Swiss White Shepherd

Updated: May 28, 2018
Swiss White Shepherd

The Swiss white shepherd (berger blanc suisse), of wolfish appearance with dense white fur, is one of the most beautiful dogs in the world. Both morphologically and phylogenetically, this dog is essentially a white-haired German shepherd.

Throughout its history, the breed has received a large amount different names, including: American-Canadian shepherd, white German shepherd, white American shepherd and white shepherd; until finally it settled with the name Swiss white shepherd. The reason for this is because the Swiss Canine Society was the first to recognize this breed as independent.

In this AnimalWised breed file we are going to tell you everything you need to know about these calm, intelligent and faithful shepherd dogs.

  • Europe
  • Switzerland
FCI classification
  • Group I
Physical characteristics
  • 5-14
  • 14-18
  • 18-22
  • 22-27
  • 27-31
  • More than 31
Adult weight
  • 2-7
  • 7-22
  • 22-55
  • 55-100
  • 100-220
Life expectancy
  • 8-10
  • 10-12
  • 12-14
  • 15-20
  • Harness
Recommended climate
Type of hair
  1. Origin of the Swiss white sheepdog
  2. Physical characteristics of a Swiss sheperd dog
  3. Character of a white Swiss shepherd
  4. Caring for a White Swiss Shepherd
  5. Educating a white Swiss Shepherd
  6. Health of a white Swiss Shepherd

Origin of the Swiss white sheepdog

In 1899 cavalry captain Max Emil Frederick von Stephanitz bought Hektor Linkrshein, the first dog registered German shepherd. Hektor, who was later renamed Horand von Grafrath, had a grandfather white shepherd dog called Greif.

As a descendant of a white dog, Horand (or Hektor, as you prefer) transmitted white fur genes to his offspring, despite him not being a white dog. Thus, the original German shepherds were known to be dark, light or white.

In the 1930s, however, an absurd idea arose that white fur was characteristic of inferior German shepherds and that dogs with a white coat were degenerates of the breed. This idea was based on the belief that white dogs were albinos and, consequently, had health problems that could be inherited by their offspring.

Albino Dogs vs. white dogs

While albino dogs may have white fur, not all white dogs are albino, and they must not be confused. Albino dogs do not have normal pigmentation, so their skin is usually pale pink and their eyes are very pale. White dogs that are not albinos, have darker colored eyes and skin, and do not usually carry the health problems of albino dogs. This misconception resulted in the standard of German shepherds being edited, with the exclusion of white dogs. As a result, white dogs were no longer used as breeding animals and puppies of that color were therefore eliminated. After the Second World War, the white German shepherd was considered an aberration in Germany, but was still raised in the United States and Canada, without these so called ‘‘health problems’’.

In the late 1950s, the American German Shepherd Club were influence by Germans and eliminated white dogs from the official breed standard. The breeders of these dogs could therefore only enroll them in the American Kennel Club, but not in the breed club. In the 1960s, an American breeder by the name of Agatha Burch migrated to Switzerland with a white shepherd named Lobo. It was with Lobo, other dogs imported from the United States and a few from other European countries, that several Swiss fans started breeding these dogs and developed the breed again in Europe.

Eventually, the Swiss Canine Society recognized the white shepherd as an independent breed, under the name of the Swiss white shepherd. After several efforts and presenting an impeccable book of origins with eight pedigrees of different lines, the society got the International Cynological Federation (FCI) to recognize the Swiss white shepherd provisionally, with a standard No. 347.

Today the Swiss white shepherd is a highly prized dog due to its various capabilities including, search and rescue work. While the breed does receive some popularity in Europe and North America, it is not as well known as its brother the German shepherd.

Physical characteristics of a Swiss sheperd dog

According to the FCI standard of the breed, its height at the withers is 60 to 66 centimeters for males and 55 to 61 centimeters for females. The ideal weight for this breed is 30 to 40 kilograms for males and 25 to 35 kilograms for females. The white shepherd is a robust and muscular dog, but also equally elegant and harmonious. Its body is elongated, having a ratio between length and height at the cross of 12:10. Its cross is well raised, while its back is horizontal and very muscular. Its rump, long and moderately broad, slopes gently towards the base of its tail. The thorax is oval, well developed in the back. However, this god does not have a very broad chest.

The head of a white Swiss shepherd is powerful, thin, finely molded and very well proportioned to its body. Although its naso-frontal depression is poorly marked, it is clearly visible. Its nose is black, but a "snow nose" (totally or partially pink, or that loses pigmentation at certain times, especially in winter) is accepted. Its lips are also black, thin and tight. The eyes of the Swiss white shepherd are almond shaped, oblique and brown to dark brown. It has large ears, high-set and perfectly erect and triangular, giving the dog the appearance of a wolf which is incredibly characteristic of this breed.

The tail of a white Swiss shepherd is shaped like a saber, with a low insertion which at rest, hangs. During action, this dog raises its tail, but not above the back’s margin.

It has a double-coated coat which is dense, medium or long, and well stretched. Its inner hair is plentiful, while the outer hair is rough and smooth. The color of its coat should be white allover.

Character of a white Swiss shepherd

In general, white Swiss shepherds are intelligent and loyal dogs. Their temperament can be somewhat nervous or shy, but when they are well educated and socialized they adapt very easily to different situations, so they can live in different places and under different conditions.

The socialization of these puppies is very important since the white shepherds can tend to be reserved and cautious with strangers. They can even be very shy and react aggressively if they experience fear. They also tend to sometime be aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex. However, when they are well socialized, these dogs can get along well with strangers, dogs and other animals. In addition, when they are well socialized they usually get along very well with children and are very affectionate dogs, specifically with their families.

With good socialization and an education, white shepherds are excellent pet, for families with children or for adults. You should, however, always monitor interactions between dogs and children to avoid risky situations or abuse, either from the child to the dog or vice versa.

Caring for a White Swiss Shepherd

The coat of this breed is relatively easy to care for, since it only needs to be brushed once or twice a week . It is not necessary to bathe these dogs very often, as this can weaken its hair, we recommend only cleaning these dogs when they are dirty.

White shepherds are not very active indoors, but they need a good daily dose of outdoor exercise to burn energy. They need at least two to three walks daily, plus some play time. It is also good to train them in dog obedience and, if possible, give them the opportunity to practice a canine sport like agility or schutzhund.

These dogs need company. Being shepherd dogs, they evolved to live in contact with other animals, including humans. They do not need to spend every minute of the day with their owners, but they do need quality time with them every day. Although these dogs can live outside, they can also adapt well to life in an apartment, as long as they are given enough daily exercise. Of course, it is better if you live in a house with a garden giving it access to exercise. Although they can adapt to living in crowded areas, they are better off in quieter areas with less stress.

Educating a white Swiss Shepherd

White Swiss shepherds are very intelligent and learn very easily.These dogs are very easy to train. They respond well to different training styles, but the best results are achieved through positive reinforcement training, such as clicker training.

As they are relatively calm dogs, white shepherds are not very likely to develop behavioral problems if they have been properly socialized. However, it is important to give them enough exercise and company so that they do not get bored or develop anxiety. When they do not receive the proper care, they can develop destructive habits.

Health of a white Swiss Shepherd

Despite being, on average, healthier than many other breeds of dogs, the Swiss white shepherd is predisposed to certain diseases. According to the United White Shepherd Club, among the common diseases in the breed are:

Among the less common diseases of the breed are; Adison's disease, cataracts and hypertrophic osteodystrophy.

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How would you rate this breed?
Our Swiss White Shepherds ears have not yet gone up, she is 11 months old, on occasion one goes up for a couple of seconds but then falls down.
Will they ever go up or shall we keep loving her just as she isn’t?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Leesa,

We can't find much information on the percentage of Swiss White Shepherds with drop (floppy) ears, but it might be helpful to look at the German Shepherd. After about 7 months, most GSDs ears will be erect. However, some may take a little longer. After 11 months, most GSDs will have ears which stand up.

While there are not definite statistics on the matter, some polls suggest around 15 - 20% of GSDs will never have fully erect ears. It is possible your SWS will never have erect ears. This is considered a 'severe fault' if you want to show them in competition.

It should not, however, be a health concern, unless the dog is not getting adequate nutrition for their proper development or they are stressed for any reason. What is much more important is general care, socialization and education. With these in place, you should have a happy and healthy dog, whether or not they have floppy ears.
Having recently lost my beloved gsd to ideopathic epilepsy I want to know the incidence of the disease in swiss shepherds
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Moira,

Even in GSDs, the incidence of idiopathic epilepsy is not completely known. It is considered a prevalent health condition and affects anywhere between 0.5% and 20% of the population of this breed. As Swiss White Shepherds are from the same origin as the GSD, it is possible they will be similarly affected, but not necessarily. As they are only recently accepted by the FCI, there is limited information on the health of this breed. If anybody in the community has any more information, please feel free to comment below.
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Swiss White Shepherd