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Different Types of German Shepherd – Complete Guide 2023

The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. But did you know that there are different types of German Shepherd?

While they are highly popular, most people don’t know that there are show line and working line German Shepherds. A show line German Shepherd is bred to reign in the ring, but a GSD from a working line is bred solely for work and will never win a competition.

Furthermore, while black and tan German Shepherds are the most common, this breed can sport many different coat colors and patterns.

If you are looking for a loyal, obedient, and highly trainable dog, the German Shepherd might be a perfect choice.

In this article, we’ll tell you more about different types of German Shepherd and hopefully help you decide which one is the best for you!

How Many Different Types of German Shepherds Are There?

Based on their appearance, coat color, and pattern there are five different types of German Shepherds. While the physical appearance varies from one type to the next, all are considered a part of the German Shepherd Dog breed.

While the breed standard recognizes only medium and longhaired German Shepherds the coat colors can be varied. However, certain color variations aren’t allowed to compete and some are considered faults and can affect the scoring. 

Bear in mind that not all types of German Shepherd are accepted and recognized by major canine organizations. For example, the American Kennel Club and the World Canine Organization doesn’t recognize White German Shepherds.  

5 Types of German Shepherd

Developed by Max von Stephanitz, the German Shepherd is a medium to large-sized working dog breed. Bred to possess extraordinary working abilities, German Shepherds are versatile workers and are often used for search and rescue tasks, but are also amazing family pets.

Please note, show line German Shepherds are bred to reign supreme in show rings, so they are bred for their looks, not work ethic. On the other hand, working line German Shepherds would never win in a ring, since they are bred for working, not showing.

Here are the five different types of German Shepherd based on coat color and pattern:

Saddle Coat German Shepherd

Saddle Coat German Shepherd

The saddleback Shepherds are by far the most common type of German Shepherds. They will have two colors – black and tan is the most common color combination, but some can be black and red.  

Dogs with this coat pattern will have a large black patch of fur, in the shape of a saddle, on their backs. However, a lot of people call this the “blanket” pattern since it looks like someone put a black blanket over a dog’s back.

Saddleback German Shepherds also have distinctive black face “masks” and black muzzles. This coat pattern is preferred in Canadian and American show line German Shepherds and desired by most breeders.

Sable German Shepherd

Sable German Shepherd

Sable German Shepherds have a rather unique coat color but are at the same time quite common. This is mainly because the sable is a genetically dominant coat color in German Shepherd breeds.

Also known as the agouti coat pattern, sable is one of the oldest coat patterns in existence (source). German Shepherds with a sable pattern have two or more bands of color on every individual hair.

Interestingly, sable German Shepherds are usually born with tan coats and their coats start to develop the true color as they get older. In most cases, the coats of agouti Shepherds are a mix of gold, tan, black, or grey colors.

Black German Shepherd

Black German Shepherd

Black German Shepherds are very rare, and only around six percent of all GSD have an entirely black coat (source). The black color is allowed by breed standards, so black-coated German Shepherds can compete in show rings like all other Shepherds.

Despite common beliefs the black color doesn’t cause any additional health problems and these dogs are as healthy as “traditional” GDS. However, since they are quite rare and in high demand, black German Shepherd puppies cost much more than other color variations.

Black German Shepherds can sometimes have hints of powdered blue color in their coats. While this happens rarely, these dogs aren’t considered completely black and may lose some points in competitions due to their color.

White German Shepherd

White German Shepherd

The White German Shepherd is a type of German Shepherd that’s bred in the USA. The white-coated German Shepherds have a thick fluffy coat and a striking appearance but are fairly rare.

While the white color is the result of a recessive gene, it isn’t linked with any additional health issues and shouldn’t be confused with albinism. Bear in mind, white German Shepherds aren’t recognized and can’t compete in show rings, but can still be wonderful family companions.

Panda German Shepherd

Panda German Shepherd

Panda German Shepherds are purebred German Shepherds that are born with a rare genetic mutation that causes white markings on the coat. Studies have found that the panda pattern is the result of a dominant gene and not a result of crossbreeding to collies or other spotted breeds.

A panda German Shepherd will have a white mouth, belly, and chest, black back, and tan legs. Despite common beliefs, these dogs are as healthy and agile as “traditional” German Shepherds (source).

What Is the Largest Breed of German Shepherd?

The King Shepherd is the largest variety of German Shepherd breed. A full-grown King Shepherd is between 25 and 31 inches tall at the shoulder and can weigh between 75 and 150 pounds.

The King Shepherd is a relatively new breed, and as such still not recognized by the American Kennel Club, but they have a breed standard.  

Which German Shepherd Is the Best?

German Shepherds can be divided into two groups – show line German Shepherds and working line German Shepherds. Ultimately, your lifestyle and expectations will determine which German Shepherd is the best for you.

If you are looking for a canine companion, a show line German Shepherd is the right choice. These dogs are bred to accommodate the needs of pet parents, have lower energy levels, and make great family pets.

But, if you are looking for a capable working dog who will guard your property or herd cattle on a farm, a working line German Shepherd is a better choice. Dogs from West German working lines, Czech working lines, and East German DDR working lines are bred to meet the rigorous rules set by the German Shepherd Club of Germany.

These German Shepherds are bred to work and have little to no resemblance to German Shepherds that are found in most homes.

Where to Get a German Shepherd?

The German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds, so you won’t have trouble locating a reputable breeder no matter where you live. Bear in mind, many German Shepherds end up abandoned in shelters, so adoption is also an option.

German Shepherd Breeders

German Shepherds are always in high demand and there is no shortage of reputable breeders who make puppies available. If you’re set on buying a purebred German Shepherd puppy, ask the breeder to show you hip and elbow scores for both parents.

German Shepherd Price

The average price of a purebred German Shepherd puppy is around $1000. However, if a puppy comes from show winning parents you can expect to spend around $6000 to $7000.

Please note, the exact price of a German Shepherd puppy depends on many factors, including your location. Furthermore, rarer varieties such as White and Black German Shepherds cost double what you would pay for a “traditional” GSD.


Adopting a German Shepherd from a shelter or rescue organization is a great way to welcome a new dog into your home and change his life for the better. While they are extremely popular, many German Shepherds end up abandoned and spend their days waiting for someone to adopt them.

If you’re set on getting a German Shepherd, check your local shelter and breed-specific rescue organizations. Chances are, your new best friend is already waiting for you and is ready to move into his forever home.


German Shepherds are probably one of the most widely recognized dog breeds in the world. But, did you know that German Shepherds can sport different coat colors besides their signature black and tan camo?

Based on coat color, there are five different types of German Shepherd – saddle, sable, white, black, and panda German Shepherd. And while they may look like completely different breeds, they are all purebred German Shepherds.

In the end, whichever type of German Shepherd you decide to get, you can rest assured that you’ll gain a devoted, smart, and protective canine companion.

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