German Shepherd breeders often have a tough task pleasing buyers when it comes to coat color. While some colors are common and dogs adorning these colors are readily available, others like the black coat color are rare, making them highly sought out among buyers.
But do owners who want to exclusively buy a black German Shepherd stop to ask why their GSD has a black coat, and if that makes them different in other ways?
Here are 9 important facts about black German Shepherds:
- Black German Shepherds are purebred.
- A recessive gene is responsible for the dog’s black coat.
- Black German Shepherds are rare – but may be more common in the future.
- They are not more aggressive than other varieties.
- Black German Shepherds do not cost more.
- They can turn white due to some skin conditions.
- Most German Shepherd puppies only show their true color weeks after they are born, unlike the solid black variety.
- Black German Shepherds make shedding less annoying as the black hairs are less visible.
- Not every German Shepherd described as black is solid black.
This article breaks down the complex science of genes to help you understand how your choice German Shepherd puppy comes into the world in a black coat while a lot of other puppies from the same parents will adorn other colors.
Black German Shepherds are identical in traits to other varieties, except for their all-black coat. They are intelligent, protective, brave, loyal, affectionate, highly-trainable, and make great pets.
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Let’s now go straight to the nine facts that you probably didn’t know about black German Shepherds!
1. Black German Shepherds Are Purebred
But first of all, you’ve just got to see this short video compilation from “Cute Animals” of some of the most gorgeous black German Shepherds:
You might have heard people describe a dog as a crossbreed from the color of its coat, especially when such color is rare. And although they may be right in certain cases, they might be mistaken in others.
A purebred German Shepherd is one that is thoroughbred from an unmixed lineage. In other words, former dogs in its family line were all German Shepherds and no other breeds were used to sire puppies.
While you can do a DNA test to find out if your black German Shepherd is purebred, a common and quick way of knowing is to register your dog with a national kennel club so that it can be assessed for breed standard traits. If you are buying, you can check the documented pedigree in a studbook of the breed’s club, such as the AKC. Your breeder will describe that as a “German Shepherd with papers.”
To be pedigreed by the AKC, a German Shepherd in the US must meet set German Shepherd breed standards. Concerning coat color, the club indicates that the dog has varied colors, most of which are permissible even though strong, rich colors are preferred.
Contrarily, dogs with colors that are pale, washed-out, as well as blues and livers are considered faults. A white German Shepherd is also purebred but dogs with coat color faults do not take part in breed competitions.
Considering the standard coat colors, the black German Shepherd fits perfectly for its strong, rich black color. This disqualifies generalizations that consider a dog with the variant black coat color a crossbreed.
Other common coat colors that meet breed standards include the black and tan, black and red, the sable German Shepherd, and the bi-color (more black than tan), among others.
But what exactly causes variation in German Shepherds’ coat color? That’s my focus in the next fact.
2. A Recessive Gene Causes the Black Coat in a GSD
Being a black German Shepherd is a gene issue. Breeders know well that a puppy’s coat color is determined before it’s born because they are passed on from parents to offspring, thanks to genetic inheritance.
Genes are the basic unit of heredity that make up the proteins determining physical and character traits in organisms. The genes that an offspring inherits from its parents make up its genotype while its phenotype is made up of the traits that the genes give.
Dogs inherit 39 pairs of genes from their parents (39 copies from each parent). Eight of these pairs are responsible for coat color. The copies of genes can be the same or different.
Different versions of a gene are called alleles and they cause variation in how, when, and how much of a protein is produced by a gene. This difference creates unique traits in an offspring, which is what gives one German Shepherd a black coat color and another a sable color.
A copy of a color gene can be overriding, which literally means it works harder to determine the color of a dog’s coat while suppressing the role of the other copy. This extra-active gene is described as dominant, while the suppressed one is recessive.
If an offspring receives two recessive copies from the parents, then they have no dominant copy to compete with the recessive gene, and they take the color given by the recessive gene.
Different from other breeds like the Belgian Shepherd, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, and Shetland Sheepdog, where the black coat color is dominant, in German Shepherds, the black coat color gene is recessive. This means that a puppy will have a black coat in three different situations:
- If its parents are both black color coats (both have a pair of recessive genes for the black coat).
- If both parents are carriers of the recessive gene for black color coat and they pass it to the offspring.
- One of the parents is a black color coat and the other a carrier of the recessive gene for the black color coat.
Here’s a representation of what that means, assuming that the black gene is represented by a letter k and other dominant colors are represented by a K.
|kk (All black color coat)||kk (All black color coat)||kk (All black color coat)|
|Kk (Other coat color but a carrier of the recessive gene for the black color coat)||Kk (Other coat color but a carrier of the recessive gene for the black color coat)||kk (All black color coat. Puppy, in this case, can also become a recessive carrier, Kk)|
|Kk (Other coat color but a carrier of the recessive gene for the black color coat)||kk (All black color coat)||kk (All black color coat. Puppy, in this case, can also become a recessive carrier, Kk)|
It’s important to note that recessive genes are normal genes. They cause variation in traits, unlike mutated genes that can cause abnormal variations. You can read about color dominance in dogs and how you can test breeding dogs for coat color genes here.
In some cases, traits from a recessive gene can become the most common if they are consistently reproduced. But in most cases, recessive gene traits are the rare case, which introduces my next black German Shepherd fact.
3. Black GSDs Are Rare – But May Not Be in the Future
Rare coat color in dogs is one that is not carried by the majority of dogs in a breed. For example, the black and tan color is common among GSDs, while the black coat color is rare. It is said that only 6.8% of German Shepherd puppies in the world maintain a solid black color.
Also, experts in genetics explain that dominance does not equate to the most common, which also means that recessive does not automatically mean less common. As such, the rarity of the black German Shepherd simply shows how frequently the recessive gene for black coat color is expressed among German Shepherds. But that may not be the future case, and here’s why.
More and more people are opting for rarer coat colors of the German Shepherd. For example, some of the foster homes for rescued dogs prefer sable and solid black colors and not black and red or black and tan.
If dog breeding was left up to nature, the black German Shepherd might continue to be rare. But to please the preference of their buyers, breeders today manipulate breeding to produce desired coat colors in puppies. This means that the rise in the preference for black German Shepherd dogs may lead to these coat color variations becoming more common (which has nothing to do with gene dominance).
Breeders can predetermine dog coat color by having agouti testing done on their breeding dogs to know which coat color alleles are present in these dogs and the possible coat colors that will result from specific mating between breeding dogs.
Consider this example. A state has 8,000 registered German Shepherd puppies to date: 40% are brown and tan, 30% brown and red, 10% solid black, and the other 20% other coat colors.
Assume that more black German Shepherds are produced in this state in the next ten years through breeding manipulation to satisfy dog owners’ preferences for the solid black coat. That might make the black the most frequently represented color coat among German Shepherds, even though the black coat color remains recessive and the brown dominant.
We will have to wait ten years to see if my example becomes a reality. In the meantime, let’s take a temperament-related fact next.
4. Black German Shepherds Are Not More Aggressive
It is not rare to hear people make assumptions about dog temperament and behavior based purely on physical appearances like coat color. In fact, you might have heard people who describe the black German Shepherd as more aggressive. But that’s just a myth, or as the famous dog psychologist Stanley Coren says, a superstition rooted in tradition.
In many cultures, black cats and dogs are associated with bad luck and even considered the embodiment of the devil. This misconception from the past has crept into contemporary thinking, shaping attitudes to black canines.
Surprisingly, there are also countries like Japan where black dogs are accepted and, instead, white ones are the bad omen. In other places like Scotland, white & black dogs are bearers of good luck.
Unfortunately, the negative attitude towards black dogs seems to have found its way into shelter homes. When people go to adopt or provide foster care, they will bypass black dogs in favor of other colors. This behavior, which has been dubbed black dog syndrome, makes it more difficult for rescued dogs with a black coat to find a new home.
Researchers have also given a scientific focus on the negative attitudes toward black dogs. For example, one study found that participants made an arbitrary judgment of black dogs as aggressive for the mere reason of having a black coat.
To disqualify these unfounded stereotypes, research on people’s perception of dog personality based on ear shape and coat color revealed that, even though people use these traits to judge the character of dogs, these features have no impact on dog temperament.
It’s clear, then, that associating black German Shepherds with aggressive behavior is an assumption that has not been scientifically proven. Rather than color and other demographic traits like dog size, breed, and gender, research shows that contextual factors are more responsible for dog aggression. These factors include:
- Poor obedience training
- The quality of care given by the owner
- Professional training in which the owner does not participate (the dog will not recognize the owner as the alpha)
- Spoiling your dog and letting it have its own way
To help your black German Shepherd become friendly rather than aggressive, proper social training is required. A well trained black GSD will have all good qualities of a standard German Shepherd, including being loyal, loving, protective, and affectionate, among others.
5. Black German Shepherds are Not More Expensive
Because of the assumed rarity associated with black German Shepherd dogs, prospective dog owners may think that they will need to dig deeper into their pockets to buy a black German Shepherd Dog. Some unethical breeders may also take advantage of the same to inflate the price of their black GSDs.
My research, however, revealed that the price of black German Shepherds averages around $2000, just like dogs of other more common coat colors such as black & tan. I have a more in-depth article on how much German Shepherds costs which gives 23 examples and includes what to look for in a breeder.
So, let’s consider these five examples evidencing that black German Shepherds are not more expensive.
This breeder in Northern California specializes in black German Shepherd dogs and those with white and silver coat colors. Their dogs are all priced at $2,000 irrespective of coat color. In fact, buyers acquiring a German Shepherd for military/police, service dogs, and those who have previously bought a dog from the breeder even get a discount.
This breeder in Virginia specializes in solid black German Shepherds and sable coat dogs. Dogs with limited AKC registration are priced at $1500, while those with full registration sell for $2,000 regardless of their coat color.
This breeder is located in Northern Michigan and specializes in solid black GSDs. Their black German Shepherds are priced at $2,000 for those with a limited AKC registration and $3,000 for those with full registration.
Another breeder located in the foothills of East San Francisco Bay, CA, with “an emphasis on the recessive black color pattern and overall dark pigmented coats.” Their black German Shepherds are all priced at $2,500.
This breeder in Hartland, Michigan, breeds both solid black German Shepherds and the sable coat variety. Solid black GSDs are listed for $1,800, while sable dogs cost $1500.
As can be seen from the examples, black coat German Shepherds do not really deviate from the average $2,000 price for standard GSDs irrespective of the location of the breeder in the US.
In my five examples, only one breeder has a $300 difference between sable and black German Shepherds, and both prices are below $2,000. In other cases where there is a difference in prices, this is determined by partial/full registration and not coat color.
Two cases have prices beyond $2,000. However, my previous research has revealed that German Shepherds with standard colors can go for prices higher than $2,500 and $3,000, depending on factors such as lineage, breeding cost, dog’s age, and breeder’s qualification.
6. A Black GSDs Coat Can Turn White Due to Skin Conditions
There are some skin conditions associated with dogs. One such condition that affects German Shepherds is Leukotrichia. This skin condition causes a dog to lose hair or makes it gradually turn white.
Leukotrichia is generally associated with inflammatory and metabolic diseases such as cutaneous lymphocytosis, cutaneous lymphoma, vitiligo, and Alopecia areata. Hormonal imbalance and the use of certain medications have also been linked to the skin condition.
Read the case of Vela, a female black German Shepherd Dog whose color turned white over in two years, starting from the head to the rest of the body. Vets diagnosed her for Leukotrichia. The condition was later linked to Alopecia areata after thorough follow up.
Alopecia areata is an uncommon immune condition that causes hair loss by disordering the hair cycle and the production of melanin (hair coloration). Interruption of the hair cycle comes as a result of damage to the hair bulb, while hair discoloration results from the failure of melanocytes to deposit color to the hair. See the case in this article.
In Vela’s case, Alopecia areata had disordered the melanocytes, making her hair turn white (Leukotrichia). Some dogs with Leukotrichia may eventually regain their hair pigmentation.
Talk to your vet immediately if you notice any white patches or hair loss.
7. The Solid Black German Shepherd Is Born Black
Stating that the solid black German Shepherd is born black might sound obvious. But did you know that most German Shepherd puppies only show their true color weeks after they are born?
For example, the black & red, and the black & tan puppies are born almost completely black. The color variations on their coat only become clear weeks after their birth and continue to become more pronounced during the first two years of their life. Solid black coat puppies are born black and keep their coat color in adulthood.
But how do you know you are buying a solid black German Shepherd puppy? It appears that breeders have learned to tell puppy coat colors soon as they are born – you may just have to trust them. Learn about the qualities of a trustworthy German Shepherd breeder in my article on How to Buy a German Shepherd – A Complete Buyer’s Guide.
Waiting to bring your puppy home until the recommended eight weeks will also give him time to show his true coat color. Once home, you’ll discover that you made a great color choice, as we discuss in the next fact!
8. A Black GSD Will Annoy You Less With Its Shedding!
The German Shepherd Dog is a heavy-shedding breed. It sheds regularly and will shed more in fall to prepare for the winter cold, and in spring to anticipate the summer heat.
Because it’s a heavy shedder, the German Shepherd requires regular brushing. This will not only control shedding but will also prevent excessive fur around your home. I like to use a proper grooming tool like the FURminator undercoat de-shedding tool from Amazon as it will help you control your pet’s shedding by up to 95% while making grooming easier.
Like all other color coats, the black variety will shed regularly and “blow their coat” in fall and spring. This announces quite a bit more hair on your couch and/or clothing!
Unlike brown and red fur that will readily show on most colors of your clothing or couch, black fur will show less – except of course, on white or extremely bright colors! If you are a bit “OCD ish” where cleanliness and housework is concerned, you will get less annoyed with fewer hairs around that you can actually see!
You can also opt for grooming products designed to take care of your black German Shepherd’s fur and maintain its natural sheen. A good quality shampoo purposely formulated to help maintain your pet’s natural black shine like Bio-groom Ultra Black Color Enhancing Dog Shampoo from Amazon will come in handy.
9. Not Every German Shepherd Described as Black is all Black!
If you contact a breeder to reserve an upcoming black German Shepherd puppy, you might want to stress that you mean a solid black German Shepherd. As it seems, the term black German Shepherd is not exclusively used for those with a solid black coat. Some people will speak of black German Shepherds to refer to any dog that has black fur somewhere on their coat, including all these variations:
- Black and tan coat
- Black and red coat
- Black with few patches of brown or red (bi-color)
- Black completely mixed with brown/red (sable)
- Black and white/grey coat
Additionally, the term black German Shepherd has been used to differentiate the type of black German Shepherds in historical lineages of the breed, even though their coats are either solid black or bi-color. Here are some of the types.
The East Black German Shepherd (DDR Black German Shepherd)
Generally, dark-colored even though bicolor variations are possible. The DDR black German Shepherd has wolf-like features at the muzzle and ears. It is traced back to the 1940/50s when West and East Germany were divided. The type was bred with sturdy features to become a working dog rather than for its looks.
The Czech Black German Shepherd
The Czech black German Shepherd portrays the wolf features more than any of the other types. They have thick dark coats with even distribution of coat color. The black may be mixed with brown or grey. Specifically bred as border patrol dogs, they are more common in search and rescue teams and military/police jobs. They are also rarer than the other types.
The Eastern European Black German Shepherd
This type is a crossbreed of German and Russian breeds. The Eastern European black German Shepherd is large-sized and the dogs are usually bred as service, therapy, and military/police dogs. Their head mimics that of the wolf. They also have an extended neck and wide chest, and their tails appear curved.
The Pure/Royal Black German Shepherd
These are the solid black German Shepherds. They are purebred and their black coat is the result of the recessive allele for solid black coat carried by their parents. They do not have any other color patches on their body. They are the focus of all the previous facts that we have discussed in this article.
Traditional superstitions about black dogs being evil are still among contemporary folks, even though they seem to be slowly fading out. The coexistence of both attitudes to black dogs explains why some people will bypass black dogs when adopting from a rescue home while others will pay breeders to get a black puppy.
Black German Shepherds are rare, but consistent breeding to produce their black-coat might eliminate this rarity in the future.
It seems that the preference for black GSDs has not been widespread enough to make breeders hike their prices as these rare-color pets have prices ranging around the usual average price of $2,000.
Even though some will consider black German Shepherds as more aggressive, these gorgeous dogs are loyal, friendly, and protective with proper training and socialization, just like all other German Shepherd varieties. That explains why some dog lovers will say, “there is no dog with bad color!”
Related Posts You May Like:
- AKC: Official Standard of the German Shepherd Dog
- The Kennel Club: Understanding Canine Inheritance
- VCA: Genetics Basics – Coat Color Genetics in Dogs
- Journal of Heredity: Coat Color Genetics of the German Shepherd Dog
- Mammalian Genome: Characterization of the Dog Agouti Gene and a Nonagoutimutation in German Shepherd Dogs
- The Happy Puppy Site: Black German Shepherd Dogs – Pros, Cons & Buying Guide
- Genetics Generation: Common Misconceptions
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory: Agouti
- Wikipedia: Stanley Coren
- Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science: Dog Breed Stereotype and Exposure to Negative Behavior: Effects on Perceptions of Adoptability
- Anthrozoös: The Role of Coat Color and Ear Shape on the Perception of Personality in Dogs
- Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances: Factors Linked to Dominance Aggression in Dogs
- Wikipedia: Black Dog Syndrome
- Northeast Veterinary Dermatology Specialists: Leukotrichia in a German Shepherd: “Why is my Black Dog Turning White?”
- NCBI: Alopecia Areata in a Dog: Clinical, Dermoscopic and Histological Features
- Wikipedia: Canine Follicular Dysplasia
- Iowa State University: Nasal Solar Dermatitis: “Collie Nose.”
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