Individuals who see a White German Shepherd (WGS) for the very first time in their lives will instantly think that the dog is suffering from a very serious genetic issue. After all, when we talk about German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs), our minds automatically conjure an image of a black-and-tan-coated dog with a muscular and strong stance and whose image can be readily equated with courage, loyalty, obedience, intelligence, watchfulness, alertness, and unparalleled confidence. However, just like the Black German Shepherd (BGS), the WGS is nothing more than a GSD with a pure white coat. But, more than its snow-white fur, there are a few things that make the WGS such an adorable hound. Let’s find out some more about this GSD in a white coat.
History of the White German Shepherd
The White German Shepherd shares its history with the Black-and-Tan and the Black German Shepherd dogs. As a matter of fact, they all came from the same lineage. The only problem is that we really cannot pinpoint as to when the very first white GSD appeared since we’re talking about genetics here.
The creation of the German Shepherd Dog is attributed to the strict inbreeding practices observed by the foremost lover of GSDs, Max von Stephanitz. In 1899, he bought Hektor Linksrhein during a dog show since he knew that the dog’s characteristics epitomized what a true GSD should be – loyalty, intelligence, beauty, and strength. Hektor was given a new name, Horand von Grafrath, and is now considered the progenitor of all modern GSDs.
Horand was mated with the GSDs of the other Phylax Society members. Thuringian, Franconian, and Wurttembergian dogs were bred with Horand to produce Heinz von Starkenburg, Beowulf, and Pilot. These dogs became the focus of von Stephanitz’s remarkable journey into giving the world its perfect German Shepherd Dog.
Contemporary literature suggests that it was Horand’s grandfather, Greif, which carried the white coat recessive gene. Because it is a recessive trait, it can never manifest unless one of Horand’s mates happen to also have Greif’s recessive trait coding for the white coat. As such, White German Shepherds already existed even before the modern world knew of the GSD as a dark-colored dog.
Unfortunately, during the reign of Hitler in Nazi Germany 1930s, the White GSD was disqualified as being a true GSD. This continued well after the war when the German Shepherd Dog Club of America recognized only colored GSDs as the breed standard. Because of this, the WGS was shunned in many dog shows. Even breeders didn’t want to have anything to do with the WGS. To them, the WGS is a fluke, a freak of nature that clearly doesn’t belong in the fine breed of GSDs. Not even the AKC will allow the dog to compete in conformation competitions, although these dogs are allowed to compete in canine performance events.
This did not deter some breeders in the US and Canada. In 1969, this small group of White GSD-loving folks established the White German Shepherd Club in an effort to promote the White GSD as being an equal of the colored GSD. In 1971, the White Shepherd Club of Canada was formed, first as the Chapter of the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America before settling into its new name in 1973. By this time, the WGS was strongly supported by the Canadian Kennel Club. Unfortunately, vehement objections from colored GSD owners led to the WGS’s disqualification from the breed standard of the CKC.
Today, the White German Shepherd is still considered an outcast in a family with whom it is supposed to belong. While it is recognized by the United Kennel Club, it remains to be accepted as a GSD type by the FCI. It’s a shame since the White German Shepherd has consistently won in rally obedience, competition obedience, agility, flyball, and tracking.
Except for its white coat, the WGS is very much a German Shepherd dog but with quite a twist. Here are some tidbits of information that everyone who is considering on welcoming a WGS into their homes needs to know.
- The White German Shepherd can be considered as a very unusual, albeit very unique type of GSD. Its white coat was believed to be a genetic flaw. Not anymore.
- It still has the same weight and height as a standard GSD, although the Black GSD is definitely taller by a couple of inches. The WGS can be as tall as 26 inches, but should never be shorter than 22 inches for females and 24 inches for males.
- The WGS can weigh about 95 pounds, but never lighter than 75 pounds.
- White GSDs can have either short or long coats.
- Long-haired WGSs are generally regarded as especially vulnerable to temperature extremes. This is because long-haired WGSs don’t have a protective undercoat. This makes the long-haired WGS not ideal for the outdoors.
- Short-haired White GSDs come with a straight undercoat and dense outer coat.
- White GSDs are never allowed by the AKC to compete in canine conformation shows. However, WGSs can compete in others.
- The WGS, like the standard GSD, ‘blows’ twice a year. They are heavy shedders, especially the long-haired ones.
- White GSDs are known to have a milder, nicer, and softer personality than their dark-colored brethren.
Things You Should Know
It is perfectly understandable why people would love to get a White GSD. The mere fact that it’s a rare type of a venerable breed is sure to generate a lot of talk in the neighborhood. Very few individuals get to own a White GSD. You’d be definitely lucky if you can bring one home. But, first things first. You’ve got to understand a few things about this rare GSD.
All GSDs are intelligent and smart. They’re very obedient, too. However, there are certain training methodologies that they are particularly comfortable with. Failing to employ these methods can almost always result in a poorly-trained White GSD. Instead of having an obedient dog that follows your commands because it gives it pleasure and satisfaction to do so, you will have a dog that follows your command out of fear and can snap at any time. As gentle and mild-mannered as the White GSD can be, it can still show its teeth when it reaches the peak of its patience.
Training, therefore, should commence the moment your White GSD puppy walks through your door. Housebreaking and potty training are all important aspects of puppyhood. Once they’re through this stage, you can go through basic obedience sessions. Don’t worry. If you understand the mechanics of positive reinforcement, your White hound will learn the commands and tricks easily without having to repeat it. After all, these dogs are known to carry out the expected task 95% of the time after showing it to them only once. That’s how intelligent the GSD is. No wonder it’s the dog planet’s number 3 Einstein.
As always, we don’t recommend sticking to ‘cups’ as a measure when it comes to feeding your White four-legged prince or princess. You should always try to learn how to compute for your dog’s calorie requirements and make the necessary adjustments in its serving size. A cup of a 450-cal/cup dog food is definitely less than a cup of 550-cal/cup canine diet. But they’re still the same ‘cup’. If you give the first one yet your dog requires more, you’re giving it less and risking hypoglycemia. If you give the second one yet your dog requires less, you’re risking obesity.
Let’s say we have an 80-pound neutered male WGS. This means it needs about 1,000 calories per day. However, since your male hound is already neutered, then its calorie intake should be adjusted to bring it to 1,500 to 1,600 calories on a daily basis. You can then divide this into three equal servings. If it is not feasible, make it twice daily. We don’t recommend giving your WGS a single daily meal as it’s prone to bloat and gastric dilatation volvulus. This can be a veterinary emergency that will require surgery. As such, feeding your WGS smaller portions of its food but on a more frequent basis should help prevent such issues from occurring while also giving it the nutrients and calories it needs to fuel its activities.
You may also like our article on Automatic Dog Feeders.
Some pet parents complain that their GSDs are getting destructive. We often ask them if they ever get their dogs to exercise. As expected, the answer is always on the negative. Be forewarned, if you are the type of person who would rather sit or lay all day long on a couch in front of the TV while munching on some fries or crisps and gulping on beer, the White or any other GSD is never intended to be for you.
This dog should never be allowed to be owned by couch potatoes because it is a great injustice to their very nature. We apologize for being blunt, but it’s the truth. We’ve seen a lot of GSDs and other dogs end up in shelters and rescue organizations simply because they became destructive though not through their own doing. It’s their owner’s fault that they didn’t give these dogs enough activities to channel their tremendous energies.
White GSDs love playing a game of fetch whether it’s with a Frisbee or a tennis ball. They don’t mind running along with you while you’re pedaling on your bike or even jogging and running along with them. Vigorous playtime activities can always be substituted for formal exercise routines. But if playing and having fun is not your thing, then walking the WGS for a minimum of 60 minutes twice a day every day is a must. For more options head over to our guides on dog frisbees and dog balls.
If there is one thing that is quite unusual in a WGS, aside from its snowy-white coat, of course, that would be its mild temperament. This can be looked at as a strong point for the WGS. Unfortunately, it can also make it a bit shy and skittish. It can be fond of its family, but can be very reserved or even become reclusive in the company of others. This can be easily addressed, however, if you can socialize your puppy the moment it reaches your home. Bring it for a walk at the dog park or perhaps even invite some pet-friendly folks over to your house. This should help negate the shyness of a WGS puppy.
Be careful, however, when letting your WGS puppy play with young kids. They may have not yet achieved their adult size, but their energy is already boundless. As such, they can easily knock over a kiddo while playing, although not intentional. They’re naturally playful, these pups. As such, socialization should also be a time to show them how to play in a ‘nice’ way.
If you’ve got pets at home, the WGS will surely feel comfy. We’re not just sure if your other dogs will welcome it with open arms, regrettably. That’s why it is best to let them grow as a group so their bond is stronger and they can flourish like brothers.
Get ready for a lot of work on your White GSD especially if you have the long-haired type. This will definitely require strong arm muscles as you’ll be brushing and combing its undercoat-missing coat. The good news is that it’ll be like combing or brushing your own hair. Not only will this remove dirt, it can also prevent tangles and mats. Frequent brushing especially with a deshedding tool can also minimize loose hairs finding their way onto your furniture and carpets. The same is true with short-haired WGSs. They still shed, you know? You don’t have to brush the short-haired WGS every day, though. For a wider selection of choices, check out our dog shedding brush and dog flea combs guides.
Bathing a WGS is always a good idea, but don’t do it very frequently; lest, you lose many of the natural oils on its skin. Once every 3 to 4 months is often enough; more often if it tends to get really dirty. It shouldn’t be more than once a month, though. Using dog shampoo works best.
Your WGS’s nails should also be clipped every 6 to 7 weeks. The same can be said of its ears which you need to inspect every week for any sign of inflammation. Brushing its teeth every day is ideal, although twice a week is enough.
One of the things that detractors say about the White GSD is that it is more prone to a number of health problems than their dark-coated brethren. It’s not entirely true. However, being a large dog, it is especially susceptible to diseases that are common to large canines. These include elbow and hip dysplasia, bloat, allergies, eye diseases, conditions of the spine, heart diseases, and even cancer.
The good news is that your knowledge of a White German Shepherd’s risk for certain conditions can help spur you to action. For example, many of these diseases can somehow be alleviated by a simple tinkering with its diet. Hip and elbow dysplasia can respond well to a diet rich in glucosamine and chondroitin while a diet that contains novel and easily digestible proteins should help address allergies. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can also help reduce the risk of heart diseases, spinal conditions, allergies, and perhaps even cancer.
The White German Shepherd is for those individuals who…
- Lead a healthy and active lifestyle, fully engaged in sports or don’t mind running, biking, jogging, and other outdoor activities
- Can provide plenty of physical, emotional, and mental stimulation for dogs on a daily basis
- Love the idea of a family companion that will love you and cherish every moment it spends with you
- Don’t have children who are younger than 8 years
- Are familiar and actively advocate for the use of rewards during training
We don’t normally recommend the WGS to folks who…
- Have been diagnosed with pet dander allergies
- Can vouch that they’d rather sit and lie down all day than be outdoors playing and exercising
- Live in small, cramped spaces or properties without ample backyard space
- Have never had a pet before
A White German Shepherd has a much mellower, milder, and gentler temperament than a standard GSD or even a Black GSD. It is for this reason that they are always bred as a family companion or a therapy dog. Their gentle demeanor is like that of a Golden Retriever, yet they still carry in them the confident stance of a real German Shepherd dog. Because of its gentle nature, it can sometimes be shy and reclusive especially if not socialized and trained properly.
The WGS is forever loyal to its family, basking in the affection that is showered in its way. And it is never ashamed to return the favor, protecting its family whenever they are threatened. It is always cheerful like the Golden Retriever, calm and composed like a true German Shepherd, and brave and courageous as a Rottweiler. It’s the perfect family dog, a child’s four-legged guardian, and man’s best friend regardless of circumstances.
Around strangers, it may be aloof or bring itself to a corner. But it’s not afraid. It may not even be shy. More often than not, it is trying to size up the stranger and determine whether he or she is a friend or a foe.
White German Shepherds are lovable, adorable members of the German Shepherd family. They may have the GSD in their blood, but their temperaments are simply endearing that they can very well take the place of the best pal in your life.