Black German Shepherd dogs are beautiful. Their striking single tone comes from a rare combination of recessive genes for the black pigment eumelanin. This sets them apart from the majority of dog breeds, who inherit a solid black coat from a simple dominant gene. And the black German Shepherd is thought to have a few differences to your average sable GSD too. This is because to get that solid black shade, both parents need to carry a rare gene, so breeders don’t have a huge number of potential parents to choose from. This has potentially landed them with puppies that are rather more extreme than your average dogs in ways the go beyond color.
- Differences in appearance
- Temperament traits vs color
- Are black German Shepherds healthier?
- Black German Shepherd puppies
Black German Shepherd dogs have a large height and medium build. They come in long and short coated varieties, but have all the breed traits of any other German Shepherd dog. They are smart, powerful watchdogs, with a loyal and protective nature that makes them great guard dogs too.
What is a Black German Shepherd Dog?
A black German Shepherd is a German Shepherd like any other. Just with a dark inky hue to their coat.
Of all the larger breeds that a dog lover can choose from, there really is something quite special about the German Shepherd dog. When you see a solid black German Shepherd, your jaw may well drop to the floor. These wonderful animals are just beautiful. They’re not a separate breed, but line breeding has given them a few differences to your average dog.
Where Do Black German Shepherds Come From?
German Shepherds, like many other breeds of dog, were founded to create a ‘better working dog’. The GSDs we know and love today are the result of breeding from a number of other breeds, most notably the classic herding dog, the Berger Picard.
The first German Shepherds came about at the very tail end (pardon the pun) of the 19th century and quickly spread around the world. They’ve excelled in military careers, as service dogs, in search and rescue, and many more lines of work.
Black German Shepherds are nothing new. As long as the breed has existed, these incredible dogs have shown their impressive form beneath a fine and shiny dark coat.
Black German Shepherd Appearance
German Shepherds, regardless of coat color, share some rather unique characteristics with one another.
They have long necks, large ears (which are usually erect), fluffy bushy tails, domed heads, long muzzles, large brown eyes and black noses. Black German Shepherds follow all of these physical characteristics and traits as well.
Size and Weight
They are generally large dogs, standing around 20 to 25 inches tall. GSDs are all longer than they are tall and can weigh in anywhere from 60 all the way up to 100 pounds.
Black German Shepherd dogs are sometimes reported as being slightly larger and more muscular than non-black dogs of their breed. We can’t find any quantitive evidence of this, but it could well be that either by accident or design, breeders specialising in black GSDs also used larger than average dogs in their breeding lines.
Devotees of the black coated German Shepherd often say their coats are more luxurious and “flowing”. It’s true that German Shepherds can have short or long coats, and even fur that’s a little wavy. But at the time of writing, scientists haven’t uncovered much about the genes which control the length, curl or texture of dogs’ coats.
It could be possible that black German Shepherd breeders, having fallen in love with their canines’ unique looks, were especially attentive to finding breeding stock with long, thick, coat, and propagated the genes for this look!
Grooming and Shedding
The black German Shepherd dog has a double coat. This ‘extra’ hair doesn’t require much more effort on the grooming front, though. Twice weekly brushing of your black German Shepherd will usually suffice.
All German Shepherd dogs shed their coats quite significantly throughout the year, and “blow their coat” in spring and fall.
As you can imagine, an all black German Shepherd will really make an impact on your floors and furnishings as this happens! In other words, there will be plenty of hair to clear up. So make sure you keep your vacuum cleaner close at hand.
Are Black German Shepherds Hypoallergenic?
The black German Shepherd is not an allergy friendly dog. They are prolific shedders, and even if you keep on top of their grooming are likely to set off an allergy sufferer’s reaction.
Does Color Impact Temperament?
The answer here is simple. At the time of writing, there’s no evidence that coat color changes the German Shepherd’s disposition. Whether, sable, black, or bi-colored, your GSD will be loyal, quick to learn new commands, and a tireless worker.
Health of the Black German Shepherd
Anecdotally, it also seems that fewer black German Shepherds have been victims of the painful trend for “banana backed” German Shepherds – which is a good thing! An all black Shepherd is prone to the same health issues as any other colored German Shepherd. Unfortunately, German Shepherds are known for being at at a heightened risk of developing quite a few medical problems.
The most common issue that these dogs face – black, black and tan or otherwise – is hip and elbow dysplasia. This malformation of the socket, pain and eventual lameness can really impact the dog’s life. To protect their litters, good breeders health test the parents, including through joint exams.
German Shepherd Coat Genetics
Our dogs come in a huge spectrum of colors, but did you know that they all boil down to just two types of pigment? Those pigments are eumelanin (black), and phaeomelanin (red).
Then, there are lots of genes which orchestrate which of those pigments is produced in each individual hair, and how intensely it is expressed.
When dogs have the gene for the black pigment eumelanin, their default color is usually black. But other genes can modulate that color to brown, grey or silver, and still further genes can create patterns or white markings.
Furthermore, most black dogs are black because they possess a gene for producing eumelanin which overrides any other instruction – known as a dominant gene. In fact, all-black German Shepherds are an exception.
Sable vs Black German Shepherd Genes
GSDs don’t carry the dominant black gene at all. Their default color is sable. Instead, black German Shepherds get their color by inheriting two copies of a different, recessive gene for eumelanin. Recessive genes need to be inherited from both mom and dad in order to be expressed. If two sable German Shepherds carrying the recessive black gene mate, approximately one quarter of their puppies will be black.
When a black German Shepherd mates with a sable dog carrying the recessive gene, the proportion of black puppies in the litter rises to around half. Only mating two black GSDs together guarantees a litter of black puppies.
But a good breeder prioritises their litter’s health over their color, and it’s often difficult to find two black German Shepherds local to one another who are unrelated enough to breed safely.
Popularity of the Black German Shepherd
These dogs are, unsurprisingly, in demand. German Shepherds are sought after animals – they consistently hold the position of the AKC’s second most popular dog, pipped only by the Labrador Retriever. And with long, black hair? They look incredible.
Since all black German Shepherds, and unusual colors like black and red or black and white German Shepherd dogs are rare, be prepared to join a waiting list when you find a breeder. You might also find that these dogs command a premium price.
Make sure your breeder has health-tested their puppies’ parents, and their fee is based on raising healthy, well socialised and cared for puppies, not just their unusual coat.
Black German Shepherd Puppies
All black German Shepherd puppies are born either black, grey or white. The color shifts and gradually changes over the first few weeks, with the black settling in by around the 8-10 week mark.
In fact, only 6.8% of all German Shepherds puppies born in the world go on to be black. And that is accounting for intentional breeding of black Shepherds.
Black German Shepherd Breeders
Great German Shepherd breeders are passionate about the welfare of their dogs. Protecting the next generation from inherited disorders is top priority, so they always make sure sire and dam are health tested, and completely unrelated.
This is why, in well-reared litters, the frequency of solid black puppies remains low. When you find a breeder, be prepared to join a waiting list if you’ve got your heart set on a black puppy.
We also recommend taking your time to meet several breeders, visit their homes, and get to know their dogs. Black German Shepherd puppies are very desirable and sought after, so they’re an easy choice for puppy farms.
Unscrupulous breeders can guarantee a high proportion of black puppies in a litter by mating two all black parents together, without regard to how closely they are related.
If you meet a litter of all black German Shepherd puppies, ask the breeder about inbreeding – they should leap to offer you proof of a low inbreeding co-efficient! This is a simple DNA test of both parents, which good breeders arrange through their vet before mating takes place.
Black German Shepherd Rescue
Another way to find a gorgeous black GSD to share your life is by rescuing or re-homing one. Rescue dogs find their way to shelters for all kinds of reasons. A big advantage in rescuing a dog is being able to bring them home with a clear picture of their adult temperament and health.
Since German Shepherds are such relied upon working dogs, you might also find an older black GSD looking for a loving home to live out his honorable retirement.