The white German Shepherd is a standout dog.
He certainly looks the part, but what is he like as a pet?
The moment you see your first all white German Shepherd dog, you will know this is a dog worth remembering!
With their incredible plush white coats, alert erect ears, soulful eyes and trademark goofy grin, the white GSD, as some enthusiasts have nicknamed this dog, is simply unforgettable.
But still, if you do decide the pure white German Shepherd is the dog for you, you will need to be prepared for lots of inbound curiosity and questions.
You will also need to be prepared to take lots of walks, as the white German Shepherd has the same high activity needs as other purebred dog breeds born and bred to work.
This thorough overview of the white GSD background, temperament, personality, health issues, grooming and enrichment needs is designed to help you decide if a white German Shepherd is the right canine companion for you!
The White German Shepherd dog
The White German Shepherd dog has endured a long and difficult battle to earn its place as a purebred dog breed worldwide.
In the past, because it takes a deliberate and consistent breeding strategy to reliably produce all white German Shepherd puppies, sometimes white puppies would pop up amongst a litter of puppies bearing the more common black and earth tones coloration.
Breeders often didn’t know what to make of these white puppies, and some (erroneously) assumed the white coloration denoted a weaker dog.
Then World War II began.
The German Shepherd dog received special focus as Germany’s namesake dog, and Hitler himself decided white was not a proper German Shepherd coloration.
Efforts began to erase all traces of white coat genes, although thankfully this effort did not catch on in many places outside Germany’s borders.
Today, research has established that the white GSD is not distinguished in any way from German Shepherds bearing more traditional coat colors.
Researchers also proved the gene for white coat only affects coat colors, and does not have any impact on eye or skin pigmentation.
It is also unlikely to be linked to hardiness, temperament, life span or any other critical breed issues. Although there are one or two health problems that could be impacted upon.
White German Shepherd size
A solid white German Shepherd adult dog can range in weight from 60 to 85 pounds, with adult males outweighing adult females.
As adults, the white GSD will stand anywhere from 22 inches to 26 inches high at the shoulder.
Here again, males tend to be taller than females.
White German Shepherd eye color
The most common eye color for a white German Shepherd is dark brown.
However, coloration can range from a lighter amber to a dark mahogany color.
Every so often, a white German Shepherd with blue eyes will be born.
However, this is a rare trait attributed to expression of a recessive gene for eye color.
Eye color is not affected by coat color.
Long haired white German Shepherd
Do you think a white German Shepherd is a rare sight? A long haired white German Shepherd dog is even rarer!
Unlike the trait for white coat color, the trait for long hair is a recessive trait that does convey some genetic disadvantage to the dog.
However, the disadvantage is easy to miss.
In a long haired white German Shepherd the waterproof insulating undercoat is absent!
Without this insulating undercoat, a long haired German Shepherd of any coat color will be less able to stay warm in the winter. Or cool in the summer while doing outdoor work.
As long as you can keep your long haired white German Shepherd indoors with you during inclement weather and during very hot and cold seasons, the lack of undercoat typically poses no problem.
However, the long haired GSD is not a good choice for a show dog or outdoor working dog breed.
The long haired white German Shepherd will need more detailed and frequent grooming.
You will need to pay special attention to cleaning and grooming the ears. As well as gently easing out any shed hair, dirt or debris that gets caught in the delicate coat fibers.
Bathing should always be done sparingly. To avoid removing necessary coat oils.
Excessive washing can cause skin dryness that could lead to irritation or illness.
Short haired white German Shepherd
The short haired white German Shepherd dog is more common than the long haired white GSD.
A white German Shepherd with short hair also has the same insulating undercoat as any German Shepherd, regardless of coat color.
These dogs make for hard-working dogs who excel in guarding, herding, service, search and rescue, police, military and protection jobs.
They are sometimes favored by farmers and ranchers. Since the white coat helps to distinguish flock guard dogs from darker-haired predators such as coyotes and wolves.
In terms of coat care, the short haired white German Shepherd has the same basic grooming and coat maintenance needs as any short haired German Shepherd.
All German Shepherds shed a lot, but the shedding can be more noticeable among short haired German Shepherds.
They also shed out their short undercoat during the warm season.
Frequent brushing and grooming can help keep shedding localized and manageable.
White German Shepherd temperament
But there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support this bias.
As with any working purebred dog breed, it is important to realize right away that these dogs are not bred to be lap dogs.
They are not lap dogs. Due to the high level of work and interaction they need.
Otherwise, there is a very real risk that your German Shepherd will become bored and destructive.
Early, daily, consistent and continuous socialization is a MUST. This will help to keep that protective instinct from becoming aggression.
An even higher level of socialization is essential in those early weeks too.
From 8 to 14 weeks old, have visitors around every day, and take your puppy to at least one new busy location.
German Shepherd health
White German Shepherds are known to be vulnerable to developing the following heritable health concerns.
However, none of the health issues below have been directly linked to the presentation of a white coat.
The following are general GSD health issues too.
In 2013, researchers studying eczema in German Shepherd dogs discovered a gene called PKP2. When this gene malfunctions, it degrades skin barrier integrity and raises the risk for developing eczema.
HUU (high uric acid levels in the urine) leads to urate urolithiasis (kidney stones in the dog’s bladder). There is a DNA test to detect HUU.
Von Willebrand’s disease type 1 (VWDI).
VWDI results from an inherited recessive gene that reduces an important clotting agent in the blood called Von Willebrand’s factor (vWF). There is a DNA test to detect VWDI.
Malignant hypothermia (MH).
This genetic condition causes a rapid rise in body temperature that can become fatal. There is a DNA test to detect MH.
Canine seizures are caused by a malfunction in the brain.
Hip and elbow dysplasia.
This well-known heritable joint condition causes the hip or elbow joint to be malformed. The best way to prevent issues of dysplasia is to be sure the parents have been screened for dysplasia issues.
Panosteitis is an inflammation of the bone marrow. Male German Shepherds who are juveniles are most frequently affected. Very little is known about this painful disorder and there is no test to detect it at this time.
German Shepherds can be affected by a number of conditions causing them to walk on their hocks (the dog version of the ankle) rather than on their foot pads. One of the most common is called “cow hocks” or loose ligamentation/extreme angulation in the pasterns (small bones in the paws).
This is a condition that cannot be predicted but is thought to arise from too-rapid growth in large-breed dogs with heavy frames. Diet supplementation and physical therapy can help to correct it. Most German Shepherd dogs will outgrow the condition by one year of age.
Other Conditions to be aware of include…
Gastric Dilitation Volvulus, or GDV, is a life-threatening condition where the stomach flips in such a way as to cut off circulation in both directions.
German Shepherds are prone to develop several different types of heart disease, including congestive heart failure.
Degenerative myelopathy (DM).
DM typically affects German Shepherds aged five years and older. DM causes progressive loss of function in hind quarters and is sometimes compared to the disease Muscular Sclerosis (MS) in humans. The condition is heritable and there is a DNA test to detect it.
Hemophilia is a heritable sex-linked condition that causes interference with the blood’s ability to clot successfully. Females tend to be carriers and males tend to manifest symptoms. There is a DNA test to detect if a dog is a carrier.
Multifocal renal cystadenocarcinoma / Nodular dermatofibrosis.
German Shepherds are predisposed to certain cancers of the kidney, skin and uterus. There is a DNA test to detect the FLCN gene mutation responsible for this.
Pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA) / Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).
PAA leads to EPI through a gradual breakdown of pancreas cells responsible for facilitating digestion. Malnutrition, wasting and chronic hunger are common symptoms. EPI can be controlled by treatment is intensive and expensive. The only way to guard against PAA/EPI in a puppy is to examine the health history of the parent dogs.
ME’s scientific name translates to mean “big esophagus.” The condition can be heritable or spontaneously developed, and in either case, the condition requires careful management and frequently becomes fatal.
While this list gives you a good overview of the most serious health conditions (heritable and contracted) in the white German Shepherd dog, it isn’t possible to list out every condition a white GSD puppy may develop.
White German Shepherd health problems
Although generally speaking you need to look at the white German Shepherd dog as having the same health problems as GSDs in general, there are a couple of hints that there may be a difference.
There is one study that also believes there could be a link between the white coat of the GSD and laryngeal paralysis. But further research is needed to see if this is correct.
And another study on heart murmurs had to remove 4 white GSDs from the group because tachypnea induced increased respiratory sounds. This is nothing on it’s own scientifically speaking, but could hint to a potential issue.
Although this may well have been simply a familial fault, or a coincidence. There is no way enough evidence to draw scientifically valid responses, but it is interesting none the less!
Over all you need to consider just the usual GSD health problems when picking your white German Shepherd dog puppy’s parents.
Very careful genetic screening of any puppy you are considering and equally careful screening of both of that puppy’s parent dogs is an essential to help you choose the puppy with the best chance of living a long, healthy, happy life with you!
Make sure both parents have as a minimum good hip and elbow scores, clear eye tests and show no evidence of hock walking.
Attempt to find a pup whose parents are both also clear for von Willebrand’s and HUU..
How long do white German Shepherds live?
The average German Shepherd dog lives to 11 years old. There is no evidence that this would be any longer or shorter for a white GSD.
White German Shepherd breeders
The German Shepherd dog is a purebred breed originally developed to do guarding, herding and protective-type jobs. There is always a risk of bringing home a white GSD puppy with too-aggressive guarding or protective instincts.
Early, thorough and ongoing training and socialization can definitely help to channel these instincts in productive ways.
But the best approach is to avoid selecting a white GSD puppy with too-aggressive genetic instincts in the first place!
The best way to determine in advance what a puppy’s personality in adulthood may be like is to meet and spend time with both parent dogs.
If both parent dogs seem well-socialized and conduct themselves appropriately with both familiar people and individuals unknown to them, this bodes well for the personality of any puppy you are considering.
When screening a potential breeder, always look for a health guarantee, full genetic tests on both parents, meeting both parents, a full family history of health problems and client referrals.
White German Shepherd puppies
The white German Shepherd price can fluctuate depending on demand, breeder reputation, appearance, coat and eye color, gender and similar factors.
Often a white GSD puppy bred to be shown will be priced higher than a puppy bred to work or be a companion dog.
For general purposes, the typical price range for a white German Shepherd puppy ranges from $700 to $1,500.
White German Shepherd rescue
Because GSDs have high energy and complex needs, it is possible to find a white GSD available for adoption.
The best way to find a white German Shepherd rescue shelter near you is to do a local internet search for “white German Shepherd adoption.”
You can also inquire with local shelters, veterinarians and breeders and ask to be contacted if an adoptable white German Shepherd is relinquished.
Are white German Shepherds good pets?
In conclusion, a white German Shepherd dog can be a fabulous canine companion.
However, having the most successful experience will depend greatly on doing your research into a puppy’s history. Meeting the parent dogs and making sure a vet has conducted appropriate genetic tests on both parents.
This will reduce the likelihood of your white GSD puppy suffering from the same conditions later in life.
Your puppy will also need lots of time and interaction with you and plenty of physical activity daily. Socialization and ongoing training, as well as a whole lot of exercise, are also essential.
All GSDs need a home where someone is around during the week as well as at weekends, to prevent them becoming bored and destructive.
If you can provide these essential needs, then a white German Shepherd may be a fun and rewarding pet dog choice for you!
- Siddique, A., “Eczema Gene Discovered in German Shepherd Dogs,” Medical Daily, 2013.
- White, S.D., DVM, DACVD, “Overview of Seborrhea,” Merck Veterinary Manual, 2016.
- Depto, DVM, J., “German Shepherds and Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), IVG Hospitals, 2013.
- Patterson, N., DVM, PhD, DACVIM (SAIM), “Malignant Hypothermia,” University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, 2012.
- Wahl, J., PhD, et al, “A review of hereditary diseases of the German Shepherd dog,” Science Direct, 2008.
- Eugene A Carver 1984 Coat color genetics of the German shepherd dog. Journal of Heredity.
- Ridyard et al 2000 Spontaneous laryngeal paralysis in four white-coated German shepherd dogs. JSAP
- Amanda Leonard 2011 The Plight of “Big Black Dogs” in American Animal Shelters: Color-Based Canine Discrimination