GSD Colors and Markings

German Shepherd Dogs might/do have many different colors and markings. Most people are only familiar with the Black/Tan with the Traditional Saddle. Most colors and or markings are "exceptable", but some should not be bred. Some are not exceptable, in the show ring or out. There is a reason that some colors are correct and some are not.

The reason that White GSDs are not exceptable in the Conformational Show Ring will make sense to you as soon as you realize that dogs are and were bred for a purpose. Dog breeds were developed to produce the best dogs to help their humans with a certain job. Some were bred to hunt, others for transportation, and many different breeds to help Shepherds and Farmers and Ranchers. The GSD falls into the Herding Group at or with the American Kennel Club (AKC), still the biggest most active Registration Club in the USA.

GSDs were bred to move sheep. It was found early on that the dogs with the darkest faces intimidated the sheep the best. These dark, black, faced dogs moved the sheep the fastest and the best. The sheep saw the white dog, since most sheep are white, as no big threat to the herd.

As a side note, look at the colors of the majority of the GSD that are in Schutzhund. It is not only just sheep that are more intimidated by that dark color.

From Coal Black to Snow White. Traditional, Working Line, Diluted.

The German Shepherd Dog was developed with a Standard of the Breed, Blue Print, if you will, for breeding this Breed of dogs.

Markings & Coats:

VA1 Cantovon Arminisu SchH3 - Tabaliah's ggggGrandSire Turquoise with Western Saddle 2014-01-30


This is the typical black markings on the German Shepherd Dog's back. It sits as a saddle would upon a horse. My Black Dog, Turquoise in the Miniature Horse Saddle...just for fun.

Marna Holding Titus & Tekoa 2014-01-30


Mask refers to the darker color markings, on a dog's face, that are over a lighter color on the face of the dog. Many German Shepherd Dogs have Masks to some degree, from barely there, to almost all black.


From the Official Breed Standard of the German Shepherd Dog 1968: "Coat - The ideal dog has a double coat of medium length. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is permissible. The head, including the inner ear and fore-face, and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer and thicker hair,. The rear of the forelegs and the hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pasterns and hock respectively. Faults in coat include soft, silky, too long outer coat, wooly, curly and open coats." An open coat = No Undercoat.

White Markings

White Markings, chest, toes, tail tips, ARE UNDESIRABLE In the GSD. White color should only be on White Shepherd Dogs. Read the Standard for the Breed. White Markings often 'show' a Breeding Fault. White toes and on the chest can and often does mean that the dog carries the White Gene. Many times when two dogs that carry the White Gene are bred together, white puppies can be within the litter. Each of the puppies from this litter will also be White Gene Carriers. For the entire litter to be White, usually, both parents need to be white.

GSD Eyes

German Shepherd Dog eyes should be very dark in color, the closer to ebony the better, and Almond Shaped. Round eyes and or light colored eyes are a Fault.


Maximus vom Brashears - Texas Tea Great Grandsire bottom side

Black and Tan:

Probably the picture in all of our heads when we think....German Shepherd Dogs. Probably the most popular color.

GSD Red Black

Black and Red:

Deep Dark Rich Red color. Seen mostly in still in Germany Lines or recent Imports.

There are 'breeders' that call black and tan, or black and brown, incorrectly, "Red and Black".


Black and Cream:

Very little difference between "cream" and "silver". Cream is a very light tan color.

Titus Sit Stay 2016-11-01

Black and Silver:

This is our male, Titus Von Kazmaier. Black and Silver is really a Black and Gray. It is one of my very favorite coats on a GSD.

V Don vom Clausberg - Yago's Grandsire Top Side Agouti Rabbit Fur Pattern

Sable or Agouti:

The Sable coloring is in fact an Agouti. What is Agouti? Agouti is what many people call "the wild color", think the color or a wild Cotton Tailed Rabbit. The hair shafts are not one color, but at least three. These two photos are of rabbit fur being blown. When Agouti Rabbits are Shown, the Judge actually blows the fur to check the color in each hair shaft. If you look at the fur, when blown, it should also make a "Bullseye Target", to prove that each hair has the same amount of color on each shaft. Rabbits fur is a great way to show the Agouti Pattern because of the way it falls when you blow on it. Agouti comes in many colors. In the GSD the length of the colors per hair shaft gives the dog more of a brown, if brown is dominate on the hair shaft, or black if the hair shafts have more black length to them. Length of hair will matter as to color showing on the dog also. Sable Color is a Dominant Gene.

Ernie vom Gr

Dark Agouti (sometimes wrongly called Black):

Dark and Almost Black Colored Sable or Agouti. Some darker even than this photo. Many times as puppies, these dog look to be black with brown highlights.

Bi-Colored or Almost Black Marked GSD Gotthilf Von Der Kine - Tabaliah's ggg GrandSire

Bi-Colored or Almost Black :

These lovely Markings and Colors are known, now, as Bi-Colored. The Markings, or how the dog has so much Black, used to be known, and still is in some corners, as Almost Black.

Marna Holding Texas Tea & Turquoise


These two, Coal Black GSD are our own, Kazmaier's Texas Tea Vom Steppenwolf Bach and her half sister, Kazmaier's Turquoise Vom Steppenwolf Bach. They are both Black Black. Neither has any white or other color on them.

The Black Color can be described in different degrees of black. Some people even, wrongly, call Dark Sable, Black.

The Black gene is recessive. Both parents of a black pup MUST carry the Black gene to have black puppies in the litter.

NOT OURS black with white markings

Black with White Toes or Chest Marks:

This is something to watch for in Black GSD. Black GSD with white on the toes or chest, even a little bit, can certainly be an indication that this dog carries the white GSD gene.

The White Gene is not a plague... but for the Conformation Show Breeder and those people in the "Working Title" dog world, White Pups, nor White Markings are NOT the dogs that they are looking for.

This photo was borrowed, it is not of our own dogs.

White GSD Statue


White GSD should have BLACK noses and Black Eyes, and black points, that is paws and such.

White GSD are not Albinos. White Dogs were used for the breed development.

White dogs are not normally used for herding, they do not intimidate the sheep as the darker faced dogs do. White dogs are not normally used for Working Dogs. The white dilutes the colors when breed to colored dogs, making them look less intimidating. And White GSD are not normally used for Military and or Police Work...again, not only intimidation factor, but the white hairs on the Uniforms of the Military or Police (no not making that up).

White color and Long hair are Conformation Show Ring Disqualifications in the USA and some other countries.

"White Shepherd" as a Breed by Some Kennel Clubs, scroll down.

Below information on color for White Shepherd Dogs from the page on this site I set up for "White Shepherds"

Believe it or not, there are "shades" of White on dogs. (also true of Black dogs)

Read the Standard for the Breed of the Club where the dog you are buying is going to be Registered to see what 'shades' are allowed.

In all Registration Clubs, WHITE DOGS SHALL HAVE BLACK EYES, NOSES, PAWS AND PIGMENTATION. Now? Do all White Shepherds have this? No. It is what Breeders should be striving for.

Usually Coat Colors from Pure White to Cream are allowed.

White Shepherds are NOT Albinos. So don't let a Breeder try to tell you that a dog/puppy with light colored pigmentation, "leans toward albinoism...". THAT is not true.


Diluted Black. Dark Gray. Slate Gray color. Registered as "other" on AKC Registration Papers.


Diluted Color. Registered as "Other" on AKC Registration Papers.

Can a GSD be an all brown dog? Yes. In theory. The gene carries a Lethal Gene and all but very very few dogs die with this color on their coats.


Diluted Red. Registered as "other" on AKC Registration Papers.


So called "panda" German Shepherd Dogs have been found to have a completely different white mutation to normal dogs with this pattern. Although these dogs look like they have Irish Spotting, the pattern is actually caused by a different gene entirely, known as "KIT". "Panda" is a dominant mutation, and like many white patterns caused by the KIT gene in other species, it is an embryonic lethal, which means that when an embryo has two copies of the gene it will be reabsorbed into the womb. Heterozygous dogs have no known health problems linked to the gene, however.

Some panda Shepherds have blue eyes, however this is not linked to the KIT gene. Another observation is that many panda Shepherds have split faces and very few seem to have the neat blazes often associated with True Irish Spotting or the Piebald Gene.

German Shepherd Dog Conformational Show Ring Disqualifications

Again I say, the German Shepherd Dog was bred for a Reason....A Working Shepherd Dog with Beauty and Brains. Dogs that had endurance to move livestock and the brains to know or learn or both, how to do that job.

They were bred to be built a certain way for a certain reason. Color and Coat Style/hair length and color, were bred in for a reason also.

The Breed, from the very beginning had a 'Standard of the Breed' in place. Dogs were bred that filled those qualifications. No. There are no perfect living animals, but breeders should try to stay as close to that Standard as they can.

In the Conformational Show Ring there are Disqualifications, meaning if a dog has certain things about it build or color or style, the Judges will not even look at it.

Conformations Show Ring Disqualifications:

Cropped or Hanging Ears
Undershot Jaw
Docked Tail
White Dogs
Dogs with Noses Not Predominantly Black
And Dog That Attempts to Bite The Judge.

German Shepherd Dog Standard For The Breed Faults

Dogs in the Show Ring also have a List Of Faults, Faults are Marks Against It In the Conformation Show Rings

Coat Faults: "Soft, Silky, Too Long Outer Coat, Woolly, Curly, and or Open Coats
Coat Colors that are: "Pale or Washed Out, Blues, Livers are Serious Faults"
Dogs that look Bitchy or Bitches that look Doggy
"The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler, it shod not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking tail to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surrounding is not typical of good character."

"WHITE SHEPHERD" ~ The Breed Name

I set up a page for the White Shepherds, please see our Navigation Box on the right of this page.

I DO wish that the Club that decided on the Breed Name for the White Shepherd would have added the word Dog to the Breed Name. Every time I type or say it, I feel like I and others think that I am taking about a White Man that has/owns/tends Sheep or Goats. A woman would be known as a Shepherdess.

I would like to invite you to join us on a Yahoo Group that I host called Working Big Dogs.
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The contents of this page for GSD Colors and Markings is still under construction. Please check back.

-- The Working German Shepherd Dogs Team
Wed, 02 Nov 2016 11:45:31 -0400

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