Black German Shepherd

German Shepherds are pretty recognizable. Even if you’ve never owned a German Shepherd, you probably know exactly what they look like. However, the black German Shepherd is much less well-known. This coloration is extremely rare and not currently recognized by most major kennel clubs.

Currently, the German Shepherd as a whole is recognized as the 2nd most popular dog in the United States according to the AKC. They declined somewhat after WWII due to their affiliation with Germany. But they have since grown significantly in popularity. 

Usually, German Shepherds have a single coat pattern – black and tan. However, fully black German Shepherds do exist. This is not due to crossbreeding; the gene for completely black coats is carried by purebred German Shepherds. It is much rarer than the usual coloration, though. They are highly sought after and expensive, despite the fact that they can’t compete in dog shows.

Table of Contents

adult black german shepherd on the white background

Appearance

Black German Shepherds have many of the same physical characteristics as other German Shepherds. They have the same build and grow to be the about same size as a purebred German Shepherd. 

Males usually weight between 65 to 90 pounds, while females are 50 to 75 pounds. These are considered medium-to-large dogs, so consider whether you have the space before adopting one. Many people don’t consider just how large these dogs are before they adopt them, and then begin to regret their decision later on. 

Their height is around 22-26 inches. This is correct for both males and females. They don’t tend to differ much in height, but the males are bulkier.

Black German Shepherds are completely black. Most German Shepherds have at least a little bit of black on them. However, German Shepherds have nothing but black. Their coat is generally the same besides for their different in coloration. Their double-coat helps them stay clean and warm. As working dogs, these canines are built to work, and it shows.

This coat color is accepted by the AKC. It is also not the result of crossbreeding, as some misinformation may state. Instead, it is simply a rare color that very few German Shepherds end up with. It only showed up recently and is sometimes encouraged through selective breeding. 

While the gene for a solid black coat was once though to be recessive, many people now consider it to be dominant. It isn’t that it gets “covered” up by other genes, it simply doesn’t exist in many dogs.

These dogs always have dark-colored eyes. Blue eyes are extremely rare and usually a sign that a dog has other breeds in his pedigree, such as Huskies.

Other than the color, the body of black German Shepherds looks just like his black and tan cousins. As in all German Shepherds, the ears are typically erect, though floppy ears in adult can be seen occasionally.

History

By 1859, the generalized herding dogs of Europe had split themselves into a few different distinctive breeds, including the German Shepherd. During the 1850s, there was an attempt to standardize dog breeds and promote traits that encouraged sheep herding, including speed, strength, endurance, and intelligence. 

However, varieties still existed from place to place. Slight breeding difference had led to slightly different shepherds. 

During the industrial revolution, the need for sheepdogs decreased along with the predator population. Many people simply weren’t keeping sheep anymore and those that were didn’t need tons of dogs to do so. 

Luckily, by this point, people were already recognizing the intelligence and ability of the previous herding dogs. The shepherds native to Germany were considered the “perfect working dog” by many due to their strength and intelligence.

The first German Shepherd didn’t appear until 1899, when dog named Horand von Grafrath was purchased by a man named Von Stephanitz. The Society for German Shepherd Dogs was then founded, with Honrand as the main poster dog. From this dog the breed standard grew. In just a few generations, the German Shepherd was one of the most populous in the world. 

Honrand fathered many puppies. Nearly all German Shepherds today are descended from him. There was quite a bit of inbreeding that occurred to produce the German Shepherd breed we know today. For instance, many of Honrad’s puppies were bred together. 

The Black German Shepherd has likely existed to some extent since the breed was produced. However, many dogs do not carry the completely black gene. Many completely black German Shepherds in the past were likely culled at birth due to the defect. Today, the gene is seeing a reoccurrence.

Personality and Temperament

The German Shepherd is often considered to be an aggressive dog. However, this is not completely true. They do have significant protective instincts, as they were originally bred to guard flocks of sheep. When a dog’s original purpose was guarding, you can expect them to possess guarding instincts even today. 

The bite of a German Shepherd isn’t particularly harder than many other options. For instance, the German Shepherd has a bite force of over 1,060 newtons. But there are several dogs that rank around this as well, including the Rottweiler, Pit Bull, and Labrador Retriever. Most dogs at about this size are going to have a similar bite strength. 

German Shepherds are considered to be moderately active. They need just about as much exercise as dogs of a similar size. For instance, a German Shepherd will need a similar amount of exercise to a Labrador Retriever or Siberian Husky. 

This breed is well-known for being heavily devoted to their people and easy to train. When trained properly, they will absolutely listen. However, they do have innate protective instincts. If you want to dog that is going to be protective of their family, this is a great choice. These canines do need extensive socialization starting at a young age, though. Otherwise, they can become a bit too protective of their family and territory. 

These canines are not the friendliest. They are people-oriented, but not with strangers. They tend to be quite unsure with strangers. At best, they usually ignore them completely. Other times, they may be obviously uncomfortable.

German Shepherds have high prey drive. On the one hand that means that you can easily motivate them with a ball or tug toy. On the other hand, it requires a lot of supervision for owners that have small dogs or cats in addition to their shepherd. While your dog might not outright try to fight with a cat or smaller dog, he could even accidentally hurt them during play.

Training and Exercise Needs of a Black German Shepherd

German Shepherds are fairly easy to train. They are extremely intelligent and devoted to their owners. Unlike some dog breeds, they will listen to their owners in most real-life situations. They can learn a variety of different commands very easily and will actually do them when asked. 

However, these dogs do need the training. Without it, they can be overly protective and even potentially dangerous. Their ease of training does make fulfilling this need quite easy, though. We do recommend puppy classes starting at a very young age. These classes provide the extra socialization that your dog needs, as well as allows you to jumpstart their training. 

As long as you properly socialize these dogs when they are puppies, you usually don’t have to worry about private classes. We only recommend private classes for dogs that are too reactive around strangers and other dogs to thrive in a group class. Usually, only German Shepherds who were not properly socialized as puppies will fit into this category. 

If you adopt an older German Shepherd that seems in need of socialization, we recommend taking private classes with an experienced trainer. You can work your dog through some basic commands and then work on socializing them with safe people and dogs. The trainer should be able to help you in this regard.

The German Shepherd is a more active breed, and completely black German Shepherds are not different. While there are more active dog breeds out there, these canines are best for those that are quite active. They need at least two medium-to-long walks per day. Puppies will likely need some extra play sessions as well.

Health and Care

German Shepherds are pretty healthy as far as purebred dogs come. However, they are prone to some health problems. Many of these are due to the inbreeding that occurred early in the breed, which made some previously rare traits more common. 

Black German Shepherds are not known to have any more health problems than their black-and-tan cousins. Their coat coloration is not associated with any particular health issues or anything of that sort. 

It is important to purchase these dogs from a qualified breeder, as they tend to perform plenty of health testing on any dog they plan on breeding. This helps them recognize health problems and pick only the healthiest dogs possible for producing litters. Many health problems can be eliminated or reduced through this careful breeding, but you’ll likely need to go through a breeder to get it. 

We do recommend purchasing a German Shepherd that was bred as a working dog – not one produced as a show dog. These two lines of dogs are somewhat distinct as they have been bred for two very different purposes. Show dogs tend to confirm to an extreme extent to the breed standard, which increase the amount of health problems they develop. 

On the other hand, working dogs were bred with practicality in mind.

Common Health Issues 

Black German Shepherds are prone to a few different health conditions. These are the same as the black-and-tan German Shepherds, so it isn’t that dogs that are completely black are more likely to develop health issues. 

Many German Shepherds have hip and elbow dysplasia. This disease occurs when the ball and socket of the joint do not line up correctly, leading to excess wear-and-tear. Eventually, this cause arthritis-like symptoms, but at a much earlier age than arthritis typically shows up. Usually, this damage occurs during puppyhood when the dog is growing, but they may not show symptoms until a few years later. 

There are a few things pet owners can do to reduce the chance of hip and elbow dysplasia in their German Shepherd. Overfeeding during puppyhood is a proven cause of hip dysplasia, as the dog’s hip joint may start growing at an unusual rate due to the increased calorie intake. Overexercising your dog can also have a dramatic affect on their hip joint, so we don’t recommend forced exercise – especially for puppies. 

Many of these dogs are also affected by degenerative spinal stenosis. For instance, one study found that up to 45% of German Shepherds had this condition as adults. However, this study had a notably small sample size, so it may not be entirely accurate. 

On a good note, German Shepherds are actually less likely to get ear infections than other dogs. They have overactive cerumen-producing glands, which help prevent bacteria from setting up in the dog’s ears. 

Degenerative myelopathy occurs often enough in German Shepherds that they are likely predispositioned to it. There is a DNA test to check for a dog’s predisposition to degenerative myelopathy. This test is very expensive, so many breeders perform it on their dogs before breeding as well as on the puppies after they are born. 

Once the test is used regularly, it becomes very easy to remove it from the breed. You simply don’t breed affected dogs. 

Von Willebrand disease also occurs at a higher level in German Shepherds than in the normal dog population. It is likely that they are genetically predispositioned to it. 

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency occurs in German Shepherds as well. This condition is usually treated with medication and pancreatic supplements. It is most likely genetic, so health testing and keeping track of pedigrees is important to eliminating it in the breed.

Grooming

The extent you’ll need to groom your black German Shepherd depends largely on their coat type. Medium-coated dogs will only need brush two to three times a week. This helps prevent tangles, as well as removes dirt and dust from the dog’s coat. 

Long coats will need combed through at least once a day to prevent mats. Otherwise, your dog’s coat will become needlessly tangled and may need help from a professional groomer. 

Because of their double coat, dogs of all coat types will shed profusely. Do not adopt a black German Shepherd unless you can deal with a lot of extra hair. Even if you brush your dog daily, they will still shed everywhere. Twice a year, they will “blow” their coat, which typically means that their shedding level will increase substantially.

black german shepherd posing

Usually, this occurs in the spring and fall, but it can depend on your local climate. Shedding is also tied to hormones – not just the weather. Therefore, these dogs will have their blowouts even if they don’t necessarily live in an area with four seasons. 

There is little you can do to reduce the overall amount of shedding your dog does. However, anti-shedding shampoos and a high-quality diet can help.

Adopting a Black German Shepherd

German Shepherds are pretty common throughout the United States. It is usually not too difficult to find a normal German Shepherd breeder somewhere near you. However, not all breeders produce black dogs. Often, you’ll need to find someone who specializes in black German Shepherds to adopt a puppy. 

Because these dogs are much rarer than the usual coloration, you can expect that they won’t be regularly available. Most will also be significantly more expensive than a black-and-tan German Shepherd due to their rarity. Many people want a black German Shepherd, which means that you often have to be prepared to pay a bit extra. The supply just can’t meet the demand easily. 

You can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $2,000 for a high-quality, completely black puppy. This is significantly more expensive than the $500 to $1,500 you can expect to pay for a usual German Shepherd. However, this is still much cheaper than you might expect for a large dog. As a common breed, they are usually cheaper than most.

For comparison, a French Bulldog costs anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000. 

It may be tempting to cut corners and purchase a cheaper puppy. However, this is not recommended, especially when it comes to German Shepherds. These puppies need socialized from the moment they are born. Often, breeders put in this time and effort. 

This isn’t the case with everyone, though. Puppy mills aim to produce as many puppies as quickly as possible, so their dogs don’t get socialized. Many don’t even step foot in a house until after they are adopted. 

Backyard breeders may raise their dogs inside, but many don’t know how to socialize them properly. While breeders will make a point to invite strangers over and allow children to play with the puppies, most backyard breeders don’t do this. 

We highly recommend only purchasing puppies form very experienced breeders. Otherwise, you may end up with an unsocialized puppy and a troublesome temperament. 

You should always ask about the pedigree of the parents, as well as the health testing the breeder has done. Don’t be afraid to ask for the parent’s CHIC numbers, which will allow you to check on their health testing independently online. If a dog doesn’t have a CHIC number, they have not been health tested and registered.  

Ask to see the parents if at all possible. Sometimes, the father will be located somewhere else, so only the mother will be at the breeder. In this case, it is usually fine to just see the mother. You can tell a lot about a breeder form how they keep the mother and the puppies, so be absolutely sure to ask to see their living conditions. 

The parents should be AKC registered, so you should ask for registration. But AKC registration does not mean that the dog is high-quality. Every German Shepherd can be registered – even those with no health testing. Registration can’t even be used to determine if the dog is purebred, as the AKC simply requires a form stating the parents of the puppy (which the breeder can easily be dishonest on).

Experience Level for Owning a Black German Shepherd

We only recommend these dogs for experienced dog owners. Preferably, you should have owned at least one dog before. It is recommended that you have some experience with more active dogs, as well. A Shih Tzu isn’t going to do much to prepare you for a German Shepherd. 

These dogs are quite active and tend to be high-energy. Without the appropriate amount of exercise, they can easily become destructive. In fact, most of the destructive behavior associated with a German Shepherd is due to a lack of stimulation. 

German Shepherds require extensive training as well, so it is best if they have a handler that has previously trained dogs. They are quite easy to train, so you don’t have to be an expert by any means. 

If you’re interested in owning a German Shepherd, we highly recommend taking your time to consider just how much work these dogs require. They will take up a few hours a day as puppies and require as much as an hour or two of exercise alone. These aren’t dogs for the casual dog owner.

black german shepherd in autumn leaves

The Bottom Line

While many people confuse them with King Shepherds, Black German Shepherds are completely purebred, despite their odd coloration. Many of these canines are more expensive than their black-and-tan counterparts. However, they have won the hearts of many pet owners. 

The AKC does recognize the black German Shepherd as an official coloration. However, you still don’t see many of these dogs because they are so rare. It will often take you a little bit before you locate a completely black puppy, so be prepared to sit on a few waiting lists. 

Despite their unusual colorations, these dogs are very similar to all other German Shepherds. They have the same temperament and work great as guard dogs. However, they aren’t great for every family. You have to prepare to train and socialize them properly. They require quite a bit more work than other breeds, but it is absolutely worth it in the end. 

We recommend these dogs for serious dog owners who have previously owned dogs. German Shepherds are not for the casual dog owner. They need someone who can commit to their training and activity needs.

Author: Kristin

Author: Kristin

Kristin was born in Tennessee and currently lives there with her husband and children. She is passionate about educating pet parents and helping them make the best possible decisions for their pets. She currently owns one dog, two cats, a lizard, and a variety of fish.

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