Sable German Shepherd – Everything You Need To Know

It is fairly obvious that the shading of Sable German Shepherds is different from that of other German Shepherds and that they resemble some wolves in many ways. While they might not be similar to wolves in every aspect of their behavior, Shepherds are by far the canines closest to their wild brethren.

Even though wolves are common ancestors of German shepherds, only a few dogs carry the genes that provide wolves with the two-toned hairs. In fact, German Shepherds are among the few breeds that possess the genes. That said, does the color of the coat affect the health and behavior of a German shepherd?

The particularity of the Sable color

First, let us explore what the color coat of the sable German Shepherds is all about. You see, Sable German Shepherds are widely known for their multi-colored individual hairs, which might also be masked by black or dark guard hairs. The color branding of each individual hair leads to various colors and shades that vary extremely from one sable dog to the other.

Agouti (the correct term for the Sable German Shepherd) has stood to be the genetically dominating breed of the common German Shepherd dogs. In sable Shepherds, the sable keeps on developing into the final color until the dog reaches the age of three. In other words, unlike the other German shepherd dogs, you will rarely know the color of the sable until the dog completely matures.

Know that the sable appears in several shades of grey, silver, mahogany, and gold, while some fall in between the extremes. Mostly, these dogs have dark masks too. Agouti German Shepherds are also known to pass through several coat development stages, lightening and darkening before they mature.


The categorization of sables’ color can be hard if the dog was photographed earlier or tattooed in life, particularly because the coat changes in color dramatically as it matures. These dogs are born tan in color and the characteristic black tipping comes in after the dog is a few weeks old. As such, the color continues to change as the puppy ages. One thing to point out is that the dog might end up lighter or darker than it was as a puppy.

It should also be said that the sable GSD resembles the two-toned counterparts closely, including the tan saddleback and the black GSDs. However, individual hairs have many colors that create unique patterns, specific to the individual dog. In this regard, you will likely come across many hues of color when selecting a sable German shepherd and they range from the light tans to dark blacks.

With Shepherds, the color of the eyes should be black and blend properly with the dog’s coat color. A dog with any other color on the nose apart from black should be a disqualification. Any coat shade is acceptable but the rich hues are preferable. Pale washed-out colors, blue shades, and livers are serious faults. At the same time, the hairs of sables look like they are banded together in a variety of color shades and tipped in black. Sable Germans are many in the United States than they are in Germany.


How pigmentation affects dogs

Even though conclusive studies are limited, scientists have shown that the coloring of an animal correlates to its behavior. In other cases, the color corresponds to the health of the animal. Temple Grandin, in her article “The Way I See It: The Dangers of Trait Over-Selection,” shows how depigmentation (generally the pale eye colors and white coats) affects the health and behavior of some types of animals and this includes canines as well.

Grandin states that most animals that have depigmentation that result in white color coats are more nervous than others. Even more, any depigmentation that results in a white color coat and pale eye color – mostly blue – is linked to neurological and some other disorders. Some researchers backed up the statements with studies of their own since, which means that Grandin may have been onto something.

For example, Dalmatians have a higher rate of deafness, with around 30 percent of those in the United States turning deaf in one of their two ears. The reason behind that is that Dalmatians carry extreme piebaldness gene. This gene can affect the color of the eyes and lead to their depigmentation, which causes blue hued eyes.

What’s more, a Dalmatian with blue eyes is likely to be affected by deafness, which is unlikely for dark-eyed Dalmatians. This is because the cells that produce skin and hair pigment are an important part of the dog’s inner ears. Without the cells, a dog will end up deaf and pigmentless.

It should be fairly obvious at this point that the correlation between temperament or health and color does not end there. For instance, some colors of the English Cocker Spaniels are aggressive and a few shades of the Labrador retriever have long lifespans than others. The studies provide some insights, but they are not universally applicable to all animals and across all dog breeds.


Does the coloring affect the health or behavior of a sable German Shepherd?

Unfortunately, no studies have been conducted on the effects of coloring on sable German Shepherds. As such, it would be hard to suggest that the colors of sable German shepherds are different from those of other German shepherds.

It can also be hard to conclude that colors affect the health or behavior of a sable German Shepherd. Sheila Schmutz, a geneticist, established a website that explains the coat color genetics. According to her, in German shepherds, the Agouti gene controls the sable color.

Know that the Agouti gene comes in several variations. Most of the variations are undiscovered, as only four of them are common and widespread. Some other genes determine where the shading appears on the body.

The Agouti gene, for instance, does not influence the development of health issues or behaviors in dogs. With that in mind, it would be safe to assume that Sable German Shepherds are alike other Shepherds in every meaningful way.


Predicting the behavior and health of a Sable German Shepherd

Throughout the years, scientists have managed to map the personality traits of dogs such as aggression and fear from a genetic perspective. In this respect, it was established that the behavior of a dog is not a product of genetics alone.

If you have already heard something about nature versus nurture arguments, you should know that they exist due to the relevance of the relationship. To argue this, Dr. Carol Beuchat from the Institute of Canine Biology states that the behavior of a dog is a product of both nature and nurture.

With all that in mind, you will want to be sure that your puppy has a winning personality and a healthier life, which is why you should rely on a responsible breeder. You see, good breeders are passionate when it comes to promoting the breed’s welfare and are diligent about using dogs with reliable temperament as moms and dads of the next generations.

Sable German Shepherd – All The Facts About This Classic Coat Color


Everybody knows that German Shepherds are intelligent dogs by nature, which might be the main reason they are popular as service animals and police dogs. They are affectionate, loyal, loving towards family members, and aloof towards strangers.

They might also be a bit too protective at times, which is reason enough to invest more time in their socialization and training from a very young age. Do that, and you will end up with a well-behaved and reliable family dog.

Caroline Jones

Caroline has been a dog lover since she was only 6 years old, when her parents got her a rescue Boxer. Since then her love for dogs has lead her to study Dog Behavior & Welfare. She now educates people on how to properly raise and care for dogs, through her online site, Bark Friend. Now, she's a proud owner of a beautiful German Shepherd.

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