Sable German Shepherd: Does Coat Color Affect Behavior and Health?

What is a sable German Shepherd?

These dogs will have different bands of color on certain parts of their fur, ranging from gray to tan, or even silver, but there will always be black tips.

Despite their unique coloring, sable German Shepherds do not differ from the breed standard in any way.

However, certain studies do claim that a dog’s color can actually impact its health and behavior.

However, there are hundreds of breeds out there, and no specific study has been done that links sable coloring to temperament changes among German Shepherds.

Sable German Shepherd

Sable German Shepherd: Potential Colors  

Sable refers to the color pattern that wolves have. For a sable German Shepherd, this color pattern works differently. As a sable German Shepherd puppy grows, the pigmentation or color of its fur changes.

These dogs are born with tan coloring, and as they age, these colors can get lighter or darker. This change in coloring happens as the coat grows.

It can get darker – some sable German Shepherds are born with a light coat. As they grow, the coat becomes dark, especially on their backs.

These are called black sable German Shepherds.

It can get lighter – lightening of color often happens to silver sable German Shepherds. The lightening of their color happens on the sides

It develops a mahogany color – mahogany or red color happens when the coat of your sable German Shepherd either gets lighter or darker.

This can happen in a variety of ways – it can get darker to start, and then lighter, resulting in a red coat.

Once a sable German Shepherd has reached its third birthday, its colors will no longer change.

By then, you will be able to identify whether you have a black or silver sable German Shepherd.

What Are the Different Classes of German Shepherds?

The German Shepherd breed is one of the most popular breeds of dogs in the world, and thanks to its intelligence, it is also one of the most respected and recognized breeds.

GSD capabilities are wide-ranging and are loving pets that families across the globe adore.

German Shepherds are medium to large in size and have medium to long coats which are double-layered.

The top layer is coarser, it is the guard hair that protects and insulates, and the undercoat is softer and thicker.

As recognized by the World Canine Organization, here are the different classes of German Shepherds:

What Does The Agouti Gene Have To Do With Sable Coloring?

The dominating factor in Sable German Shepherds is the agouti gene or “A” locus, which refers to a color and a locus.

The “A” locus here encompasses four major genes.

It is actually caused by the same DNA that contributes to its wolf-like appearance, which the original German Shepherds in Germany possessed.

Scientists believe a modifier creates the unusual red or tan fur, as genes, or alleles, affect coat colors and patterns in dogs.

Every set of genes has two copies and can be identical or different.

If the two copies are different, one typically dominates the other, and the dominant copy will show up as a physical characteristic, while the other is recessive and will not appear.

Here are some known facts about the agouti German Shepherd:

  • Size – a female sable German Shepherd will grow to roughly 24 inches tall,  while males grow up to 26 inches tall
  • Weight – a female sable German Shepherd can weigh up to 95 pounds, while males can weigh up to 95 pounds
  • Lifespan – a sable German Shepherd can live up to roughly 13 years
  • Purpose and breed – sable German Shepherds are a herding breed and its original purpose was as a working dog
  • Color – sable
  • Temperament – loving, loyal, protective, and intelligent

Sable german shepherd

The Sable Color & Pigmentation

How It Affects Other Animals

Scientists have linked two things to animal color – temperament and health.

Studies with different breeds of dogs have been conducted to determine whether color actually affects health and behavior.

Some findings include:

  • Dogs with major white pigmentation like Dalmatians are more nervous as compared to other Dalmatians with less white pigmentation
  • Dogs with bluish color are at a higher risk of developing neurological disorders, among other conditions
  • Dogs with bluish eyes like Dalmatians are prone to becoming deaf as compared to Dals with black eyes

How It Affects Sable German Shepherds

The only reason why sable German Shepherds have their unique fur color is because of the ‘agouti’ genes.

Luckily, ‘agouti’ genes are not associated with any negative behaviors or health conditions.

In general, sable German Shepherds are just like standard German Shepherds.

They do not differ from the breed standard when it comes to their physical & mental abilities, as well as anything health related – they stay true to the breed standard.

Just like standard German Shepherds, Sable GSDs work in the police force and the military, where the sable appearance is irrelevant.


Sable German Shepherds are working dogs, known for their patience, self-assuredness, confidence, and responsiveness to their owners.

Just like any German Shepherd, a sable German Shepherd has to be trained at an early age to control its aggressive behavior.

Sable German Shepherd Grooming Requirements 

Sable German Shepherd is a heavy shedder that shed regularly as well as seasonally.

They do shed more during warmer months in order to prepare their bodies for summer, and you will need to vacuum regularly if you have a German Shepherd at home!

Bath a sable GSD as needed – too much exposure to water can dry a dog’s skin.

You should also give your canine a good brushing at least once per day, or every other day, in order to help with shedding and matting.


A sable German Shepherd requires a high-protein diet.

Even if it is a family dog that doesn’t work, it’s still a highly active breed with serious exercise requirements.

Hence why it needs to be fed a proper diet full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats. Some German Shepherd owners even feed their canines raw meat.

Although raw meat can be great, some owners do prefer dry kibbles, or a wet diet.

If you are going to feed your sable German Shepherd with commercial dog food, be sure to choose the ones that are approved by the AAFCO.

Sable German Shepherd Training and Regular Activity

Proper socialization is very important for a growing sable German Shepherd.

It will help curtail their aggressive behavior and channel their excessive behavior into good activities.

Sable German Shepherds are intelligent and easy to train, especially if this training and socialization start at an early age.

You can give your dog stimulating activities and mental games such as tug-of-war, hide-and-seek, and fetch games.

Not only will they get their daily exercise requirements, but it will activate their minds as well.

Sensory snuffle mats are great toys to have for your German Shepherd.

You can hide their treats and kibbles in these mats, forcing your dog to use its sense of smell to find the hidden treasures!

When it comes to regular activities, this breed needs A LOT of exercises.

Take your sable dog on a run, and you can even introduce it to swimming to make their hips and legs stronger.

Be aware though that German Shepherds are not naturally great swimmers.

Sable longcoated german shepherds

Common Health Issues

German Shepherds are prone to developing hip dysplasia and the sable class is no different.

Hip dysplasia is the most common orthopedic disease in medium to large-size dogs.

Unfortunately, it is a hereditary disease and there is no test to check for it due to its complex nature.

In humans, it’s comparable to arthritis. Swimming can actually help make their legs stronger and less susceptible to dysplasia.

Other conditions to watch out for in your sable German Shepherd include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Digestive difficulty
  • Corneal inflammation
  • Bloating
  • Eczema
  • Flea allergies
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Perianal fistulas
  • Willebrand’s disease

Buy A Sable German Shepherd From A Responsible Breeder

If you are wanting to buy a sable German Shepherd puppy, remember that you won’t know the real color of your German Shepherd until it turns 3 years old.

A sable German Shepherd pup will most likely be tan, and any breeder should be able to explain the parent dogs’ genetic makeup in order to ‘guesstimate’ the puppy’s potential colors in the future.

Before buying a pup, ask your breeder certain questions such as the history of the puppy, its parents, and its current condition.

Ask for a referral for a vet that you can trust, and ask for a tour of the breeder’s facilities to ensure that you are dealing with a legitimate and responsible breeder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are sable German Shepherds bigger?

Nope! One of the only real differences between a sable and other German Shepherds is their coloration.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that GSDs in sable colors are any different in size from their tan, gold, black, blue, white, or mixed counterparts.

Is a sable German Shepherd rare?

Not generally speaking, no.

Because the sable Shepherds are simply a color variety of the other German Shepherds, they actually have the same characteristics and tendencies, as well as being incredibly similar in appearance otherwise.

Interestingly enough, because sables are not necessarily as popular as other GSDs, they can often be more affordable to buy than their favored siblings.

The most popular colors of Shepherds are black, gray, and blue, or combinations of black and tan, black and silver, or red and black.

Sable dogs are therefore less likely to be owned, so it makes sense that you might think they were rare.

However, it’s important to note that certain types of the sable coloration are incredibly rare, like those with the recessive black coloration gene – being almost entirely black, with a couple of tan or sable genes in addition.

How do you tell if your German Shepherd is a sable?

Sable German Shepherds only differ from their fellow GSDs in coloring.

Although ‘normal’ colored GSDs can be multicolored, sable coloring refers to when the individual hairs specifically have distinct and separate bands of color running through them, rather than just separate patches of different colored fur.

If you’ve got a sable on your hands, then the majority of their hair should come with a black tip, with the rest of the hair being a different color.

This second color is usually tan but can be blue, red, liver, white, or gold, with some interesting combinations possible.

There are no behavioral differences between sables and other German Shepherds, nor do they look any different visually besides the obvious color distinctions.

You can expect them to have the same loyal, protective and intelligent personality as any other GSD, though their desire to serve as your guardian might be strong, being as sable is the color of those initial service dogs from hundreds of years ago.

What color is a sable German Shepherd?

If a German Shepherd is described as being sable in color, it basically means that there are distinct separate bands of color on some of their hairs: sable GSDs can have either gray, tan, or silver fur, but they will always have black tips.

Genetically speaking, sable is in actual fact the dominant color of coat for German Shepherds, which makes them more common than you might expect.

Their coloration is similar to that of their wolf ancestors, as they still carry that same gene that causes multi-tonal hair.

The older your sable gets, the darker their coat is likely to become.

It’s impossible to know for sure how much it will darken, as every dog is different, but you can expect a distinct color change, though they will eventually go a little grey around the muzzle as all elderly pups do.

According to the American Kennel Club Breed Standards, there are several different colorations of German Shepherd.

They believe that GSDs vary in color and that though strong, rich colors are preferred, “most colors are permissible.”

They also argue that “pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are serious faults,” and “a white dog must be disqualified.”

Of course, a dog’s color has absolutely nothing to do with how amazing a companion they will be, and how much love they will give to you, so it’s not worth taking any notice of their strange policing of fur coloration.