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What is a Sable German Shepherd? Dispelling The Myths

It is only natural to look at different types of GSDs when you’re in the market for a new German Shepherd. And if you’ve just started your GSD research, you may have already encountered the term ‘sable’ a few times. You may wonder if that’s a breed or a specific type of Shepherd dog.

A sable German Shepherd is a GSD with a visibly black coat due to each hair having a black tip. ‘Sable’ refers to marten, a predominantly black mammal. Novices confuse a sable GSD and a sable back, resulting in the misconception that they are tan-colored, when in fact, they have primarily dark coats.

In this article, you’ll learn more about sable GSDs and discover everything you need to know if you’re thinking about buying one. Even if you have a new sable German Shepherd puppy at home, this article will convey the best practices of owning and raising the pup.

A Sable GSD Puppy. Are Sable German Shepherds Rare?

So if you want to know all about the intriguing sable German Shepherd and solve the myths around this breed, you won’t be disappointed. Let’s dive in!

Sable German Shepherds: A Brief Overview

A Sable German Shepherd, also known as the classic German Shepherd, is a quintessential dog because of the similarity of its DNA with a wolf. They possess the dominant Agouti allele (melanin gene) and are true German Shepherds in work ethic and color to the original GSD, Horand von Grafrath.

They may look different from common German Shepherds but carry the same traits and characteristics.

A sable German Shepherd’s color pattern means that almost all of their hair has a black tip, while the rest may have a different color. Although it is usual for this other color to be tan, there is a wide range of colors that can be seen, including gray, blue, red, and silver.

For a glance at the breed, check out the below table:

Sable German ShepherdBreed Characteristics
AKC GroupHerding
OriginGermany
TypeWorking / Companion / Show
Breed SizeMedium-Large
Height24-26 inches (Males)
22-24 inches (Females)
Weight66-88 pounds (Males)
49-71 pounds (Females)
TemperamentBrave, Protective, Guard-dog, Athletic, Strong, Confident,
Intelligent, Alert, Independent, Faithful, High-energy,
Aloof, Devoted, Versatile, Territorial
AppearanceMuscular, Athletic, Straight Topline, Less Angulated
Lifespan10-13 years
Health IssuesBloat (GDV), Hip Dysplasia (rare), Sensitive Stomach
Coat ColorsBlack Sable, Silver Sable, Gray Sable, Tan Sable, Red Sable, Brindle Sable
Coat TypeShort-Medium, Medium, Double-coated
SheddingHeavy
GroomingModerate
Easy to TrainYes
Exercise NeedsMedium-High
HypoallergenicNo
Child FriendlyYes
Pet FriendlyYes
Good for new ownersYes
Cost$2000 – $2500

Are Sable German Shepherds Rare?

Sable German Shepherds have a rich, sturdy, and dominant color which is hard to find and are thus rare dogs. Their unique color makes them stand out even though they possess characteristics, physique, and health issues similar to other German Shepherd types

Some species of the sable German Shepherd are very rare, and the recessive black is one of the rarest kinds. The recessive black sable is always entirely black but also carries sable or tan genes. Because of their rarity, they are pretty expensive as well.

The genetics of sable dogs can get a little complex, but to simplify things, consider sable as a color pattern rather than a solid color.

How Big Do Sable German Shepherds Get?

Sable German Shepherds are large dogs but do not grow over 26 inches tall. The smallest males are around 24 inches, and the females are usually smaller around 22 to 24 inches. Sable male GSDs generally weigh between 75 to 95 pounds, whereas females weigh between 55 to 73 pounds.

A Sable GSD. What is a Sable German Shepherd?

If you ever come across a sable German Shepherd that is even smaller than these statistics, he may be a miniature German Shepherd.

Raising a Sable German Shepherd: Best Practices and Precautions

One of the foremost things that you need to consider when raising a big dog is the size of the property where they would live. The best options would include houses that have a yard or a pen with indoor access. This is necessary for their daily activity requirements, which small apartments cannot fulfill.

Since large breeds suffer from hip and joint issues because of their weight and hereditary factors, they require unique beds, such as the Big Barker Orthopedic Bed, and safe exercising environments.

My GSD uses the Big Barker bed as it is scientifically proven to reduce joint pain and improve mobility in large breeds. You can read more about it in my review here, Big Barker Dog Bed: An Arthritic Dog Owner Weighs In!

The nutritional needs and diet of German Shepherds also differ from those of small breeds and therefore need to be taken care of accordingly.

Do Sable German Shepherds Change Color?

Sable German Shepherds change color when they reach maturity and may even change color a few times before adulthood. It is usual for their color to be of a lighter shade when they are younger and reach a darker shade as they get older. 

Predicting how dark or light that color will get is complicated, as the actual color cannot be envisaged by merely looking at the dog. However, you can get an idea of what the color might look like by looking at the color of the pup’s parents because they do resemble a great deal.

Watch This Gorgeous Sable GSD Grow from 8-Weeks to 1-Year

You Can Clearly See The Color Change…

Sable German Shepherd Puppy 8 weeks to 1 year timeline

Are Sable GSDs Working Line?

In general, sable German Shepherds come from working line GSDs. They can be distinguished from the show line GSDs with the help of subtle but significant physical differences as they usually have smaller and more compact bodies with shorter, coarse coats of varying colors and a straighter topline. 

Not only do they have an exceptional temperament and high energy, but they are also intelligent, confident, and not bothered by environmental conditions. As mentioned, they also have less angulation in the hind end and tend to have straight instead of roached backs.

There are predominantly two types of sable working bloodlines:

The sable working line German Shepherd is less prone to hip and elbow dysplasia and is typically healthier due to stricter health screening than typical American Show Line GSDs.

Sable German Shepherd Behavior

Unfortunately, only a few studies have been carried out regarding the connection between color and the behavior of these dogs. It is commonly believed that the Agouti gene is responsible for the sable color of this German Shepherd.

Research shows that this specific gene does not impact either the sable GSD’s health or his behavior.

Other factors affect behavior which includes nature and nurture. The way a dog is treated and raised plays a significant role in determining his health and behavior.

How to Train a Sable German Shepherd

The fundamentals of training a sable German Shepherd are the same as any variety of the breed.

To train a sable German Shepherd, start young, use positive reinforcement or reward-based techniques such as treats or extra playtimes, and redirect bad behavior. Use short, effective timeouts for poor behavior, ignore demand barking, pawing, and jumping, and never yell or use physical punishment.

Positive Reinforcement

Sable German Shepherds are very intelligent dogs that are easy to train because of their exceptional qualities. Teaching them from a young age using positive reinforcement or reward-based techniques proves very impactful as they allow you to build a strong relationship of love and trust between yourself and your dog. 

This can include either verbal praise, toys, playtime, or their favorite treats, all of which make them more likely to repeat the behavior upon which you praised them. Therefore, it brings about quicker and long-lasting results and is one of the most powerful tools in shaping a GSD’s behavior.

Patience

Sable German Shepherds can be a little stubborn, and therefore should not be disciplined by punishment or scolding. Practicing patience and consistency is the most crucial factor in the training and reinforcement of a dog because aggressive methods never prove effective. Not only does it break a dog’s spirit, but it also causes trust issues.

Position Yourself as a Caring Guide With Authority

One of the most valuable things you can do for your German Shepherd is establish yourself as a good leader. However, this does not mean establishing yourself as an “alpha” in the manchild sense but rather “alpha” in the mammalian sense: someone, your dog, can look towards for guidance and comfort.

Your GSD knows you are not a dog and would never see you as a competitor. Therefore, he should feel comfortable and safe with you in an environment of love and trust.

Other Tips

Using brains and not brawn to train your German Shepherd is the kind of leadership needed. You also need to understand that your dog is not a human, and you are the one who needs to get on his level and speak his language while training him. 

I don’t mean bark but communicate in a way he understands. Punishing him after hours of messing up will have no educational impact because he will not connect the dots. You need to test various techniques and strategies before committing to the one that works best for your GSD.

Does Sable Color Affect Health?

Although there is a lack of research in this domain, some studies have found that there might be a relationship between the color of a dog and its health.

Depigmentation usually seems to affect the health of animals, including dogs, and animals having loss of pigmentation tend to be more nervous. 

Furthermore, depigmentation that causes both a white coat and pale eye color is usually linked with neurological and other types of disorders. This can be seen in the examples of other breeds, as studies show that specific colors of English Cocker Spaniels are more aggressive, and some shades of Labrador Retriever are known to have longer lifespans.

However, these studies cannot be applied to all animals, including the sable German Shepherd.

There is no evidence that the sable color pattern affects a dog’s health.

World of Dogz

How to Take Care of a Sable GSD

Taking care of your sable German Shepherd is not a complex task if you know his nutritional and physical requirements. Because of their large size and active lifestyle, they have hips that may give out. Therefore, it is vital to give them a diet that consists of all the essential nutrients. 

Not only is feeding them food appropriate for large breeds recommended, but it is also fundamental to give them the right amount of food. The suggested serving sizes based on age are usually recommended on the packaging of different foods. 

You must also take care of your dog physically by taking him for a checkup every year. Preventive health care holds paramount importance in their case, as you can avoid many problems by diagnosing emerging complications at the root level.

Do Sable German Shepherds Shed?

Sable German Shepherds shed continuously and more during the Spring and Fall when they change their undercoat. They have either a medium or a long coat, both of which are double coats. They have a coarse guard layer and a soft, dense undercoat underneath, which helps to keep them warm.

Due to this, these dogs are not suitable for those with allergies. Brushing your German Shepherd properly always helps in controlling shedding.

Read More: How To Reduce German Shepherd Shedding: 7 Top Tips

How Often Do You Groom a Sable GSD?

Brushing a medium-coated Sable German Shepherd twice a week proves enough to make his coat manageable. However, a dog with longer hair requires more effort as his coat needs to be brushed every day to prevent the formation of knots and tangles. 

Dog grooming specialists also advise de-shedding tools like the FURminator from Amazon as they can reach the undercoat and remove loose hair quickly and safely. It is the tool that I also use and highly recommend. I’ve tried a few cheaper ones but have not found others anywhere near as good as the FURminator.

In addition to this, brushes such as the HERTZKO Slicker Brush (also from Amazon) are more than enough to detangle knots and gently remove loose fur and trapped dirt. 

FAQ About Sable German Shepherds

How Much Do Sable German Shepherds Cost?

Sable German Shepherds are a rare breed and are therefore more expensive than other popular colors. Sable German Shepherd puppies cost anywhere between $2000 and $2500 compared to standard black and tan German Shepherd puppies, which cost between $900 and $2000. 

Their rare coat color makes them stand out from other dogs and is a reason for their higher price. If this amount turns out to be out of your price range, you can always adopt them from local shelters as there might be some sable German Shepherds looking for a warm home.

By the way, if you are thinking about buying a product or toy for your dog, check out my favorite gear below. Also, check out the 10-year warranty on the dog bed!

RetailerMy Favorite ProductLink to Store
Walk Your Dog With Love LogoThe Original
No-Pull Harness
Go to Walk Your Dog
With Love
Amazon LogoFurminator Undercoat
De-shedding Tool
Go to Amazon
Big Barker LogoOrthopedic Dog Bed
(10-year warranty)
Go to Big Barker
Amazon LogoOutward Hound Interactive
Puzzle Toy
Go to Amazon

Can You Show a Sable German Shepherd?

Pigment cells play a significant role in determining the color of the sable German Shepherd. The cells of their pigment change as their coat becomes longer, which leads to a transition of the pigment’s current type to another. It is, therefore, not possible to know the eventual color of the sable German Shepherd until he has fully matured, which is unlike any other German Shepherd variety.

But what about conformation? Can I enter my sable GSD in a dog show?

Sable German Shepherds can be qualified in shows. The American Kennel Club breed standard states that most colors are accepted, but strong, rich colors are preferred. Pale colors, blues, and liver are severe faults, and a white GSD is completely banned from the show ring.

Final Thoughts

Sable German Shepherds are loyal and loving dogs and are distinguished from other kinds because they possess the Agouti gene that gives them a wonderful coat. Not only do they make excellent members of the family, but they are also great at working and guarding.

Furthermore, they make excellent companions for physical tasks because of their active lifestyle, but they have high grooming and exercise needs, like all GSDs. Despite that, you will love spending time with your sable German Shepherd because of his loving nature and temperament.

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