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BLACK German Shepherd

 Reviewed 13 February 2019 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto

Knowing more about your chosen dog breed (if you chose it) feels rewarding.

So today, the BLACK German Shepherd: solid black, all-black, pure black, black patent, pitch-black, however you like it!

black GSDIf you belong to those who often felt that GSDs aren't "handsome dogs", then this Periodical should be able to convince you that German Shepherds can be very handsome indeed: We will show you some black beauties along the way!

In this Periodical:

  • Black German Shepherd History
  • Black German Shepherd Genetics
  • Black German Shepherd Popularity
  • Any Physical Differences?
  • Temperament Differences?
  • One Significant Difference!
  • Relevance of Grooming
  • Safety Considerations

Black German Shepherd History

Already the alleged breed founder, Max v. Stephanitz, found solid black to be a desirable coat color for German Shepherd dogs: The breed standard comprised solid black ever since, see eg in the Periodical on White German Shepherds the coat colors per breed standard. As much as v. Stephanitz owned all-white GSDs, he also owned all-black GSDs.

The first registered German Shepherd Dog ever, Horand v. Grafrath (v. Stephanitz' dog), already had the recessive black coat gene (as well as the recessive white coat gene).

Black German Shepherd Genetics

Here's the curiosity: The gene for the black coat color can be recessive, but it can also be dominant! The dominant black coat gene of course is a different gene, thus an all-black German Shepherd may have both the dominant gene and the recessive gene - while GSDs of any other coat color may have the recessive black coat gene but not the dominant gene.

Black-White GSDs

If you breed a dog with the dominant black coat gene, the offspring will be all-black too regardless of the coat color of the other parent - except if the other parent bears a different dominant coat color gene (which certainly is not the gene for the tan-black coat, and it is unclear if another dominant coat color gene exists at all in German Shepherds).

black GSD pupsThis is why the SV Germany and other GSD club functionaries in the world tried to get retired all solid black breeding stock where a dominant black coat gene was suspected, such that their preferred coat color (tan-black) would prevail!

Preferred tan-black? Yes, or did you believe that the clear dominance of tan-black German Shepherd dog champions throughout history is coincidence?

black GSD pupsAlso note that GSD pups are born black (or grey or white - in this order of frequency). The dog's ultimate coat color cannot be safely determined before age 6 weeks the earliest. Indeed, I have heard from many GSD-puppy buyers that their dog later developed a coat color very different to what they thought they get when they chose the pup (typically around age 7 or 8 weeks).

In terms of the common hereditary disorders of German Shepherds (such as Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), Digestive Disorder, and Arthritis), the all-black GSD shows no difference to the prevailing tan-black GSD (or indeed the white GSD).

Black German Shepherd Popularity

black gsd sticker

Thanks(!) to all the subscribers who have subscribed with dog details (or added them later through the link 'update subscription preferences' at the bottom of every email!), the popularity of coat colors is pretty clear (for us here):


black GSDsGlobally, 6.8% of German Shepherds are all-black (and a total of 88% are at least partly black). In North America, 7.7% are all-black, and in Europe 3.4%. But in Australia and in Asia next to none are all-black! - All based on our subscribers' dogs who can be assumed to be a fair representation of GSDs worldwide, since we have visitors and subscribers from the largest number of nations of all German Shepherd websites (from 211 nations so far).

Any Physical Differences?

black slouched GSDThankfully, the black German Shepherd in general has not that much been subjected to slouch back breeding, hence it is relatively easy to secure a straight back black GSD from a professional breeder (and all the more from a 'backyard breeder' because they are not focused on producing 'champions' for dog shows, doh!).

black GSDThe facial features of the black German Shepherd are typically the same as those of the (most common) tan-black GSD, thus slightly different to the early white GSD (namely more rounded/smooth, compare with the white mother above).

Often you can read that black German Shepherds would "grow slimmer, but taller". However, based on our extensive global GSD database we can assure you that there is no such correlation whatsoever.

Temperament Differences?

Often you can read that black German Shepherds would be more family-oriented, balanced, and calm. However, again there is no such correlation whatsoever, meaning any such case is pure coincidence (or rather wishful thinking by the dog's owner).

A dog's temperament primarily depends on the owner's prevailing energy level, training, exercise, and feeding (see the Dog Training Toolkit) - and secondly on the line of pedigree but irrespective of coat color.

One Significant Difference

However, there is one significant difference between solid black GSDs and all other coat colors: The risk of dehydration is much bigger if you have a solid black German Shepherd (and next, if you have a tan-black GSD with black head as well as black back/'saddle').

black GSDObviously, this is because the color black absorbs all wavelengths of the sunlight, ie none are reflected (that's why we see black; conversely say a sable GSD reflects all the brown wavelengths and a white GSD reflects all wavelengths).

But the energy of the light (the sunrays) is not lost: the molecules of the black coat still wish to get rid of that extra energy (or it would disrupt the structure of the atoms in the molecule!). They get rid of that extra energy by transforming the absorbed energy into heat (ie into infrared wavelengths).

This heat is then either radiated from or retained within the black coat, ie it heats up the dog's skin, cells and blood circulation. To cool down, the dog's metabolism requires water (think of a nuclear reactor).

black GSDWhen you now consider that the heat regulation of dogs relies almost entirely on panting, then it becomes obvious that black German Shepherds are more prone to dehydration and heat stroke: There is only so much panting one can do! - But dogs can do more than you and I. wink

So: Do provide plenty of water. Hopefully now you better understand why we always say that free access to fresh water and the dog crate should be the (only) places where your dog rules - meaning, regardless of your Pack leadership position (for more see the Complete House Training Guide).

Also, keep your dog in the shade or indoors during midday, particularly if you have an all-black or mostly black GSD.

Further, whenever it's warm or sunny, exercise (other than a slow walk) should be deferred to mornings and late afternoons.

Or sunny? Yes. Note that even in winter all sunrays continue to be absorbed by the black coat! - It's just less sunrays then, because in winter the earth's axis is tilted such that the sunrays hit the earth's surface at a shallow angle (ie they are spread out through many more layers of atmosphere and ... pollution).

Relevance of Grooming

Another point to consider is that a black coat hides fleas and flea eggs very well, because typically these are black too (unless you wet the dog or put wetted white paper underneath, see the tips in German Shepherd Shedding). Thus, with a predominantly black GSD be particularly vigilant during grooming sessions.

Since solid black GSDs are predominantly short coat (while the black Belgian Shepherd or Malinois is predominantly long-coat), a quick grooming every other day is helpful anyway. The best tools for this you saw in the Dog Shedding Periodical. With a black GSD, best is to get a red love glove (or other bright color).

To keep the coat shiny black (black patent so to say), I still believe best is to provide healthy homemade dog food, not processed food (kibble). But if you can't resist the convenience of buying kibble, then you too may want to consider to add a topping of the Linatone skin and coat supplement to the food. While its merits for shed relief are somewhat disputed, its benefits for a shiny coat are acclaimed widely: "but the dogs love it and the coat looks very shiny and healthy".

Safety Considerations

Finally, to keep your dog visible to the traffic on overcast days (and during darkness!), a reflective dog collar is indispensable.

If you too prefer a leather collar for your dog then you may want to consider a reflective dog jacket instead, so that any light (car head lamps, moon, whatever) can reflect from the black coat of your dog (see explanation above).

If you have any other interests about Black German Shepherds, just add them to your comments below so that everyone can benefit.



  • A solid black, all-black, pure black, black patent, or pitch-black German Shepherd is "accepted" per breed standard (thank God, the SV Augsburg haven't ruled out every non-tan-black GSD, yet!)
  • Even the first registered GSD ever, v. Stephanitz' own Horand v. Grafrath, already had the recessive black coat gene
  • In addition to the recessive black coat gene there also exists a dominant black coat gene
  • A GSD with the dominant black coat gene (either mother or father) will always have all-black puppies, unless the other parent bears a different dominant coat color gene (if that exists is not clear, it is certainly not the gene for the tan-black coat, and not the gene for the white coat)
  • This is why the SV Germany and other GSD club functionaries want that GSDs that continually produce solid black offspring are being retired from the breeding stock - or else soon there wouldn't be any tan-black GSDs they could make 'show champion', doh! (Probably with a frog-like slouch back, dohdoh!)
  • A GSD with the recessive black coat gene may have any other coat color (even white!), and requires a mating partner that also has the recessive black coat gene, in order to have all-black puppies
  • This is why the dog club functionaries have nothing against an occasional all-black litter (they just won't make these dogs 'show champion' it seems...)
  • GSD puppies are born black (or grey or white - in this order of frequency) - and the ultimate coat color cannot be safely determined before age 6 weeks the earliest
  • With a black or predominantly black German Shepherd, best is to get a red love glove (or other bright color)
  • Globally, 6.8% of German Shepherds are all-black (and a total of 88% are at least partly black)
  • In terms of physical appearance, temperament, and hereditary disorders the black GSD is no different to any other GSD
  • However, the risk of dehydration and heat stroke is much bigger if you have a solid black German Shepherd. So, always provide free access to plenty of water, even on a hike, (and avoid sunny lunchtime walks!)
  • Be particularly vigilant during grooming sessions, because the black coat hides fleas and flea eggs very well
  • To keep your dog visible to the traffic, a reflective dog collar is indispensable (if you too prefer a leather collar then you may want to consider a reflective dog jacket instead)

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