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Color In The German Shepherd Dog
By Sophia Kaluzniacki, D.V.M.

The German Shepherd Dog standard has this to say about color: "The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are serious faults. A white dog must be disqualified." This description is not very complete, but it does support the premise that color is not to take precedence over the working qualities of the dog. The basic colors are sable, black and tan, and solid black.

The vast majority of German Shepherd Dogs are some variation of black and tan with a black mask. The tan markings can vary in color from pale fawn and silver to rich red and mahogany. Most fall somewhere between these extremes. The gradation of colors in the tan points is quite arbitrary and not distinct. All shades are acceptable but the richer shades are generally preferred. The amount of tan markings also varies a great deal, with some dogs having very few markings and appearing almost black, to other dogs that have very little black.

The sable in German Shepherds is the color that is genetically known as agouti or wolf gray. The sable or wolf color, can also vary a great deal with dogs that are almost silver in color with black tipping to the hairs, to dogs that are gray, golden or mahogany sables. All of these sables have guard hairs that are banded in color and tipped with black.

Solid black is also a very acceptable color, but it is less often encountered. It is seldom completely solid, with most dogs showing at least a few tan hairs between the toes and around the rectal area, under the tail.

White markings are frowned upon, though a small white spot on the chest is usually not penalized. All white dogs are disqualified from conformation competition, though they can be shown in performance events.

The eye color should be dark, or at least blend well with the color of the dog. Light eyes are especially unattractive in dark or black dogs. Also, any nose color other than black is a disqualification. This effectively disqualifies any liver or blue-pigmented dogs, as their nose color would not be black. In addition, both livers and blues usually have pale, yellow eyes, which as mentioned above, are not desirable.

Something further needs to be mentioned about white. Though it is a disqualifying color in the standard, there is a breed called the White German Shepherd. The AKC does not recognize it, but it is recognized by the United Kennel Club and is exhibited at their shows as well as at the Rare Breeds shows. (To learn more about the White German Shepherd go to "The White German Shepherd.")