When it comes to popular dog breeds, you don’t get more coveted than the German Shepherd. This purebred dog sits just behind the Labrador Retriever as the number two dog on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dog breeds.
With that noted, it’s no surprise that you’re likely pretty used to seeing German Shepherd dogs out and about with their owners.
Of course, it’s also possible you may have seen a German Shepherd and not even recognized it! This is because German Shepherds come in a wider variety of German Shepherd colors than you may realize.
Join us today as we talk about 15 of the most popular German Shepherd colors.
But First, Meet The German Shepherd!
German Shepherds are some of the most popular dogs in the world.
Before we dive into German Shepherd colors, let’s get acquainted with the dog himself! As you may have guessed due to his name, the German Shepherd is a herding dog hailing from Germany, where he was bred primarily for guarding and herding livestock through the rugged German mountains.
His high level of intelligence and devotion to his owners soon led to the German Shepherd being a coveted military and police dog, and since his original herding days, this canine has played many roles throughout history.
But along with being a coveted working breed, German Shepherds also make incredible family companions. They are highly trainable, eager to please, and devoted to their owners. They do well with children and other pets, and have just the right mix of energy for adventures and relaxation for lounging.
German Shepherds are large breed dogs with dense, double coats. They weigh around 95 pounds when fully grown and stand up to 25 inches at the shoulder.
With a lifespan of between nine and 13 years, the German Shepherd can be prone to some health issues including hip and elbow dysplasia, gastric dilatation and volvulus (AKA Bloat), eye issues, cataracts, and diabetes.
However, when obtained through reputable sources and when proper care is taken, these dogs can be healthy and relatively long-lived.
Now back to that famous coat. German Shepherds are shedding dogs with a double coat that requires routine brushing to ensure their coats are mat-free and to remove loose fur. And, as you may have guessed by now due to the name of this article, this coat comes in a variety of colors.
But what colors would you expect to see in a German Shepherd? Here are 15 of the most popular!
1. Black And Tan
Black and tan German Shepherds are some of the most common.
The black and tan German Shepherd is the most popular and common color variation you will see when it comes to this breed. They are famous for the black masking on their muzzle and ears, and for their rich tan or cinnamon coloring along their bellies and chest.
These dogs can also have black fur along their backs, though this can vary in shade and pattern.
And while you may think that the black and tan German Shepherd is the most common of the German Shepherd colors, you’d be wrong! In fact, black and tan German Shepherds are created thanks to a recessive gene, which is less common than that of the dominant sable gene, which we’ll talk about further down.
Still, black and tan German Shepherds are certainly the most recognizable, and while they are often born lighter as puppies, by the time they reach a year or two old their official German Shepherd colors will be solidified.
Liver German Shepherds are common, though not always recognized by the AKC.
Another common color you might see when it comes to German Shepherd colors is the liver German Shepherd. This may easily be confused with the black and tan German Shepherd, but you can tell the difference by the distinctive amber hue in a liver colored German Shepherd’s coat.
This is a much richer shade than tan, though these German Shepherd colors still come with their share of black markings on the dog as well. Most commonly you will find liver colored German Shepherds with black muzzles and even some black around their eyes and ears.
And while liver is a stunning color, you might be surprised to learn it’s always accepted as an official color variation by the American Kennel Club. In fact, German Shepherd colors that contain liver could be disqualified, and only liver colored German Shepherds without other colors are permitted.
White German Shepherds are often confused for other dog breeds.
Another of our German Shepherd colors not permitted for show, according to the American Kennel Club, are white German Shepherds. Regardless, white German Shepherd dogs are still a sight to behold.
Not to be confused with albino German Shepherds, white German Shepherds are often all white from head to tail. They maintain their dark eyes, dark noses, and black lips, and may even have a few slight color variations or patterns like darker markings on the chest or inside of the legs.
However, many pure white German Shepherds do exist, though onlookers may not be aware they are looking at a German Shepherd at all! In fact, white German Shepherds are often confused for similar looking breeds like Siberian Huskies or the White Swiss Shepherd.
And although for the most part coat color does not impact the temperament or (usually) the health of dogs, you may have heard that dogs with white or lighter colored coats are more prone to suffering from deafness. This is true for many breeds, as white coat colors are often associated with the piebald gene which can lead to hereditary deafness.
Luckily, in the white German Shepherd’s case, the gene is non-existent. This means that there is no greater risk for a white German Shepherd to suffer from deafness than any of the other German Shepherd colors on this list.
Black German Shepherds are sometimes thought to be larger with a more luxurious coat, though there is no real evidence to support these claims.
Another common German Shepherd color is pure black, and boy is the black German Shepherd surrounded by his fair share of myth, controversy, and even mystique!
There is no doubt that black German Shepherd dogs are stunning, but many enthusiasts of this black color variation claim too that black German Shepherds have thicker, more luxurious coats and that these dogs are larger and more muscular than other German Shepherd colors.
The truth is that there is no real evidence to support these claims, though black dogs like the German Shepherd may appear to be larger simply due to their striking color.
In truth, black German Shepherds are no different in size or coat texture than other German Shepherd colors. They are also no different in health or temperament.
This is important to note, as some speculate that black dogs are more aggressive than other colored dogs, and black dogs may even be more widely feared thanks to the idea that black dogs (just like black cats) are bad omens in some cultures.
In reality, black German Shepherds are just as friendly, social, trainable, and intelligent as any other German Shepherd color available.
Though black and tan are most common, sable GDS dogs are the classic color.
While you may be more used to seeing black and tan German Shepherd colors, the most common color variation of the breed is the sable color. This color is considered a classic, and is likely what the most original of German Shepherds used to look like back in their working days.
These dogs are beautiful, with a rich textured coat of black with colored markings covering them in a sable pattern from nose to tail.
Sable German Shepherds can come in several color variations, including gray, silver, black, red, and tan.
They may also come in an agouti color, which is a color variation that may make sable German Shepherds appear as if they are related to the wild wolf.
Like a few different German Shepherd colors on this list, sable German Shepherds are not always born with their solidified colors. In fact, they are often born either tri-colored or all black, and as they grow up their coats begin to change.
Their coats will typically be solidified by the time they are a year old, though for some German Shepherds the transition can take as long as three years.
The blue German shepherd is not recognized by the AKC, though it can still be costly for owners.
If you’re looking for rare German Shepherd colors, look no further than the beautiful blue German Shepherd. This color variation, of course, is not actually blue, but more of a pale gray color that can often lead to stunning eyes the color of amber or gold.
In spite of their beauty, blue colored German Shepherds are controversial, especially when it comes to their eligibility for show and for acceptance by most major breed clubs. The reason is because blue colored German Shepherds are not easy to come by, and they are often the result of inbreeding which can lead to an uptick in genetic health issues.
With that said, blue German Shepherds are some of the most sought after when it comes to German Shepherd colors, with some potential owners forking over as much as $1,500 for these dogs.
Isabella dogs are also rare and difficult to come by.
Combine the blue and liver German Shepherd colors and you wind up with the beautiful Isabella German Shepherd. This lovely color variation includes unique eye colors like blue or hazel, and can even come with different nose colors like light brown or pale.
But in spite of this beautiful color variation, Isabella is another of our German Shepherd colors not recognized by the American Kennel Club.
This is because it again carries the diluted color gene that is more highly associated with inbreeding and genetic health issues, although the coloring does not have any impact on temperament.
Overall, like blue colored German Shepherds, Isabella German Shepherds are highly sought after in spite of their disqualification from the show ring.
8. Black and Red
Similar to black and tan, black and red GermanShepherds are preferred by the AKC.
The black and red German Shepherd may be confused for a more richly colored black and tan German Shepherd, though once you know more about German Shepherd colors your eyes will become more keen to what you are looking at.
Imagine the typical black and tan German Shepherd you are used to seeing with a much richer, more red-hued coat. This dog still has the black mask on his face and along his back, but the lighter shade of his fur can range from a dark mahogany to a light strawberry.
Second to black and tan German Shepherds, black and red are some of the most coveted amongst breeders. This is also a color variation that is widely accepted in show and even encouraged thanks to the richness of the coat.
Silver German Shepherd dogs often come with unique eye colors.
Another rarity in the world of German Shepherd colors is the silver color, which comes from a recessive gene and leads to an exotic looking, almost wild German Shepherd dog.
Although this coat color does have similarities with the diluted coat colors of blue and liver, it is still recognized by the American Kennel Club and silver German Shepherd dogs are allowed to compete in the show ring.
With that said, it is rare to see silver German Shepherd dogs in show (or in general, for that matter), although you may be more likely to find them working as police or military dogs.
Silver German Shepherds are also somewhat difficult to come by, and if you want one of these lovely colored GDS dogs, your best bet will be to go through a breeder that specializes in this color type.
Also known as wolf-gray, gray German Shepherds can often have a wild appearance.
Not to be confused with silver, (though often the gray and silver German Shepherd colors are lumped together), gray German Shepherds are a color category all their own. This is another one of our German Shepherd dogs that may have the propensity to look more wild than their typical colored counterparts, leading many to refer to this gray color as “wolf-grey”.
And while the color may also be seen as similar to that of sable German Shepherds, it is actually one of the standard color variations of German Shepherd colors that is accepted by the American Kennel Club.
Gray German Shepherd dogs come about thanks to a dominant gene that makes them much easier to breed and produce, so you are more likely to find a gray German Shepherd than you are to find a silver or blue one.
Still, they are considered uncommon in the world of German Shepherds, and while they are not as rare as a few other German Shepherd colors on this list, coming across one to call your own will likely take some time and research.
11. Black And Silver
The black and silver GDS is often used as a military and police dog.
Black and silver German Shepherd dogs again have the same color pattern as the typical black and tan German Shepherd, although the silver can range in hue from very dark to very light depending on the dog.
And although the silver gene is recessive and not as common, this is a recognized coat color variation, which means if you have a black and silver German Shepherd and want to show him, you could be in luck.
With that said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a black and silver German Shepherd in the show ring, as these dogs are much more common in the working circle. Like gray German Shepherds, black and silver German Shepherd dogs are more commonly found serving as police or military dogs.
And what makes them excel in this line of work? Many point out that black and silver German Shepherd colors are more difficult to see at night!
Bicolor GDS dogs are almost all black with spots or patterns of brown.
Bicolor German Shepherds are dogs that are almost completely black, though they typically have brown markings on their paws or other smaller areas of their body.
They are more common than many other German Shepherd colors on this list, and are recognized as a color variation by the American Kennel Club. However, they are not as common as companion dogs, as they can be difficult to come by.
Like their silver and black and silver counterparts, bicolor German Shepherd dogs are most commonly found working alongside the police and military.
Panda German Shepherds are often confused for Collies due to their unique apperance.
Have you ever heard of a panda German Shepherd? This incredibly rare German Shepherd has been surrounded by controversy, and many claim that this unique color variation comes about by mixing a German Shepherd with a Collie, though this has since been disproven.
The first panda colored German Shepherd dog was even genetically tested to prove it was, in fact, a purebred German Shepherd, and it passed the test.
It is now known that the panda German Shepherd comes about due to a very rare genetic mutation that leads to this unique color variation.
The pattern is perhaps most unique for German Shepherds, as it leads to a white stripe up the middle of the face. Black ears and black markings are often found along the body, while other color variations in this pattern can also be observed.
Panda German Shepherds are rare, and this means they are also more costly, ranging in price from $3,000 to $10,000.
It should also be noted that the American Kennel Club does not recognize the panda German Shepherd color as an official color of the breed standard.
14. Black and Cream
This color variation of GDS is a lighter variation of the black and tan.
Black and cream is another standard color variation of the German Shepherd, meaning it is recognized by the American Kennel Club and most other breed clubs throughout the world as an official color.
With that said, they are not always eligible for show and are still ringed with controversy, as the lighter colored cream dogs are not as coveted as the rich colored black and tan German Shepherds or the bright black and red GDS dogs.
Albino German Shepherds are incredibly rare.
Last but never least we have the albino German Shepherd. Albino is not to be confused with white, as it is incredibly rare and is only present in German Shepherd colors when the dog lacks all pigmentation in his skin, fur, hair, and even eyes.
But how can you tell the difference between a white German Shepherd and an albino German Shepherd? The key is in the nose.
White German Shepherds will still maintain their black nose and black lips, while albino German Shepherds will have pale or pinkish noses and lips. Another telltale sign you’re dealing with an albino German Shepherd is that these dogs will have pink or red eyes.
Albinism in German Shepherds is incredibly rare, so you’re not likely to come across one. However, if you do, you should know that these dogs can be prone to a few health issues including sensitivity to sunlight, amongst other health problems.
German Shepherd Colors – Let’s Sum Them Up
German Shepherds come in many more colors than people may realize.
There are many German Shepherd colors to pick from, though not all of them are recognized as official GDS color variations and not all of them are as common as you may hope.
And while it is fun to talk about the different color variations of German Shepherd dogs, it’s important to remember that there are times when color can be an indication of health in a GDS. It’s also important to choose your dog based on more than just his coat color.
While German Shepherds in any color are beautiful, remember that these are not the ideal dogs for everyone.
German Shepherds do best with dedicated dog owners who are able to commit time and attention to this dog. They require routine training, daily exercise, and plenty of mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.
Are you considering a German Shepherd to call your own? Tell us which German Shepherd colors above wowed you the most!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.