Liver German Shepherd: All You Need to Know About Liver GSDs

Long haired liver German Shepherd Dog lying down on snow

The consistently high demand for German Shepherds is one of the reasons why they have been bred in various unique coat colors.

Currently, the American Kennel Club recognizes 11 shades, and one of the most well-loved is the liver German Shepherd.

If you’re planning to take a liver-colored GSD into your home, this guide is for you! Read on as I discuss everything you need to know about this stunning dog that sports a rich brown coat.

What Is a Liver German Shepherd?

Liver German Shepherd appearance

The liver German Shepherd is a purebred GSD that dons a rich brown coat. Their liver (brown) coloring is a striking contrast to the usual black and tan coat of the breed, and they usually have brown markings on their fur, nose, and eyes.

Their coat color is due to a recessive gene called B locus. They are considered dilute types, meaning their supposed black pigment is diluted by a recessive gene, resulting in a lighter coat.

Fortunately, their unique coloration does not negatively affect them in any way. The liver gene can only affect their coat patterns. Hence, all the other aspects of a liver German Shepherd are similar to other varieties.

Are Liver German Shepherds Purebred?

Yes, liver-colored German Shepherds are purebred dogs. The breed was first registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) back in 1908, along with the liver German Shepherds since they weren’t achieved through crossbreeding.

Remember that for a dog to be considered purebred, it needs to meet particular specifications or breed standards, not just the coloration.

In the case of liver GSDs, some of the indicators that they are purebreds are the following:

  • They stand around 26 inches tall.
  • They appear to have smooth, graceful curves rather than angles when viewed in the outline.
  • They are courageous, confident, and willing to put their life at risk in defense of their owners.

Color alone cannot indicate a dog’s purebred status, and there are different specific breed characteristics for every dog.

If you want to be 100% sure regarding your dog’s lineage, you can check their AKC papers or pay for a canine DNA test. 

Liver German Shepherd Appearance: What Does a Liver German Shepherd Look Like?

The most defining feature of a liver German Shepherd is its brown-colored coat. The hue can range from a brownish color to a deeper brown tone. In some cases, it may even look reddish at first glance.

Apart from their unique coloration, they look the same as any other German Shepherd with their imposing muscular body. These dogs also have double coats.

The topcoat protects them from harsh weather and other external elements, while the lush and soft inner coat provides insulation in cold and hot climates.

Unlike other GSDs, liver shepherds do not have any black markings on the saddle or face as the liver gene prevents any black pigmentation.

To help you visualize, here’s a video of a liver-colored Shepherd taking a quick stroll outdoors:

liver German Shepherd

However, the liver shade does not affect the pattern, so their coat comes in a few combinations.

The most common color and combinations found in liver German Shepherds include solid brown, liver and tan, and liver sable which are discussed in detail below.

Solid Liver German Shepherd

Solid liver shepherds don a solid brown coat color, and their nose has a brown leather hue as well.

Their deep brown color appears all over their bodies when they reach adulthood, while during puppyhood, it’s common to have white toenails, pink noses, and light brown footpads.

Liver and Tan German Shepherd

Liver and tan GSDs showcase the typical saddle and mask. However, they take on a rich brown color instead of black.

These dogs have a combined liver (dark brown) and tan (interpreted as any shade of brown, from fawn, chestnut, or silver to deep darker hues) markings.

You will rarely find these dogs on canine shows, given that their color indicates diluted genes.

Liver Sable German Shepherd

The sable color of this GSD means that their hairs will have varying amounts of black on the tip, while the rest of their coat will take on a primary liver color.

Sable is considered a classic pattern in the breed, and it makes the liver look like a typical wolf coat.

READ NEXT: Sable German Shepherd: Interesting Facts You Did Not Know

Liver German Shepherd Color Genetics: What Causes the Liver Coloration in GSDs?

Liver German Shepherds get their light brown coat from a recessive liver gene that occurs on the B Locus gene.

For a German Shepherd to manifest this color, its parents must carry and pass on at least one liver gene to the puppy.

Generally, eumelanin is responsible for a dog’s black coat. Given that the recessive B locus gene blocks eumelanin pigmentation, the standard black color turns into a liver except for the eyes. Any German Shepherd with the recessive liver gene cannot have a black coat.

In some cases, one or both parent dogs may not be liver in appearance, but they may be carriers of the recessive liver gene. They can pass on this gene to their offspring, and in turn, they’ll exhibit a liver coat.

When a puppy inherits two copies of the gene, the GSD is expected to be homozygous for the mutation from its parents. Its coat will then take on a reddish-brown hue.

Rest assured, the liver gene will only affect your dog’s color. There is no scientific proof showing that the recessive gene affects a GSD’s temperament or its personality.

Are Liver German Shepherds Rare?

Yes, liver German Shepherds are rare compared to the standard black/tan and red/black variation.

If you want to have a better chance at finding a liver GSD, consider browsing special or designer breeding programs instead.

The most common coat color in German Shepherds is black and tan, priced at $500 to $1,500.

Since liver-colored Shepherds are considered a little bit rarer than standard ones, it’s only understandable for their price range to be higher.

Do Liver German Shepherd Puppies Change Color as They Grow?

While some other German Shepherd colors change over time, a liver German Shepherd stays the same throughout their life.

The puppies will usually have a white toenail and a pink footpad, but they will eventually turn liver-colored as they grow. 

The only significant color changes among GSDs are those with sable and black & tan coats. They do not change color either, but the tan color only starts to appear when the puppy reaches 6 to 12 months old. 

RELATED: Do German Shepherds Change Color As They Grow?

Do Kennel Clubs Recognize the Liver German Shepherd?

The liver is one of the six recognized German Shepherd varieties by the American Kennel Club (AKC), along with black, grey, blue, sable, and white.

Meanwhile, the acknowledged patterns include black and cream, black and tan, black and red, bi-color, and black and silver. 

While the AKC standard prefers dogs with strong, rich colors, liver GSDs can be considered serious faults but not enough to disqualify them from shows. Keep in mind that the AKC is specific to the accepted pattern.

Your dog must have solid liver coloring. Other variations, such as black and liver or liver and tan, will not be recognized.

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) emphasizes breed history rather than its coat color, making both the AKC and FCI recognize the liver German Shepherd breed.

However, the United Kennel Club (UKC) considers the liver color a “serious fault” in German Shepherds. The liver is regarded as an off-color, as far as breed standard goes.

Keep in mind that every kennel club has a varying, rigid set of rules and regulations regarding a GSD’s breed standards.

READ NEXT: DDR German Shepherd: Everything About the East GSD & FAQs

Liver German Shepherd Temperament: Does the Liver Coloration Affect Their Behavior?

The liver coloration doesn’t affect your GSD’s temperament in any way. Keep in mind that the recessive gene only influences the color and pattern of your dog’s coat and fur.

Every other aspect, including their behavior and physical attributes, will be similar to traditional German Shepherds.

To give you a quick overview, here’s how the liver-colored GSD usually deals with others at home:

  • With Children: The liver German Shepherd breed is loving and loyal. They adore toddlers in the household and often become protective of them. The breed is generally known to do well with children of all ages, as they are calm and patient.
  • With Other Dogs and Pets: If your liver GSD is raised together with other dogs or pets in the household, they will ideally get along. Given proper socialization, these dogs can be civil (and even friendly) with other pets like cats.
  • With Strangers: In general, liver German Shepherds are wary of faces they haven’t seen before. It’s only natural for these dogs to be aloof in the presence of a stranger. However, they may also be friendly to strangers especially if they are taught to be.

If you’ve decided to bring a liver GSD puppy into your home, it’s better to get to know the breed’s personality in general.

They often need physical and mental stimulation, which may be a deal-breaker if you are looking for a low-maintenance pet. Also, they need positive training methods for them to be more affectionate and obedient.

Liver German Shepherd Lifespan and Health Issues: Are Liver German Shepherds Prone to Health Problems?

Liver German Shepherds have an average life expectancy of 9 to 13 years. Generally, the breed is known to be healthy if adequately cared for.

Bringing them to the vet regularly is vital to ensure that they will live a long, disease-free life.

However, like other GSDs, there are a few health-related problems that this dog is predisposed to. 

Here are some of their most common health problems for your reference:

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a common orthopedic condition in liver German Shepherds, resulting from a malformed hip joint. It may affect one or both of your GSD’s hips, and it is the leading cause of hind-leg lameness in dogs.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes mellitus is a common disease in dogs, and GSDs have an above-average incidence of this health condition. If your liver shepherd is diagnosed with diabetes, they will be unable to regulate sugar metabolism and require daily insulin injections.
  • Corneal Dystrophy: If your liver shepherd is diagnosed with corneal dystrophy, there will be a white or gray cloud in their eyes. A genetic disturbance in your pet’s fat metabolism causes this visual impairment.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: Degenerative myelopathy is commonly observed in several large dog breeds, including the liver German Shepherd. It refers to a late-onset, slowly progressive degeneration of the spinal cord.
  • Hemophilia: This refers to an inherited disorder involving a deficiency of blood clotting activity. Hemophiliac liver German Shepherds suffer from prolonged or spontaneous bleeding in various areas of the body.
  • Epilepsy: This chronic condition causes repeated seizures in your liver GSD. It is the most common long-term neurological disorder in dogs, and in most cases, a lifelong disease.
  • Color Dilution Alopecia: This hereditary skin disease is common in liver GSDs and other color-diluted dogs. An initial sign to look out for is the gradual onset of a dry and dull hair coat. Extensive partial hair loss may also be observed on your pet’s skin.

To ensure the optimal health of your new liver shepherd, feed them with a nutrition-filled diet and give them supplements to improve their immunity. Make sure to keep them up-to-date with all vaccinations as well.

If you feel like something is amiss when it comes to your pet’s health, it’s best to ask for veterinary advice.

READ NEXT: Dwarf German Shepherd: Everything About the Breed + FAQ

How Much Does a Liver German Shepherd Cost? Puppy Prices and Expenses

A liver German Shepherd puppy typically costs $500 to $2,500 from a reputable breeder, but some may cost up to $10,000, especially if they come from champion bloodlines.

If you’re keen on adopting a liver German Shepherd Dog, here’s a breakdown of the yearly expenses in keeping them as pets:

Type of ExpensesYearly Estimate
Routine Vet Visit$700 – $1,500
Dog Food and Treats$350 – $800
Beds and Crate$50 – $150
Toys$50 – $80
Accessories (Leashes and Collars)$20 – $50
Preventive Medication and Supplements$200 – $500
Professional Grooming Service$350 
Flea and Tick Prevention$180
Total Yearly Expenses$1,900 $3,610

After bringing home your new companion, it is wise to prepare for the long-term expenses that may come along.

Keeping a liver German Shepherd Dog might cost you around $1,900 to $3,610 per year or $158 to $301 per month on average.

Generally, the expenses of keeping a liver GSD are almost the same with other large-sized dog breeds, but the defining factor will be the grooming.

GSDs shed year-round, so expect to spend more on grooming essentials or a more frequent visit to a professional dog salon to prevent your dog’s coat from matting. 

RELATED: How Much Does a German Shepherd Cost? Puppy Prices and Expenses

Places to Find Liver German Shepherd Puppies for Sale or Adoption

Ethical breeders that genuinely care about their puppies can be tricky to find but don’t worry, they are out there!

To help you get started, here are some of the best places to find a liver German Shepherd puppy for sale:

  • K9 Pines – Dubbed as the home of liver GSDs, this North Carolina-based breeder specializes in unique variations of the beloved breed. As of writing, they are more active on their Facebook page, where they regularly upload photos of puppies for sale. Browse through their social media pages to see if a liver puppy fits your taste!
  • Ruskin House of Shepherds – This breeder in Florida offers liver-colored German Shepherd pups that exhibit superb temperament. Interested buyers may visit their facility by appointment only. You may also view their application page via their official website.
  • Wolfgang Haus German Shepherds – Based in Texas, this breeder offers liver German Shepherd puppies and other unique color variations of the well-loved breed such as blue, wolf mask, and isabella. All their available dogs are sold with AKC limited registration. They also come with a 1-year health guarantee after being sold. 

RELATED: Best German Shepherd Breeders (2021): 10 Places to Find German Shepherd Puppies for Sale

If your budget is tight, I will encourage you to adopt an adult liver German Shepherd instead, given that there are so many loving dogs that need a loving home.

If you want to avoid paying premium fees, here are a few GSD rescues to find liver German Shepherds for adoption:

  • Westside German Shepherd Rescue of Los Angeles – This non-profit rescue houses overlooked GSDs, including the liver-colored ones. They have a standard adoption fee of $375 for an adult dog to cover all the costs incurred during its stay at the facility. There is no on-site screening as of writing. However, once interested applicants are approved, they can come to meet the dogs in person.
  • Coastal K9 German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego – Meet your new liver GSD best friend in this 100% volunteer rescue organization! A minimum adoption donation is required, which ranges from $300 to $400. It covers the cost of regular vet care, boarding fees, and other expenses involved in the temporary care of the dogs.
  • White Paws German Shepherd Rescue – Since 2004, this rescue has saved approximately 150 to 175 overlooked German Shepherds in a year (including the liver color) from being put to sleep in shelters. Most are stray dogs or given up by their owners. You can apply online through their website, where a team member will shortly reach out to ask for references, a home visit, and a meet and greet with your chosen pet.

RELATED: 10 Best German Shepherd Rescues for Adoption (2021): Our Top 10 Picks!

Frequently Asked Questions

Liver German Shepherd outdoors standing on snow in winter

Are Liver German Shepherds High Maintenance?

The liver German Shepherd can be considered high maintenance since they shed heavily, have high activity requirements, need constant attention, and develop general separation anxiety.

If these needs are not fulfilled, your German Shepherd may resort to destructive behaviors. 

Do Liver German Shepherds Shed?

Yes, liver German Shepherds have year-round shedding. Just because they don a different color doesn’t mean they shed less!

Like other German Shepherds, these dogs also have double coats, which is why they shed heavily in-between seasons.

What Is the Rarest Color of German Shepherds?

A panda German Shepherd, also known as piebald, possesses the rarest coat color in the breed. These dogs feature coats with a black and white symmetrical pattern.

A rare genetic mutation causes white spotting in the breed’s traditionally non-white marked coat, hence, being tagged as a panda.

RELATED: Panda German Shepherd: Are Panda Shepherds Purebred?

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has answered some of the questions you had in mind regarding the care and upkeep of a liver German Shepherd. 

Keep in mind that it’s tricky to find this variety in dog shelters. However, if you’re lucky, you may stumble across one.

If you decide to buy from a breeder, ensure that the organization is reputable and gives you comprehensive health information about the liver-colored puppy.

At the end of the day, a liver German Shepherd’s health condition and temperament have no direct correlation with its coat color.

It shouldn’t hold you back from choosing to adopt one! If the beautiful color of a liver GSD tickles your fancy, better go for it. 

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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