Coats & Colors of German Shepherds

by Jamie Rankin
The coat of a German shepherd comes in a multitude of colors and patterns and varies in length.

The coat of a German shepherd comes in a multitude of colors and patterns and varies in length.

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The German shepherd has long been one of the most popular breeds in the world. This strong, confident canine often serves as a police or herding dog. The German shepherd is often pictured as a large dog with a thick, black and tan coat, usually with a saddle-shaped pattern on the back. However, this is just one of the many color and pattern combinations of the German shepherd.

Standard Color Combinations

German shepherds may have coats colored in some combination of black, tan, silver, cream, red, blue, liver or white. German shepherds also may be one, solid color. Black and tan is the most common of the possible combinations. The American Kennel Club breed standard accepts most of these colors, though strong, deep colors are preferable.

Coat Patterns Vary

In addition to solid color, a German shepherd’s coat comes in bicolor, blanket, saddle and sable/gray patterns. Bicolor dogs are mostly black, with a secondary color appearing only sparingly. Black “blankets” extend about halfway down the forelegs, while saddle-patterned dogs have the secondary color all the way up the legs. Sable, or gray, patterns are coats in which black alternates with the secondary color all over the dog. Often, the fur is tipped in black with a secondary color at the base.

Coat Length and Quality

The German shepherd has a double coat, meaning he has a dense, soft undercoat and a layer of coarse hairs over it. This undercoat helps to keep the dog warm and allows him to work outdoors in all types of weather. According to the AKC breed standard, the outercoat can be short, medium, or long, though the breed standard faults outercoats that are soft, silky or too long. Slightly wavy outercoats are permissible.

Faults and Disqualifications

White German shepherds are barred from competition in American Kennel Club show rings. Blue or liver-colored coats are dilutions of black. Along with pale shading, they are considered serious faults. However, all colors are permissible in AKC obedience and performance competitions. Since 1999, the United Kennel Club has recognized the white shepherd as a separate breed and a descendant of the traditional German shepherd.

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