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Can Purebred German Shepherds Have White On Them?

Last Updated: December 24, 2023

German Shepherds display a diverse range of coat colors, one of which is all white. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for some of these dogs to exhibit white markings.

These atypical white markings often lead owners to question the purity of the breed. So, the question arises: Can purebred German Shepherds naturally have white markings?

Purebred German Shepherds can have white on them. This is known as “white spotting.” It’s common for puppies to have small white markings on their chest, paws, or tail tips, but they often disappear when they get their first adult coat. On rare occasions, the white markings will remain.

Despite common misconceptions, it’s possible for purebred German Shepherds to exhibit white markings, even when they are not of mixed breed origin.

This article delves into the nuances of white markings on purebred German Shepherd Dogs, exploring various coat colors and providing guidance on identifying the purity of the breed’s lineage.

Additionally, we will examine the unique characteristics of the Panda Shepherd, a variation known for its distinctive white markings.

We’ll also discuss the eligibility of German Shepherds with white markings in dog shows. Continue reading for a deeper understanding of the intriguing world of German Shepherds with white markings.

Let’s get started!

Purebred German Shepherd with white chest and paws.

White Markings on German Shepherds

German Shepherds can have white markings known as “white spotting,” which refers to white areas on the dog, not necessarily spots. White markings tend to be determined by the genes on the S locus. They are caused when the dog’s skin cells can’t produce any pigment, so the fur becomes white. 

White spotting usually features on the German Shepherd’s extremities. The white areas tend to be at the tip of the tail, end of the muzzle, breastbone, or paws. They occur when the cell’s pigment doesn’t migrate fully in the developing embryo. This is known as residual white. 

The white area is referred to as the “trim” pattern. The cause may be unknown or may be due to a minor illness in the mother.

Learn More About “White Spotting” in This YouTube Video…

Often, the white markings will blend into the dog’s adult coat. This transition occurs when the pup is around 4-6 months old and sheds his soft fluffy coat. This process can happen quickly or may take a few months. You may also see changes in the pattern.

My German Shepherd girl is definitely purebred as she is from a leading UK breeder and is UK Kennel Club registered. Nonetheless, she had many white markings across her chest as a puppy, which soon blended into her thick adult coat.

German Shepherd puppy with white chest markings
My 3-month-old German Shepherd Willow showing off her white chest markings!

White Paws

German Shepherds can have white paws. Like a dog’s white chest markings, it’s also known as “white spotting” caused by the same locus S gene. The white coloring indicates an absence of pigment in the dog’s hair follicles or skin. It usually appears on the tips of the paws. 

The locus S gene, localized with the MITF gene, is associated with white spotting in dogs’ coats. This study determined that the variant was associated with one or more spotting patterns in many dog breeds, including the German Shepherd.

Regarding paws, white spotting can occur on one paw, all four, or any combination.

The Panda German Shepherd

Some German Shepherds have more white markings than mere “white residual spotting.” These are known as Panda German Shepherds. So, what exactly are they?

Panda German Shepherds are purebred German Shepherds that exhibit a rare genetic mutation caused by the KIT gene. They tend to have symmetrical markings of white forelock, muzzle, chest, belly, collar, and tail tip. The amount of white coloring can vary from dog to dog.

They are typical-looking German Shepherds, other than their color, and have the same temperament and traits.

The first-ever recorded Panda mutation occurred relatively recently in a female GSD in the year 2000. Although these dogs look like they have Irish spotting consisting of white muzzle blazes and Border Collie-type markings, they are very different.

This is due to being caused by the mutated dominant KIT gene. The gene that causes Irish spotting is yet to be identified.

Check Out This Video To Learn About The Panda Shepherd…

The University of California, Davis campus offers DNA testing for the Panda pattern. This allows German Shepherd breeders to establish whether the KIT gene mutation causes white patterning.

Show Ring Participation

Black German Shepherd Puppy with white marking on chest. Can German Shepherds Have White Markings?

There are often misunderstandings about whether German Shepherds with white markings can enter dog shows. However, this is a difficult question and depends entirely on the breed standard of the individual country.

The AKC and CKC breed standards do not refer to white markings, and all-white German Shepherds cannot enter the conformation ring. In the UK, white GSDs and those with white markings are permissible but undesirable. The FCI doesn’t allow all-white dogs but allows those with small amounts of white on them.

Let’s take a look at the individual kennel clubs. Firstly, this is what the American Kennel Club breed standard says:

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.” – GSD Breed Standard

The AKC banned the white German Shepherd from the conformation ring in the late 1960s. However, they are still allowed to be registered as purebred. They are also still permitted to participate in events, such as herding trials, tracking, and obedience.

There is no mention in the American Kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club breed standard of dogs with white markings. However, the consensus is inconspicuous white markings would not disqualify the dog from conformation.

The UK Kennel Club also recognizes the all-white German Shepherd but states they are highly undesirable for conformation. However, the breed standard does refer to dogs having white on them:

Light markings on chest or very pale colour on inside of legs permissible but undesirable.” – UK Kennel Club: GSD

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization) GSD breed standard does not allow white German Shepherds.

However, they also refer to dogs having white markings. They state, “Unobtrusive, small white marks on the chest, as well as very light color on insides, are permissible, but not desirable.”

German Shepherd Dog Colors

There are many varieties of coat colors in the German Shepherd breed. These are the main ones:

  • Sable
  • Grey
  • White
  • Bi-color

The rarer colors are liver and blue.

How To Tell Your German Shepherd is Purebred

If noticing white markings on your German Shepherd or when choosing a new puppy caused you to wonder if the dog was purebred, there are other things you can look out for and do.

German Shepherd Pup with White Markings on chest. Can German Shepherds Have White Markings?
My German Shepherd Willow

To tell a purebred German Shepherd, look at the dog’s physical characteristics and compare them to the breed standard. The coat, build, height, length, ears, and tail are common things to identify.

Also, look at the behavioral characteristics of the dog. Furthermore, you can get a DNA test.

When comparing your dog to the German Shepherd breed standard, examine him from top to toe. Here are the physical characteristics of the GSD:

  • Coat. Double-coated. There are short-haired, medium-haired, and long-haired varieties.
  • Build. This should be a strong proportioned build.
  • Height. 24-26 inches (60- 65 cm) for males. 22-24 inches (55-60 cm) for females. These are approximate and can vary.
  • Weight. 65-90 pounds (30–40 kg) for males. 50-70 pounds (22–32 kg) for females. Again, these can vary.
  • Length. Longer than they are tall, the ideal proportion is 10 to 8.5.
  • Head. Noble, strong, with a masculine or feminine appearance, according to gender.
  • Ears. Pointed and erect.
  • Tail. Long and bushy.

Here are the behavioral characteristics of the German Shepherd:

  • High-energy
  • Intelligent
  • Loyal, protective, and brave
  • Form a strong bond with their owner
  • Aloof with strangers

Nonetheless, if you are still unsure, you can arrange a DNA test to identify your dog’s breed.

The Embark Dog DNA Test testing kit (from Amazon) checks for more than 350 dog breeds. The test is a simple cheek swab that you can do at home.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.


Can Black German Shepherds Have White Spots?

Black German Shepherds can have a white spot on them, either on their chest, legs, paws, or tail. These white spots can occur in all purebred GSDs and tend to darken with age. White spots or markings are known as white spotting caused by the genes on the S locus.

What is a Bicolor German Shepherd?

A Bicolor German Shepherd is almost completely black but will have a light tan or cream color, usually on the feet, lower legs, underneath the tail, or chest. Sometimes they can have brown or tan features on their face or around their ears, however, the head is predominantly all black.

Can German Shepherds Have White Feet?

It’s not uncommon for German Shepherds to have white markings on their feet, including the toes and paw pads. These white markings are usually a result of genetics and do not affect the dog’s health or temperament.

However, it’s important to note that excessive white markings can disqualify the dog from certain breed standards in dog shows.

Can Black German Shepherds Have White Puppies?

Yes, black German Shepherds can have white puppies. The white coat color in German Shepherds is a recessive gene, which means that both parents must carry the gene for their puppies to have a chance of being born with a white coat.

Therefore, even if both parents are black, they can still produce white puppies if they both carry the recessive white gene.

Do White Markings Affect the Health of Purebred German Shepherds?

White spotting is a natural genetic variation and does not cause health issues in GSDs. They can live a long, healthy life and perform all the same tasks as your solid-colored brothers and sisters. So rest assured that some white fur does not impact how active, strong, or long-living they are.

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry if your purebred German Shepherd has white markings. They add character, and many will disappear or blend in with the adult coat.

Inconspicuous areas of white are considered okay for conformation.

German Shepherds can also have random white hairs on their muzzle and ruff, especially as they age, a bit like you and me!

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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