German Shepherd Coats and Colors

Updated on February 26, 2016
Colors of GSDs
Colors of GSDs

Like many other breeds, German Shepherd dogs come in a wide variety of coats and colors. However some colors are not accepted by major kennel clubs, and considered faults.

German Shepherd dogs are intelligent and courageous, and their devotion, courage and intelligence are unmatched. This is what makes them only of the most highly sought after breeds in the world. Many prospective owners prefer a nice coat and unique color on their dog. But while selecting a puppy, one should also know which coat color is accepted by major kennels and which meet the breed standards.

This breed is also recognised by other names. To sort out any confusion, those names include:

  • German Shepherd Dog (GSD)
  • German Shepherd
  • Alsatian
  • Alsatian Wolf Dog
  • Deutscher Schäferhund
  • Berger Allemand
  • Schaferhund

Most Common Colors

The most common colors for this breed are

  • black
  • gray
  • sable
  • black and tan
  • blue
  • red and black
  • black and silver
  • liver (brown).

Some liver, blues and solid liver-colored ones are accepted as a pure breed dog. However, pure white, solid blue, and spotted dogs are not considered purebred.


They can have short, medium, or long coats.

Usually these dogs have thicker and undercoated fur.

Their coats can also be:

  • short
  • dense and thick
  • medium thick
  • thick and fluffy
  • long
  • furry around their ears, chest, tail, or on the backs of their legs.


Black and Tan
Pure White
Black and Cream
Solid Blue
Black and Silver
Light Blue
Fawn Color
Red and Black
Panda Pattern
Pure Red
Black and Red
Spotted Black and White
Solid Black
Dark Sable
Black Sable
Bi-Colour / Bi-Black

Common Colors Accepted by Major Kennel Clubs

While the dog's color doesn’t have any impact on their character, health, or fitness, it is important to know which colors are acceptable if you want to show your pup.

Below, find the list for GSD colors that are is accepted by major kennel clubs.

1. Variety of Tan and Mixed Colors


The most common color combinations are:

  • black and tan
  • black and cream
  • black and silver
  • red and black
  • black and red
  • solid black.
  • any variation or combination of the above.


2. Variety of Sables

There are four main types sable color combinations common in this breed. The sable color is an overlay of black coat. Based on their pattern and darkness, we can divide them into four categories.

  1. A light sable color
  2. Darker sable color
  3. Black sable
  4. Bi-colored.

See below for picture examples. Also, notice the change in color as they grow from young puppies to adult. Sometimes they look totally different!


Rare Colors

While grey and black or tan colors are common and accepted as show quality dogs, note that some rarer ones come in a solid grey color, and this color is not acceptable for many major kennel clubs, and may be deemed a "faulty" color.



While some that are blue in color may be accepted as a pure breed, almost all major kennel clubs stamp blue as a faulty color and will not accept them as show quality.

  • However, some may accept light blue or a blue shaded with black or silver.

For example, see below: the second dog in picture below can be accepted as pure breed and show quality, but first one may be rejected.


Liver (Brown)

The liver color is a controversial, in that those with light liver color and white (cream) shades can be accepted, but a darker liver color or red colored ones are considered faulty.

See the second dog from the picture below, that one can be accepted, but the first one may be rejected


Panda Shepherds

Panda shepherds are often mistaken as a cross of white and any other colored German Shepherd. However, this is inaccurate. Panda shepherds are the result of Piebald coloring occurring in a single blood line and a spontaneous mutation, they are unrelated to GSDs. They have 30-40% white while the rest of the coloring is black and tan. Their physical structure, behavior, and characteristics are similar, but many breeders claim that they are comparatively shorter than GSDs and they have only short/medium thick coats.

Some kennel clubs may permit these to participate in shows as Panda shepherds, but there are still many others that don't recognize them as a purebred pedigree dog.


Rare Colors of GSDs

Unaccepted or Faulty Colors

When we say faulty or unacceptable, this doesn't necessarily mean that the dog isn't purebred, just that it doesn't match the breed standards for show. Thus, they're only faulty in the sense that they can't participate in dog shows.

Coat and color are only one of many standards and set of criteria looked at. Others include genetic health, appearance, any specific inherited disease and characteristics, fitness, and so forth. Also, they need to qualify in tests for factors like agility, specific work, or sports.


White German shepherd dogs have existed since the very beginning. GSDs share the bloodline with common shepherds from Germany, where many of these dogs were white, as well as black and tan. Though the white gene doesn't trace back to a clear record, it's presumed to be recessive and independent of any other genes. A good white dog of this breed should have dark eyes, a black nose, and dark lips. See below.


Other Faulty Colors

Other colors that aren't accepted for show include:

  • dark blue
  • yellowish white
  • light and dark liver
  • dark blue


Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Pupper mumie 

        2 weeks ago

        "However, pure white, solid blue, and spotted dogs are not considered purebred." This statement is not correct. Sherri's post below is accurate. Our pure white is a registered AKC female therefore purebred since the AKC will not register unrecognized animals like other organizations. However, you are correct in that she disqualifies for show. The white is one of the original colors when the breed was created. They have fewer issues with hip dysplasia because they don't have the sloped rear quarters. They look "normal", so to speak. It takes two white parents to throw white puppies as the gene is recessive.

        I have also had a black and tan and a silver merle. All 3 have been fantastic family dogs : D

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        2 months ago

        White GSDs are rare

      • profile image

        2 months ago

        You know I have a white german sheperd she is so sweet I love her

      • profile image

        Farid shah 

        5 months ago

        Very informative

      • profile image

        Ivette Diaz 

        6 months ago

        I love German Shepherd dogs, my favorite colors are silver and black. But in PR is rare to find this color.

      • profile image

        Jade She 

        7 months ago

        The picture you used for the adult "solid blue German Shepherd" seems to actually be a blue/tan Australian Kelpie, not a German Shepherd.

      • profile image


        7 months ago

        This article is not well researched and contains misinformation. White GSDs are definitely purebred. The original dogs used to make the breed included a white dog, and the white GSDs come from the same litter as the black and tan ones. Although the white GSDs are not accepted for showing in AKC conformation events, they are accepted for agility, obedience and performance events. The white dogs fell out of favor with Hitler who had them all slaughtered, and the AKC and UKC disallowed them in conformation events in the 1960s (before that time they competed in the events). Since then breeders have bred the white colored dogs out of their stock because they can't make as much money, which is why the white dogs are now rare. It's too bad, because they are GORGEOUS dogs!

      • profile image

        Sheila Rhodes 

        10 months ago

        Can my body tell me what color is this German shepherd Is? And does any body has one like him

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        11 months ago

        @ Bhuvenesh bhatnagar

        in HINDI Language,

        Dark color coaat ke liye, kuch alag se nahi kar sakate - lekin agar thore thande jagah par rakhen to .. coat color thora dark ho jata hai.

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        11 months ago

        Agree with your logic, but Panda shepherds are not accepted as a pure breed by AKC. Like White doberman dogs are not accepted as a pure breed dog.

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        11 months ago

        Actually White shepherds are not acceptable. But its not only because of coat color, some of the white shepherds have red nose (Which is not accepted) and the eye color that should be same for all the dogs.

      • profile image


        12 months ago

        your comment in the Panda Shepherd portion is FALSE. Panda Shepherd IS related to the GSD. PUREblood GSD. you cannot take a gold fish with a mutation in color and call it a trout. Still a gold fish, still a GSD.

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        12 months ago

        Cant say there are many other criterias, but this combination is excepted.

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        12 months ago

        Hi Kristen,

        About "The Spotted dog on the left is actually a Panda.".

        Actually that's a pure breed of GSD, but because of Piebald coloring occurring in a single blood line and a spontaneous mutation, color is changed.

        But yes, most of kennels do not accept them a variety of GSD.

      • profile image


        12 months ago

        Newsflash! The Blue is NOT rare. Neither is the Liver. Oh and the "Bi-Color" is actually a Black Sable Longhair. The Spotted dog on the left is actually a Panda. The "Red & Black" is still a Black & Red. The "Gray" is a very light Silver Sable. Not one of these "rare" colors are truly rare.

      • srai01 profile imageAUTHOR


        18 months ago

        Hi, Julie Grinnell

        Normally GSD color doesn't change much. But some cases that may be,

        - Like, if you bought him from a colder climate (or litters are from colder weather) and pup is living in tropical or warm weather, then he may get light color shed (can say dark grey), especially if have long fur.

        - But getting brown _ grey shed is deff. very rare. (But if brown sheds are at his chest and legs then that is also not usual but can be accepted).

      • profile image

        Julie Grinnell 

        18 months ago

        I have a 6 month old GSD puppy, when l got him at 7 weeks old he was regesrtered black but l know they can change but hes got brown plus grey he is also a long coat please help me to try to distinguise his colour as its very unusual .Thank you .

      • GermanShepherdDog profile image


        23 months ago

        You may want to include info about German Shepherds without masks (sometimes called maskless) which is due to recessive genes. It can pop up even when both parents have a black mask. There are examples here -


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