The white German Shepherd is a unique and stunning dog with gorgeous plush white coats, adorable eyes, and erect ears. The American Kennel Club, whose main purpose is to maintain a pedigree registry of purebred dogs, disqualifies white GSDs from participating in dog shows. So, are white German Shepherd purebred?
White German Shepherds are purebred and are identical to a German Shepherd except for their all-white coat. It is often misunderstood as a separate breed or albino and neither is true. They are the direct descendants of the color-coated variety and their white color is caused by a recessive gene.
This article will provide you with all the facts about the beautiful white German Shepherd, including the cause of their gorgeous white coat and their controversial and fascinating history.
We will look at their full personality traits, delve into all the myths, and explore why confusion often surrounds the purebred white German Shepherd. Here’s what the post will explore:
- What Causes the White German Shepherd?
- History of the White German Shepherd
- White German Shepherd Appearance
- Are White German Shepherds Rare?
- What is the Temperament of the White German Shepherd?
- Are White German Shepherds Healthy Dogs?
- What Kind of Grooming Do White German Shepherds Require?
- Are White German Shepherds Inside or Outside Dogs?
- The Swiss Shepherd
- Final Thoughts
What Causes the White German Shepherd?
German Shepherds with all-white coats have always been present in litters, however, the exact cause of their beautiful pure white coat remains unclear.
It was once thought that the cause of the white coat was due to albinism or other health issues. However, although the albino gene can exist in German Shepherds, it is very rare and the majority of German Shepherds do not carry this defective gene.
The genetics of coat color in the white German Shepherd can be a heavy read. To summarize, genetic research has partly identified a recessive gene that is believed to be responsible for their beautiful white coat.
This gene appears to have been a part of the original gene structure of the GSD breed and is believed to mask the real color of the dog, causing it to appear white.
So, when does the white German Shepherd appear in a litter and what colors will the pups of a white GSD bred with a non-white be? This is a difficult question and the answer is explained by the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America:
Because it is unknown what color or pattern a white German Shepherd Dog is masking, it is hard to determine what colors the dog will throw when bred to a non-white German Shepherd Dog.White German Shepherd Dog Club of America
Many scenarios can lead to the purebred white German Shepherd. Here are a few of them:
- Two non-white German Shepherds can produce a white puppy only if they both carry the white gene.
- If a white GSD is bred to a non-white dog that does not carry the gene, none of the puppies will be white, however, they will be carriers of the white gene.
- If offspring are bred to a white, some of them will express the white coat color.
- Only two purebred white German Shepherds always create a little of all-white pups.
History of the White German Shepherd
As their name certainly suggests, the German Shepherd breed originated in Germany during the late 1800s. Due to being extremely intelligent, strong, protective, loyal, and obedient, German Shepherds were originally bred to be herding dogs and were responsible for herding sheep and protecting flocks and other livestock.
They were not originally considered as a household pet but were instead bred specifically to work. Their sense of smell, intelligence, work ethic, courage, versatility, and speed made them perfect as an all-purpose farm dog.
By the start of World War One, the German Shepherd breed had become incredibly popular throughout Germany and had already started spreading to other parts of the world.
This noble and trustworthy dog became especially popular in the UK and America. This was partly from returning soldiers of the First World War who spoke very highly of them and also due to the popularity of German Shepherd movie stars, Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin.
Dog lovers not only admired the beauty of the German Shepherd but were particularly fond of their temperament, especially their loyalty, easy trainability, bravery, and working ability.
White German Shepherds have also been around since the early formations of the breed. These bright white versions were known to be popular at that time due to their unique appearance and the ability to blend in among the flocks, making darker predators, such as foxes, easier to spot.
It was in the 1930s that the purebred white German Shepherd started to be considered a fault by the Nazi regime who saw the white coat as an undesirable trait.
They also wrongly believed that the genes of the white-coated dogs paled the coats of color-coated dogs and were responsible for causing disease. Nazi Germany began to discriminate against white German Shepherds and they were soon excluded from both breeding and showing.
The US followed suit in the late 1960s when the American Kennel Club banned the white German Shepherd from the conformation ring – but still allowed their registration as a purebred. They were also still permitted to participate in events, such as herding trials, tracking events, and obedience.
Advances in science proved that the white recessive gene did not cause albinoism. Albinos have no pigment whatsoever, whereas white German Shepherds have pigment in their eyes, nose, lips, mouth, paw pads, etc. Science also proved that the white German Shepherd was not responsible for any other health issues or the paling of color-coated dogs.
Now, this is where things begin to get confusing! Let me explain…
Supporters for the white German Shepherd Dog began forming their own breed clubs and registries in the late 1960s and 1970s. These supporters vowed to protect the breed and re-named the dog the White Shepherd.
Eventually, in 1999 the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the White Shepherd as a separate breed – describing it as a direct descendant of the German Shepherd Dog.
Around the same time, another white breed was developed. The Swiss Shepherd emerged from the white-coat lines of German Shepherds in 1967 after a male White Shepherd was taken to Switzerland and bred with an imported white German Shepherd from the UK.
The resulting puppies were considered to be the foundation dogs of the Swiss Shepherd. This breed is discussed later in the article.
It can be somewhat confusing – but technically speaking the white German Shepherd, White Shepherd and the Swiss Shepherd are all considered different breeds recognized by different organizations with different breed standards:
- The white German Shepherd is recognized by the American Kennel Club (although it is disqualified from showing) and the UK Kennel Club.*
- The White Shepherd is recognized by the United Kennel Club.
- The Swiss Shepherd is recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization).
*Although the UK Kennel Club recognizes the white German Shepherd, they state that whites are highly undesirable for conformation:
“If a dog possesses a feature, characteristic, or color described as undesirable or highly undesirable it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring.”UK Kennel Club
In case you were wondering, the main differences between the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club are that the AKC is a non-profit organization specifically for dog clubs whereas the UKC is a for-profit institution which is open to individuals.
Opinions in North America remain divided as to whether the purebred white German Shepherd should be seen as a separate breed from the White Shepherd. The White German Shepherd Club of America does not support breed separation and believes that the white German Shepherd should stay part of the German Shepherd Dog breed.
Whether you are looking at a white German Shepherd or a White Shepherd, effectively they are the same dog and they have the same appearance and traits.
If you reside in the US you have the choice of registering your dog with either the AKC or the UKC.
White German Shepherd Appearance
The White German Shepherd dog is pretty much identical in appearance to every other variety of German Shepherd apart from, of course, the color of their coat, which is completely bright white all over.
They are a medium-large sized dog with a muscular and athletic build. They have a low set bushy tail and very distinctive erect ears, which are a true distinguishing trait of the German Shepherd breed. You can read more about why German Shepherds have pointy ears here!
Adult male white German Shepherds tend to be around 24 to 26 inches in height and females are usually around 22 to 24 inches tall. Males usually weigh 66–88 lbs (30–40 kg), and females 49–71 lbs (22–32 kg) when fully grown. Remember though that each dog is different and sizes can vary.
The German Shepherd’s head is noble, eyes are medium-sized and almond-shaped, and the muzzle is long.
The white German Shepherd is double-coated and their stunning weather-resistant coat is medium length or is sometimes long. The outer coat has coarse, straight, or slightly wavy hairs that lie close to the body and the undercoat is thick.
Let’s now take a look at many common questions that surround the purebred white German Shepherd…
Are White German Shepherds Rare?
A question often asked is how rare are white German Shepherds?
White German Shepherds are rarer than the colored variety and the availability and price are determined upon supply and demand. Breeders can, therefore, charge more for these impressive dogs.
As with colored GSDs (and with any purebred) prices can vary depending on various factors such as breeder reputation, location, bloodline, and litter size. As a rough guide, expect to pay around $1500 for an average white dog compared to around $900 for the colored variety.
Only two white German Shepherds are sure to have a litter of gorgeous white pups. However, if two non-white German Shepherds both carry the white gene, there is a chance that some of the litter may be white. Exactly how many depends on whether the color-coated dog carries the recessive white gene.
As it is unknown what color a white German Shepherd is masking, it is impossible to determine the colors of the pups when bred to a non-white. However, a reputable and experienced breeder can confidently breed two white German Shepherds to create a litter of purebred all-white fluffy German Shepherd puppies.
What is the Temperament of the White German Shepherd?
White German Shepherds have the same temperament as color-coated dogs. There is often a misunderstanding that they are less aggressive or calmer, however, this is a myth.
Both the AKC breed standard and the UK Kennel Club does not distinguish any contrasting personality traits between the two. The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America breed standard also describes the dog as direct, fearless, confident, and aloof:
The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail to strange sounds or sights.White German Shepherd Dog Club of America
Here’s a cool 6-minute video from “Animal Wised” which gives a helpful overview of the German Shepherd breed including 10 fascinating facts about their history and character:
White German Shepherds are extremely intelligent, protective, social, affectionate, and will form a strong bond with their owners. They make either an excellent companion dog or a great working dog.
Their bravery, loyalty, endless energy, easy-trainability, and versatility are the reasons why they are often utilized in the police, military, in search and rescue, or as service or therapy dogs.
White German Shepherds are incredibly eager to please their owners, and they love having a job to do. This makes them fun and easy to train. Basic obedience training from early puppy age will help to ensure that they grow up to become a well-behaved adult dog.
You can start training as soon as you bring your new pup into your home, usually from around 8-weeks of age. Check out my great beginner’s guide on how to train an 8-week old German Shepherd puppy for some cool helpful advice.
When faced with strangers, white German Shepherds can become nervous, suspicious, and occasionally a little aggressive. This is due to their deep protective and guarding instincts. Remember, they were originally bred to protect and herd sheep. Early socialization and training are important to prevent any over-aggressiveness.
These dogs are very active, and exercise is necessary to keep them out of mischief. They require at least two hours of daily physical activity and this can include a combination of walking, hiking, off-leash running, flyball, agility, frisbee, or fetch.
Mental stimulation including playing games and having interactive or puzzle toys around is also important. If you are looking for some great ideas, check out this selection of interactive dog toys from Amazon. These ones are specifically for large breeds and there are loads to choose from.
Without regular exercise, German Shepherds are known to display poor behavior such as chewing, biting, scratching, digging, barking, or whining.
Sometimes the white GSD can be over-sensitive, emotional, or extra clingy. This is due to their intense devotion and loyalty to you! They love to be part of the family and don’t respond to being left alone for long periods as they can suffer from separation anxiety.
You don’t need to worry though as this article will show you 10 easy steps on how to stop separation anxiety in German Shepherds.
Overall, white German Shepherds are a very loving, loyal, trustworthy, and fun dog. They are full of life with endless energy and you will enjoy spending time with them for many years.
Do White German Shepherds Make Good Pets?
White German Shepherds make wonderful pets as long as you can provide for their basic needs. You will need to have a suitable lifestyle to properly exercise and care for them.
A question often asked is whether German Shepherds are good first dogs. Let me offer my experience here as my first dog was – and is – a female GSD. They do make excellent first dogs but you need to have lots of time and energy to socialize and train them.
If you are looking for a dog that needs hardly any exercise, grooming, or training, then a white German Shepherd is definitely not for you!
From a young pup, your GSD will need lots of attention and interaction from you. The white German Shepherd is good with children and other family pets, more so if they have been raised with them.
All German Shepherd types require a home where someone is around during the day as they cannot tolerate being left alone for hours and hours on end. If you are out at work you will need to plan ahead and have a routine. You can enlist the help of friends, relatives, dog-sitters/walkers, or take your pup to doggy daycare.
German Shepherds are medium-large breed dogs, but exactly how much space do they need? Even though they are high-energy dogs, with lots of planning and hard work, they can thrive in smaller homes – even in apartments – as long as their needs are met. More work and dedication will be required from you, but it can be achieved if you are determined to make it work.
Overall, the white German Shepherd makes a great family pet and if you treat him right, he will give you hours of fun.
Are White German Shepherds Aggressive?
German Shepherds of any color are known to have aggressive tendencies and behaviors. They are strong, athletic, and muscular dogs and due to these traits, along with their high intelligence and protective nature, they are often used as guard dogs or in the police and military. They can be trained to be aggressive towards certain individuals or strangers.
However, a well-raised and socialized white German Shepherd has no reason to become aggressive. As long as you socialize and train your puppy as soon as you bring him home, this will give him the confidence and experience he needs around new people and other dogs and will help him to respond to many different situations calmly and confidently.
Don’t worry though, even if you adopt an older untrained or unsocialized dog, white German Shepherds are clever cookies and with a bit of patience and discipline, it’s never too late to train them.
Are White German Shepherds Healthy Dogs?
White German Shepherds are no different from the color-coated variety and are extremely healthy dogs. However, like most other breeds, they can be prone to some hereditary health issues.
One of the most common health issues that white German Shepherds are known for is hip dysplasia. All German Shepherds are born with perfectly healthy hips, however, some will develop this hereditary condition. Hip dysplasia may become apparent at any age, but the symptoms are most often noticed in older white German Shepherds.
Some other issues may also arise, such as allergies caused by either pollen, dust, food, or fleas. You can check out my detailed article for more helpful information on German Shepherd allergies including causes, symptoms, and treatments.
If you believe your white German Shepherd may be suffering from any illness you should visit your veterinarian for a full check-up. The vet will conduct a physical examination of your dog and may also take some blood tests and x-rays to determine the correct diagnosis.
How Long Do White German Shepherds Live?
White German Shepherds tend to live on average between 9-13 years old. This is the typical living age for all German Shepherds, regardless of their color.
To ensure your white German Shepherd lives a long and healthy life, choose a reputable breeder who takes the time the screen the health of the sire and dam.
It’s also important to feed your dog high-quality food. I truly believe that the nutrition you provide for your GSD will keep him fit and healthy. My German Shepherd has been fed a special type of food from being 8-weeks old and she still thrives on it to this day. To learn more about this food, head over to my recommended food page.
Does the White Coat Affect the Breed’s Hearing?
Another common question that often surrounds the purebred white German Shepherd, is whether the white coat causes deafness?
The gene responsible for the white coat of the German Shepherd does not affect the breed’s hearing, nor cause deafness.
Many white dog breeds have trouble with their hearing such as Dalmatians who carry the piebald gene. Scientists believe that dogs with this gene are more likely to suffer from hearing loss:
The recessive alleles of the piebald locus and the dominant allele of the merle locus are associated with congenital hereditary deafness in dogs.Frontiers in Veterinary Science: The Genetics of Deafness in Domestic Animals
Experts believe the same cells that produce the pigments in their hair and skin, also play an important role in the structure of their inner ear. Dogs with the piebald or merle gene lack these types of cells – this is what makes them white and is also what contributes to their hearing loss.
However, white German Shepherds inherit their white coat differently – through a different gene. This means that, while their coat is white, their skin and ears are developed normally, and so their hearing is unaffected.
What Kind of Grooming Do White German Shepherds Require?
The white German Shepherd is double-coated, just like the colored variety, and can have either medium or long hair. They require the same basic grooming and maintenance needs as any other variety of German Shepherd.
All German Shepherds are classed as heavy shedders and they will molt consistently all year round. They will also undergo massive seasonal shedding, which is known as “blowing the coat.” This occurs during the fall and spring.
For more in-depth information on this, you may find my full survival guide on fall shedding particularly helpful.
Frequently brushing your dog’s coat can help to keep the shedding to a minimal. Here are my 7 top tips on how to reduce your German Shepherd’s shedding. The white hair does have the advantage of showing up better on floors and furniture which makes things a bit easier!
The longer-haired white German Shepherd is less common and requires more frequent and detailed grooming. They require special attention around the ears to ensure that they remain clean and healthy.
German Shepherds should be bathed sparingly to avoid the unnecessary removal of their coat’s essential oils. Two to three baths per year will usually suffice, however, this can increase depending on several factors such as coat color, how dirty they get, or their health (e.g. skin allergies).
Clearly, white GSDs are likely to need more baths. Hopefully, you won’t have one that likes to roll in fox poop! Excessive washing can also cause skin dryness that can lead to irritation.
To prevent this always use sensitive or gentle dog shampoo such as this Natural Oatmeal Dog-Shampoo & Conditioner from Amazon. I particularly like this one as it’s five products all in one (shampoo, conditioner, deodorizer, detangler, and moisturizer) so it’s also great for high-shedding dogs.
Are White German Shepherds Inside or Outside Dogs?
White German Shepherds are social animals and prefer to live indoors with their families. However, they can live happily outdoors as long as they have been accustomed to this from an early age.
Puppies must not learn to sleep outside overnight until they are at least 4-6 months old as they need to have had all of their vaccinations and they won’t be able to regulate their body temperature any sooner. They also need to learn to bond with their family and be properly socialized.
Remember though, they were originally bred as herding dogs and were used to living outside whilst protecting their sheep. Their thick double-coat keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If you are considering raising your white GSD puppy to live outside, here are some tips and tricks on how to go about it.
All GSDs love having a specific area that they can consider as their own special space, whether that be a crate indoors or a dog house out in the yard.
Wherever your white German Shepherd lives, inside or outside, he will still need lots of exercise and human interaction to live a happy life. These dogs thrive from attention and praise and don’t like to be left alone for too long.
The Swiss Shepherd
Finally, there is another breed similar to the white German Shepherd that is now recognized as a separate breed. The Swiss Shepherd, also known as the White Swiss Shepherd or Berger Blanc Suisse shares the same ancestry as German Shepherds and was developed from the white-coat line.
In 1967 a male White Shepherd Dog was taken from the US to Switzerland and bred with other imported White Shepherds. It was not until 2011 that the Swiss Shepherd was considered an official breed by the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) and the UK Kennel Club finally recognized the breed in 2017.
Although almost identical in their appearance, the Swiss Shepherd differs from the white German Shepherd as they do have different temperaments. They were specifically bred to be calmer, less aggressive, and less intense than the GSD with a lower working drive.
Like white German Shepherds, Swiss Shepherds are an active breed and require daily exercise. If left without exercise, they can become destructive. If you think this breed may be what you are looking for in a dog, you can find out loads more information on the differences between the Swiss Shepherd and German Shepherd, in my really helpful guide.
The white German Shepherd has endured a tough time earning his status as a recognized purebred. Here is a summary of the key points of the article:
- The white German Shepherd is a purebred.
- They are identical to other German Shepherds except for their all-white coat which is caused by a recessive gene.
- The white German Shepherd is recognized by the American Kennel Club but disqualified from the show ring. He is also recognized by the UK Kennel Club.
- They make wonderful family pets if properly socialized and trained.
- White GSDs have the same health issues as the colored variety.
- The gene responsible for the white coat does not cause deafness.
If you are thinking of choosing a German Shepherd for a pet, I hope this article has provided all the information you were looking for. They are truly wonderful dogs, no matter what their color!
Related Posts You May Like:
- Kimberley’s Pride: The Genetics of Coat Color in the White German Shepherd
- The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America: The White Gene
- UK Kennel Club: German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard
- United Kennel Club: White Shepherd Breed Standard
- American Kennel Club: Official Standard of the German Shepherd Dog
- The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America: Breed Standard
- The Institute of Canine Biology: The 10 Most Important Things to Know about Canine Hip Dysplasia
- VCA Hospitals: Malabsorption and Bacterial Overgrowth in Dogs
- Frontiers in Veterinary Science: The Genetics of Deafness in Domestic Animals
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