The German Shepherd dog, or GSD as many fans call this breed, is world-famous for courage, beauty, and loyalty.
These dogs are not just the second most popular purebred dog breed in the United States. They are wildly popular all around the world today.
The German Shepherd coat is usually bi-color or multi-color. However, occasionally a German Shepherd may grow up to have a solid color coat. Black is one of the rarest solid color coats in the GSD.
In this article, learn all about the unusual, beautiful black German Shepherd dog.
Are Black German Shepherds Rare?
A truly black German Shepherd dog is a rare sight. Only a very small percentage of all purebred German Shepherd dogs are considered black. The reason is simple: pure black is a recessive genetic trait. So a puppy must inherit the genes for a solid black coat from both parent dogs in order to grow up to be all black.
See a Beautiful Black German Shepherd Dog for Yourself
This owner-made video shows off a gorgeous black German Shepherd dog.
You can see how vibrant and deep the black coat color is, but what is most unusual is that the coat appears to be both solid black and single-color black.
Is the Black Coat Color a Recognized Color for the German Shepherd Dog?
As we mentioned in the introduction here, the German Shepherd breed is the second most popular dog breed in America according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
The GSD wins out year after year over nearly 200 other purebred dog breeds to take these top honors.
But out of all those German Shepherd puppies born each year to breeders around the world, only a handful of them will grow up to have the singular all-black coat.
However, according to the official breed standard filed with the American Kennel Club (AKC), a German Shepherd with a black coat is a recognized coat color for the breed.
This means that if you choose a German Shepherd dog with a black coat and can meet all the other show requirements, you will be permitted to enter your dog in AKC-sponsored dog competitions.
How to Tell If Your GSD Puppy Will Grow Up to Have a Black Coat
As VomGeliebtenHause GSD breeders explain, even very experienced dog breeders that are well-versed in canine color genetics may try to breed for the all-black coat and fail. It is very difficult to do this!
As the breeder explains, the way you can know you have successfully produced an all-black German Shepherd puppy is if the puppy has an all-black coat right away. This coat may have a few specks of white or be all black.
Many dog lovers do not realize that the puppy coat is different from the adult coat.
A German Shepherd puppy will have a finer, thinner coat that will begin to fall out between the age of six and 12 months in most cases. In its place, the adult coat will begin to grow.
Often it is difficult to tell what color a puppy’s adult coat will be just by looking at the puppy. Some dog breeds will also continue to change coat colors throughout their life. But the German Shepherd is not one of them.
When a German Shepherd puppy pops out with a mostly-black or all-black coat, there is a very high likelihood that puppy will grow up to have an all-black adult coat as well.
Understanding the Complicated World of German Shepherd Coat Color Genetics
For all the coat color variety in the German Shepherd dog breed, there are only two main genes that code for color: eumelanin and phaeomelanin.
As Dog Coat Color Genetics explains, eumelanin codes for color in the coat, skin, nose, and eyes. Phaeomelanin codes for color in the coat only.
Interestingly eumelanin is also the gene that codes for the black color spectrum (phaeomelanin codes for the red color spectrum).
So then how does a German Shepherd get so many different coat colors and patterns, you might be wondering? The answer is that there are many other genes that code for patterns and for specific color combinations.
But since we are talking about the black coat color in this article, let’s take a much closer look now at how the color genes work to produce black in a German Shepherd coat.
How Is the Black Coat Color Produced in a German Shepherd?
As Dog Coat Colour Genetics points out, the vast majority of dogs that inherit an all-black coat get it because they inherit a dominant gene for black.
With a dominant gene, the puppy only has to inherit one copy of the gene from one canine parent in order to grow up to have an all-black coat.
But this is not what happens when a German Shepherd puppy grows up to have an all-black coat.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, a German Shepherd puppy will only inherit a pure black coat if the puppy gets the color genes for a black coat from both dog parents.
This is because the black coat color in a German Shepherd dog is what is called a “recessive” genetic trait. When a gene is recessive, it is less common and a puppy needs two copies before it will show up.
So let’s say a German Shepherd puppy inherits the eumelanin gene from both the mom and dad dog. This in turn will trigger the cells to get the instructions to create the black coat color.
What Color Will the Nose and Eyes of a Black Coat German Shepherd Be?
As you may recall, earlier in this article we talked about how the eumelanin gene that codes for black doesn’t just affect coat color. It also impacts eye color and nose color. So what color eyes and nose will a black German Shepherd dog have?
Black German Shepherd eye color
Most German Shepherd puppies, like most human babies, have blue eyes at birth. The eyes will gradually change color as the puppy grows up.
Typically, a German Shepherd puppy starts out with blue eyes. Then they start changing color and move into more of a green or green-hazel color. Then the eyes continue to darken to brown. Finally, they stabilize as a brown-black or black eye color.
According to this popular German Shepherd dog owners forum, the timing of this change from puppy eye color to adult dog eye color can vary.
In some litters, the puppies’ eye color may change as early as two months old. In other cases, the transition may be more gradual and it may take as long as six months before the puppies’ eye color makes the leap to brown or black.
According to the official AKC breed standard, the darker the eye color, the better. Rich, dark coloration is prized in the German Shepherd dog in all ways, which includes coat, eyes, and nose.
Black German Shepherd nose color
For dog show purposes, the color of a dog’s nose, paw pads, and skin – and even the rims of the eyes – is often referred to as the “leather.”
When a German Shepherd inherits the genes for an all-black coat, the nose is typically all-black as well.
Why Is a Dark Black Color So Desirable in a German Shepherd Dog?
In some dog breeds, the color black is a less desirable color (although this is most commonly seen in cats rather than in dogs).
But in many working dog breeds, and especially in herding and livestock guarding dog breeds like the German Shepherd, the darker coat colors are especially prized.
There is a very interesting reason for this, as VonKazmaeier DogStar Kennel explains.
Sheep find darker coat colors more intimidating and are more likely to circle up into a tight herd when their herding dog has a black face!
This is why even when a German Shepherd dog has a bi-color or multi-color coat, you will often see that German Shepherds from working dog lines are bred specifically to have the blackface masks.
When a German Shepherd Has a “False” Black Coat
Can there ever be a situation where a German Shepherd coat looks black but technically isn’t black?
As a matter of fact, this is possible in the German Shepherd dog breed. It is important to be aware of this if you are buying a German Shepherd dog that you want to breed or show competitively.
VonKazmaier DogStar Kennels explains that when a GSD coat is dark agouti or dark sable, sometimes it will appear to be dark black instead.
But sable and agouti are actually coat patterns, not a solid coat color. In a German Shepherd, the terms “sable” and “agouti” are often used interchangeably to describe the same coat color pattern.
Some breeders and owners also refer to the sable or agouti pattern as simply the “wild wolf pattern” because this pattern in its lighter variations makes the dog look most like a wild wolf.
There are three ways to tell the difference between a true solid black-coated German Shepherd and a GSD that has a dark sable or agouti coat that just looks black.
1. Find out what color coat the puppy had
The first way is to find out what color the dog’s puppy coat was.
A German Shepherd puppy that grows up to have a sable or agouti coat pattern will have a black and brown coat rather than a black coat (with or without white spots).
2. Have the dog’s genetics tested
The second way is to have the dog genetically tested.
If you are adopting an adult rescue German Shepherd that appears to have a black coat and you don’t know anything about the dog’s parents or breed line, genetic testing is the only reliable way to find out the technically correct coat color description.
3. Examine the coat under bright light
The third way is to look very closely at the coat under different types of light.
Often in low light conditions is when the coat of a sable or agouti German Shepherd will look like solid, dark black.
But in bright light, you will be able to detect the lighter shading on each hair that is closer to the skin. The black will be only on the tips of the hairs and the end closest to the skin will be a slightly lighter shade of brown or gray.
What Is the Difference Between Bi-Color and Pure Black?
Earlier in this article, we mentioned that a GSD puppy that will grow up to have an all-black (true black) coat color may be born with an all-black coat or may have some patches of white in the coat.
But one thing a puppy with a true recessive all-black coat will not have is tan paw pads.
A puppy that is born with a black-appearing coat and tan paw pads is most likely going to grow up to have a bi-color black and tan coat.
Even if the coat is nearly all black, the presence of those tan paw pads indicates the dog does not have two genes for an all-black coat.
This can be another important point to look for if you have aspirations to show or breed your dog as an all-black German Shepherd.
And since only the most experienced German Shepherd dog breeders typically understand all the nuances of dog coat color genetics, you don’t necessarily just want to take the breeder’s word for it that your puppy will grow up to be all black.
Learning about German Shepherd dog coat color genetics can (and often does) represent a lifetime of study for dog breeders. For dog lovers, however, the all-black GSD coat is quite simply beautiful!