Sable German Shepherd: Interesting Facts You Did Not Know

Sable German Shepherd standing on stone

The sable German Shepherd is a unique breed of dog differentiated from other German Shepherds because of its different colors. This breed is known to have a gene similar to one found in a wolf.

However, many people ask a lot of interesting questions about this special breed of dog. Some of the questions include whether the coloration of fur in sable makes them different from other Shepherd dogs in behavior and health.

What do these dogs look like, do they change colors as they grow older, and does the kennel clubs recognize them? Where can you find this precious breed of dog for sale or adoption?

These are some of the questions that will be answered in this article, so if you want to know more about the sable German Shepherd, read on.

What Is a Sable German Shepherd?

Sable German Shepherd is known as the classic German Shepherd, a true German Shepherd color. The sable German Shepherd has always been acknowledged as the quintessential dog because it has a DNA similar to that of a wolf. It also has the dominant gene in the German Shepherd family.

The sable is the only color that matches the dog perceived as the first Shepherd dog. The dog can be red or tan with black tips or have black hair over their entire body.

Sable German Shepherds can reach up to 24 inches in height for females and 26 inches in height for males.

Females can also weigh between 55 and 73 pounds, males on the other hand weigh more with their weight falling between 75 and 95 pounds. Typically, their lifespan ranges between 9 and 13 years.

The interesting thing is that what we call the German Shepherd most times is actually the German Shepherd Agouti.

What Does the Sable German Shepherd Look Like?

The sable GSD’s eyes are usually black, or at least they should have a color that goes well with the sable color. The nose’s color is always black, which can be due to genetic fault like with the long-haired sable German Shepherd.

The sable German Shepherd is mostly used for professional purposes rather than for shows because their color pattern is not acceptable for shows.

Their fur is banded, which means each of the hairs has more than one pigment (they are multi-colored) with black tips, and that’s why they are referred to as sable.

The most common colors are brown, silver, and black, and they can even be red. These hairs are usually covered with a layer of black hair.

The sable coat often changes after two years from birth, which means predicting what a puppy will look like in adulthood can be complicated.

There are many types of patterns that can be seen in the sable, but the common ones are black over cream, liver on cream, black on red, and sometimes silver on cream.

Gray German Shepherds are a species of sable, but their fur has a color similar to a wolf. This color can often be referred to as “wolf gray.” These dogs can sometimes have black over silver or gray over silver coats.

According to the fur, they can be classified as short-haired sable German Shepherd or long-haired sable German Shepherd.

Are Sable German Shepherds Rare?

Sable German Shepherd with its puppies resting on grass

Since the sable German Shepherd is not a crossbreed but a variety of the normal German Shepherd, these dogs share the same traits and temperaments.

But sable German Shepherds are often not as popular as other German Shepherd colors, making them more expensive than other GSDs.

However, there are some species of sable that are very rare, the rarest kind among this breed being the recessive black. The dog is always entirely black and also carries sable or tan genes.

Do Sable German Shepherds Change Color as They Grow Older?

Sable German Shepherds do change color. It is well-known that sable GSDs change color when they reach maturity. Before it reaches adulthood, it will change the color a couple of times.

It might be a lighter color while younger, but it might start to darken as maturity knocks. The only complicated thing so far is predicting how much darker or lighter the color of a sable might be later when it has reached maturity.

You might have an idea of the color it will be at maturity, but that wouldn’t be easily deciphered from just looking at the pup. However, you can have an idea of what the color will look like through the parent.

If the color is darker, then there is a higher probability that the pup will end up with the same color and the same thing with a lighter color. Overall, I would say that it will retain a lot of the mask characteristics even when it is mature.

Check out this video to watch a sable German Shepherd puppy grow up from 5 weeks to 12 weeks.

My German Shepherd Puppy Growing Up [5 weeks to 12 weeks]

What Makes a Sable German Shepherd Different from Other German Shepherds?

Basically, what makes them different is the pigmentation. Their color is similar to the wolf, rather than the individual black and brown spots like the normal Shepherd dog has. It has a mix of black and tan coloration.

Each hair is multi-colored with brown, silver, or white in the background and tips of black. The gene responsible for this pigmentation is also seen in wolves and only a few dogs have this particular gene.

However, there is not enough evidence that sable GSDs are distinct from the black and tan GSDs or in fact any other GSD color. Scientists do know though what is responsible for the coloration in sable.

The Agouti gene controls the sable GSD, and it has four variations, each encoding wild-type and black tips in hair. At the same time, the location of these sable pigmentations is determined by other genes.

It is currently unknown whether the Agouti gene alters the health or behavior of dogs. Overall, the sable is virtually the same as other German Shepherd dogs asides from the pigmentation.

Another thing that differentiates sable German Shepherds from others includes their wolf-like color, cool temperament, and strength. These canines are very intelligent and are quick to learn, including picking up commands and tricks.

Do Kennel Clubs Like the AKC Recognize the Sable Coloring?

Similar to other breeds of dogs, the German Shepherd comes with various coats and color types. It is essential to know that some colors are not acceptable by the kennel clubs and are mostly marked as faults.

A lot of prospective dog owners prefer an excellent and unique coat color on their dogs. Even though the dogs’ color does not affect their behavior, health, or fitness, as earlier stated, you must know the acceptable color if you are planning on buying a pup.

And that’s why most people questions whether the sable is acceptable by kennel clubs like the AKC. In order to know this, we must know the list of acceptable GSD colors.

Accepted colors for the German Shepherd breed:

  • Types of Tan and Mixed Colors – Black and tan, black and silver, red and black, black and cream, solid black and black and red.
  • Types of Sable – A light sable color, black sable, bi-colored, and darker sable color.

Colors that are not acceptable by the AKC are rare colors such as gray and blue since they are classified as faulty colors. Therefore, according to this list, the sable is an accepted pigmentation by the kennel clubs.

Sable German Shepherd Temperament: Do They Make Good Family Dogs?

Woman smiling while holding sable German Shepherd

The temperament of the sable German Shepherd is not different from other German Shepherds. German Shepherds are extremely intelligent and learn new commands and tricks very fast.

They are loyal to the core and will stay with you, regardless of the situation. This means it is impossible to go to the toilet alone when you have a German Shepherd.

There isn’t a room in your home that you will enter without this dog following you around. You can’t just escape their company; they always want to be with their owner.

Sable German Shepherds are gentle and full of love, although they have their silly side. They are ready to work and take things seriously when needed, but when you are at home and relaxing, they can play around without worries.

German Shepherds are great with children, but you have to ensure that your children know how to behave correctly around dogs. They are very patient, but if a child annoys them too much, they can react.

Although it is the same with all dogs, the main thing is to educate your children while training the dogs.

Another important thing about this breed is that they need a lot of mental stimulation because they are highly intelligent and not fond of being by themselves.

If you leave them alone for a longer time, they end up becoming bored and may start exhibiting destructive behaviors. Therefore, it is essential that the sable stays with people most of the time; otherwise, you might need to train them against destructive behavior.

Sable German Shepherd Health

The sable German Shepherd is very strong but is also prone to health issues, and like other German Shepherds, the sable has a common health problem: hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is a condition that results from abnormal formation of the joint of the ball in the hip and socket. Because hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease, little can be done to prevent it.

However, the environment of the puppy might be a factor that will worsen or aid the development of the disease.

The disease is similar to arthritis in humans, and in order to help the dog, you need to encourage plenty of exercises. Activities like swimming can strengthen their legs and make them less susceptible to dysplasia.

You must also ensure they are well fed with the correct food. For sable German Shepherds to stay energetic, they need to eat healthy foods that are rich in protein.

The best precaution you can take to make sure your dog is less susceptible to this disease is buying the pup from a reputable breeder. Also, make sure you obtain health clearances for the parents of the puppy you are buying.

Finally, always check your dog to identify the signs of these issues early and let them have regular checkups with the vet.

Apart from hip dysplasia, this breed can also develop other diseases such as bloat or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. This can be prevented by slowing the eating habits of your dog and avoiding excessive exercise after eating.

Other health problems that are particular to sables are cataracts, allergies, bladder stones, pancreatitis, diabetes, and thyroid issues.

Sable German Shepherd Genetics

Much research has been done regarding the genetics of the German Shepherd. The sable German Shepherd (aw aw) in color genetics has the dominant color. There are other colors like black and tan (as as), black (a a), and bicolor (at at) while the black (a a) is recessive.

Above are the color genetics recognized by the SV. The SV is a standard that was initially set up by the first breeder, von Stephanitz, and it has become a standard that governs all breeders.

However, there are mutations that some breeders call rare or elusive colors, such as pure white or panda Shepherd. They might be truly rare but can happen as a result of the original gene mutation.

If a sable that carried recessive black (aw a) bred with another dog with a different color like the bi-color which also carries the recessive black (at a), then it is likely that 50% of their offspring would express sable while other offspring would carry bi and black color.

If a sable dog is homozygous, then it means it carries two copies of the sable allele (aw aw). Irrespective of the color it is bred to, its offspring will express the coat color of a sable. The offspring might carry other colors, but the sable will always be dominant.

Effects of Sable Coloring on Health & Behavior

Does the coat color have any effect on the health and behavior of a dog? Many pet owners have asked this question. Studies were carried out to discover whether the pigmentation of sable colors could alter the health and behavior of the dog.

It is a known fact that the Agouti gene is responsible for the sable and that gene is not known to have any impact on the dog’s health or behavior.

There are two things that might affect their behavior, though, and they are nature and nurture. The way you treat your shepherds and the way they grew up have a significant impact on their health and behavior.

A puppy that grew up with gentle and loving parents will turn out the same way later. However, a maltreated dog might become fearful, nervous and later grow up to become aggressive.

The same as with all dogs, it is imperative to keep in mind that the sable GSD can grow up to become aggressive if treated poorly.

For instance, if a dog was unable to interact with other dogs some months after birth, he might be aggressive or nervous towards other dogs when introduced later.

And this breed can also be aggressive if children are unkind to them, especially if they constantly keep on pulling a sable’s ear or tail.

Sable German Shepherd Puppy Price: Do They Cost More Than Other German Shepherds?

Little sable German Shepherd puppy

When it comes to quality German Shepherds, there aren’t any “cheap” species. There are a lot of sellers in the US selling high quality, trained sable German Shepherds.

Sable German Shepherds tend to cost from $500 to $1,500 for pets or family dog types when purchased from a reputable breeder.

However, for sable German Shepherds with pedigrees, specific lines, working titles, papers, and puppies having a properly regulated breeding history, you could pay thousands of dollars.

That said, it is fair to say a sable German Shepherd costs more than a normal German Shepherd. Its high price is due to its exceptional intelligence and undoubted loyalty to its owners.

Some of the features the sable German Shepherd dog possesses can be matched when a German Shepherd dog is crossbred with a Great Dane or Pitbull dog. Either way, the sable GSD is the greatest German Shepherd dog bred to date.

Where to Find Sable German Shepherd Puppies for Sale?

As a note of caution, never attempt to purchase your sable German Shepherd puppy from a pet store or from an online shop that promises to ship to you without asking you any questions beyond “check or charge?”

The reason is these puppies come from puppy mills. When they arrive, they are likely to be sickly, and worse of all is they will have missed a major learning period for basic training; hence they can be very difficult to train or control.

If you need to purchase the best sable German Shepherds, I recommend that you do so from reputable breeders, animal shelters, or rescuers. Often, sable German Shepherds are abandoned when they reach six months and are no longer considered “cute.”

Here are some recommended places to purchase sable German Shepherd puppies:

Where to Find Sable German Shepherds for Adoption from Rescues and Shelters

If you are planning to adopt a sable German Shepherd, you should look out for the most trustworthy adoption centers.

Rescue vs. Shelter: What’s the Difference?

A rescue facility has many dogs up for adoption, and the same with shelters; however, before any candidate takes home a pet, they have to be scrutinized. A rescue facility makes sure the lifestyle of the candidate is suitable for pets.

Their pricing can be higher due to the vet checks they provide. Also, the dogs stay in foster homes rather than cold kennels.

Shelters, on the other hand, have a relaxed adoption process. Potential candidates do get screened. They also offer a temporary shelter home for a sable German Shepherd.

Below are the top five places to find sable German Shepherds for adoption:

Male vs. Female Sable German Shepherd: What’s the Difference?

German Shepherds are one of the world’s most popular dog breeds. This breed of dog is known for its reliability, devotion, and courage, which cannot be matched by any other breed.

As with all other living things, they exist in males and females, and you might be wondering what the difference between the two genders is?

First, let’s start with male sable German Shepherds and their traits. Obviously, male Shepherds are bigger and more muscular compared to females.

Also, male German Shepherds tend to be more territorial and object-possessive. Not to worry though, as this problem only occurs when you spoil your canine, allowing it to think it’s in charge.

Male dogs also prefer to bond with one owner in particular. It also loves the rest of his family, but compared to their owner, they’ll pick their owner (special person) any day and any time.

Female German Shepherds, on the other hand, tend to be smaller and less muscular than males. Females tend to be less possessive over objects and less territorial than their male counterparts. They love to bond with their owners, who are usually male, and also the rest of their pack.

Also, female German Shepherds tend to be easier to train due to their sensitivity and greater agility, which is naturally inbuilt. They typically mature faster than males, also making them easier to train.

Females are very tolerant of strangers and children, making them wonderful and cool to keep around.

Irrespective of the gender you chose to adopt, implementing a proper training regime with your dog will help you keep it in check. Male dogs are preferred for power, but when it comes to concentration, understanding, and obedience, they are the best gender to choose.

Various Coat Patterns Seen in Sable German Shepherds

Three German Shepherds with different coat patterns

Seeing that the sable GSDs are Agouti, the variation of color in the sable German Shepherd coat matches the coat pattern of an Agouti.

Usually, there are several variations of this color, four in total, but only three have been seen so far in the sable GSD color.


The sable categories have three divisions: The clear sable, the tipped sable, and the shaded sable.

  • Clear Sables: This sable type has few black hairs; however, they are red dogs.
  • Tipped Sables: They are characterized by red hair and body and an additional shade of black.
  • Shaded Sables: They look more like tipped sables, although they have more black hairs.

The parts of the body affected in these categories are the ears, head, tail, and back. And most of the sable GSDs that are in this category are red sable GSDs.

Tan Points

The breed of sable German Shepherds with this type of coat pattern is designated by tan patches mostly found in their chests, legs, tails, and cheeks.

The dogs in this category will initially be a black sable when they are still puppies but will later lighten up gradually until the only part that will be seen as black is their back.

Recessive Black

These sables are the rarest type of sable dogs. They look completely black while also having sable or tan genes.

Because they have the black gene as being recessive, their real color will be hidden. This type of sable is mainly seen in the working line since they are mostly black-colored.

Final Thoughts

The sable German Shepherd is highly intelligent and a highly sought-after breed. Their coat pattern makes them very unique.

However, there are many misunderstandings regarding this breed, which is why I’ve carefully explained many sable facts that apply both to the sable long-haired German Shepherd and the sable short-haired German Shepherd.

Now you know a little more about this special breed, which can help you plan to buy or adopt a sable.

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