21 German Shepherd Colors & Markings (With Pictures!)

Different German Shepherd colors

Whether you want a guard dog, a companion, or a show dog, the German Shepherd can take the role. Aside from its flexibility, a German Shepherd, regardless of its type, can also look intimidating or friendly depending on its coat color.

Coat color is one of the factors that most dog owners consider when taking in a purebred German Shepherd. This is because coat color can affect this breed’s recognition in significant kennel clubs.

Whether you are looking for a mixed breed or a purebred German Shepherd with a particular coat color, this list of stunning German Shepherd colors can give you more options. So, read on!

How Many German Shepherd Colors Are There?

German Shepherd Dogs sitting on the beach

Currently, there are 21 German Shepherd colors recognized by kennel clubs. These colors can be solid or washed out and sometimes a combination of patterns.

Some GSD colors are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other major canine registries as standard, while some colors, usually rare ones, are non-standard or considered fault.

The list below includes the different German Shepherd colors and coat patterns:

  • Black and tan
  • Black and red
  • Black and silver
  • Black and cream
  • Black
  • Bi-color
  • Sable
  • White
  • Gray
  • Blue
  • Liver
  • Liver and tan
  • Isabella
  • Brindle
  • Panda
  • White Markings
  • Saddle
  • Blanket
  • Mask
  • Wolf Mask
  • Blue and tan

These coat colors can vary depending on the genes of an individual German Shepherd Dog. Some are rarer than others due to variations in coat color genetics.

21 German Shepherd Colors

According to the AKC’s official GSD breed standard, solid, rich colors are preferred. Meanwhile, a pale and washed-out German Shepherd color raises an eyebrow in dog shows and is considered a serious fault.

Although only several German Shepherd coat colors are recognized by the AKC, this breed still looks stunning in rare coat colors and patterns.

1. Black and Tan German Shepherd

Black and tan German Shepherd

The black and tan GSD is a color variant of the German Shepherd breed. This coloration is recognized as a standard coat color by the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club (UKC).

In genetics, the black and tan parent dog must have a dominant gene for black color and the recessive gene for tan points. The interaction of these genes should produce black and tan offspring.

Black and tan puppies and adults have tan points commonly located on the legs, chest, and face. Moreover, black and tan is the traditional and classic color of this breed.

As an experienced breeder with more than 10 years in the industry, I can say that the popularity of the black and tan German Shepherd is still unmatched. Despite the advancement of other color combinations, GSD enthusiasts are still drawn to this classic look of the GSD.

Hence, despite the black and tan being easy to breed, the ongoing demand for this color still drives a hefty price with reputable breeders.

2. Black and Red German Shepherd

Black and red German Shepherd
Image credit: ralph_ruby_gsd / Instagram

The black and red coat of the German Shepherd is recognized by major kennel clubs, although it is considered rare and distinct. The black and red colors are a result of specific genetic combinations.

The dominant “B” gene carries the black coat, and the recessive “e” gene has the red color. The intensity of the red color can vary among black and red German Shepherds.

There are instances when the deep reddish brown replaces the black coloration. It’s also worth noting that this color is standard among show-line German Shepherds.

3. Black and Silver German Shepherd

Black and silver German Shepherd

The black and silver coat combination is a rare color combination of this breed. However, major kennel clubs do not recognize black and silver German Shepherds as a standard coloration.

Black and silver German Shepherds have a striking appearance due to their black coats and silver-tipped hairs. These characteristics give them a unique silver sheen.

The silver color results from a dilution gene that lightens the color of the black coat. The gene for silver coloring is recessive, and it must be present in both parents for it to be expressed in the offspring.

Breeding black and silver GSD is a complex process. It requires expert knowledge of genetics and coat color inheritance. Because of this, finding a reputable breeder of this variant may be challenging.

4. Black and Cream German Shepherd

Black and cream German Shepherd

A black and cream German Shepherd is another rare variation of this breed. However, the AKC and the UKC do not recognize this color for German Shepherd Dogs.

The black and cream German Shepherd has a unique and striking appearance. This dog’s coat is dominantly black with cream markings on the face, legs, chest, and underbelly.

The cream color is caused by a dilution gene that lightens the black coat’s color. It is also responsible for the intensity of the cream markings, which varies for every GSD.

Moreover, this gene is also recessive, meaning it must be present in both parents so their offspring can express the black and cream color.

5. Black German Shepherd

Black German Shepherd

Pure black German Shepherds have a solid black colored variation and are recognized by the breed standard. This variation, however, is considered less rare.

A black German Shepherd may be produced if the parent has the dominant “B” gene. Even if only one parent carries this gene, the result will be a black German Shepherd puppy.

While this is not as striking as the other color variations, black German Shepherds are still a favorite of some dog enthusiasts and breeders.

The solid black coat of this dog is considered classic and elegant. Some even find this variant intimidating and get the misconception that a black German Shepherd is aggressive.

But like other German Shepherds, this variant has the same temperament as the standard GSD. However, proper training is still vital in molding a well-mannered dog.

6. Bi-colored German Shepherd

Bi colored German Shepherd

Bicolor German Shepherds have two distinct colors on the coat, usually black and white. This pooch has various patterns, such as the black and white saddle and black and white markings.

The bi-color German Shepherd results from the recessive gene that controls coat pigmentation. Both parents must carry this gene to produce bi-colored puppies.

Meanwhile, this coat color is not considered a sign of poor breeding or lack of conformation to the breed standard. It is also less common and may be harder to find in some areas.

7. Sable German Shepherd

Sable German Shepherd

The very first German Shepherd has a sable pattern or a sable color. The sable German Shepherd is characterized by a coat that ranges from a light sandy color to a dark, almost black color.

Sable dogs usually have an agouti coat. This means that the individual hairs are banded with different colors, usually shades of black and tan or gray. This gives a unique and silvery appearance.

It is also essential to understand that there could be different colors for the sable pattern. A perfect example is the red sable German Shepherd.

8. White German Shepherd

White German Shepherd

A white German Shepherd is a color variation of this breed that is characterized by a solid white coat. White Shepherds are not as common as the usual black and tan German Shepherds.

Meanwhile, the gene responsible for a white German Shepherd puppy is recessive. This means that for white Shepherds to be produced, both parents must have the gene for the white coat color.

Keep in mind that major kennel clubs consider white German Shepherds a fault and are disqualified in dog shows.

Also, the white German Shepherd is associated with some health issues.

White dogs like the white Shepherd are known to be at risk of sunburn and skin cancer due to lack of pigmentation and fur protection.

A white Shepherd is also known to be prone to some vision and hearing problems. While this white dog is not recognized as a standard color, it is still a rare and sought-after variant by dog lovers.

9. Gray German Shepherd

Gray German Shepherd

A gray German Shepherd is a variation of the breed with a coat that ranges from a light silver-gray to a dark charcoal color. The coat may be solid gray or have black and gray agouti patterns.

This breed variation is often confused with the sable German Shepherd. Regarding genetics, both German Shepherd parents must have the gene carrying the gray color to pass it on to the puppy.

10. Blue German Shepherd

Blue German Shepherd
Image credit: double_shepherd_trouble / Instagram

Blue German Shepherd Dogs have a coat that ranges from a light gray-blue to a dark steel-blue color. The coat may be pure blue or combined with black and blue agouti patterns.

A blue GSD is a purebred recognized by major kennel clubs. However, this color variation is rare and controversial, making it unqualified for dog shows.

This is because blue German Shepherds are known to be at risk of potential health issues. In terms of breeding, blue German Shepherds carry a gene that causes a dilution of black pigmentation in the coat.

This gene is recessive, meaning it must be present in both German Shepherd parents for it to be passed to the offspring.

11. Liver German Shepherd

Liver German Shepherd
Image credit: fleur_the_shepherd / Instagram

A liver German Shepherd has a coat that ranges from light brown-red to dark chocolate brown. The coat may also have solid liver or black and liver agouti patterns.

Despite their unique coat color, this pooch is listed in the AKC’s list of recognized German Shepherd colors. Besides its unique and rare coat color, this dog has the typical traits of a standard GSD.

12. Liver and Tan German Shepherd

Liver and tan German Shepherd
Image credit: canoli_gshepherd / Instagram

A liver and tan German Shepherd has a coat that ranges from a strawberry blonde to a dark chocolate color with tan points on the legs, underbelly, and around the face.

The coat of this GSD may have liver and tan agouti patterns. In genetics, liver and tan German Shepherds require a copy of the recessive gene to pass the color to offspring.

13. Isabella German Shepherd

Isabella German Shepherd
Image credit: aria_thelionessgsdandprecious / Instagram

Isabella German Shepherds are known for their light lilac color. This GSD is admired by many, although it is disqualified in dog shows due to its color.

Major kennel clubs often view the Isabella German Shepherd as a fault. Despite this, this rare color variation makes beautiful and accepted pets in suburban communities.

The Isabella color is a combination of liver and blue, which are not commonly used for breeding, leading to a lower likelihood of passing the color.

Since this color is scarce, Isabella German Shepherds are likely to be costlier than other colors.

Meanwhile, here is a video of an Isabella German Shepherd enjoying professional grooming:

Dramatic rare coloured German Shepherd sings like a Husky

14. Brindle German Shepherd

Brindle German Shepherd
Image credit: mind.yourpsandqs / Instagram

The brindle German Shepherd has a coat with patterns of dark and light stripes, similar to that of a tiger. The coat can either be black or brown, while the lines are shades of tan, gold, or silver.

The breed standard for the German Shepherd Dog, as set by the AKC and the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA), does not recognize this coat pattern.

15. Panda German Shepherd

Panda German Shepherd
Image credit: calliopethepandapup / Instagram

A panda Shepherd is not a recognized color variation by major kennel clubs. The term panda German Shepherd describes a German shepherd with a black and white coat.

Meanwhile, the coat pattern may vary. Some German Shepherds may have black fur on the back, while others may have white hair. Also, some may have black or white markings on the face, legs, and chest.

16. White Markings

German Shepherds with white markings
Image credit: vayo.theoldgermanshepherd / Instagram

This German Shepherd may have white markings on the coat. These markings may appear anywhere on the dog’s body but are usually found on the chest, paws, and face.

These markings may disappear upon adulthood. Nonetheless, these spots can also signify aging and vitiligo, a condition caused by insufficient melanin production.

You should know, though, that pale or washed-out colors, including white markings on the chest, paws, and face, are considered serious faults by kennel organizations.

17. Saddle German Shepherd

Saddle German Shepherd
Image credit: ariluna_winterstorm / Instagram

The saddle German Shepherd, also known as the “Saddleback,” is a variation of the German Shepherd breed characterized by a distinct dark saddle pattern on the back.

This marking is usually a rich, dark color contrasting the dog’s lighter-colored coat. The rest of the skin can be a variety of colors, including black, tan, sable, and bi-color.

18. Blanket German Shepherd

Blanket German Shepherd
Image credit: blue_sage_german_shepherds / Instagram

The blanket pattern, sometimes called blanket-back, is a coat variation in German Shepherds where a dark color covers most of the dog’s back, with lighter-colored fur on the limbs and chest.

This color blanket can be various shades of tan and black. Unfortunately, blanket German Shepherds are not recognized by major canine registries and clubs.

19. Mask German Shepherd

Mask German Shepherd
Image credit: melo1128r / Instagram

The mask German Shepherd is characterized by a black mask-like marking on the dog’s face. This marking commonly covers the eyes, ears, and muzzle and can vary in size, shape, and intensity.

The rest of the coat can be a variety of colors, including black, tan, sable, and bi-color. The good news is that the mask marking is not considered a disqualification by major kennel clubs.

In fact, this type of marking is considered a unique feature of the German Shepherd breed and is often seen in the breed’s black and tan color variation.

20. Wolf Mask German Shepherd

Wolf mask German Shepherd
Image credit: fenrisfangs / Instagram

The wolf mask German Shepherd has a black mask-like marking on the dog’s face, similar to the mask German Shepherd. However, the wolf mask is prominent and covers more face areas.

This marking usually covers the eyes, nose, and muzzle, resembling that of a wolf. Moreover, the wolf mask marking is not considered rare and can be seen in other color variations.

21. Blue and Tan German Shepherd

Blue and tan German Shepherd

A blue and tan German Shepherd is a color variation of the breed with a unique blue and tan coloration. The blue color is caused by a dilution of the black color in the coat.

Meanwhile, the tan color is caused by the presence of the agouti gene. The blue color may vary in intensity, with some dogs having a more grayish-blue coat while others have a more steel-blue coat.

The tan color is usually found on the face, legs, chest, and underbelly. The intensity of the tan color can vary from dog to dog. Meanwhile, the ears of blue and tan German Shepherds are usually blue.

German Shepherd Coat Color Genetics

Understanding the genetics of the German Shepherd coat color can help breeders and owners predict the potential coat color of their dogs and make informed breeding decisions.

The important genes that control coat color in German Shepherds are the following: 

  • B (Black) gene – The B gene is responsible for the black coat color. It has two alleles, B (dominant) and b (recessive). If a dog has at least one B allele, it will have a black coat. If a dog has two b alleles, the pup will not have a black coat.
  • E (Agouti) gene – The E gene controls whether the black coat will be ticked with red pigmentation. This gene also has two alleles, E (dominant) and e (recessive). If a dog has at least one E allele, it will have a black and tan coat. On the other hand, if it has two e alleles, it will have a solid black coat.
  • S (Sable) gene – The S carries the sable trait. Likewise, this gene has two alleles, S (dominant) and s (recessive). If a dog has at least one S allele, it will have a sable coat. Subsequently, if a dog has two s alleles, it will not have a sable coat.

Based on these three, German Shepherds can have black and tan, solid black, or sable coats. The black and tan coat is the most common and requires at least one B allele and one E allele.

Meanwhile, at least one B allele and two e alleles create the solid black coat. The sable coat is made by at least one S allele.

Also, other factors play a role in coat color. For example, white spotting is determined by a different set of genes. Some genes, such as the “K” gene, can affect the intensity and pattern of the coat.

Environmental factors, such as diet, nutrition, and exposure to sunlight, can also affect coat color.

Do German Shepherd Colors Affect Behavior and Health?

German Shepherd puppy playing on the grass

No study suggests that coat color can affect the behavior of German Shepherd Dogs. A dog’s health and behavior are influenced by diet, training, and environment.

Getting a German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder can give you peace of mind that your dog’s temperament follows the breed’s standard.

Meanwhile, color dilution alopecia is a hereditary condition caused by a recessive gene that may cause flaky and itchy skin. Other signs include thinning of the coat and losing patches of hair.

This condition is common in dogs with diluted and deeply colored coats, such as blue German Shepherds and liver German Shepherds. And although this health issue is not curable, it is manageable. 

Your veterinarian may prescribe shampoos, ointments, and even oral antibiotics to help alleviate the signs and symptoms of this condition.

Since color dilution alopecia is hereditary, the siblings and parents of a dog with this condition should not be used for breeding.

Do German Shepherd Puppies Change Colors as They Grow?

German Shepherd puppies may change colors as they grow. Although a German Shepherd’s coat color is determined by genetics, it will not remain the same throughout the dog’s lifetime.

A German Shepherd puppy’s coat will look duller than an adult’s. However, this will change once the dog reaches eight weeks to two years of age. This is because puppy fur will begin to fall off.

The fur will then be replaced with a much denser, thicker, and more appealing adult coat. But if you notice your dog changing color rapidly and hair is falling in patches, visit your veterinarian immediately.

Meanwhile, German Shepherds with a solid black coat and sable pattern are an exemption from this change. These color varieties of the German Shepherd breed are more likely to keep their coat color until adulthood.

What Color Will My German Shepherd Puppy Be?

German Shepherd puppies with the same color

The coat color of a German Shepherd puppy is determined by the genes inherited from the parents. It is the result of the interaction of genes from both parents.

The table below gives an overview of the possible coat color of a German Shepherd puppy based on the parent’s genes:

Parent 1Parent 2Possible Offspring
BBEEBBEEBlack and tan
BBeeBBeeBlack and tan
BbEEBbEEBlack and tan
BbeeBbeeSolid black
SsssNot sable
BBssBbssBlack and tan (not sable)

Note that this table is simplified — actual genetics can be more complex. Other genes and environmental factors can also affect coat color.

Meanwhile, other methods can also be used to predict the color of a German Shepherd puppy.

  • Pedigree analysis: This method studies the color of the puppy’s ancestors to determine which colors are most common in the puppy’s family tree.
  • Physical observation: This method involves the examination of the puppy’s fur, eyes, and nose to make educated guesses about the puppy’s color. However, this method is inaccurate because it is solely based on visual observation rather than genetics.

Combining all these different methods can make it possible for someone to make close predictions about a German Shepherd puppy’s color.

German Shepherd Nose and Eye Colors

Eye color in German Shepherds is influenced by the presence of melanin. This is a pigment that gives color to the eyes, skin, and hair. It is produced by specialized cells called melanocytes.

Melanocytes are located in the iris of the eye. The amount and distribution of melanin in the iris will greatly influence the color of a dog’s eyes.

German Shepherds can have various eye colors, such as brown, blue, and amber. The most distinctive eye color in German Shepherds is brown.

Blue and amber-colored eyes among German Shepherds are less common and are usually caused by a lack of melanin in the iris.

Meanwhile, the color of a German Shepherd’s nose is also affected by the presence of melanin. The nose of a German Shepherd can be black, liver, or flesh-colored, depending on the amount of melanin present.

The black nose is the most common, while the liver nose is less common and is caused by a lack of melanin, similar to flesh-colored noses.

The color of a German Shepherd’s eyes and nose can also be related to its coat color. For example, German Shepherds with solid black coats typically have black eyes and black noses.

On the other hand, German Shepherds with a sable coat typically have brown eyes and a liver-colored nose. Also, German Shepherds with white coats usually have blue eyes and pink noses.

The eyes and nose of a German Shepherd can also change color as years go by. For instance, blue eyes may darken to brown as a puppy grows older.

Frequently Asked Questions

Two German Shepherd colors

Can Purebred German Shepherds Be White?

Yes, purebred German Shepherds can be white, although they are not considered a common color for the breed. The white color is caused by a recessive gene and is not recognized by major kennel clubs.

This is because the white coat color among dogs is known to be a result of a genetic mutation that can cause different health problems, such as deafness and eye problems. It is not desirable for the breed.

Are Black German Shepherds Rare?

Black German Shepherds are one of the highly sought-after and rare variants. According to estimates, only a tiny percentage of German Shepherds, around 6.8%, are born with a black coat.

This is because the coats of black German Shepherds are the result of a recessive gene. This means that both parents must carry the gene for a puppy to have a black coat.

Breeding black German Shepherds is a complex process. It requires more planning compared to other variants. Additionally, black German Shepherds are often overlooked in favor of the more common colors.

What Is the Rarest Color of a German Shepherd?

Isabella is considered the rarest coat color for this breed. It is caused by a dilution of the black color and results from the interaction of different genes.

This color has a light, silver-gray color with a bluish tint appearance, caused by the interaction of the B gene, which controls the black coat color, and the dilution gene.

What Is the Most Common German Shepherd Color?

Black and tan is the most typical color for German Shepherds because it is the traditional color of the breed. The tan and black pattern is a result of the dominant and recessive genes.

This color combination is also believed to be the most desirable for working lines, as it provides a strong contrast that makes the dog more visible in different lighting conditions.

Final Thoughts

The German Shepherd breed is available in different coat colors, each of which has its unique appearance. All colors result from the interaction of the various genes both parents carry.

Nonetheless, you should understand that coat color is not related to a German Shepherd’s behavior. Despite their varying colors, GSDs are still typically intelligent and loyal dogs.

It’s also important to remember that while coat color is an important aspect of the German Shepherd breed, humane breeding practices and the dog’s overall health should always be the top priority.

Which among the German Shepherd coat colors caught your attention the most? Share your thoughts with us in the comment below!

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