Share

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 3, 2019
Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations

Animal file: German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is one of the most widely recognized dogs in the world. Thanks to a rich history and a large cultural impact in various global societies, they are one of the most respected dog breeds. This is partly due to their intelligence, compatibility with humans and usefulness as a working dog. There are only two officially recognized German Shepherd dog breeds, but there are many ways you can differentiate the breed. Here we look into the different types of German Shepherd dog to see what breed variations exist, some of which may become officially recognized in the future. AnimalWised also takes a look at dogs similar to the German Shepherd which often get confused.

Characteristics of the German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is the officially recognized name for this breed. The two distinct types we mentioned in the introduction are defined by the length of their coat; either medium or long. Both types have a double layered coat, a softer and thicker undercoat and a coarser outer layer of guard hair.

As their name suggests, the German Shepherd began in Germany. While there were different progenitor breeds, the first officially recognized dog was called Horand von Grafrath. In 1899 von Grafrath's owner started the breed as the epitome of what a working dog should be and it is from this one dog that all modern German Shepherd dogs originate. There has been some discussion over the years that this dog may have been part wolf.

The working origins of this breed are very important as the standardization was established to promote the dog's ability. This was something which was becoming lost as industry and urbanization began to reduce the need for working dogs. Thus, the German Shepherd was created to ensure these traits were maintained. While many GSDs are now kept as companion animals, they are still one of the most widely used working dogs in many different areas. Shepherding is not as common a practice as when the breed was established, but use in law enforcement, security and rescue operations is widespread.

It wasn't just physical ability which made the German Shepherd breed so popular. Their incredible loyalty and desire for engagement means they are relatively easy to train. For the same reasons, they need to be well-socialized and given sufficient physical and mental stimulation. Without these practices, they can develop behavioral problems.

How many classes of German Shepherd are there?

While the medium and longhair varieties are the only recognized length of coat for German Shepherds, the color of said coat can be varied. Not all will be allowed in competition, with some color variations being considered to be faults and will affect their scoring. In terms of coat color, there are the following different types of German Shepherd:

  • Saddle coat German Shepherd Dog
  • Black German Shepherd Dog
  • Sable German Shepherd Dog
  • Panda German Shepherd Dog
  • White German Shepherd Dog

It should be noted that not all varieties of German Shepherd are accepted by all breed associations such as the FCI (known as the World Canine Organization in English). Similarly, there are dogs which look very similar to the German Shepherd, but are not considered part of the breed. We will discuss these breeds further below.

1. Saddle Back German Shepherd Dog

This type of German Shepherd is the most common variety. While they are usually of two color, it is the distinctiveness of their markings which gives them this name. The saddle part refers to a patch of black fur which lays over their back, resembling the shape of a saddle on a horse. Some people refer to this as a ‘blanket’ pattern, interpreting the shape as of a blanket were laid over their back.

The other color of Saddle Back German Shepherds are usually either tan or red. In many dogs shows and competitions, the more vibrant the color, the better the scoring. Liver color is not welcomed and may be used to deduct points. They usually also have a black muzzle which covers their snout and parts of their face, with some other areas such as their tail exhibiting black coloration.

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations - 1. Saddle Back German Shepherd Dog

2. Solid Color German Shepherd Dog

The solid color German Shepherd dog is less common than the Saddle Back, but they shouldn't have any other differentiating characteristics. Their health status and temperament should not be informed by color. I is possible to have powder blue colors in the dog's coat, but it is unlikely this will be solid. While a GSD may be accepted in competition, they will likely be marked down for this color or liver. However, for solid colors, you tend to only get solid black or solid white German Shepherds.

Solid black German Shepherds are accepted in competition. However, solid white German Shepherds are one of the few color variations which tend to be immediately disqualified. While black GSDs are due to a recessive gene, white GSDs are thanks to a dominant gene which exists in some litters. It should not be confused with albinism. Neither should it be confused with the Berger Blanc Suisse, also known as a White Swiss Shepherd. Perhaps partly due to their disqualification from competition, solid white Germans Shepherds are not very common.

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations - 2. Solid Color German Shepherd Dog

3. Panda German Shepherd Dog

Another type of German Shepherd which is not very common is the Panda German Shepherd. They have a curious and striking appearance which is often confused with other dog breeds. Due to a genetic mutation, but they are a full German Shepherd and are not a mixed breed. The mutation occurred in a litter from the USA. This type of German Shepherd exhibits a white coat on the abdomen and legs, but has black or tan on other parts, giving them a sort of panda like appearance.

Like other German Shepherd Dogs, they are agile, strong and ideal family pets. However, they arouse controversy over some breeders as white markings are considered a fault. However, the main controversy appears to be the belief that the dog is from inferior stock, but so far their health seems to be average when compared to other GSDs.

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations - 3. Panda German Shepherd Dog
Image: perrospastoraleman.org

4. Sable German Shepherd

The technical term for Sable German Shepherds is ‘agouti’. The sable pattern does not manifest in patches like the saddle back. Instead they have various multicolored hair over their bodies which gives a variegated all-over appearance. This color tends to develop as they get older and some may be stronger than others. The color may be a combination of tan, gray, black, or gold. However, all Sable GSDs start off as tan and then develop darker colors as they age.

The variations among Sable GSDs are wide, but they are due to a dominant gene. They are believed to be dominiant over German Shepherd colors and variations.

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations - 4. Sable German Shepherd

Dog breeds similar to the German Shepherd Dog

While there are different accepted and unofficial coat patterns in the German Shepherd, it can be easy to confuse them with some other breeds which closely resemble them. This common confusions are due to similar body shape and size, with similar usage as working dogs. Some may even derive from similar parts of the world, but they are all considered distinct breeds. They include:

Belgian Shepherd

This breed originated from Belgium, with its first breed description being recorded several years before the German Shepherd, although its breed standard was officially established after. They are excellent worker dogs, especially in herding, but are also well-known for their even temperament, playfulness and faithful personality.

As with the German Shepherd, there are breed variations within the one breed. The four main types are:

  • Malinois
  • Groenendael
  • Tervuren
  • Laekenois

Depending on the location of the breed association, these breeds may all be considered part of the one Belgian Shepherd breed or they may be considered separate breeds themselves. Part of the confusion with the German Shepherd is the markings, with the Malinois in particular having a similar black mask on their face.

Czechoslovakian Wolfhound

This dog originates from the now defunct country of Czechoslovakia. It has been used as a working dog, especially as a guard dog to be used in border territories or to be used by the police. The breed comes from the crossing of the German Shepherd and the Eurasian wolf. Their inception is not necessarily the nicest one since they were bred to be used as attack dogs in special forces initiatives.

Due to their wild heritage, they are keen natural hunters. This personality trait needs to be discouraged when they are young. They can be loving and protective with their families, but can show aggression with strangers. They require experienced guardians who have the time and energy to devote to extensive training and care.

Dutch Shepherd

This is a dog which shares origins with different breeds such as the Belgian Shepherd and German Shepherd. This is evident in its physical characteristics which present in an equally muscular body and raised ears. This breed is distinguished by its coat with the most common variety being a tabby pattern with black, chestnut or yellow coloring distributed over their body.

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations - Dog breeds similar to the German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherds - Working and Show Lines

In addition to the length of their coat and its coloring, the German Shepherd is also sometimes categorized by its body type. This body can be more or less stylized, tending to be more or less muscular. The more muscular the dogs are considered to be working lines and the less muscular are show lines. They are not officially different types of German Shepherd dogs, but they do exhibit small differences.

Focusing on working dog lines, they tend to have larger muscle mass and a more structured body. This means they are more commonly used by police or security forces. However, there is no noticeable difference in temperament, both working and show dog lines are wonderful companion animals. They can have long or short hair, but working dog German Shepherds most commonly appear in sable coat patterns.

Is there a Dwarf German Shepherd?

There is no recognized Dwarf German Shepherd breed. As with humans, German Shepherds can have genetic mutations which lead to conditions such as dwarfism. Unfortunately, dwarfism in German Shepherds negatively affects their heath in a very serious way, causing many problems and even resulting in pain. They have a much lower life expectancy and are not believed to live past 5 years. For this reason, breeding of these dogs is discouraged, being considered cruel.

If you want to read similar articles to Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations, we recommend you visit our Comparisons category.

Bibliography
  • German Shepherd Dog. Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Available on: http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/166g01-en.pdf
  • Shepards, S. Types of German Shepard. Dog varieties guide. Pet Helpful. (2018). Available on: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Types-of-German-Shepherds-German-Shepherd-Dog-Varieties-Guide

Write a comment about Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations

Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
1 comment
Rating:
Alfredo deguzman Villegas
What food like my k. 9 German dog

Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations
Image: perrospastoraleman.org
1 of 6
Types of German Shepherd - All Breed Variations

Back to top