For the past century, German Shepherds have been charming the world as movie stars, everyday working heroes, and beloved family companions. But what about a White German Shepherd? Most know the breed for their signature black and brown markings, but they actually come in an array of colors – including white!
Intelligent, active, and loyal to their family, you can get the same beloved German Shepherd in a white coat. Before adopting a dog, it’s always a good idea to get a good grasp of what you can expect from a specific breed. While every dog is unique in its own right, here is everything you need to know about this gorgeous dog.
Origin of White German Shepherd
As the name suggests, German Shepherds were originally bred in Germany. The need for herding dogs was high in Germany as they help to lead and protect their herds. After retiring from the German cavalry, Captain Max von Stephanitz wanted to pursue his other passion and breed the finest herding dog in the world.
The goal was for the dog to have unmatched intelligence and athleticism, a rare combination for the time. After visiting a dog show, he spotted a wolf-like dog that he adopted and named Horand. He became the first registered dog in the German Shepherd Dog Registry.
When the demand for herding dogs lowered, German Shepherds began an extensive career in military and police work. Many American soldiers brought them home after WWI, and their popularity in America then grew.
The White German Shepherd
As for White German Shepherds, well, they’ve actually been around just as long as the breed has! The first of the variety to hit the show circuit was a dog named Greif in 1882. In fact, von Stephanitz’s beloved Horand is a grandson of Greif and carries the recessive white gene. Originally, the dogs were fairly common to find in litters.
When the Nazi party came to power, they decided that the White German Shepherd was responsible for all of the genetic issues with the breed and that they caused an overall lack of dark pigmentation in litters. While we now know they are identical dogs, they banned any breeding of White German Shepherds.
This carried on for many years as breeders worldwide thought the white dog to be inferior compared to their black and brown counterparts. Now, the American Kennel Club fully recognizes the White German Shepherd, although they have been banned from participating in any confirmation shows.
The White German Shepherd Dog Club International, Inc. was created to help protect the breed in the US. While they were originally unpopular compared to black and brown shepherds, the unique breed is now a highly sought-after dog due to its rarity.
White German Shepherd Appearance
The appearance of the White German Shepherd is the only trait that sets them apart from their black and brown counterparts. But, where does this white color come from?
Contrary to what many think, this is not albinism and is actually the case of a recessive gene, much like blonde hair in humans.
Without getting into too much confusing biology, a White German Shepherd has 2 copies of “e” under the E Locus gene. This is the masking gene you will find in all German Shepherds. Essentially, this “e” means there is no black whatsoever in the coat – they can’t produce the black pigment, eumelanin.
The other main gene is the Intensity Locus, which prevents any of the red or tan colors from happening, also known as phaeomelanin. Some dogs can have tan patches or cream-colored fur. This means there are a few areas of the coat that can still produce phaeomelanin.
Like us humans, dogs can have recessive traits. Since white fur is a recessive trait, the dog will need two copies of the gene, one from the mother and one from the father, in order to have a white-colored coat. Many German Shepherds can carry these recessive genes, so the only way to better understand what can be passed down is with a genetic test.
Beyond their coat, they will appear the same as other German Shepherds. They stand at about 22-36 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 70-100 pounds. Considered large dogs, their long to medium fur can even make them appear bigger than they already are.
The Temperament of a White German Shepherd
The temperament of a White German Shepherd will be no different than a standard one. German Shepherds are renowned for being exceptionally well-behaved dogs. Ranked as the 3rd most intelligent dog breed, von Stephanitz sure succeeded in breeding a dog that would excel above others. Their intelligence makes them incredibly easy to train and contributes immensely to their popularity.
The German Shepherd’s athletic nature also shines through, being very adventurous and willing to go and do just about anything their owner would like. Their bravery is unparalleled, and they would not hesitate to do anything in order to protect their family. They stay by their owners’ side, being very affectionate and friendly with those that they trust. This bond also makes them good family dogs that do well with children.
Since they are known for being good guard dogs, they do have an overall aloof and suspicious nature. Instinctively, they are protective and will not be the type of dog to eagerly greet strangers. The breed takes their time when meeting new people but will happily welcome you into their inner circle once you’ve proven yourself trustworthy! This also goes for meeting other small dogs and cats. Smaller animals tend to bring out their predatory instincts.
Because of their rarity, you can expect to pay a little bit more for a White German Shepherd. They typically range between $750 to $1500 from a reputable breeder.
Caring for a White German Shepherd
If you have your eye set on a White German Shepherd, there are a few key things you need to know about their care before heading out and finding a breeder. While fairly low maintenance, they do have some traits that may not suit all dog owners!
While their coat is very beautiful, it does come with a price. German Shepherds have earned the nickname of German “shedders,” and for a good reason. They shed very heavily and will not fair well with those with allergies or sensitive noses. To help keep the shedding down and avoid a house full of hair, brush the coat twice a week.
The breed will also shed heavily twice a year in late fall and early spring. During this season, you may want to brush their coats every day. Some say that white German Shepherds have slightly longer fur than brown and black ones. They are also said to shed less due to having a thinner undercoat.
If you plan on having a German Shepherd, be sure to invest in a good vacuum cleaner. The other alternative is to purchase lighter-colored furniture and dog beds. And, of course, you can always teach your dog to stay off the furniture. They will be quick to oblige!
Beyond brushing, you will want to bathe them 3-4 times a year. Too frequent washings can lead to coat issues and dry skin. However, a white coat means they may be prone to getting dirty looking quicker than other coats.
When looking for food, you will want something designed for a large and active breed with protein and carbohydrates to fuel their bodies and give them enough energy. Your vet can help you determine the best diet for your dog, depending on their size and activity habits.
Most German Shepherds are prone to digestive issues. Having food that contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics) will help maintain good gut health. Most high-quality dogs foods come fortified with probiotics, but you can also purchase supplements.
Since this breed is also prone to bloat, you will want to make sure that you feed them a few smaller-sized and even portions throughout the day rather than free-feed them. If you notice your White German shepherd practically inhales their food once you set it down, you can get a bowl designed to make them slow down while eating.
Get ready for lots of activity because your German Shepherd is going to need it! Bred as a working dog, this breed is happiest when they are kept busy and active. They need lots of physical exercise as well as mental stimulation to keep them entertained.
They love to play, and you will never have to force them to go fetch or feign an interest in the toy you’re holding. Your White German Shepherd will be more than happy to have multiple play sessions throughout the day. The more you keep them busy with learning, playing, and working, the better.
As an active partner, few breeds can hold up to physical activity as well as the German Shepherd. Have your dog join you for a run, hike, or even a swim session. Not only are they excellent swimmers, but the activity is easy on the joints as they are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia (more on that below).
If you really want to test your White German Shepherd, consider enrolling them in agility training. It is a great activity to deal with their energy and test their brains.
Due to their high IQ, German Shepherds are one of the easiest breeds to train. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in any effort, and they will magically know what to do! Get them started with training from an early age, preferably the day you get them. You will be amazed at how fast they pick up skills, such as potty training and sit. Since they can get destructive if left alone for too long, you will want to add crate training to your list of skills.
While you are likely more than capable of teaching them everything on their own, obedience class is still an excellent way to train them. Without a doubt, they will excel, and it also gives them the opportunity to socialize with other young dogs.
Pretty much anything you want your White German Shepherd to do, they will excel at. This has made them popular dogs in many fields, including guide dog and assistance work for those with disabilities, military and police work, and their original job as herders, to lead search and rescue crews, sniff out drugs, compete in competitive obedience shows, and of course, as a family companion.
Like any dog, socialization is an essential step in raising this breed of puppy. As soon as the vet gives you the go-ahead, get them socialized with other dogs and people as early as possible. Since the German Shepherd is naturally aloof and suspicious of other people, socialization can help open them up to new people and dogs.
Life Span and Health Issues
The average White German Shepherd lives between 10-14 years old. While mixed breeds tend to be healthier, the German Shepherd is not considered an unhealthy purebred. However, they are prone to a few health issues.
When adopting a dog, make sure to adopt only from a reputable breeder. They should have no trouble providing a clean bill of health. Meeting the parents will also help you have a better understanding of what to expect from your puppy.
Here are some health concerns that all German Shepherds are prone to.
Approximately 20% of all German Shepherds carry this gene and should be tested for it before breeding. It is a disease that affects the spinal cord and results in slow paralysis and weakness of the hind limbs.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Prior to degenerative myelopathy, many large dogs can experience hip and elbow dysplasia. This is where the joints do not properly fit together and cause painful grinding of the bones. It can result in pain, decreased range of motion, and even lameness of the limb.
Due to their size and deep chest, German Shepherds may be more susceptible to bloat. This occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and twists. It then puts pressure on surrounding organs and restricts blood supply. Bloat is a very serious condition, and the dog should be brought to the vet immediately upon showing symptoms.
Many senior and large dog breeds can get osteoarthritis. A progressive condition, it is the inflammation of the joint due to the deterioration of cartilage. Maintaining a healthy weight, active lifestyle, and frequent wellness checks at the vet can help to prevent arthritis in your dog.
Dogs can suffer from food, skin, and environmental allergies. Common symptoms include itchy skin, hives, swelling, sneezing, itchy ears and eyes, consistent licking, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The Best Home for a White German Shepherd
While a White German shepherds’ personality is a perfect fit for just about everyone, some of their care needs may not be suited for all households. First of all, you must be okay with the fur. If anyone in your household has even minor allergies to pets, you may want to consider a hypoallergenic breed instead.
A working dog, German Shepherds have high exercise needs. Apartment living is not recommended – those who have a big yard for running are best. Their large size also means you must be confident in controlling them on walks and when visitors come. Those who aren’t confident with large breeds may want a smaller breed instead.
German Shepherds are good family dogs due to their stable temperament and will do just about anything for their family. However, they shouldn’t be in homes where they will be left alone often as they can get bored, anxious, and destructive when left to their own devices.
A Quick Breed Overview
Here’s a quick overview of this whole post…
A large-sized dog, the German Shepherd, stands at 22-36 inches to the shoulder. Remember, their fur can make them appear even larger than they already are.
A White German Shepherd can weigh between 70-100 pounds.
The breed can have medium to long hair. Grooming twice a week keeps it in healthy condition.
White! The coat is the only thing that makes them any different from a black or brown German Shepherd. It is caused by a recessive gene inherited from both parents.
Get ready for lots of shedding. Due to their thick and long coats, the White German Shepherd can shed a lot throughout the year. Expect lots of seasonal shedding in the spring and fall as their coat transitions.
Socialization is important for all dogs at an early age. Due to their hesitancy around strangers and meeting new people, socialization with other dogs and humans is helpful at making your puppy friendlier.
The 3rd smartest dog breed in the world, German Shepherds are known for their high intelligence. This makes training a breeze, and they are suited to be trained in many professions such as service dogs, police and military work, search and rescue, and more.
This breed loves its family but has a slight cautiousness surrounding strangers. Due to their prey drive, smaller dogs and cats should be slowly introduced.
Good With Children
White German Shepherds are excellent family dogs. They show lots of affection towards their family and act as a protector to everyone they care about.
Bred to be a working dog, German Shepherds have very high exercise needs. They need daily walks, playtime, and mental stimulation in order to be happy. If you’re looking for an active partner, this breed can certainly keep up.
Affectionate, loyal, brave, smart, athletic, and protective are all worlds to describe the German Shepherd. Overall, they hold an even temperament and always impress anyone who meets them.
These dogs do not like to be alone. If left bored, they can bark, chew, dig, and show other destructive behaviors. To avoid any issues, crate training is suggested.
Fun Facts about the White German Shepherd
- You don’t need a White German Shepherd in order to have puppies with white coats. In fact, two black German Shepherds could have white-coated pups. If both the dogs have an Em/e masking gene, then there is a 75% chance any puppy will be black and a 25% chance they will be white.
- In some areas of the world, they actually consider White German Shepherds to be a completely different breed, including the United Kennel Club. They are also known as the White Shepherd in Canada and the USA.
- These dogs are not considered albino. Animals with albinism have pigmentation deficiency everywhere – meaning pink eyes, pale skin, and hair with no color.
- German Shepherds have a long history of helping out with search and rescue efforts. One of their most notable efforts was helping to crawl through the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks. They helped to look for survivors in the ruins and also comforted rescue workers and families onsite.
- The popularity of this breed in America could all come down to one dog… Rin Tin Tin! One of the most famous German Shepherds, this dog was taken from a kennel in France during WWI by Corporal Lee Duncan. He brought him home to LA and trained him to be a silent movie star. He starred in 26 movies and helped to establish the breed in the USA.
- The White Swiss Shepherd dog is very similar but is considered a different breed than the White German Shepherd. They are bred by the same linage of all German Shepherds, but a Swiss woman named Agatha Burch began to breed her own American White German Shepherd with one she imported from the UK in 1967.
List of White German Shepherd Instagram Accounts
The coat of a White German Shepherd is nothing short of stunning. If you can’t get enough of this gorgeous and unique dog, follow some on Instagram to get your cuteness fill.