The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the German Shepherd as a popular breed that is known for its intelligence and loyalty.
It is a muscular dog that can weigh between 50 and 90 pounds and stand between 22 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Males are typically larger than females.
German Shepherds come in different colors. While the black-and-tan is the most common and best-known, German Shepherds can also be black-and-silver or black-and-red. They can also come in solid colors like black, white, or gray.
Can German Shepherds have blue eyes?
Yes, but it’s not common. According to the website “All About Shepherds,” the vast majority of German Shepherds have brown eyes. The few with blue eyes owe their eye color to a recessive gene, so they have to inherit the gene from both parents.
Blue-eyed German Shepherds can have two blue eyes, or they can be odd-eyed with one blue eye and one brown eye. Dogs with odd eyes are sometimes described as having heterochromia.
While many dog owners consider blue-eyed German Shepherds appealing, breeders consider blue eyes to be a fault and so won’t deliberately breed blue-eyed dogs. Similarly, the AKC disqualifies blue-eyed German Shepherds from dog shows.
What is a blue German Shepherd?
The German Shepherd Lore website states that a blue German Shepherd is one with a color variation caused by a recessive gene. It dilutes black pigment so the fur will appear blue-gray or silver-gray rather than black.
Blue German Shepherds can be described as being “steel blue” or “powder blue.” The former has dark grey fur; in some cases, their fur is so dark that they are mistaken for black German Shepherds.
Powder blue German Shepherds have a lighter color. Blue German Shepherds can be blue-and-black, blue-and-tan, or blue-and-sable (dark brown).
A blue German Shepherd’s eye color is similarly diluted, so they have light brown, light green, yellow, or blue eyes instead of the usual dark brown.
A German Shepherd’s eyes have changed to their adult color by the time the pup is around six months old. A blue German Shepherd’s footpads and nose will also be paler than usual.
Blue German Shepherds can appear in litters containing the more expected black-and-tan pups.
While the blue color is a normal variation, both the AKC and many breeders consider it a fault. Blue German Shepherds consequently can’t participate in dog shows emphasizing breed standards, but they can take part in agility competitions and similar events.
Can German Shepherd mixes have blue eyes?
Sometimes. The Dog Breed Info website includes a list of dog breeds that often or occasionally produce individuals with blue eyes. While all puppies are born with blue eyes, dogs belonging to the breeds listed can retain their blue eyes as adults.
A German Shepherd mix can inherit blue eyes from either its German Shepherd parent or from the non-Shepherd parent if they belonged to a breed with blue eyes.
For example, PetGuide describes a dog called the Gerberian Shepsky, which is a cross between a German Shepherd and a Siberian Husky.
These dogs, which are also known as Siberian Shepherds or German Huskies, often inherit blue eyes from their Husky parents.
Do blue-eyed German Shepherds have health problems?
Generally speaking, blue-eyed German Shepherds are as healthy as their brown-eyed relatives. There are, however, some unfortunate exceptions.
Liam Barnes, a writer for the PlayBarkRun website, describes the merle gene that causes random pigment dilution on the dog’s body. Dogs with the merle gene will thus have white patches on their body and face, and they will often have blue eyes.
While that sounds benign and even attractive, dogs that inherit the merle gene from both parents often have birth defects.
Such dogs, which are called “double merle,” are often born blind, deaf, or both. Mating two carriers of the merle gene are thus considered inhumane and are strictly forbidden. Fortunately, German Shepherds are not among the breeds that carry the merle gene.
On the other hand, a German Shepherd mix could have the merle gene – if the non-Shepherd parent belonged to a breed affected by the merle gene. Such breeds include the Australian Shepherd, the Collie, the Great Dane, and the Shetland Sheepdog.
Are there albino German Shepherds?
Yes. However, Melvin Peña, a writer for “Dogster,” notes that albinism in dogs is rare. The condition is due to a complete lack of pigment in the dog’s skin, fur, and eyes.
An albino dog will thus not only have pure white fur, but the skin around their nose and eyes will be very pale pink.
The eyes may have some pigment and be a very pale blue, or they can have no pigment and appear pinkish. In albinism, the pink color is actually due to the blood flowing beneath the skin.
Albino dogs of any breed are generally healthy, but they are very sensitive to light and are vulnerable to both sunburn and skin cancer.
Are white German Shepherds albino?
In most cases, no. Shannon Cutts, a writer for “The Happy Pup” explains that different genes are involved. While the genetics behind white German Shepherds are still not fully understood, the current thinking is that there is a specific gene that determines whether a dog will have a white coat or not.
That gene has two alleles or versions: white and non-white. White is recessive, so a puppy would have to inherit the trait from both parents.
One big difference between white German Shepherds and albinos is that the gene for albinism affects the skin and eyes as well as the coat, while the white/non-white gene affects only coat color.
It doesn’t affect eye color, so most white German Shepherds will have the usual dark brown eyes. The handful that has blue eyes owe those eyes to another recessive gene.
Can a German Shepherd’s eyes turn blue?
Yes – and it isn’t good. The website “My Pet Needs That” describes several eye conditions that cause a dog’s eyes to appear to become bluish. Cataracts, for example, cause the lens of the eye to become cloudy and appear to be a hazy blue.
Glaucoma can also make eyes appear cloudy blue, and both conditions can cause blindness if they aren’t treated.