The German Shepherd Dog- Long Coated German Shepherds and White German Shepherds

The German Shepherd dog has many varieties and types, but some of these which many of you might be familiar with, have characteristics that are actually outside the restrictions of the breed standard; which means they are disqualifying. Let’s talk a little about two of the most common ones; the long coated German Shepherd dog and the white German Shepherd.

The Long Coated German Shepherd Dog

Long coated German Shepherds for instance, are referred to in the breed standard, but do not meet the ideal described in it. The recessive gene for long hair is present in all types of German Shepherds though. Long coated German Shepherds are in fact German Shepherd dogs, but since long hair is considered a disqualifying fault, they are not recognized as suitable specimens of the breed.

The main reason why these dogs are not accepted as suitable specimens of the breed is because long coated German Shepherds do not have an undercoat like short haired German Shepherds. Because of this, German Shepherd dogs with long coats are not waterproof. As you may remember from a previous post, I explained that German Shepherd dogs were originally developed as a a working dog and not being waterproof would be a hindrance to the dog’s working ability.

I do have to clarify though that long smooth coated German Shepherds do have an undercoat. This is still not a desired coat length, despite the dog still having an undercoat.

Nevertheless, these dogs are still being bred, mainly in North America, and some breeders are exclusively dedicated to breeding long-haired GSDs. In Europe, a separate breed club was created to promote this variation as the “Old German Shepherd”. Although many people just like the way they look, there are other reasons why people breed long coated German Shepherds, like the fact that they do not shed as much as the short haired version.

There are two types of long coats:

I- The Long Smooth Coated German Shepherd Dog

Long Smooth Coated German Shepherd Dog
Long Smooth Coated German Shepherd Dog

This coat is not as weatherproof as the medium smooth coat. They generally have a substantially longer coat inside the ears and behind them, on the back of the forearm and in the loin area. They also have a bushy tail with a slight feathering underneath. These dogs frequently have a narrow chest and a narrow overstretched muzzle.

II- The Long Coated German Shepherd Dog

Long Coated German Shepherd Dog
Long Coated German Shepherd Dog

This coat is significantly longer than that of the long smooth coated German Shepherd dog. It is normally very soft and parts along the back.

The White German Shepherd Dog

The white German Shepherd is another “variety” of German Shepherd dog which has a “faulty” characteristic, but is being bred in North America nowadays as a separate breed; the American White Shepherd. The white German Shepherd is a purebred German Shepherd Dog and contrary to some people’s beliefs, they are not a rare specimen, nor are they albinos; they are white coated, dark eyed dogs with black noses and pads.

The first imported German all-breed dog show was held in 1899 in Germany. Captain Max von Stephanitz and his friend, Arthur Meyer, were in search of a dog that was strong, healthy and intelligent, that had erect ears, was medium-short, had a weatherproof coat, was outgoing, had a friendly nature, high trainability and discipline. They found Hektor Linksrhein (later renamed Horand von Grafrath). Hektor carried recessive white genes.

At that time many herdsmen preferred dogs with white coats. They were easier to distinguish from the darker European wolves. Thus, with Hektor as the foundation dog, one factor that was enhanced was the white coat.
White German Shepherd Dog
White German Shepherd Dog

In 1912, Anne Tracy imported the first German Shepherds into the United States and white puppies immediately started to show up in the first litters. In 1917 the first white German Shepherds from Anne Tracy’s kennel were registered in the American Kennel Club. In 1921 Captain Max von Stephanitz published his book "The German Shepherd Dog", which included a photo of a white German Shepherd dog, who was a direct descendant of Hektor.

In February 1933 Hitler declared a state of emergency and the German Nazi party took control over all aspects of German society, including the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany. After the breed club came under their control and the death of Max von Stephanitz in 1936, white coats were made a disqualification in the breed standard. Hitler thought that the white genes brought about color fading in colored dogs. Now we know that the color fading gene is a different gene to the white recessive gene, but at that time this was not known, so in the years after WWII German breeders repopulated the breed and the standard remained unchanged.

Although in America many white German Shepherds proved to be great in obedience trials throughout the 1950's and gained increasing popularity in the 60's, friction developed between the breeders of the standard German Shepherd dog and the fanatics of the white-coated German Shepherds. Some genetic problems that appeared in the breed were erroneously blamed on the white coat gene and Germany campaigned to outlaw the white color.

One of the genetic problems blamed on the white coat was again the fading or "washing out" of the darker dogs’ color, which has been refuted many times by breeders and geneticists since then. The long held belief that the white gene is linked to biological problems has no foundation. As a matter of fact, if American White Shepherds have any “fault”, it's more likely to be a temperament fault. American White Shepherds are usually bred to have a softer, more mellow, more sensitive personality than traditionally colored German Shepherds and they tend to be timid.

In 1964, fanciers of the white German Shepherd dog in Sacramento, California formed the first White German Shepherd Dog Club in order to protect these dogs. In 1969, white German Shepherd dog fanciers across the country got together and following the lead of the Sacramento group formed The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America. The organization accepted and adjusted the GSDCA breed standard to allow the white coat color. Soon after, specialty shows sponsored by The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America began displaying the white-coated dog to the public.

The German Shepherd dog breed also has many varieties and types which are consistent with the standard of the breed and I will talk about them in future posts.

The German Shepherd Dog- Varieties, Types and Related Breeds

Varieties Within the German Shepherd Dog Breed

In previous articles I explained how the clubs that regulate the breeding of purebred dogs in the world are organized; specifically the clubs that control the breeding of German Shepherd dogs. I also explained the differences between two of the main lines within the German Shepherd dog breed; the German Shepherd dog of German lines and the German Shepherd dog of American lines. It is equally important to clarify that in reality, the German Shepherd dog is just one. According to the breed standard written by the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV), the German Shepherd dog can have variations in structure within a certain range, being the color, probably the most obvious varying characteristic to the untrained eye. Any variation outside the provisions of the breed standard is disqualifying. Long-haired German Shepherds for instance, although referred to in the breed standard, do not meet the ideal described in it. Thus, despite the fact that long-haired German Shepherd dogs are German Shepherds, they are not suitable specimens of the breed. Long hair is considered a disqualifying fault. Despite this, there are breeders (mainly in North America) that breed them, and some breeders are exclusively dedicated to breeding long-haired German Shepherd dogs.

There are also types within the breed which can be separated into two categories; dogs which have certain physical characteristics that manifest the intended purpose of the dog and dogs who by their physical characteristics divulge their place of origin. In the first case, I’m talking about the obvious differences between Show Lines (also called High Lines) and Working Lines. Basically, the physical conformation of German Shepherd dogs from Show Bloodlines is much closer to the ideal described in the breed standard, and German Shepherds of Working Bloodlines are bred putting more emphasis in their disposition for the job, than in their physical structure. In the second case, I’m talking about the different types of German Shepherds that come from different parts of the world. Some examples of German Shepherds from various areas are: West German, East German (DDR), Czechoslovakian (Czech), British (Alsatians), etc. All these dogs have types which are characteristic of their place of origin, but all, although some more than others, comply with the characteristics specified in the German Shepherd dog breed standard.

New Breeds Developed from the German Shepherd Dog 

On the other hand, we have the White "German Shepherd", or American White Shepherd, which having a color that is not acceptable under the standard, is not bred in Germany. However, in the United States there are breeders that are exclusively dedicated to their breeding. This has led them to evolve separately from the original German Shepherd dog, so that they no longer share a number of characteristics of the breed and should not be called German Shepherds.

Currently, there are even other dog breeds and even wolf "hybrids", which were created using the German Shepherd dog as a foundation. Some examples are: the Shiloh Shepherd, the King Shepherd, the American Tundra Shepherd and the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.

In future posts I will write a little more about some of these varieties and types within the German Shepherd dog breed.