• Puppy Talk

German Shepherd Dog Coat Colors

Updated: Jan 11

German Shepherds have a double coat of fur, a thick downy undercoat overlaid with longer, coarse guard hairs which serve as a protective outer shell as well as give the Shepherd their distinctive look.


German Shepherds come in a variety of coat colors controlled by several series of genes.

  • Black and Tan Traditional "saddle back" show-ring coloring - the Rin Tin Tin look. Tan or cream legs, underbelly, neck, ears and facial markings with a distinctive black 'saddle', black muzzle and wide black swath from down their back from head to tail.

  • Black and Red Similar markings to the "black and tan," however the tan is a reddish-brown or Mahogany hue.

  • Bicolor Almost entirely black with tan or red markings on their legs, eyebrows and under their tail.

  • Sable (Agouti) The dominant coat color. Sables have multi-colored hair shafts with varying amounts of black tipping, similar to the two-toned hairs of wolves. Sables come in a variety of colors, including tan, cream, grey or red. Overall, Sables appear darker or lighter depending on the amount of black tipping. Richer hues are typically preferred over lighter or 'washed out' coloring.

  • Patterned Sable (Agouti) A true sable; however, the Patterned Sable coat has the markings or 'points' of a black and tan (legs, ears, etc.) the sable tipping appears in the black saddle or blanket. Adults are often mistaken as Black and Tan. However, their sable coloring is easily recognized at birth, developing more pronounced patterned markings as they mature.

  • Solid Black Completely black absent any other colored markings. True recessives, black puppies must receive black genes from both parents.

  • White Disqualifying by most kennel clubs. This controversial coat color is not indicative of albinism, it's the result of a recessive masking gene. When both parents throw the white masking gene, the resulting puppy's true color is masked and the puppy is born solid white.

  • Blue/Liver Disqualifying recessive coat colors that dilute or block black pigment. Blues will have a grey nose and grey or silver fur in areas that would normally be black. Livers will have a brown nose and varying shades of brown rust or red fur instead of black.

While a dog's coat type is set at conception, markings aren't fully developed until the puppy reaches maturity around three-years old. This is especially true for Sable puppies, who develop a black stripe down their back during their first week of life which continues to expand across their entire body as the pup matures. Their coat color lightens or darkens throughout the pup's development. See sable and black puppies change from newborn to 6 weeks old.


German Shepherd Coat Colors Video


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