puppies to be born within a litter of short haired siblings. This can happen if both parents are heterozygous. This means that they carry both the short and long hair gene, but the latter is masked.

They can inherit the long coat gene due to natural variation in the population.

The long coat may be considered a genetic defect by the American Kennel Club, but the long coat gene is not a mutation. In German Shepherds this gene came about due to natural variation. Some dogs have shorter hair and some dogs have longer hair. Breeders for years have been selecting for the short hair gene, but they have not erased the long hair gene from the genetic pool.

Some breeders try to sell these dogs at a higher price because they are considered to be rare. The same is true for mini german shepherds too.

However, reputable breeders might actually sell long hair GSDs for less.

This is because they try to breed to the American standards. Remember, the American Kennel Club consider a long coat to be a genetic fault so breeders do not try to actively get rid of these puppies.

How much you will pay will depend on the type of breeder you find and whether they are reputable. You can expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $1500 for a long haired German Shepherd puppy. This is similar to the price for a short haired puppy.

Summary

Long haired German Shepherds are just a rare type of German Shepherd. Not a separate breed.

They look exactly like any German Shepherd, except for their long hair.

There is not much difference between these dogs. They have the same temperament and personality, do the same jobs and are just as healthy.

Even still, this dog is considered a fault by some dog kennels. This stems from the original breed standard which said this dog was not the ideal working dog.

For families who just want a beautiful and unique looking dog, that has all the best qualities of the third most favorite dog in America, the long haired German Shepherd is just what they might be looking for.

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