German Shepherd Colors: 15 Different Colored GSD Dog Breeds

Last Updated on December, 2023

One of the best things about German Shepherd dogs is their availability in multiple colors.

Well… that’s what you’re here for, aren’t you? You’re in the right place.

The German Shepherd dog breed is beloved and popular in the present. Since 1899, the breed has evolved from the German herding working dog to the domesticated pet — that’s a little about the breed.

We have researched and put together ALL the recognized German Shepherd colors for you. All you need to do is read through. We’re sure you’ll be able to pick your color.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

Quick Summary

The 15 German Shepherds colors are black and tan, pure black, black and cream, black and silver, black and red, gray, white, silver, blue, liver, panda, sable, bi-color, albino, Isabella.

Some colors, such as black and tan and black and red, are recognized by the American Kennel Club as standard colors, while others, like white, are not. It also mentions that some colors, like Isabella, are extremely rare and harder to find among breeders.

Importance of choosing a reputable breeder when looking for a German Shepherd puppy, and also advises readers to consider the intended purpose of their dog when choosing a color. Some colors may be better suited for certain tasks or roles, such as working line dogs or family pets.

German Shepherd Colors

Black and Tan German Shepherd

There are some recognized standard and rare German Shepherd colors, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Right off the bat, black and tan color belongs to the standard type.

The recognition of black and tan coloring went all the way to the 1800s when the breed was registered.

Black and tan GSD was the first-ever registration in the breed.

According to history, their ancestor dog was Horand von Grafrath, although they were a bit darker.

a black and tan german shepherd dog laying on the grass

It’s not an exaggeration to say that black and tan is the most common and popular among other German Shepherd colors. That blackish mask is recognizable in black and tan GSD just as much as the saddle’s black color.

The tan coloration is typically found on the sides, chest, neck, and underbellies.

Furthermore, the tan color has a wide range in black and tan German Shepherds. It can vary from deep red to a light pale silver color.

Black and tan puppies aren’t born black and tan but very dark. But you’ll notice the black and tan colors emerging after the 5th month. The signature black and tan colors will ultimately appear after two years.

Research findings have revealed that the black and tan coat colors are mostly hereditary to the most dominant sable gene. In addition, it’s natural to notice a gray strip down the backs of female black and tan GSD, which is called a “bitch’s strip.”

German shepherds of this color are primarily found in various heavy jobs.

Pure Black German Shepherd

Some breeders try to present pure black German Shepherds as extremely rare. However, the AKC has categorized pure black as a standard color.

That basically means they’re not so exotic. Most of the rarest breeds are not standard colors.

However, you’ll likely run into a black and tan GSD over a black dog. So, it’s not one of the abundantly found German Shepherd colors.

Solid black GSD, by definition, must be completely black.

But don’t be surprised to find a white spot on their chest or lightly black and tan fur on the ears. That doesn’t necessarily make them bi-color.

a pure black german shepherd in the snow

Some experts believe the solid black GSD with gold eyes carries the color. Other than that, their black coat results from a recessive gene, not a dominant one.

Breeders get black German Shepherd puppies from two black parents. The second option is by a black parent with a black and tan parent. 

These purebred German Shepherds are intelligent and empathetic regardless of their rough looks, making them excellent family dogs.

For that, training German Shepherds is essential. You can easily follow an online training course that costs you less than $100.

Unlike lighter colors of German shepherds, pure black fur doesn’t need extra care. While that might decrease the maintenance costs, be sure to bathe and groom your black GSD on time.

Similar to black and tan GSD, the pure black German Shepherds don’t make show dogs but excel at guarding. But remember, blackness doesn’t make them aggressive inherently; they just intimidate strangers better.

Be sure to check the tail of your black puppy for a tan. If there is a tan, they will turn bi-color.

Read out full guide of black german shepherd.

Black and Cream German Shepherd

Black and cream is the last officially recognized German Shepherd color. 

Cream black is a lighter version of black and tan, and it’s similar to people having blonde hair.

But the color combination is very attractive with the black on the face and saddle and the light cream hue spread across the rest of the body.

It’s highly rare or unlikely to find dark feet of this kind. 

Breeders usually find it a tad challenging to meet the criteria.

That’s why the black and cream German Shepherd doesn’t make good show dogs. But that’s not an issue, as they perform better in working lines.

a black and cream german shepherd dog laying in the grass

The breed is found to be masters in agility, nose work, and obedience. 

Saying black and cream German Shepherd dogs are as fearless as their black and tan type is not an overstatement. In fact, their loyalty makes the black and cream-colored GSD suitable for families.

But they’re also agile runners, which might raise the need for constant supervision. 

While that might sound impractical, you can do that with modern location tracker collars. All you need to do is sync the collar on your black and cream GSD and monitor it on your smartphone from anywhere in the world.

If you want a black and cream GSD puppy, reach out to a reputable breeder who wants and has already bred several black and cream puppies in the past.

If not, you’re highly likely to end up with a black and tan GSD that changes colors as they grow.

Black and Silver German Shepherd

The first characteristic that most breeders see in the black and silver German Shepherds is that they’re not so visible in the dark.

That’s why their collars should be luminous in some way.

But what about the color itself?

For starters, they have an undeniable wolf-like appearance. Usually, their faces are more silverish than black.

In fact, most of the body will be typically silver in the black and silver GSD.

a black and silver german shepherd laying on the grass

Seeing the common saddleback and blanket-back of the silver and black GSD is more prominent. They’re similar to the black and tan ones, except the tan is replaced by silver.

Silver in the black and silver German Shepherds is found to be generic. To be more precise, scientists have discovered that this unique silver hue originates from the Agouti series (A-Series), which is a muted black gene.

Black and silver GSD are also not that often seen in pageants. One reason is the lack of color clarity, as that silver hue could sometimes be similar to gray. 

But they don’t need that validation, as black and silver dogs make excellent family dogs. They’re very intelligent and protective of their owners. Just as much as the black German Shepherds, this breed also has that intimidating appearance.

The American Kennel Club accepts black and silver as a color. The only challenge is to breed them to meet the standards.

Black and Red German Shepherd

We have our first show line, German Shepherds! 

Yes, black and red Shepherds are rarely seen working lines. They’re either on pageants or spending their life leisurely as family pets.

Black and red GSDs are very attractive, even at their worst.

They share the same black and tan color distribution; their faces and saddles will almost always be black.

A deep reddish brown replaces the tan, and that’s why the look is so unique.

a black and red german shepherd laying on the grass

The reason behind this color variation is the gene pheomelanin. Its influence and variation can change the contrast of the red color from light to very dark.

Not only that, the color is not a product of a recessive gene but a dominant one. That makes the breeding easy technically. However, it takes experienced breeders to birth the expected color saturation and distribution. 

When they’re bred, black and red GSDs are expensive. 

Now, you might ask yourself, “Can’t black and red German Shepherds be protective dogs?”

They absolutely can! What they can’t do is operate with the inherent working energy of either black and tan or black German Shepherds. If not, you can easily train them to be attentive and protective dogs.

This color breed makes excellent family dogs as well. So, when you get one of the black and red types, you’re getting all three shows, protective, and family dogs in one.

Gray German Shepherd

If silver and black shepherds resembled wolves, get ready for the real deal — the gray German Shepherd is the wolf of the German Shepherd color family.

They’re even identified as wolf-gray shepherds within the community.

Not only that, this German Shepherd color is officially accepted by the AKC too. 

Simultaneously, the color is not common but is not also rare. 

Experienced breeders get the signature grey colors better since it’s produced due to a dominant gene in one or both parents.

That makes it easier to breed them.

a gray german shepherd laying in a field near a lake

But there are occasions where the gene is present in the recessive form too.

The genes responsible for this distinctive gray hue are found in Agouti genes (A-series). Nonetheless, this breed is not to be confused with the silver, blue, or black German Shepherds. 

You’ll also be able to come across gray sables too. But pure grey isn’t that uncommon without any black pigmentation. But grey with any other color is rarely seen.

It’s common grey GSD puppies with blue eyes. This phenomenon is rare as the German Shepherd usually has a honey-brown hue. So, landing a grey German Shepherd with blue eyes will be a treat.

The gray German Shepherd can be your ideal show dog. That doesn’t mean they cannot be the perfect guarding dog either; after all, what’s the point of the wolfish intimidation?

Most importantly, the grey German Shepherd is recognized to blend well with little children. Of course, you need a little training, but these dogs make excellent family dogs. 

White German Shepherd

White is one of the rare German Shepherd colors in the community. Unfortunately, white isn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy white German Shepherd puppy. 

Although they’re not seen in show rings, white German Shepherd dogs are kind of rare and have an exotic look. That’s why they’re more expensive.

Is the white GSD the same as the albino German Shepherd? No.

a white german shepherd dog is laying in the grass

Here’s how and why they differ.

The albino German Shepherd has either red, reddish-blue, or pinkish-blue eyes. Bluish eyes in dogs do not hint at good health conditions. On the flip side, the white German Shepherd has hazel or golden brown eyes. 

You’d also notice some spots in the body of a healthy white German Shepherd. But it’s not the same with albino dogs, whose bodies don’t produce any color.

The white color comes from a generic recessive gene. That means white German Shepherd dogs can’t be born unless both parents don’t carry the gene. The gene is called the masking gene.

If the looks of the black, black and tan, and grey Shepherds are too intimidating for your kids, then the white shepherd is the perfect answer. They make excellent family dogs with protective instincts.

But expecting them to function in working lines isn’t ideal.

They are indeed a fantastic color type of breed. After all, the United Kennel Club (UKC) accepts the white German Shepherd as an official color.

Silver German Shepherd

We’ve talked about black, white, and gray German Shepherds so far. But silver is a different color accepted by the AKC.

You could have silver sable German Shepherds, but they’re classified under the sable category.

But silver sable German Shepherds are relatively more expensive.

So, why isn’t silver isn’t the same as grey? There are two reasons for that.

The first reason is the gene source. If you remember, grey GSDs get their gene from the dominant gene. That makes their breeding easier.

a silver german shepherd laying in the grass

Silver GSDs aren’t the same as the gene that causes the color to be recessive, and the gene affects the black pigment. 

Do silver shepherds make it to show rings? They do, but it’s not common. This is primarily due to the impression of the breeder in lighter colors. After all, the ancestor of the German Shepherd was very dark.

The farther you get from that color, the lesser the recognition under the breed.

However, silver-colored German Shepherds are naturally more agile and intelligent. Their recessive gene directly affects that.

That’s why there are so many silver-colored German Shepherds in the police or military force.

But does that mean they don’t make fantastic family pets? No! The silver-colored German Shepherd is the ideal balance between friendliness and intimidation in terms of looks. 

Almost all of them have silverish faces and dark oral areas. That preserves their signature German Shepherd look.

It would be best to choose a credible breeder for a silver-colored German Shepherd, as they can be confused with gray dogs.

Blue German Shepherd

Blue German Shepherd dogs are very rare and look very unique. However, they’re not an American Kennel Club-recognized color.

That prohibits blue German Shepherds from competing in shows.

The dog may be mistaken for a Blue Belgian Malinois, and its acceptance to the conformation shows is somewhat controversial. 

Regardless of that recognition, the blue German Shepherd is five to six times as costly as a typical black color’s variations.

The color’s rarity is not the only reason they’re so expensive.

a blue german shepherd laying on a wooden deck

Breeding blue Shepherds is hard as the color originates from the recessive gene. So, finding two dog parents with the same gene is as hard as getting a healthy puppy out of them. 

Another signature feature of the blue German Shepherd is blue eyes. If you remember, blue eyes sometimes hint at the dog’s unhealthiness.

Furthermore, their coat typically comes in three variations: blue and black, sable blue, and blue and tan.

The light blue German Shepherd, too, is not accepted by the AKC. The light blue German Shepherds have traces of silver on the back. This physical feature is not seen in blue German Shepherds. 

Blue German Shepherds are highly trainable and make attentive watchdogs. That effortlessly makes them excellent working dogs as well. 

If you’re thinking about finding one as a companion or family dog, the suitability doesn’t change one bit. They’re relatively less intimidating looking compared to the black and tan coloration. That increases their suitability for families with little children.

Although the AKC finds their genes faulty, blue shepherds are fun-loving dogs that deserve kind homes.

Liver German Shepherd

The liver German Shepherds are considered to be a rare and unique variation of the standard Shepherds.

Breeding them is relatively more challenging as their color is a result of the recessive gene. That means you need both parents to carry the gene.

Liver-colored GSDs are similar to blue GSDs — rarity increases their market value, and they’re not accepted as a standard color by the AKC.

Remember, this isn’t dark brown.

But there’s some controversy regarding that, as AKC’s standards for a liver-colored GSD seem a bit contradictory. 

a liver german shepherd is standing in the grass with his tongue out

Although the AKC categorizes liver shepherds as faulty, they’re stunning in appearance. Their rich brown coat brings an intimidating look. That’s why they’re perfect as guard dogs for families.

However, they cannot compete in the dog shows being disqualified by rules.

One notable feature in liver-colored shepherds is the color of their face and saddle; there are no traces of black.

It’s rare to see a saddle pattern without black in a brownish dog.

The mask and saddle exhibit a brown hue due to the dominance of the liver gene, which suppresses the black pigments.

Another unique feature is their nose color. Almost all German Shepherds have dark or blackish mouth and nose areas. But the liver GSDs have either brown or brown-pink noses.

The stronger the gene, the browner will be the body of a liver GSD.

You’re highly unlikely to find a liver-colored German Shepherd in a rescue shelter. But if you like a deep brown color all over your German Shepherd dog, this is the type to choose.

Panda German Shepherd

Would you believe it if you were told that the panda German Shepherd was purebred?

Yes, they are! The first Panda GDS was Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom, a purebred.

So, this is a legitimate German Shepherd.

The panda GSD is another very rare color variation of the German Shepherd dog breed. They got the name simply because they resemble pandas.

The areas around their eyes will be black as if the dog was wearing eye shadow.

a panda german shepherd standing in a grassy area

But almost half of the rest of the body will be white due to the piebald gene.

The panda German Shepherd is born to a mother with pure black fur and a father with a black and tan coat. What’s most interesting is how the panda GSD has no white fur ancestry.

Due to the genetic mutation, the AKC doesn’t accept the panda color. Despite the recognition, panda GSD is one of the most sought color variations of the breed.

Being a rare purebred German Shepherd is one strong reason.

But the problem is when they are interchanged with the Border Collie. That’s one of the reasons why you should buy panda GSDs from reliable breeders. Because on the other hand, money-focussed unethical breeders could attempt breeding disregarding genetic health.

The panda GSDs make excellent family dogs with bravery, loyalty, and friendliness carved into their persona. But the lack of recognition keeps them away from dog shows. 

Sable German Shepherd

Sable is one of the most attractive German Shepherd colors, closer to a smokey quartz gray than a traditional brown. 

The color shouldn’t be confused with the sable pattern we have discussed because sable is actually one of the standardized classic German Shepherd colors, according to the American Kennel Club.

But here’s why the sable German Shepherd is unique. They technically come in multiple colors. Here’s what happens.

a sable german shepherd standing on top of a pile of dirt

First of all, the cause of this is the dominant agouti gene.

The hair of every sable German Shepherd has a black tip, and by the black tip, we’re implying the top end of the hair. But the rest of the hair can take different colors. These colors typically include gray, golden, or tan.

Because of that, the breed ends up being bi-colored and tri-colored. For example, the black sables are born all-black puppies, and the color changes with time.

There’s another significant feature of the sable German Shepherd: the breed has direct ties to the very first German Shepherd. So, naturally, you would expect the sable dog to be top-rated.

Unfortunately, they’re not as popular as the black & tan German Shepherd at all. One main reason is the manipulated market by breeders. 

Nonetheless, the sable pattern and color are still beloved by the community, and they make amazing family and working dogs.

Bi-Color German Shepherd

Interestingly, the bi-colored German Shepherd is a recognized breed in the American Kennel Club.

But that immediately makes you question yourself, “So, are not black & tan bi-color?”

Technically, they ARE two colors. But the bi-color German Shepherd is much different. That difference is what makes them borderline exotic.

But to make things more straightforward, there is an argument there.

But as of now, the AKC accepts the color officially. That even makes them eligible for show business.

two bi color german shepherd standing on a dirt road

But what makes the bi-color GSD so special? The first feature is that the color black is much more dominant all over the body, even on the legs. But the other color will be tan.

How is it different from black & tan?

If you look at the picture, you can see how the entire face, ears, and tail are black. That’s not the same as a black and tan shepherd. The tan, black breed has more tan on the face. 

The next important question is, “Are bi-color GSDs born like that?”

Similar to other colors, no bi-color GSDs are born with that beautiful color distribution. They’re typically born as solid black puppies. But you can predict their future bi-color nature if some brown color is under the tail.

Not only do they make excellent family dogs, but they also work efficiently in working lines.

Albino German Shepherd

If you remember, the introduction of Albino GSDs was done earlier when we were talking about white German Shepherds.

But don’t worry, you can read everything here.

AKC doesn’t identify albino white dogs as an acceptable color. That immediately disqualifies the albino GSDs as show dogs.

But technically speaking, the albino is the type that lacks any pigmentation.

They are usually mixed up with white GSDs only because the fur looks slightly similar. 

an albino german shepherd is standing in the snow

If not for that similarity, the albino white dog is an entirely different German Shepherd breed.

Albino GSDs typically have pinkish, bluish, or reddish eyes. The reason is none other than the lack of blood vessels. That’s only one health aspect. When considering the big picture, albino GSDs are more prone to be sick.

For example, they might not be able to sustain the summer sun, and their allergic reactions can be more severe. 

But even with all these issues, people still want albino Shepherds. Most of these people like them as indoor pets, and they do operate like that.

Albino Shepherds should never be forced to do heavy work. Their immunity is lower, and you don’t want to test it.

Isabella German Shepherd

We saved the best for last — the Isabella German Shepherd.

The breed is not even one of the rarest German Shepherd colors; it’s THE rarest and the most expensive.

The rarity further increases since they’re produced with recessive genes. If it were dominant-gene-based, things would have been much easier.

For a rare genetic mutation, you shouldn’t expect the easy way.

Isabella German Shepherds have a distinct lilac and grey mixture with light brown or white undercoat.

an Isabella German shepherd laying in the grass with a leash

Their eyes ooze friendliness, typically with a bluish or hazel hue. But these aren’t the same as the albino eyes, so don’t worry about that.

Even their noses are unique; the color changes from pink to liver to any shade in between. The reason is the liver gene’s presence that blocks all-black pigmentation. 

How does it affect the isabella color?

99.9% of the Isabella German Shepherds will have no black paw pads, noses, or eye rims. Imagine a fully lilac-gray German Shepherd.These exotic GSDs make excellent family dogs.

They don’t look intimidating at all. But simultaneously, Isabella German Shepherds are very athletic, strong, and agile. That makes them excellent protective dogs as well.

Isabella German Shepherd puppies are born by combining blue and liver GSD breeds. There is no guarantee, and breeders hope for the best with their best breeding practices.

The AKC doesn’t accept the breed even if the breed is astonishingly attractive. That, sadly, rules out the chance for Isabella GSDs in show business. 

Nonetheless, if you’re a fan of limited editions and the rarest collectibles, the Isabella German Shepherd deserves to be your family pet.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a German Shepherd Dog

a german shepherd dog running in the snow

It’s better to get a German Shepherd puppy than buy/adopt an adult male — that goes almost without saying. That being said, here are some significant factors to consider,

The first factor to consider is the nature of the breeder. Remember to prioritize a reputable breeder to ensure the breed standard.

How can you do that?

The preliminary step is to decide whether you want a male or female. GSD males are relatively bigger, more dominant, and prioritize singular bonding.

Once you do that, it’s better to choose breeders with references. This is different from reputation in the community as that can be subjective sometimes.

Then, it would be best to steer clear of breeders who raise multiple breeds. You should do the same if the breeder didn’t provide the pedigree and the puppy’s parents.

If it’s a reliable breeder, their assistance will be precious.

Your GPD puppy ideally should be at least eight weeks old at the point of purchasing or adoption.

Ensure to check that in the documentation — medical records to everything else.

If everything looks fine, test the puppy — make eye contact and clap your hands to see if it comes to you. You could also call by its name, roll a ball and see if there’s a reaction, or try to pick the puppy.

An experienced breeder’s support will always help you choose better puppies. So, keep that in your mind always.

Finally, don’t get the GSD puppy on the first day itself. Visit the place 4-5 times and try to develop a singular bond with the dog. You’ll know if it’s the right one around 3rd visit. 

Now you’re asking yourself, “What GSD color is right for me?”

We didn’t skip that; let’s talk about it next.

Which GSD Color is Right for You?

different colored german shepherds

If we were to summarize, we could categorize all the colors, including washed-out colors, according to a bunch of intended purposes.

Let’s see which GSD color is right for you.

  • Working line dog colors: black & tan, black & red, blue
  • Dog shows dog colors: black & red
  • Protective and guard dog colors: black & tan, black & cream, black
  • Indoor dog colors: albino
  • Family (with children) dog colors: black & tan, white, gray, liver
  • Exotic dog colors: blue, Isabella

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In Conclusion 

There are more than enough German Shepherd colors for anyone — pure or mixed breed. The key to identifying the most suitable German Shepherd puppy is prioritizing the purpose; you don’t want albino white shepherds doing hard work.

You can base this reading to make your choice. When you do, remember to use the pro tips we present; they will make your chosen breeder more lenient and honest.

The final result is you get your dream, German Shepherd.

FAQs

Isabella is the rarest color of a German Shepherd due to their red and blue hue, causing a recessive mixed liver.

The most common colors for German Shepherds are black and red, black and tan, black and silver, and black and cream.

Purebred German Shepherds typically come in black and red, but they can come in all patterns such as solid, bi-color, blanket back, sable, or saddle.

Yes, they do. Not only do their colors change, but also their length, density, and texture as they mature out of puppyhood.

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Laura Vinzy
Laura Vinzy is one of our contributors. She is also a certified professional dog trainer & currently lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two rescue dogs.

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