Everyone loves the confident stance of a German Shepherd. With its alert ears standing straight up and watchful eyes continuously scanning its surroundings, there’s never an instance where a German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is going to fail as your family’s protector. Perhaps what most people love about this dog is its characteristic black and tan coat. Whenever you see a dog that stands proud and majestic with its black flowing coat and an underbelly that is colored bourbon, you’d automatically think that it’s a German Shepherd.
But wait! Have you seen the Black German Shepherd? Indeed, there is such a thing. And if you’re thinking this is a cross between a Black Labrador Retriever and a German Shepherd you’d be wrong. If you think it is an entirely different breed of dog, then you’d be wrong, too. The Black German Shepherd (BGS) is nothing more than a German Shepherd with an all-black coat. It doesn’t have the characteristic tan or bourbon color on its underside and other parts of its body. And if you think this change in color is also going to change the GSD’s temperament and characteristics, you’ll be in for a surprise.
Let’s find out more about the Black German Shepherd.
History of the Black German Shepherd
Before we embark on the history of the Black German Shepherd, we would like to remind you that this is still a German Shepherd. The only difference is that it has an all-black coat instead of the usual black-and-tan. This has something to do with the dog’s genes that code for the color of its coat. We will try to explain this in greater detail in the next section. Suffice it to say, understanding the history of the BSD is essentially looking at the history of the GSD.
In 19th century Europe, dogs were used to aid livestock owners in the herding of their flock. These dogs were called the ‘continental shepherd dog’, perhaps to differentiate it from the herders of the UK. These herding dogs are believed to be the direct ancestors of the GSD as well as other herding dogs in continental Europe which included the Dutch Shepherd, the Belgian Shepherd, the Bergamasco Shepherd, the Cane da pastore della Lessinia e del Lagorai, the French Berger Picard, the Lupino del Gigane, the Cane Parotore, and the Pastore d’Oropa. The GSD shared many similarities with the Belgian and Dutch shepherds that they were hardly distinguishable.
Not until the 1890s, however.
The modern-day German Shepherd doesn’t really look like the original 19th century GSDs. In fact, the original dog had a leaner body, a bit smaller, and had less tan on its coat. Some actually had all-black coats (could this be the original Black German Shepherd?). German communities loved their GSDs as they were intelligent, super-fast, strong, and had a very keen sense of smell. These qualities were all highly prized by sheep owners. Unfortunately, because different communities have different needs for a sheep herding dog, the GSDs of the 19th century were a bit different from one town to the next, both in ability and appearance.
Max von Stephanitz hoped to unify the sheep herding dogs of Germany by creating standards that will soon give rise to what we now call the GSD breed standards.
Von Stephanitz did not create the GSD; he only enhanced the characteristics of a GSD he bought from a dog show in 1899. The dog’s name was Hektor Linksrhein. Hektor showed remarkable intelligence, strength, beauty, and loyalty that von Stephanitz bought the dog instantly. He changed Hektor’s name into Horand von Grafrath and founded the Society for the German Shepherd Dog (Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde). Horand is largely recognized as the founding father of all modern-day German Shepherds.
If we understand it well, Max von Stephanitz did not create the GSD. He only bought a dog which he strongly believed encapsulates all the ideal qualities of an intelligent, elegant, obedient, and beautiful working dog for the country. He cemented his legacy by forming the Society for the GSD so it is but natural that we owe our thanks to von Stephanitz for bringing to the world a dependable and equally lovable working dog. But who is the owner of Hektor Linkshrein? We’d like to believe he has to get credit, too.
As we were saying, Horand von Grafrath is considered the grand-daddy of all modern-day GSDs. Von Stephanitz employed strict close breeding practices that included the dogs of other members of the Phylax Society. Dogs from Wurttemberg, Franconia, and Thuringia were bred with Horand to produce the future progenitors of the breed. Chief among these was Hektor von Schwaben. In an effort to fix the traits that von Stephanitz desired from the GSD, Hektor was inbred with one of Horand’s other offspring to produce Pilot, Beowulf, and Heinz von Starkenburg. All of the dogs under von Stephanitz were inbred among each other to provide the world with a dog that is intelligent, loyal, and beautiful – the German Shepherd Dog.
It is because of this uncompromising leadership and his unquenchable thirst to create the perfect GSD that Max von Stephanitz is recognized as the creator and father of the modern German Shepherd.
Who are the Parents?
It is definitely a remarkable story. From a relatively unknown yet equally-revered European continental sheep dog to the much-loved and well-respected working dog, the GSD has clearly made its mark in both the hearts and minds of the people it has interacted with.
Now comes the question, who are the parents of the Black German Shepherd?
As we already mentioned above, the Black German Shepherd IS a GSD with an all-black coat. This is the only difference between the two. As such, when it comes to the Black German Shepherd’s parents, it is natural that they are both GSDs.
So, why the all-black?
Can you remember your biology especially in the process of reproduction? Well, all living things are made up of cells. Inside each cell are billions of codes that provide instruction on how the different cells and tissues need to be built. For example, there are codes for the type and color of the hair, the eyes, and even the skin. There are also codes for certain diseases. The thing is that these codes determine how the organism will look like. Codes always define a trait or a characteristic.
There are two kinds of traits that are defined by these codes – dominant and recessive. A dominant trait is one that will always be present across generations while a recessive trait usually ‘skips’ a generation or two or will not manifest at all. For example, smooth hair in dogs can be considered as recessive while wired hair will be dominant. The same is true with the color of the coat.
To put it simply, a recessive trait can be considered ‘normal’ while a dominant trait can be viewed as a ‘deviation’ from the normal. This is oversimplification, of course.
During sexual reproduction, the male and female both give their own set of ‘codes’ to the ‘daughter cell’ or the ‘offspring’. You will get 50% from daddy GSD and another 50% from mommy GSD. As such, the offspring will always have a pair of alleles or copies of the genes of its parents. This is where it can get really tricky.
If both parents have the same dominant allele coding for a specific trait, then the trait will be present in the offspring. If only one of the parents has a dominant allele, then that trait will still be present in the offspring. If one of the parents has a recessive allele, this is not enough to manifest the trait. For a recessive trait to be present in the offspring, both parents should have the same recessive gene that is coding for the same trait.
Let us try to put that into our understanding of the Black German Shepherd. If daddy GSD has a dominant allele that codes for a black coat while mommy GSD has a recessive allele, then it is possible that you will have a Black GSD offspring. If both mommy and daddy GSD have the same dominant allele coding for black coat, then the puppy will also be black. If mommy and daddy have a recessive allele that codes for the black coat, then they will also be able to produce a Black German Shepherd.
Confusing, isn’t it? Here’s the thing. If you mate an ‘ordinary-colored’ GSD with a Black GSD, there’s a chance that all the puppies will also be Black GSDs; provided, however that the Black GSD parent has a dominant allele for the color of the coat. If its black color is coded by a recessive allele, then you will not have a Black GSD.
Well, the important thing here is that a Black German Shepherd IS still pretty much like any other German Shepherd Dog that you’ve seen or will ever see.
Since the Black German Shepherd is essentially a German Shepherd with an all-black coat instead of the usual black and tan feature, the characteristics are the same with a normal GSD. Let’s look at some facts.
- The Black GSD is considered a very rare type of German Shepherd and is closely related to the very first GSDs in Germany even before Max von Stephanitz started with his meticulous and strict inbreeding program.
- The BGS is taller by a few inches than the standard GSD, with some reaching 27 to 28 inches for the males.
- While the BGS is taller than its black and tan-coated brothers and sisters, it still retains the standard weight of all German Shepherds at 55 to 95 pounds.
- Aside from the black color of its coat, the BGS also has a flowing mane that is especially prominent around its neck region. Don’t expect it to be a lion’s mane, however.
- It can have a double coat, a plush one, or even a long-haired coat.
- A male BGS stands proud, strong, and regal while a female BGS will have softer, more refined features.
- The head of the Black German Shepherd is always proportional to its body.
- The eyes take on a lovely almond shape, allowing the beauty of the Black GSD to really stand out.
- Like the GSD, the Black GSD has ears that are always standing upright, ever aware of its surroundings.
- Black GSDs will always be black right from puppyhood. German shepherd puppies typically start out as all-black. However, as soon as they reach 8 weeks until about 6 months, they will already have shed some of the black in favor of the bourbon color. A Black GSD will retain its black-colored coat from the day it was born until the day it passes into the afterlife.
- The “lacquer black” coat of the BGS require careful and frequent grooming if you don’t want it to lose its ‘crowning glory’.
Things You Should Know
We understand perfectly why you would want to bring home a Black German Shepherd. First, it’s a very rare kind of GSD that everyone in your neighborhood will simply be mesmerized every time you take it for a walk. Second, it still has the same characteristics and temperament that we’ve always loved about the GSDs. But, before you go to a breeder of Black GSDs you may have to read the following first.
The Black German Shepherd is an intelligent dog; there’s never a shadow of doubt about that. It is confident and smart, just as its sheep herding ancestors did in the prairies of Europe. It is extremely confident, too. It knows its abilities and knows exactly how to use them in different situations. The Black GSD is very eager to please you. A known workaholic with an unmatched work ethic, the Black German Shepherd can make quick work of any task. After all, it is the world’s number 3 Einstein of the dog kingdom.
However, just because it’s smart doesn’t mean you can already forget training it. The Black GSD, like all GSDs, will still require training so that it knows exactly what it needs to do with respect to what you want in a dog. If not, then you’re essentially handing over the control of your home to a dog. Housetraining and potty training as well as basic obedience training are all important for BGS puppies. It’s up to you if you want to go even further with advanced doggie training methods.
Suffice it to say, the BGS can be easily trained. You don’t need lengthy training sessions to teach it a skill. You’ll need to be its leader – firm and assertive yet full of compassion and gentleness, when needed.
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This dog is huge and with its size comes a hefty appetite as well. Instead of us giving you the number of cups you need to feed your BGS every day, we’d recommend taking its weight and computing for its resting energy requirements. Let’s say we have a BGS that weighs 80 pounds and that it has already been neutered. First, let’s compute for its weight in kilograms leading us to 36 kilograms. We’ll raise the 36 to the ¾ power to get 14.7 before multiplying this with 70 to obtain 1,029 or about 1,000 calories per day. Since it is neutered, we’ll use a factor of 1.6 to obtain the BGS’s daily calorie intake at 1,646 or 1,600 calories per day.
Do take note that the BGS is a large dog; hence, it is prone to bloat. To minimize this, it is best to feed it more frequently, but in smaller amounts. So, if you have 1,600 calories per day, you can give about 533 calories per meal three times a day. This should be commensurate to about 1 to 1.5 cups depending on the calorie count per serving of your dog food. Smaller yet more frequent feedings are better than one large meal which can introduce an unusually large volume of air into the dog’s stomach, leading to gastric dilatation volvulus.
Take note to give animal-based proteins as the chief ingredient of the dog food. Steer clear of dog foods with corn in their first 5 ingredients as this can also increase the risk of bloat. Additionally, always include glucosamine and chondroitin in your dog’s diet as the Black GSD is also prone to arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other joint problems.
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Like all GSDs, the Black German Shepherd is a very active dog. It thrives best in a house with a backyard so it won’t feel like being cooped up inside the house. Of course, it should feel right at home even in an apartment provided you bring it out for its daily walk.
The Black German Shepherd is, after all, a working dog. As such, it requires exercise and plenty of it. It is, thus, best suited for those who can get up very early in the morning to go for a 60-minute morning jog or run. Couch potatoes are never intended to be the masters of a BGS, unless you won’t mind having the Black German Shepherd turn your world upside down.
Despite its size and guard dog reputation, the Black German Shepherd is uncannily friendly with kids. In fact, they adore children. But then again, a child who doesn’t really know how to ‘handle’ or ‘pet’ a dog can still threaten even a well-behaved BGS. Black German Shepherds can live peacefully with other pets, too. However, early socialization is a must.
The moment a Black German Shepherd puppy comes into your home, you should already be prepared to let it interact with other pets and other people. The more it gets accustomed to the presence of these individuals and other animals, the more social your Black German Shepherd will be once it grows up.
German Shepherds are known as heavy shedders. If you’ve got allergies or perhaps a member of your household has, this breed may not be for you. It also requires frequent brushing of its coat especially if you want to retain its smooth-flowing lacquer black coat. Everyday brushing is a must.
The rest of its grooming needs – ear cleaning, nail clipping, and tooth brushing – should be performed regularly. The ears can be cleaned and the nails clipped once a month while brushing the teeth should always be done every day. If it’s not feasible, then brushing the BGS’s teeth twice a week should be enough.
Fully capable of living up to 13 years, the Black German Shepherd is not really a disease-immune canine. It is still susceptible to some of the diseases that commonly affect large dogs such as hip dysplasia, bloat, heart disease, eye problems, allergies, and even conditions of the spine.
It always pays to know the parentage of your Black German Shepherd so you’ll have a clear picture of its health status. Alternatively, you can have its DNA tested for genetic markers of diseases.
We’d definitely recommend a Black GSD to you if you…
- Have the personality of a pack leader – firm and assertive yet gentle and compassionate
- Love running, jogging, biking, or any other exercise and perform these every day
- Employ positive reinforcement in your dog training
- Can devote 60 minutes every day to exercise your dog
- Can meet their nutritional and veterinary care needs
Sadly, a Black German Shepherd is not suited for the following people.
- Those with allergies especially to pet dander
- Couch potatoes
- Those who don’t understand the need for early socialization and training in dogs
- Those with kids below 5 years
A well-trained and socialized Black German Shepherd has a very pleasant, stable, and even temperament. It is a loyal and self-assured family dog that will bring joy to any family that understands its unique needs. It is extremely kind once it has warmed up to you and other pets. It has an easy-going and approachable personality whenever around its human family. They are not aggressive to other people, although they will try to ‘sense’ the ‘goodness’ in others before they start showing their happy disposition.
The Black German Shepherd is everything a GSD is – intelligent, loyal, confident, courageous, watchful, and a true family dog; except for its coat that comes in lacquer black. This makes the BGS a wonderful all-around companion for the family.