- History and Origin of Black German Shepherds
- Official Recognition of Black German Shepherds
- What Causes the Black Fur?
- Does the Black Fur Cause Health Issues?
- Are Black German Shepherds Rare?
- What Do Black German Shepherds Look Like?
- Lifestyle of a Black German Shepherd
- Exercise and Activities that Black German Shepherds Love
- Training Black German Shepherds
- Feeding Black German Shepherds
- Grooming Black German Shepherds
- Lifespan of Black German Shepherds
- Common Health Issues in Black German Shepherd
- Routine Vaccines for Black German Shepherds
- Temperament of a Black German Shepherd
- How Big Do Black German Shepherds Get?
- Where to get a Black German Shepherd
- Cost of Owning a Black German Shepherd
- Is a Black German Shepherd the Right Dog for You?
While German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world – 2nd favorite in 2018 according to the American Kennel Club – the Black German Shepherd is quite rare. Only 6.8% of all German Shepherds are entirely black. Most are sable or a combination of lack and tan.
This article discusses the quite popular and highly demanded Black German Shepherd – it’s history, origin, development, characteristics, lifestyle, and care needs.
Quick Info Guide for Black German Shepherds
|Name||Black German Shepherd|
|Popularity in the World||2nd most popular in 2018|
|Purpose||Working and companion|
|Lifespan||10 – 14 years|
|Temperament||Alert, loyal, confident, intelligent, curious, protective, obedient.|
|Height||Females: 22-24 inches; Males: 24-26 inches.|
|Weight||Females: 50-70 pounds; Males: 65-90 pounds.|
|Colors||Black and tan, black and silver, black and liver, black, liver, white, sable.|
|Typical Litter Size||6 – 10 puppies|
|Yearly Expense||$1,500 in medical and non-medical|
|Puppy Price||$500 - $3,000 for purebred, certified puppies. $150 - $500 if from adoption organization.|
Breed Characteristics of Black German Shepherds
|Living Situation||Roomy home with yard or apartment with daily exercise|
|Tendency to Bark||Many are guard dogs and will bark at strangers entering their territory. All German Shepherds are vocal and will whine, moan, groan, and talk to you.|
|Shedding||Constant with seasonal blowouts|
|Ability to Adapt to New Situations||Yes, if introduced properly|
|Training||Love advanced training with having a “job” to complete each day.|
|Playfulness||Very playful – always chewing or chasing. Will be less active in old age.|
|Intelligence||One of the most intelligent dog breeds|
|Health Issues||Numerous common health issues, but can be avoided with proper veterinary care, feeding, and exercise.|
|Grooming||Daily brushing with seasonal blowouts|
|Exercise Needs||Daily walk or run for 30 to 60 minutes|
|Dog Friendly?||Yes, if introduced properly and socialized well.|
|Child Friendly?||Yes! Ideal pet for families, but teach kids to be respectful.|
|Cat Friendly?||Yes, but chances are better if introduced to cats as a puppy|
|Stranger Friendly?||Reserved but civil|
|Watchdog?||Will protect family and territory|
History and Origin of Black German Shepherds
Black German Shepherds are not a separate breed from all other German Shepherds. They all descended from Max von Stephanitz’s German Shepherd, Horand von Grafrath. Von Stephanitz bred his dogs to be intelligent, obedient, agile herding dogs for European farmers.
Horand’s descendants eventually arrived in the United States and Canada in the early 1900s with a female named “The Queen of Switzerland.” Popularity of the breed declined during World War I due to their German association. The UK Kennel Club renamed the breed “Alsatian” in hopes of hushing the negative association. The breed wasn’t renamed German Shepherd Dog within the UKKC until 2010.
Despite the controversial history, the German Shepherd remains second most popular dog breed out of 194 total breeds according to the American Kennel Club.
Official Recognition of Black German Shepherds
Unlike other colors of German Shepherds (such as white German Shepherds), the American Kennel Club automatically recognizes the black fur as part of the breed and allows Black German Shepherds in competitions.
What Causes the Black Fur?
Two black German Shepherds will produce black puppies, like that of a recessive gene. Two black and tan German Shepherds could also produce a black puppy, but the chances are not as likely.
While it may be said that the black fur is a fault, that is not true. Did the tan fur just forget to appear? No. Black German Shepherds are exactly like their bi-colored counterparts in all other ways.
You might want to read:
Does the Black Fur Cause Health Issues?
No, this is another myth. The black fur does not create any other health issues. While German Shepherds are known for a few common health concerns, none of these have anything to do with fur color.
Are Black German Shepherds Rare?
Yes! Only 6.8% of all German Shepherds have entirely black fur. So, if you have a black German Shepherd, your pup is absolutely unique. However, if you are looking to buy a black German Shepherd puppy, be prepared to dish out extra cash. Breeders charge more for rare colors in high demand.
What Do Black German Shepherds Look Like?
They are stoic and striking. Elegant. Statuesque. They catch your attention.
Their fur is rich, shiny black. They are a large breed dog with long, lean bodies and sleek muscles. Their black nose doesn’t show up much against their fur, but it wiggles at the end of a long, thick muzzle. Their eyes are deep brown and almond shaped. Their ears are upright, alert, and triangular.
The coat of a black German Shepherd is either medium or long in length. Both are double coats with a dense guard layer to protect from the weather and a soft undercoat for insulation.
Besides color, they look extremely similar to their multi-colored counterparts. However, they often have a straighter back, which avoids some of the controversy behind the breed. Show dogs often have a sloping back, which leads to spinal and hip issues in old age.
Lifestyle of a Black German Shepherd
Like all German Shepherds, black German Shepherds lead active lifestyles with at least an hour of activity every day. They love to play and simply be with their people. Over the years, they’ve been bread to be more docile family pets instead of never-resting herding dogs, so your black GSD is more likely to contently chew on a toy at your feet for most of the day.
They’re great with kids, but be sure to teach children how to respect a dog. No pulling on ears or fur. No slapping or climbing on the dog. If this occurs, any German Shepherd might defend themselves by snapping, nipping, or barking. They ask for nothing but respect.
Black German Shepherds can be content living in an apartment as long as they get at least one hour of outdoor activity each day. They need space to move, run, and play. An hour of walking, running, fetch, or training is enough to stimulate their brains.
Preferably, these beautiful ebony German Shepherds need a house with spacious floors to chase toys, roll around, and sprawl out for naps. They love a decent-sized back yard for throwing balls and sticks. For their safe, a fenced-in area keeps them safe from wandering off or strange critters wandering in.
Exercise and Activities that Black German Shepherds Love
While German Shepherds are bred to be docile family dogs instead of extremely energetic herding dogs, they are still very active and need activities to burn off calories. An hour of activity each day could include a number of different things. If you have multiple dogs, playing with another pup counts as activity and lets you off the hook.
The following list is a variety of activities that black German Shepherds love:
- Basic obedience
- Nose work training
- Search and rescue training
- Police work training
- Disability assistance training
Training Black German Shepherds
From my experience, German Shepherds respond best to Positive Reinforcement training.
Positive Reinforcement is one of best training methods that encourages desired behavior and actions. The trainer must present what they want. Walk by your side for “heel,” for example. If the dog does not do that (he pulls on the leash), give a sharp vocal correction of “ah” and reward them only when they properly heel.
Positive Reinforcement does not punish undesired behavior. It redirects undesired behavior and makes the dog eager to do the right thing (for a reward, of course).
German Shepherds, regardless of their fur color, are highly intelligent and eager to please. With the right training they will quickly pick up on your instructions and make effort to do what you ask, for a reward.
While basic commands and proper manners are important in training a dog, socialization is even more imperative to raise a confident, happy dog. People often forget that socializing your dog with other dogs and people is part of training a puppy. German Shepherds can be wary around unfamiliar people and dogs, so you want them to be comfortable and confident no matter who they meet. Introducing your dog to as many situations, people, and dogs as possible creates a dog who is calm and assured anywhere he goes.
If you’re not sure how to train your black German Shepherd, a professional certified dog trainer could be your saving grace. With all the training and certifications they go through, professional dog trainers know everything there is to know about training dogs as well as teaching humans how to train dogs. Both dog and owner benefit from working with a professional dog trainer.
Feeding Black German Shepherds
Being such an active and energetic breed, black German Shepherds need up to 2,000 calories each day. Older or less active black GSDs don’t need as many calories, or else they will gain weight.
Regardless of type or brand of food, it should be split up between two or three meals each day. The amount of food your dog gets each day could vary from three cups to five cups each day, depending – again – on the type of food, brand of food, and the activity level of your dog.
It is in your dog’s best interest to feed him smaller meals, multiple times each day to avoid bloat. Dogs that eat large meals and immediately engage in vigorous activity after are at a much higher risk of bloat. Bloat can be deadly and will be discussed later in the article.
Your veterinarian will most likely advise you to invest in a dog food with high protein and fat levels with a moderate carbohydrate level. Your dog will maintain their energy level with this balance.
As for those tasty tidbits of table scraps that our dogs love so much, a few pieces in moderation of the right foods are okay to give your black German Shepherd. For example, pieces of carrot or apple are healthy for your puppy. Chunks of fat, however, might smell delicious but are unhealthy for a growing pup.
The following foods are okay to feed your black German Shepherd in moderation:
- Cooked chicken
- Cooked hamburger
- Peanut butter
Keep in mind, though, that if your dog shows ANY allergic reactions to these foods, DO NOT continue to feed them to your dog.
The following foods you absolutly SHOULD NOT feed your dog. They could make your GSD severely sick or even cause death.
- Grapes or raisins
- Chicken bones
- Salt or salty foods
If your dog eats anything poisonous, note the exact time he ate it, the exact amount he ate, and the ingredients that he ate. Immediately call your emergency veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
Your dog doesn’t have the ability to make smart food choices the way humans do. It is your job to make sure he gets all the nutrients he needs and avoids the fats and poisons he doesn’t need.
Grooming Black German Shepherds
Black German Shepherds have double coats, just like all other German Shepherds. The top coat is tough, straight, and feels wiry. It is a weatherproof layer that keeps moisture off his skin. The undercoat is very soft and acts as insulation from cold or heat. This super soft layer is what makes shepherds so fun to pet and scratch. Bury your fingers in their thick fur and enjoy that baby-soft undercoat!
While that undercoat is so lovable, it’s the feature that makes a black German Shepherd shed so much. To keep shedding under control, it’s a good idea to brush your shepherd every day. Use a wire bristle brush to pick up loose hair, dander, and any dirt in your dog’s fur. Every spring your black German Shepherd will shed his winter coat. And every fall your black German Shepherd will shed his summer coat. This means you will have “tumbleweeds” of fur in your house, even if you brush daily. If you own a German Shepherd, it’s just something you have to deal with. However, you can ease this shedding with an undercoat rake. This tool reaches to the bottom of the undercoat to catch any loose hairs.
When it comes to bathing your German Shepherd, that’s something you should only do when absolutely needed. Shampoo strips oil from your dog’s skin. Without this oil your dog will get dry skin and start scratching constantly. Therefore, you should only bathe your black German Shepherd with shampoo and conditioner made specifically for dogs when they get so dirty that brushing won’t fix the problem. If he rolls in a mud puddle, for example.
Some German Shepherds have excess tartar or plaque on their teeth, meaning they will need a toothbrush and toothpaste – made specifically for dogs. Just keep an eye on your dog’s teeth and if you see brown stains building up, invest in paste and a brush.
Another aspect of pampering your black German Shepherd may need is nail trimming. Dogs who run outside or walking on blacktop every day will naturally wear down their nails. You won’t need to trim your dog’s nail in that case. Otherwise, invest in a nail clipper or grinder. If your dog’s nails touch the floor when he stands, his nails are too long. Long nails can actually be painful to a dog.
Lastly, even though black German Shepherds have upright ears, they can be at risk of ear infections. Check their ear canals periodically for discharge or inflammation. Use a cotton makeup pad to clean them. See your vet about ear wash or drops if needed. Do not clean your dog’s ears with cotton swabs because they could go too deep in the ear canal and cause damage.
Lifespan of Black German Shepherds
Between 10 and 14 years, on average. In extreme cases, a black German Shepherd could pass away as young as 7 due to health issues or live as old as 16 with ideal health.
With an excellent exercise routine, a proper diet, and regular veterinary checkups, a black German Shepherd is likely to live a long and healthy life.
Common Health Issues in Black German Shepherd
No matter the color of their fur, there are a number a common health issues associated with German Shepherds:
- Hip Dysplasia: The ball and socket joint in the hips is not formed correctly and causes rubbing of the joints instead of sliding smoothly.
- Obesity: Overfeeding and lack of exercise can lead to drastic weight gain. An overweight White German Shepherd is more likely to have arthritis or hip dysplasia.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease: A blood disease caused by a deficiency of adhesive glycoprotein in the blood required for normal platelet binding.
- Skin issues: Frequent itching and dry skin often due to allergies.
- Panosteitis: “Growing pains” is a temporary condition in young dogs characterized by pain, limping, and lameness affecting the long bones in the legs of the dog.
- Digestive Issues: Sensitive stomach that requires special diets and low-stress lifestyles.
- Heart Disease: Watch for symptoms of slowing down (especially noticeable in such an active breed), coughing, and rapid breathing (more than 35 breathes per minute while resting).
- Cancer: Watch out for unexplained lumps and bumps, lameness, darkly colored sores, swollen lymph nodes, wounds that won’t heal, gastrointestinal problems, sudden weakness or collapse, labored breathing, unexplained weight loss, and lethargy.
- Epilepsy: Recurring seizures, some long and some short.
- Bloat: The stomach fills with gas and puts pressure on the diaphragm, which makes it difficult for the dog to breath. The stomach may also twist, causing shock and sudden death.
Routine Vaccines for Black German Shepherds
Vaccines protect dogs from lethal and contagious diseases. For a long and healthy life, it is best for a dog to stick to a schedule of vaccines. Talk with your vet about a recommended vaccine schedule.
Flea and tick treatment isn’t technically a vaccine but it is something that keeps your dog safe from bug bites and Lyme’s Disease. You have the choice of pills, collars, or essential oils to prevent fleas and ticks from attaching to your shepherd.
Temperament of a Black German Shepherd
A black German Shepherd’s temperament is no different than a standard color German Shepherd. Black German Shepherd’s have a calm disposition in between playtimes. They will, however, react accordingly to protect their family when they suspect danger.
When unfamiliar people or dogs are nearby, black German Shepherds will be distant and observant. They watch over their family. And they aren’t afraid to protect any small children if necessary.
Like all shepherds, black GSDs are quite playful, fun-loving, and friendly. They love to be with people. They are not meant to be tied outside alone all day. They need to live inside the house where they can feel loved and included.
Please note that black German Shepherds (all shepherds, actually) are very vocal. Barking can be trained out of them, but they will usually whine, moan, groan, or howl to “talk” to you. Your house will not be silent with a shepherd. But they love being with you and talking to you. It’s their form of communicating with you.
How Big Do Black German Shepherds Get?
Males will grow up to be 65 to 90 pounds and stand between 24 and 26 inches at the shoulder.
Females will grow to be 60 to 75 pounds and 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder.
Where to get a Black German Shepherd
- Kennel Z Serious – Naples, Maine
- Black Paws Farm – Antrim, New Hampshire
- Kennel Von Wiese – Huntersville, North Carolina
- Narnia Kennels – Tillsonburg, Ontario
If you prefer to adopt an older dog, check with your local rescue organizations if they have any black German Shepherds. Since all black is a rare color of German Shepherd, you may need to do some searching. Checking with German Shepherd rescue organizations may make your search a bit easier.
- Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue
- German Shepherd Rescue of Southeastern Pennsylvania
- German Shepherd Rescue of New England
- Char-Wills German Shepherd Rescue
- Virginia German Shepherd Rescue
- All Shepherd Rescue
- Garden State German Shepherd Rescue
Cost of Owning a Black German Shepherd
In general, owning a dog is not cheap. They need supplies, toys, food, and medical visits. Purchasing a black German Shepherd is far from cheap, considering they are a rare color of the breed. Breeders may charge between $750 and $1,500. The initial cost of supplies could be around $500. Yearly medical costs could be $500 while yearly non-medical costs could reach $1,000.
You may be lucky to find a black German Shepherd in a rescue organization where adoption fees could be $150 or $250.
Is a Black German Shepherd the Right Dog for You?
Are you active and outdoorsy? Do you walk or run every day? You could be an ideal owner for a black German Shepherd.
Do you have kids? Your family could be ideal for a black German Shepherd.
These pups are active, affectionate, playful, and loving. They are perfect for an active family with a spacious house and a grassy backyard.
Black German Shepherds are not meant to be tied outside all day. They prefer to be by the side of their family at all times.
This breed may not be suitable for people without experience owning a large, strong dog. They may also not be suitable for people with allergies to dander.
As you can see, the black German Shepherd isn’t that much different than their standard color counterparts. The only big difference being their slate black, elegant, shining fur coat. They are a rare color of the German Shepherd family, making them quite special.
What are your experiences with black German Shepherds? What do you hope to experience from owning a black German Shepherd?
We would love to hear your stories and questions! Thanks for reading!