The sable German Shepherd is has a rather special color.
“But I see sable German Shepherds all the time!” I hear you cry.
And that’s no surprise – genetically, sable is the German Shepherd’s dominant coat color.
In fact, their coloring is very similar to that of some wolves.
Though wolves are the common ancestor of all dogs, very few dog breeds still carry the genes that give wolves their two-toned hairs.
German Shepherds are one of them!
Are sable German Shepherds unique from other German Shepherds in any other ways?
In this article, we take a look at whether coat color can affect a dog’s behavior and health.
A Brief Look at the German Shepherd Dog
Before we get into the science and research aspect of things, we’d like to talk a little more about what German Shepherds are like.
GSDs are very intelligent dogs, which is exemplified by their popularity as police dogs and service animals.
They are loyal, affectionate, and loving toward family members, but may be aloof toward strangers.
GSDs can also be protective, so it’s important to invest time in their training and socialization from a young age.
Unfortunately, some studies have found German Shepherds to be more aggressive than other dogs.
In one review, they were also one of the highest offenders of dog bites in children.
However, it’s important to understand that different studies observe different breeds and sources of information to come to a conclusion.
Some small breed dogs may be far more aggressive than German Shepherds, but since their bites don’t typically require medical attention, they aren’t reported.
Not all German Shepherds are aggressive, but it is important to be wary of the possibility and take the proper measures to prevent such behavioral issues.
German Shepherd Colors
The most popular colors are
- black and tan
- red and black
- black and silver
And of course sable!
Sable coloring is when individual hairs have distinct bands of color along their shaft.
Sable German Shepherds have silver, gray or tan fur with black tips.
Now that we know what a sable German Shepherd is, let’s learn a little bit about pigmentation.
Does color run more than just fur-deep?
How Can Pigmentation Affect Animals?
Though there is still a lot of research yet to be done, scientists have found correlations between a dogs’ coloring and their health.
In some cases, color even seems to correspond to a dog’s behavior.
Temple Grandin writes in her article, “The Way I See It: The Dangers of Trait Over-Selection,” about how depigmentation (typically white coats or pale eye colors) seems to affect behavior and health in various types of animals.
She states that many animals who have depigmentation, which results in a white coat color, tend to be more nervous.
Furthermore, depigmentation that causes both a white coat and pale eye color (usually blue) appears to be linked with neurological and other types of disorders.
Grandin was definitely on to something, as other researchers have backed up her statements with studies of their own.
This is because Dalmatians carry the gene for extreme piebaldness. The same gene can also affect their eye color and cause it to lack pigmentation and thus be blue in hue.
Dalmatians with blue eyes were found to be affected by deafness more frequently than their dark-eyed counterparts.
And that’s because same type of cells that produce pigment for skin and hair (called melanocytes) are also an essential part of the inner ear. Without them, dogs are pigmentless, and deaf.
Further Studies on the Effect of Coat Color
The links between coat color and health or temperament don’t stop there.
However, though these studies provide useful insight, they cannot be universally applied to every animal, or even every breed of dog at that.
This is because dogs are incredibly varied, with 344 breeds being recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (English: World Canine Organization).
So, knowing what we do about how coat color can indeed affect animals in different ways, what do we know about Sable German Shepherds?
Does Sable Coloring Affect A German Shepherd’s Behavior or Health?
Unfortunately, there haven’t really been any studies done about sable coloring in German Shepherds.
Therefore, we have no evidence to suggest that sable German Shepherds are any different than other colors of German Shepherd, or that their coloring affects their behavior or health.
However, scientists do know a bit about what causes the sable color in German Shepherd dogs.
A geneticist named Sheila Schmutz has put together a website explaining the genetics of coat color.
In German Shepherds, sable coloring is controlled by the Agouti gene.
The Agouti gene has several variations, and while there may be some yet undiscovered, scientists know about four of them.
These four variations all code for wild-type black tipped hairs.
Other genes also determine where on the body the shading appears.
Currently, the Agouti gene is not known to be related to any behavioral or health issues in dogs.
So sable German Shepherds are exactly like every other color.
Predicting Sable German Shepherd Behavior and Health
So how can you predict what your sable German Shepherd’s behavior and health will be like?
Scientists have come very far in their study of genetics, and have even been able to genetically map personality traits such as fear and aggression.
However, your dog’s behavior isn’t just a product of genetics.
You’ve probably heard about the nature versus nurture argument a million times, and that’s because of how truly relevant it is.
Dr. Carol Beuchat from the Institute of Canine Biology argues in her article, “Understanding the heritability of behavior in dogs,” that a dog’s behavior is very much a product of both.
The best way to ensure that your sable German Shepherd puppy has a winning personality and a healthy life is to work with a responsible breeder.
The best breeders are passionate about promoting the welfare of the breed, and diligent about only using dogs with the most reliable temperaments to become moms and dads to the next generation.
Our Puppy Search guide will help you get started.
Sable German Shepherds – A Summary
Sable German Shepherds are intelligent dogs who are loyal and loving toward their family members.
Their sable color from silver, gray or tan hairs tipped with black.
At the time of writing, there is no evidence that their color affects their temperament or health.
What do you think?
Does your sable German Shepherd have a personality which sets him apart from the rest of the pack?
Tell us in the comments box!
Beuchat, Carol, 2016, “Understanding the heritability of behavior in dogs.” Institute of Canine Biology.
Blackshaw, Judith K., 1991, “An overview of types of aggressive behavior in dogs and methods of treatment.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
“Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals – Dalmatian – Deafness”, 2011, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
“German Shepherd Dog.” American Kennel Club.
Grandin, Temple. “The Way I See It: The Dangers of Trait Over-Selection.” Western Horseman, Aug. 1998, pp. 120-124. .
McGreevy, Paul D., et al., 2018, “Labrador retrievers under primary veterinary care in the UK: demography, mortality and disorders.” Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.
Pérez-Guisado, Joaquín, et al., 2006, “Heritability of Dominant–aggressive Behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels”, Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
Schalamon, Johannes et al., 2006, “Analysis of Dog Bites in Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years”.
Strain, George, et al., 2006, “Hereditary Deafness in Dogs and Cats”, Congreso Internacional de Medicina.
Stritzel, S., et al., 2009, “A Role of the Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor in Congenital Sensorineural Deafness and Eye Pigmentation in Dalmatian Dogs”, Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics.
“What is heritability?” US National Library of Medicine.
Zapata, Isain, et al., 2016, “Genetic mapping of canine fear and aggression.” BMC Genomics.