We’ve already written a guide about the different types, lines, colors and hair length of German Shepherds.
In the guide below, we outline the different GSD coat colors, patterns, and the genetics behind the colors and patterns.
We also discuss other factors that affect coloration.
Let’s take a look!
(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)
German Shepherd Coat Colors Explained: Info Guide
German Shepherd Coat Colors
A full list of German Shepherd coat colors includes:
Black and Tan
Black and Silver
Black and Red
Black and Cream
Sable (usually brown sable, or black sable)
German Shepherd Coat Color Patterns
A full list of German Shepherd coat color patterns includes:
Saddle back pattern
Blanket back pattern
Bi color pattern
German Shepherd Color Genetics
This is where it gets interesting.
Dog genetics, like human genetics, is not straightforward.
Knowledgeable breeders will admit that colors are not guaranteed – you can only increase chance of a certain color factor by breeding together two parents who are the same.
The best way to think about how genetics affects the German Shepherd breeds is to look at the parents, and the bloodlines (which bloodline of GSD the parents come from).
The parents give you the direct genetic material, and the bloodline and ancestry gives you the remaining DNA which might give you certain recessive genes.
Different pairings of different DNA produces different results – there’s many combinations and outcomes.
For example, two black and tan parents might produce a White German Shepherd if one of the parents passes on a recessive White color gene – but it’s most likely they give birth to a black and tan puppy.
There are also some specific color genes that behave differently to the others, as we outline in our guide on Blue German Shepherds:
“White and Black German Shepherds receive their coloring when the recessive white or black color gene is passed down to the puppy from a parent.
Other colors in the genetic material are not affected.
Blue German Shepherds and Liver German Shepherds are created when the double blue or liver recessive gene is passed to the puppy.
But, the difference is that in Blue German Shepherds the blue gene dilutes/partially blocks the other color, usually black.
In Liver German Shepherds, the liver gene blocks the black color gene altogether.
This means in a Blue German Shepherd’s coat, any black pigmentation/coloring will be be much lighter.
No black pigmentation will appear at all in a Liver German Shepherd.”
See what we mean when we say dog genetics is not straightforward?
Each German Shepherd bloodline has a predisposition to a certain coat color and coat pattern, but can also possess other color combinations in their genes.
Most commonly lighter colors, and are known for their black and tan, or black and cream colors with a saddle pattern.
However, because of the variation in breeding over the years, this line might come in any color.
Coat colors are mainly black and red, or black and tan.
Most have the saddle patterning.
West German working lines most commonly come as a black sable.
However, they can come in other colors like black and tan, bi-colors and black.
The East German/DDR German Shepherd has the darkest pigmentation of all the lines.
They are predominantly sable or black mainly on the legs and sometimes in the face and shoulders.
Primarily brown sable and sable colors and patterns. Slightly lighter in pigmentation than the DDR GSDs.
German Shepherd Puppy Coat Color Change
Puppies’ coats can change color and pattern up to around 2 years of age.
Black and tan puppies usually start out black, and the tan significantly starts to come through usually on the legs, face, tail, stomach and sides up to around 6-8 months, before they mature into their final appearance at around 2 years old.
Sable GSD’s can completely change colors first 6 months – before changing again over the next 18 months and settling into their final appearance at around the 2 year mark.
Solid color GSD’s, like White German Shepherd puppies, will usually be born white, and stay white.
Once again though, color change depends on the dog itself – all dogs are different.
In Summary, What Are The Possible German Shepherd Color Variations and Types?
The following factors affect the coat color of the German Shepherd:
– The total available genetic material/DNA passed to the puppy from the parents and family tree > influenced by the bloodlines which have a predisposition to certain colors and patterns
– The coat color genes (the color or colors the coat can be)
– The coat pattern genes (how the colors are spread or patterned across the coat)
Note that young German Shepherds (roughly 2 years and younger) can change color as they mature.
More Information & Facts About The German Shepherd Dog Breed
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