Have you been promised a puppy from a German Shepherd with a bun in the oven? One of the top questions you may have is what color the pup will be. This breed does present in a wide variety of colors, so what can you expect? Here is your guide to finding out the potential shade of your pup.
What are Possible German Shepherd Colors?
German Shepherd puppies may be born black, white, or grey, but they may go onto present as follows:
- Black and tan
- Black and red
- Black and silver
Some puppies will continue to have the same coat and be all-black, all-grey, or all-white their entire life. It should be noted that these shades – particularly without other patterns or colors – are quite rare.
The most common hues for German Shepherds are black and tan. These coat colors tend to perform better in dog shows and competitions, making them a desired trait. Breeders will make an effort to breed dogs with black and tan coats in the hopes of creating similarly hued pups.
There are some other coat colors you should be aware of. German Shepherd pups can also have distinct colors such as blue, Isabella, Panda, and Bi-color. These coat colors tend to be the result of rare genetic variations or mutations.
Due to this, they are not often seen in the general German Shepherd population. They are flukes and it can be quite difficult to know if such pups will show up in a litter or not.
How to Predict My German Shepherd Puppy’s Color?
German Shepherd puppy color prediction is possible as coat color is all down to genetics. German Shepherds present as specific shades because they have the genes for those colors. At the same time, they may contain genes for other colors, but these may be recessive.
These recessive genes can still be passed onto their pups, however. The color of a German Shepherd’s coat will depend on the individual genes given to them by each of their parents. This is why you will find color discrepancies within a single litter.
To gain a better understanding of how the color of your German Shepherd puppy may be predicted, here is a closer look at German Shepherd color genes:
What are German Shepherd Color Pigments?
It’s the presence of two pigments called eumelanin and pheomelanin that give German Shepherd colors.
These pigments interact with other genes responsible for color, altering them to a certain degree. The final color of your German Shepherd will depend on the specific interaction.
Eumelanin is the pigment that is responsible for black. When it interacts with other genes, it can result in yellow, black with a blue tint, or off-white.
Pheomelanin defaults to red but when it is combined with other genes, there will be varying shades of red, including deep brown, light brown, pale gold, and yellow.
How to Understand German Shepherd Color Gene Variations?
There are eight genes in a German Shepherd’s DNA that are responsible for coat color. These genes have a pair of alleles – one from each German Shepherd parent. The alleles are located at specific locations on a chromosome. This position is known as locus or loci.
When two German Shepherds mate, each dog will contribute an allele at random. This means that there is a fifty percent chance of a particular shade being passed onto their offspring. One of these alleles at each locus is dominant. This will result in specific coat color.
With German Shepherds, the most important loci to be aware of are the following:
What Does the Agouti Locus Do?
Known as the A-locus, it is responsible for the base color of German Shepherds as well as the patterns. If the associated gene is dominant, the puppy may be fawn, sable, or wild sable. If the gene is recessive, the dog may be black and tan, black, or bi-color.
What is the Extension Locus?
The E locus is responsible for the black face mask of the German Shepherd. It also plays a role in the presentation of yellow and red in coats. The alleles for this gene are black (E), red (e), and mask (Em).
What Function Does the K Locus Have?
The presence of this gene results in dominant black, fawn colors, and brindle.
How Does B Locus Impact Color Presentation?
This is often known as the brown locus as it represents brown, chocolate, and liver colors. There are two brown alleles – dominant brown and recessive brown. Two recessive alleles will dilute black to brown. If the dog has red or yellow pigments, this allele can cause their nose and foot pads to be brown.
How Can D Locus Alter Shades?
The diluted locus is responsible for a diluted pigment, causing the lightening of other pigments. It turns black or brown to gray. It can also turn the darker shades to blue or very light brown. Color dilution is the result of a mutation so this locus can be pretty rare.
This locus has dominant and recessive alleles. Two recessive alleles can dilute black to gray or blue and red to cream.
What is the Importance of Color Genetics for Predicting Puppy Colors?
If you’re wondering why color genes are important, the answer is simple. Scientists are now able to check out the genetic composition of German Shepherds and identify each dog’s specific gene representation.
Not only can they tell what genes make up the parents, but they can also come up with scenarios for which genes can be passed on. This allows breeders to narrow down the range of shades the puppies in a litter can be.
It isn’t as easy to determine what color a particular puppy will be or how many puppies will have specific colors or markings, however.
Are All German Shepherd Puppies Black When They are Born?
No, all German Shepherd puppies aren’t born black, but many of them are. German Shepherd puppies can be born black, white, or grey.
For the first few weeks of their lives, these pups may be one solid color. Other shades may have not appeared on their coat or they aren’t readily visible. As the dogs get older, though, their coats will begin to change in some shape or form.
Will My German Shepherd Puppy Change Colors?
Most German Shepherd puppies will change color. This transformation takes place at around 8 weeks. If you want to know what color German Shepherd you’re getting for sure, it is best to wait until the puppy is older before making your choice.
Every German Shepherd is different. Most will come into their final coat by the time they are 2 months old. The coats of some dogs may continue to change throughout their puppyhood, only coming in when they are around 2 years old.
Can You Find a Breeder for Specific Colors?
Most reputable breeders will not breed with a particular color in mind. This is because they focus on health and physique rather than coat color. What’s more, trying to breed certain rare colors can increase the risk of genetic disorders in German Shepherds.
As tan and black German Shepherds are the most common and sought after, many breeders will choose to breed two dogs of these colors together.
Unless previous genetic testing is done, a breeder has no way of knowing what dominant or recessive genes each dog carries. Due to this, they can’t predict which genes will be passed down onto their puppies.
This is why you will often find surprises in any litter, with one or more puppies being a completely different color to the rest of their littermates.
There are many ways to predict what color your German Shepherd puppy may be. From genes to variations, there is a lot to learn. Once you figure it all out, you will be one step closer to making an educated guess.