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German Shepherd coat colors and patterns vary greatly

Genetics of German Shepherd coat colors

With regard to the coat colors of the GSD and the German Shepherd, the SV breed standard specifically states: “The color of the GSD itself is not important and has no effect on the character of the dog or its aptitude for work and should be secondary consideration for that reason. The final color of a young dog can only be determined when the outer coat has developed. “

Of all the undesirable things to try to eliminate and consider in a GSD (aka the Alsatian), coat color should be at the bottom of the list. A good pigment must be looked for, but many factors such as health and temperament, to name a few, must be much more important than coat color, which must always be subordinate to structure, gait, type and color. character and should never take precedence over work. dog skill. The eye color should be dark and the pigment in the nose should also be black.

Regarding the coat, the SV breed standard states the following: “The GSD with normal hair (stock) must have a thick undercoat and the outer coat must be as dense as possible, consisting of smooth, hard and glued hairs. the legs, legs and toes are short. On the neck it is longer and thicker, in some males it forms a slight ruff. The hair grows more on the back of the legs up to the pastern and knee, and it forms quite thick pants in the hindquarters. There is no hard and fast rule for hair length, but short taupe coats are flawed. ” “No good dog is a bad color” – Max von Stephanitz (founder of the dog breed) on coat colors.

Ask anyone to describe a German Shepherd dog and they will almost always mention “saddle” markings. It is also possible for the GSD to be a solid color such as black (solid white is considered a conformation disqualification to be displayed by the AKC) or sable. Sable coat colors are easily identified by the multi-colored individual hairs all over the body. Sable’s GSDs can also be masked by dark or black guard hairs.

Alsatian coat color patterns can include any of the following: black and tan, black and red, black and cream, solid black, solid white (considered a conformation disqualification), sable (also called agouti or wolf gray, in various colorations), black and silver, liver (rare – conformation defect) and blue (rare – considered a conformation defect).

Richer pigmentation in color is preferred. While I won’t delve into the science of genetics (feel free to do it on your own if you’re interested), just know that liver color is the result of matching recessives in the black series and blue color occurs as a result. of recessives matched in the dilution series.

Coat colors and inheritance in GSD are very complex and are controlled by several sets of genes. Below is a very brief description and summary of the various sets of genes in the GSD responsible for color based on information from “The German Shepherd Dog: A Genetic History” and “Practical Genetics for Dog Breeders”, both by Malcolm Willis. Both of these books should be considered a must-read for any serious fanatic, and more importantly, breeders. Another suggested resource is “The German Shepherd Today” by Winifred Strickland and James “Jimmy” Moses.


The basic body color of GSD is controlled by genes. The order of dominance of the coat colors is as follows: golden sable, gray sable, saddle marked with black and tan, bicolor * black and tan (bicolor is where the dog only has tan on the legs and face, not on the body). ), and black.

Also, know that the black gene is recessive to all other colors in GSD. Solid black German Shepherds crossed with solid blacks German Shepherds will only produce blacks. The colors of sable are dominant over the other colors and patterns of the breed.


This gene controls the formation of black pigment in GSD, not hair color. The order of dominance of the German Shepherd coat colors is exactly as follows: black pigment including nose, eyelids and pads; Carrier for liver color; Liver color: black brown color, nose, eye rims and pads brown.

Note: Most GSDs are considered black pigments, including the nose, eyelids, and pads.


The color of the white coat in the German Shepherd is recessive to all other colors. To get a white coat color in the German Shepherd, both parents must be carriers of the white gene (either be white or be carriers). The order of dominance is as follows: Melanin is produced. (GSD standard colors have this); Partial albinism (not seen); White coat with dark eyes and nose (not albino); Beige coat collar (proposed).


This controls the intensity of the non-black coloration. The order of dominance is as follows: lighter tan (cream); Intermediate tan (tan); Darker tan (red).

The intensity of the color series determines whether the GSDs with color (that is, not all recessive black or completely white) will be black and cream, black and tan, or black and red.

Coat lengths in GSD

The short-coated German shepherd keeps a short coat, which is located close to the body. These dogs tend to have less undercoat.

Plush coated GSDs have a medium length coat with a thin, fluffy undercoat. These dogs do not have feathers like long-haired GSDs.

Long-haired German Shepherds have much longer fur around the ears, on the back of the legs, chest, and tail (feathered) than other German Shepherds.


This controls how intense the black pigment will appear on your German Shepherd. The order of dominance is as follows: dense pigment; blue dilution.

The black pigment combined with the blue dilution will produce a blue-coated German Shepherd that appears to have a dusty or floury sheen.


This controls whether or not a mask appears on your German Shepherd. The order of dominance is as follows: a black mask on the face; dark coat without mask; Tabby (rare, it will look like stripes on the legs); light tan.

All of these genes together determine the coat color of your own German Shepherd.

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