Silver German Shepherd dogs have a coat that changes the classic black and tan up to include a special silver sheen. You won’t find a totally silver German Shepherd puppy, but they can have a large number of shining hairs on their face, body and legs. At first glance they might look like an older dog that is going grey, but this recessive gene expresses from birth and isn’t a result of aging.
Strong, rich colors are generally preferred in this working bred dog. This may be why silver grey dogs are less common. Washed out colors, including blues and livers, are considered a serious fault. The white coat color is undesirable within the official description, and even leads to disqualification from the show ring.
Where Do They Come From?
The black and silver German Shepherd is essentially the same as any other color of German Shepherd Dog. It doesn’t have a distinct history separate to the rest of the breed.
The history of the German Shepherd Dog, of course, can be traced back to Germany. Cavalry Officer Max von Stephanitz decided he wanted to breed the ideal herding dog. Von Stephanitz spent 35 years dedicating his life to improving the breed.
The German Shepherd Dog, also frequently referred to as the GSD, has shown its versatility as a breed. Expanding from its pastoral herding roots to showing its utility as a service dog and in police and military canine units worldwide.
It’s likely silver German Shepherds have been cropping up for generations among this pedigree breed, but they can skip a few generations as the gene that produces the color is recessive and so can remain hidden in dogs that don’t have two copies.
The Genetics of the Silver German Shepherd
Coat color genetics are complex, with the exact genes responsible for silver coloration yet to be fully identified.
Within the German Shepherd breed, the gene for sable is dominant over all other colors and patterns.
The first registered German Shepherd Dog was sable in color. Despite this, it’s not seen as often as the black and tan preferred by many breeders.
Black and tan dogs won’t have the sable gene, which is why if two black and tan dogs are bred together, none of the puppies will be sable.
It’s likely that silver is a recessive gene, which could be why it’s not seen as often as some of the other colors.
There’s more color variation within working dogs, compared to dogs bred for the show ring. While you may see a working silver sable Shepherd, that would be a very unusual color combination.
Bear in mind as well that the final color of a puppy will only be clear once the outer coat has fully developed. This means that a relatively dark coated puppy could develop into a mature black and silver German Shepherd Dog.
It’s important to emphasize that you should always prioritize the temperament and health of a puppy you’re considering taking home, rather than the color of their coat.
This quote from the founder of the breed, Max von Stephanitz, is an excellent one to bear in mind:
“No good dog is a bad color.”
Silver German Shepherd Appearance
The silver Shepherd Dog is no different to a GSD of any other color, their appearance is going to be in line with the breed standard.
They are large dogs, weighing between 50 – 90 pounds and standing between 22 – 26 inches tall. And have a muscular, strong body, with pointed ears and a dense double coat.
You may have seen parent dogs advertised as black saddle silver German Shepherds, but what does that actually mean? The saddle refers to the patch of darker colored fur, which covers the majority of the dog’s back.
Any German Shepherd Dog with silver coloration is less likely to have a silverback German Shepherd pattern. It’s more likely that they will have a darker patch across their back.
The double coat of the German Shepherd does require brushing every few days to remove loose hairs. They will also shed twice a year, leaving a significant amount of hair behind!
Some German Shepherds have a long coat, but as this is a recessive trait it’s not as commonly seen as the shorter coated GSD. This means you’re much less likely to see a combination such as a silver long haired German Shepherd.
Color vs Temperament
There is no link between the gene for silver fur and the typical temperament traits of the dog.
German Shepherds have a reputation for being fiercely intelligent, intensely loyal, and enthusiastic about work or exercise. This is a brave and courageous breed, as well as being more aloof than some others.
All German Shepherds will bond quickly and strongly with their families, but don’t expect them to want to make friends with everyone they meet.
They are good around children they know, and often take on a guardian role for those within their own family. However as loyal dogs they don’t generally like being left alone for long periods of time.
Training and Activity
All German Shepherds are intelligent dogs, regardless of their coat patterns. Puppy training classes are an excellent way to start your German Shepherd’s education, as well as starting to socialize them with other people and dogs.
Their high level of intelligence means they are a joy to train, and enjoy positive, reward-based training methods.
These are active dogs, and require regular daily exercise. Those which don’t get enough exercise may start to display unwanted and destructive behaviors as a reflection of frustration and boredom.
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for German Shepherds. Be sure to challenge yours with activities such as agility, or learning tricks, as a way to keep both their mind and body stimulated.
Health of the Silver German Shepherd
Unlike some other breeds, the coat color of a German Shepherd Dog has no bearing on its health.
Unfortunately, all German Shepherds can be prone to a range of health conditions.
It’s important to become familiar with these and to ensure that you speak to any breeders about health tests and their results.
Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are both common in the breed. Parent dogs should have been given a score for their hips and elbows.
By selecting parent dogs with high scores, you can reduce the chances of your puppy developing these conditions.
GSDs are also prone to osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). This is the result of abnormal cartilage growth.
Other health conditions that can affect this breed include:
- Degenerative myelopathy
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Von Willebrands disease
Another issue that affects many German Shepherds is problems with their backs.
The modern shape of the GSD has changed quite dramatically since the breed was initially introduced.
The conformation for show dogs now favors a sloping back, with extreme angles shown in the hind legs.
Conformation related disorders can have a negative impact on dog welfare.
This is definitely something to bear in mind when viewing parent dogs of any puppies you’re interested in.
Even if you love the distinctive black silver German Shepherd color, we recommend selecting a dog based on its overall health and temperament, rather than on their color alone.