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.


  1. Sir, I have a Long Coat GSD and he is THOROUGLY waterproof in the undercoat. He dunks himself in, gives a good shake, and POOF he's dry. It's madness.

  2. Hi, how are you? I saw your website and your dog is a very good looking dog. Congratulations!

    About your dog’s coat, you are right; the long smooth coated German Shepherd does have an undercoat. I might have not been clear enough on that point, but I have corrected that. Thanks.

    By the way, I thought I would share with you that the two first German Shepherds in my household in the early 70’s, were named Rommel too.

    Thanks for the comment. ;)

  3. Hi, I have 2 longcoated GSD and mine are waterproof in the undercoat. They jump in the water come out and shake.. When it is raining they go out and shake on the car port and are pretty dry. I just towel dry the top hair before I let them in and they are dry..
    Nothing like a longhair GSD.. Sweet as can be..andddddddd beautiful...

  4. Thanks for the comment and yes, they are beautiful dogs. :)

  5. hey... you have a nice blog indeed! We run a a similar portal dedicated to the breed. Just dropped by your blog and found it really cool. you are doing a great job indeed with this blog. You can also drop by our site and explore. We will have a writers section too where we will feature articles written by other GSD experts. Hope you will like them.

  6. Thanks! I checked out your website and it’s very nice. It has a lot of information and it looks very professional. Congratulations!

  7. I have two long coated shepherds and my opinion is that there are the most beautiful specimens of the breeed.I realize there not typical but I will never have anything but a long coat.I have owned several breeds in my life but german shepherds are head and shoulders above the rest

  8. Mike, thanks for your comment. I think long coated German Shepherds are beautiful dogs too... and I have to accept I have thought about maybe getting one someday.

  9. As a shepherd lover and professional groomer, I have to take your statement that the long haired variety has less undercoat and is not as waterproof with a grain of salt. I have not found this to be true, especially in regard to the undercoat. They shed just as much if not more than the typical short coated shepherd. My clients always get a kick out of my referral to the breed as "German shedders",but luckily it doesn't stop them from loving them! Not really a bone to pick, no pun intended, just an insight from a groomer and shepherd mom. I recently discovered your blog and have been periodicallly checking in because you're articles and comments are so enjoyable, and thank you for keeping it going. By the way, how about a photo of your personal shepherd(s)? Just for fun. Will be looking for it!

  10. Hi Amanda.

    First, let me thank you for visiting my blog again.

    I bred German Shepherds from Show Bloodlines for about ten years. During those years I made friends with a few judges, trainers and many breeders who taught me a lot about the breed, but I never bred long coated German Shepherds myself… That being said; my understanding is that most dogs' coats consist mainly of two different types of fur; the guard hairs or topcoat and a layer of undercoat beneath it. Typically, the undercoat is shed twice a year, while the guard hairs are shed once a year. When the guard hairs are very long, as in long haired German Shepherds, it’s possible that it might give the impression that the dog is shedding more. On the other hand, although many experts agree with me, you are not the first to tell me this, so you might be right.

    My intention with this blog is to be as objective as possible and to give the readers the most accurate information I can about the German Shepherd dog breed. With that in mind, I want you to know that I appreciate comments like yours, where you disagree with me in a non confrontational way. I’m always open to hear opinions different to mine and hopefully learn more about this fantastic breed, and that’s one of the main reasons why I chose to make a blog and not just a website.

    Thanks for writing and in the future I might share some personal pictures. :)

  11. I have a beautiful long haired GS without an undercoat (Sadie), who is all German/German... her back is straighter and her head is shaped a bit different from my other GS. I am not sure if my other (Benny) is considered "plush" or long haired with an undercoat.

    From all I have read, it is said the long hair w/o undercoat is softer, I have found this not the case. Sadie, no under coat, top coat seems a bit coarser, she does have the characteristic "part" along her back, but I am getting concerned about how thin it seems as she gets older, I wouldn't be surprised if she wouldn't need a bit of sun screen in the summer. Is this normal? Her tail is thin now and not bushy, but I have a feeling that her mate, Benny, herds her by pulling the tail, I have not seen any of the fur "falling" or shedding off that area. I should qualify she is healthy and well groomed.

    A quick thought from me--I wouldn't own another type of shepherd than these two. It never fails the comments people say when I walk them; first they don't believe they are really pure bred shepherds, and and are overwhelmed with how beautiful they are, they also think they seem overly gentle. The gentle comment often frightens me, because they can be as protective as any of the dogs in this breed, I have had other shepherd owners approach them and when asked not to come to close nor extend their hand, they do it anyway and have been nipped--but they are so snuggly!

    I was hoping I could get a some thoughts.

    Great information here, thank you!

    (their real names... Mercedes, Benz! :)

  12. Ewschott, thanks for writing. I’m not sure how I can help you on this one. From what I read, it seems like Sadie could have some kind of hypersensitivity, be allergic or have some kind of hormonal disease; which is kind of common in older dogs. Your best bet is taking her to the vet. There is no way to know unless checked by a professional. Come back for more articles.

  13. I have two long haired GSD's. I bought them both from Germany and would like to breed the puppy when she gets older. Do you think there is any way of forming a long haired club over here like they have in Germany for showing and breeding?
    Thank you,
    Michele Makinson
    Destiny and Tahnee Vom Haus Barrett-Makinson

  14. I’m sure you can. It’s actually a great idea. There are many breeders of long coated German Shepherds in the States who would be glad to have their own club. Go for it!

  15. I have a beautiful long haired German Shepherd, if I breed it with a short hair German Shepherd what kind of puppies can I expect. Thanks

  16. I have a gorgeous long-haired German Shepherd. She came from a litter of short haired and long haired siblings because her father was long haired and her mother was short haired.

  17. Anonymous, I apologize for not being able to give you a straight answer, but this topic is very complicated and it’s actually impossible to answer your question in a brief paragraph. It would probably take more than one post to explain how the genetics of the German Shepherd coat work, but in order to give you some kind of an explanation I can tell you that if you breed a long haired German Shepherd with a short haired GSD, you could potentially get both varieties in the litter, depending mostly on if the short haired parent carries the long coat gene or not.

  18. I just adopted a rescue german shepherd puppy. It came from a litter of six. He and two other siblings have short tails. I was told that the mother was a white gsd and that short tails are a recessive gene that sometimes shows up.Is that true? Have you heard of this? Asked the vet and she never heard of it.

  19. hi

    I was wondering, i have been doing a lot of reserch on long haired gsd in europe. The question i have the most trouble getting answered is this. Can 2 long haired gsd dogs mate and produce more long haired gsd. The most common answer i got is that they can, But the litter will be a mix of long and short hair. The long haired ones will only have 1 coat. What do you think of there answer.

    Thank you

  20. Anonymous,

    first let me apologize for not having answered you question sooner, but lately it’s becoming harder to come and work on the website. I just don’t have much time off any more.

    In answer to your question, no I have never heard of that; at least not in the German Shepherd. As I understand it, some breeds have natural bobtails which are unusually short or missing completely and are due to a mutated gene, but the genes for the shortened tail may be dominant or recessive. I have never heard of a German Shepherd dog having a short tail though, unless it’s not purebred.

  21. That’s actually wrong. First, you have to understand that the characteristics that you can observe in dog, like the fact that it is long coated or short coated, is the phenotype and the underlying genetic structure is called the genotype.

    When you breed two dogs and you are trying to figure out what the puppies will be like you have to consider the parents genotype, not necessarily what they look like.

    There are two variants of the gene for coat length, called alleles. There is the L for short coat and the l for long coat. Each parent contributes one allele. Each dog always has two versions of every gene, one inherited from its sire and one from its dam. They may be identical, or they may be different alleles of the gene. The L form is dominant, which means that if a German Shepherd inherits one L allele or if both copies of the alleles are L, the coat length will be short. Now, the long coat gene is a simple recessive, so the only way for a GSD to express the gene for long hair would be to have inherited two ll alleles.

    Thus, a long coat bred to a long coat will only produce long coated puppies, since the offspring can only receive the l allele from each parent.

  22. Hi, I just wanted to give you an update on my post above concerning my Long Coat, Sadie--who was loosing her fur as aging.

    You hit the nail right on the head! She has a low thyroid condition and is now medicated. She is now covered with her lovely 5" fur and her tail is back to bushy. There was a strange thing when she started her medication--it seemed the top layer of her skin, for lack of a better word "peeled" off. It was like your own skin if you get a bad sunburn that blisters, as it heals you can peal of the skin. I think it even helped her teeth which have zero tarter now.

    Here's a silly question--could our extremely mild winter have tricked these guys to shed their coats? I feel like I live in tumble weed city?


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