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What Is So Special About The Sable German Shepherd?

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Are you looking for a dog with all the amazing characteristics of a German shepherd, but you also want something a bit different and special?

If so, then why not consider a sable German shepherd?

The sable German shepherd is not a crossbreed dog but rather a recognized variation within the breed, so the dog retains all the benefits of a purebred pup.

Sable German Shepherd

German shepherds are one of the most popular purebred dog breeds in the United States, in part thanks to their intelligence, trainability, and intense loyalty. They are also well-loved for their sleek, noble appearance.

Interestingly, sable is actually the original color of the German shepherd breed. It is the only variation of the German shepherd that has the same color as the founding member of the breed.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about these attractive, intelligent, and hard-working dogs. We’ll also talk about what to consider when deciding if this is the right dog for you.

Sable German Shepherd Appearance

Sable German shepherds look just like most other German shepherd dogs, with the exception of their distinctively colored coat.

The German shepherd is a large breed. You can expect the males to reach up to 26 inches tall and weigh between 75 and 95 pounds.

The females are a bit smaller. They normally don’t measure more than 24 inches tall and typically weigh between 55 and 75 pounds.

Their heads are domed in shape with a long, square muzzle. They have alert, erect ears and long necks that make them seem even larger than they are. It is considered ideal for the dog to be longer than it is tall with a proportion of 10 to 8.5. Their bushy tail should extend out in a hook-like shape.

German shepherds tend to dip their head low like a wolf when they are running or prowling, which contributes to the consensus that they look very much like the wolf ancestors of dogs.

These dogs have double coats with a soft undercoat and a denser guard layer. The guard layer can be either medium or long, though the medium length is significantly more common.

Most German shepherds are either tan and black or red and black. The lighter brown shade is usually their principal color, with a black face mask and black markings on their back which often look like a saddle.

A variety of other color variations exist, including pure black, pure white, liver, silver, blue, panda, and, of course, sable.

Sable basically means the dog has mostly lighter colored hair with a black tips, which can make the dog appear grey or mottled. In reality, the actual color combinations are more varied, and the sable pattern could be any mixture of tan, black, brown, or red.

The term is mostly used in the United States. In other countries, such as Germany, these dogs are often just called grey.

Sable German Shepherd: History Of The Breed

The German shepherd, also known as the Alsatian Wolf Dog, was originally developed in Germany principally for herding sheep. It has since become a popular working dog for roles such as search and rescue, police, and military due to its strength, trainability, and intelligence.

The breed emerged from the 1850s trend to try to standardize dog breeds to assist in certain jobs, such as herding sheep.

Max von Stephanitz was a leading thinker in this area and was specifically looking for canine specimens that matched his ideal vision of a working dog.

He found that ideal dog at a dog show in 1899. He purchased the dog and named it Horand von Grafrath and founded the Society for German Shepherd Dogs to promote the breed and others like it.

Horand, who was in fact a sable-colored German Shepherd, became the center point of a breeding program. Horand himself had 84 puppies, and extensive inbreeding was required to secure the characteristics of the breed.

When the German Shepherd was imported to the United States in the early 20th century, it became popular with gangsters and bootleggers for its strength, intelligence, and intimidating appearance.

It was also popular in Nazi Germany, and even Adolf Hitler loved the breed. 

As a result, it has gained a reputation for being a fierce, intimidating, and even dangerous breed. However, this says much more about how the dogs were used than the natural temperament of the dogs themselves.

German Shepherd Temperament

The color of a German shepherd makes no difference to its temperament, so you can expect a sable German shepherd to conform to the general temperament of the breed.

German shepherd dogs are often described as active and self-assured. This, combined with their intelligence and eagerness to learn and please, makes them excellent working dogs. They are also highly obedient and loyal.

Their extreme loyalty also extends to family situations. They love having a family and will quickly adopt you and your family members as part of their “pack.”

This means they can display protective behavior and will often be alert and watchful. They will raise the alarm with their loud, deep bark if they sense danger.

However, German shepherds are not naturally aggressive. This is a reputation that stems from the way that the dog has been used in the past. 

That said, German shepherds are often associated with severe dog bites. This is largely due to the popularity of the breed and the strength of their bite rather than any innate aggression; there are simply more of them around than many other dog breeds. 

The German shepherd is a strong dog, and they don’t have a “soft mouth” to pick things up, which is common to dogs such as golden retrievers.

Tests suggest that German Shepherds have a bite force of over 1,060 newtons, which is less than a Rottweiler but more than a pit bull.

Proper socialization is required from a young age to keep this dog’s natural protective instincts in check and ensure they know how to behave around strangers and other animals.

They tend to have a natural suspicion of strangers and like to chase smaller animals.

Their intelligence and compliance means they can be trained not to display this behavior, but as an owner, you need to put in the work of training them properly and consistently.

German shepherds are a very curious breed in addition to being highly intelligent, which is why they are well suited for search and rescue missions.

German Shepherd Energy Level

German shepherds are very playful and active dogs, so they need lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation in order to thrive.

This is another reason why they often do well as working animals. Working gives them both the physical and mental stimulation to complete these challenging tasks. Pleasing their handlers is also attractive to these highly reward-oriented dogs.

Ideally, German shepherds need at least 60 to 90 minutes of exercise every day, preferably spread over at least two different sessions. However, this should be slightly less when they are puppies. 

There is always a risk of over-exercising puppies, especially when it comes to large dog breeds.

As a general rule, you should exercise a puppy daily for five minutes for every month of their age until they are an adult. German shepherds reach adulthood at around 18 months. 

So, for example, a six month old pup should be getting 30 minutes of exercise a day if we follow this rule, as six months times five minutes comes out to 30 minutes per day.

What to know more about exercising your puppy? Read our article: How far can I walk my puppy?

German shepherds will love to accompany you on adventures, such as hikes and walks, and they also love swimming.

They will do well at the lake, on the beach, or even accompanying you on a boat. However, even though they are excellent swimmers, they should have a doggy life vest if you are out at sea.

They will struggle in an apartment, and their large size can make navigating small apartments challenging even for these nimble dogs. Ideally, they should have a backyard where they can move around freely, especially when left at home alone.

The intelligence of these dogs means they can get bored quickly. If they don’t have enough mental stimulation, they can become frustrated, which often translates into destructive behavior.

While puzzle toys, such as a Kong, can help on the occasions when you do need to leave them alone, they are likely to become stressed if they are left alone regularly.

German Shepherd Health Risks

German shepherds have a life expectancy of a little over 10 years. This is normal for dogs of their size, and larger dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than smaller breeds.

Many of the common health ailments that affect German shepherds are the result of inbreeding early in the breed’s development.

You should not expect a sable German shepherd to be immune from these, especially since further inbreeding is often required to produce the sable color.

It is common for these dogs to develop hip and elbow dysplasia, which is a developmental abnormality of the joints that can restrict movement and cause pain.

This is often the result of different elements of the body growing at different speeds. The best way to prevent this is to ensure good nutrition and the right level of exercise during their crucial growing period.

Even if the development of hip and elbow dysplasia does not affect the dog at a younger age, it can make them more susceptible to arthritis and other forms of joint pain when they are older.

Older German shepherds often benefit from an orthopedic bed to take pressure off their joints.

The breed also appears to be predisposed to degenerative myelopathy. This is a degenerative spinal cord disease that generally shows up in older dogs after about the age of seven years.

Adopting A Sable German Shepherd Puppy

While you may find a sable German shepherd in a shelter, they are relatively rare. If you are looking for one of these puppies specifically, you may need to go to a breeder.

The sable color is relatively rare, and breeders have to control specifically for this kind of coat.  As a result, you can expect to pay a bit more for a sable puppy than you would a German shepherd of any other more common colors.

Most German shepherd litters have between 5 and 9 puppies, and you can expect to pay over $1,000 for a pup of the standard colors.

For a rare and prized sable German shepherd puppy, don’t be surprised if the breeder asks for over $2,000.

Should You Get A Sable German Shepherd?

Are you thinking of adopting a sable German shepherd, or any German shepherd, into your family? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you and your home are a good fit for this breed.

Do You Have Experience With Dogs? 

German shepherds are highly trainable and obedient, which means even first-time owners should be able to take on the challenge of training them. 

However, that doesn’t mean they are well-suited for just anyone. 

German shepherds need a commanding presence to keep them in check.

The sad reality is that many people are also afraid of big dogs like these, and their behavior and response to them can cause serious problems. You need to feel confident to take control of your dog in charged situations.

What Kind Of House Do You Live In? 

German shepherds are big dogs, so it should be no surprise that they don’t thrive in small spaces. An apartment probably won’t give a dog of such a large size enough space to feel comfortable.

These dogs are also very active, so they will do best if they have a bit of outdoors to call their own that lets them run around a little, dig, and play. Just be sure your yard is properly and securely fenced in!

Do You Have An Active Lifestyle? 

German shepherds are very energetic dogs that need to be active a lot, which means you will need to be active frequently as well. As well as daily exercise, they will want to join you on weekend adventures rather than weekends on the couch catching up on Netflix.

Do You Have Enough Time For A German Shepherd? 

German shepherds need to spend a lot of time with their owners, as they need both companionship and intellectual stimulation. 

If you need to be out of the house for eight hours a day at work, you can’t take your dog with you, and there is no one else home, you will probably find yourself with a frustrated and misbehaving dog when you get home.

Thinking about getting a new puppy? Check out our new puppy checklist.

Sable German Shepherd FAQs

What does “sable” mean for a German shepherd?

“Sable” refers to a specific color of German shepherd. Sable German shepherds have a coat with lighter roots and darker tips covering most of their body.

The tips are usually black, which means the dog looks as though it has a greyish color. It is a natural color variation within the breed.

How common are sable German shepherds?

Sable German shepherds are significantly rare in comparison to the popular tan and black or red and black colors that dominate the breed.

This is why a sable puppy will probably cost you more than other color variations. However, pure black German shepherds are a bit more rare.

Are sable German shepherds bigger?

No, sable German shepherds are not bigger than other German shepherds. The females should weigh between 55 and 75 pounds and the males 75 to 95 pounds. Look at the size of the parents to get a better feel for how big your pup is likely to get.

Are German shepherds good family dogs?

With the right training and socialization, German shepherds are excellent dogs for an active household. They will be loving, obedient, and protective.

They are good around children, though small children should always be supervised around dogs, regardless of the breed and their level of familiarity. Accidents happen, even when children are around dogs they have grown up with and know well.

What is bad about German shepherds?

German shepherds tend to be suspicious of everyone, which can contribute to overly protective and territorial behavior.

Proper socialization can help minimize this personality trait, but they will probably carry an element of this with them for their entire lives.

The Verdict

Sable German shepherds are not exotic crossbreeds but rather a rare color of the purebred German shepherd dog. They are actually the original color of the breed, matching its famous founding member.

Sable-colored German shepherds are actually relatively rare, so they can be expensive to procure. However, aside from their unique color, they are just like other German shepherds, one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

They are large and strong dogs with a lot of energy, which makes them well suited to hard work.

They are also highly intelligent and eager to please, which makes them ideal to train to complete complex tasks such as the roles of military and police dogs despite being originally bred as herders.

Overall, sable German shepherds are:

  • Rarer than just about any other color of German shepherd
  • No different than other German shepherds as far as personality, temperament, etc. aside from their color
  • Highly loyal, energetic, and protective

Despite their reputation for being dangerous, they are obedient and loyal. With the right training and socialization, they are very safe dogs.

German shepherds are great dogs for active people who have a lot of time to spend with their pup and want a companion to join them on various active adventures.

Do you have experience with sable German shepherd dogs?

Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.

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What Is A Sable German Shepherd? - Shepherd puppy playing with blue toy in the grass.

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  1. Talk to as many breeders as you can. One thing we love to do is talk about our puppies.! Insist on seeing where the puppies are raised. Cleanliness is very important. A GSD puppy will start to potty train itself to a designated area as young as 5 weeks. The puppy should stay with Mom for 8wks. This allows Mom and the rest of the litter to learn doggy manners. Dog aggression can occur if proper play isn’t taught early. It will also allow the breeder to start the puppy on human manners, crate training, leash walking. Discuss with your breeder beforehand what you want in a puppy. Each has their own personality. BTW Sable pups aren’t rare. They are available in all line, working,show and pet.

  2. Hi Shelby,

    Would love to get in touch to discuss more info about German Shepherd ‘s how can I do this? I am thinking about getting one but more importantly I have to educate myself before I can make that decision… I have three kids, 1/3/8 years old, and I also have a small female dog (jack russel cross) she’s 3, I also own horses and we work around cattle…

  3. best thing so far to be in my life sable colored when i got her at 4 months old i was in the hosp with cancer 2 months have passed by at 6 months the dog has changed to beast shep she looks over evry thing learns fast but most of all by my side grand kids play with her and she puts up with tail pulling legs evry thing 1 of the best gifts my kid gave to me the love from my pup is amazing with the rite training she will be more awesome just lov the brooklyn

  4. This is the most uneducated report I have ever read. As someone with 30 years experience with German Shepherds, I can tell you the following:

    * Sable is a color. It is not an “offset” of the breed.

    * Sable-colored dogs WILL have differences in temperament, energy level, aptitude, and size. Why? Sable is a coloration attributed to working line German Shepherds. Working line dogs have a higher propensity of needing a job than Showline dogs (who also deserve a job.)

    * Sable colors are NOT rarer. Stating such puts dogs at risk of ending up in homes unprepared for a working dog.

    I have spent decades working with owners as a trainer of German Shepherds. Owners go out, always wanting a German Shepherd, and read articles like this telling them “sable is rare.” Eight months later they are calling me begging for help or asking for any shelters that may be taking dogs.

    Please stick to facts.

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