The Liver German Shepherd


A Liver German Shepherd has received two copies of a recessive gene. This gene completely blocks black pigment from forming.

This is similar to another recessive gene, which dilutes any black pigment, resulting in a Blue German Shepherd. A Liver will have a brown nose, while a blue will have a grey nose.

Livers are hard to locate. Many breeders will not typically breed for liver (or blue) German Shepherds. Though they are still AKC recognized, the liver color is considered a serious fault.

They are eligible for all AKC events, with the exception of conformation. The conformation ring is meant to show dogs who most closely exhibit the breed standard (all pigment is required to be black, etc.)

Recessive Gene

Since Livers basically have no pigmentation, everything will be in varying shades of brown, rust or red:

  • nose
  • lips
  • eye rims
  • foot pads

As puppies, their toenails may be white and their foot pads pink. This normally changes to tan once they each adulthood.

Puppies may have green or blue eyes, which turn to amber or light brown (may had a reddish hue) at about six months of age.

Like Blues, coat cold varies in Liver German Shepherds and typically come in one of two categories:

  • Chocolate (dark brown)
  • Cinnamon (reddish)

The Liver gene has nothing to do with the "pattern." You can have a:

  • Liver and Tan Saddle Back
  • Bi-color Liver
  • Sable Liver
  • Solid Liver

In a solid Liver, the pup has inherited two copies of the Solid Black German Shepherd pattern gene, which is also recessive. The solid (aka "self coloring") gene pattern can be mistaken as the black color gene. Though all it does is to block formation of any black pigment, thus a solid Liver.

Isabella Color German Shepherd

The Isabella is a much rarer color of German Shepherd. They are born fawn colored and carry two copies of the Blue recessive gene and two copies of the Liver gene, which are then expressed in their pigmentation.

They are genetically called "diluted livers" or "double dilutes." The Liver gene blocks all black pigmentation, so they appear brown. The Blue gene then dilutes the brown since there is no black pigmentation to dilute.

The Isabella color can be seen in many other breeds, including Border Collies, Chihuhuas, Dachshunds, Dobermans and Weimeraners.

Health and the Liver German Shepherd

Despite the color being considered a fault, there is no difference between a Liver GSD and any of the traditional colors. This is a hotly debated topic, and while I don't believe shepherds should be bred haphazardly, I don't feel that mere color should be considered a major fault.

No good dog is a bad color
~Max von Stephanitz - Founder of the German Shepherd Breed on German Shepherd colors



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