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White Shepherd Dog

A White Shepherd Dog.
Other names White German Shepherd Dog
Berger Blanc Suisse
Nicknames WS, WGSD
Country of origin United States
Color white
Litter size 5-10
Life span 7-10

The White Shepherd Dog emerged from white coat lines of the German Shepherd Dog. It is only recognized as a breed by the United Kennel Club in the United States.



In German Shepherd Dogs the recessive gene for white coat hair was cast in the breed gene pool by the late 19th and early 20th century breeding program that developed and expanded the German Shepherd Dog breed in Germany. A white herding dog named Greif was the grandfather of Horand von Grafrath, the dog acknowledged as the foundation of all contemporary German Shepherd Dog bloodlines.

Rittmeister Max von Stephanitz December 1864 to April 1936

Information provided in early books on the German Shepherd Dog[1][2] make mention of Greif and other white German herding dogs, with upright ears and a general body description that resembles modern German Shepherd Dogs, shown in Europe as early as 1882. The early 20th century German Shepherd breeding program extensively line bred and inbred "color coat" dogs that carried Greif's recessive gene for "white coats" to refine and expand the population of early German Shepherd Dogs.[3] White coats were made a disqualification in the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany breed standard in 1933 after the breed club came under the control of the German Nazi party that took over all aspects of German society in February 1933 when Hitler declared a state of emergency. The German breed standard remained unchanged as German breeders repopulated the breed in the years after the conclusion of WWII.

In 1959 the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) adopted the exclusively colored breed standard of the parent German breed club. White-coated German Shepherd Dogs were officially barred from competition in the American Kennel Club conformation ring in the United States starting in 1968. AKC-registered white German Shepherd Dogs may still compete in performance events.

During the 1970's, white dog fanciers in the United States and Canada formed their own "White German Shepherd" breed clubs, breeding and showing their dogs at small specialty dog shows throughout North America.

The White Shepherd Club of Canada (WSCC) has been dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the White Shepherd since 1971. Originally formed as a Chapter of the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the club was renamed White Shepherd Club of Canada in 1973. Its first conformation show was held that year with 8 dogs entered and 25 people in attendance.

In Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) is incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act, a federal statute under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, which is the governing body that sets down recognition and standards for all pure animal breeds. For a long time, Agriculture Canada had protected white German Shepherds from the many attempts by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada to have white dogs disqualified from the CKC conformation ring, as had long been the case in the USA. Some brave members of WSCC had shown in the CKC breed rings and had even accumulated points toward their dogs' CKC Championships. Unfortunately, that would all change in 1998, when the color white was officially disqualified from the CKC German Shepherd breed standard.

Disappointed but undeterred, the WSCC continues to work toward full breed recognition of the White Shepherd as a separate breed with the CKC. The club hosts shows several times a year, often in combination with the American White Shepherd Association. Event dates and locations are published in the club's newsletter and on its web site.

In September 1995, a small group of fanciers of the white-coated German Shepherd Dog established the American White Shepherd Association (AWSA), a new club to advance, promote and protect the White Shepherd breed in the United States. In cooperation with the White Shepherd Club of Canada, AWSA wrote and published a new breed standard, and eventually petitioned the American Kennel Club for full recognition as a unique pure breed, separate from and independent of the German Shepherd Dog. As of this writing, AKC has not granted recognition or registration for the White Shepherd breed, but the breeders, fanciers and members of AWSA carry on with independently-held club activities as well as running and maintaining the private club registry. AWSA continues to negotiate with the AKC for breed recognition as well as with the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) for breed separation. Until such time as GSDCA can be persuaded to grant official release of the white dogs, AKC must continue to register all white German Shepherd Dogs born from two AKC-registered German Shepherd parents as German Shepherd Dogs.

In 1999, a group of AWSA members organized and established the United White Shepherd Club (UWSC) as a United Kennel Club affiliated parent club. They immediately petitioned for a new White Shepherd breed classification within UKC. The United Kennel Club accepted the UWSC's petition and created a new and separate White Shepherd breed conformation standard and registry. The White Shepherd breed was officially recognized by UKC on April 14, 1999. Today, United Kennel Club recognizes both the White Shepherd breed standard as well as the original German Shepherd Dog breed conformation standard where white and colored dogs continue to be considered together as one breed.

Neither UKC nor AWSA-registered White Shepherds can be registered with FCI as White Swiss Shepherd Dogs (Berger Blanc Suisse). Breed clubs associated with each of these unique breed lines maintain their own breed standards for appearance and temperament. The breed "appearance" standard given below is appropriate to the UKC-registered White Shepherd Dog and, with a few very minor changes - mostly in wording and layout - to the written standard of the AWSA club as well.

No matter which country they hail from, White Shepherds excel in performance events such as competition obedience and rally obedience, tracking, flyball and agility. Many fine dogs have also earned titles in herding, proving that the herding instinct and ability has been retained in this versatile breed.


A seventeen-year-old White Shepherd...
...and a White Shepherd, 15 weeks

The White Shepherd is a direct descendant of the German Shepherd Dog and the two breeds share common roots and are similar in appearance. However, the White Shepherd evolved from a continuous selection for a working companion dog with that exclusive color, beauty and elegance as seen both standing and in motion. His high degree of intelligence and sense of loyalty have allowed him to become one of the most versatile working dogs serving mankind.[4]

The White Shepherd, as recognized by UKC, is a medium-sized, well-balanced, muscular dog, slightly longer than tall, with a medium length, pure white coat, erect ears, and a low-set natural tail that normally reaches to the hock and is carried in a slight curve like a saber. The White Shepherd is solid without bulkiness and should be shown in lean, hard physical condition. The outline of the White Shepherd is made up of smooth curves rather than angles. When trotting, the White Shepherd moves with a long, efficient stride that is driven by a powerful forward thrust from the hindquarters. The rear leg, moving forward, swings under the foreleg and touches down in the place where the forefoot left an imprint. Gender differences are readily apparent.

The White Shepherd should be evaluated as an all-around working dog, and exaggerations or faults should be penalized in proportion to how much they deviate from breed type; and how much they interfere with the dog's ability to work.

The head is proportional to the size of the dog. Males appear masculine without coarseness, and females feminine without being overly fine. The skull and muzzle are of equal length, parallel to one another, and joined at a moderate stop. There is little or no median furrow.

The White Shepherd has a weather-resistant double coat. The outer coat is dense, straight, harsh, and close lying. The undercoat is short, thick, and fine in texture. At the neck, the coat may be slightly longer and heavier, particularly in males. Ideal coat color is a pure white. Colors ranging from a very light cream to a light biscuit tan are acceptable but not preferred.

Dogs with noses not predominantly black is a disqualification.

The tail is set on low in a natural extension of the sloping croup. The tail extends at least to the hock joint and usually below.

The appearance standard for United Kennel Club registered dogs is very similar to but not exactly the same as for other separate breed lines such as the AWSA-registered White Shepherd or the FCI internationally recognized Berger Blanc Suisse (White Swiss Shepherd Dog). While all of the existing breed lines have a common genetic heritage with the white-coated members of the German Shepherd Dog breed, they are each separately registered with their respective clubs or registries which also maintain the individual breed appearance standards.


White Shepherd, nine months
A long-coated White Shepherd

The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression. The ideal dog is self-confident and maintains a certain aloofness. It is eager and alert when needed, willing to serve in its capacity as a companion, guard, guide dog, herding dog, or whatever the circumstances may demand. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any dog that exhibits unprovoked aggression and attempts to bite any person, dog or other animal must be disqualified and removed from any dog show event.

White German Shepherds are very loyal, very protective dogs. They are especially protective of those designated as 'pups'. These dogs enjoy running, playing fetch, or any activity with their 'family' or 'pack'. They are loving, and very good with children. These canines are very good companions if raised in a good home. They can learn various tricks (depending on the dog) and are usually intelligent animals. They can also live a very long time - 12-14 years.

The White German Shepherd breed have a very playful and curious personality. Some have a tendency to be very vocal by whining, grunting, and moaning. These dogs are also great howlers. Be prepared to have conversations with your White German Shepherd. They are wonderful family dogs, most can be trained to accept any household pet and kids. They are very respectful and honor their masters.


White German Shepherd

There are many misconceptions about white-coat German Shepherd Dogs and the gene that expresses for their coat color. Clarence C. Little's The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs hypothesized that dilution or partial albinism ce, ca and cch alleles of the so called (C) gene caused the cream and white coat color variants in domestic dogs. Little's hypothesized partial albinism explanation for cream and white colored coats has been applied across most domestic dog breeds, including white coat dogs from German Shepherd breed lines, since Little first published his book.

However, comparative analysis of the dog genome and specific breed DNA sequences now shows that Little's hypothesized gene (C) color dilution explanation for cream and white colored coats is most likely not a relevant determinant of cream and white coats known to commonly occur in many dog breeds. Little's 1957-era partial albinism dilution explanation, as applied to explain domestic dog white and cream coat colors, can be replaced by the findings of modern genetic research.

Research has shown that a recessive e allele at the Extension (E) gene is at least partially responsible for cream and white coat color. The (E) gene, now identified as the Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene, is one of the two genes known to code for alleles that are absolutely fundamental to the formation of all German Shepherd Dog colored coat variations. When the recessive allele is inherited from each breeding pair parent, the e/e genotype offspring of certain breeds, including white coat dogs from German Shepherd breed lines, always have cream or white colored coats.[5][6]

White shepherds were once blamed for color dilution or paling for the entire breed because the recessive e allele of the MC1R (E) gene locus masks expression of alleles at other gene loci that actually do code for lighter (often termed as diluted or pale) colors of silver, black and tan or liver. German breeders of the 1920s and 1930's misinterpreted pale-colored offspring of white dogs as an undesirable "white" genetic trait. A colored dog paired with a white GSD always produces full colored puppies because the e allele is recessive.)

In popular culture

Lyka - White German Shepherd
  • In the 2008 Disney animated film, "Bolt", the titular character is a small white dog portrayed as a white shepherd.
  • In the survival horror video game "Haunting Ground" ("Demento" in Japan), one of the main characters is a White Shepherd named Hewie.
  • the 1987 motion picture "The Lost Boys, features a White Shepherd called Thorn, owned by the character Max.
  • Samuel Fuller's acclaimed 1982 motion picture 'White Dog', features a White Shepherd that has been trained to attack and kill people with black skin.[7]
  • Jack LaLanne, popular fitness "guru" had white shepherd dogs that appeared on his TV show.
  • Rapper Lil J~J of Perry,GA has a white german shepherd named Sophie.
  • Fantasy author Neil Gaiman has a white German Shepherd named Cabal.
  • Jennifer Aniston has a white shepherd called Dolly.


  1. ^ Horowitz, George (1927). The Alsation Wolf-Dog: Its origin, history, and working capabilities 2nd ed.. Manchester: Our Dogs Publ. Co.. 
  2. ^ Willis, Malcolm (1977). The German Shepherd Dog, Its History, Development, and Genetics. New York: ARCO Pub. Co. ISBN 9780668040778. 
  3. ^ Rankin, Calumn (2002). The All-White Progenitor: German Shepherd Dogs. Upfront Publishing. ISBN 9781844260225. 
  4. ^ "United Kennel Club Standard for White Shepherd Dog". American White Shepherd Association, United White Shepherd Club, and White Shepherd Club of Canada. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  5. ^ Schmutz SM, Berryere TG. (July/August 2007). "The Genetics of Cream Coat Color in Dogs". Journal of Heredity. PMID 17485734. 
  6. ^ Handley, M. (2007-10-31). "The Genetics of Coat Color in the White (German/Swiss) Shepherd Dog". White Shepherd Genetics Project. Retrieved 2007-11-19. 
  7. ^

Further information

  • Neufeld, Peter (1970). The Invincible White Shepherd. Minnedosa: Glendosa Research Center. ISBN 9780969020813. 
  • Willis, Malcolm (1992). The German Shepherd Dog. New York: Howell Book House. ISBN 9780876051757. 
  • Willis, Malcolm (1989). Genetics of the Dog. New York: Howell Book House. ISBN 9780876055519. 
  • Strickland, Winifred (1988). The German Shepherd Today / Winifred Gibson Strickland and James Anthony Moses. New and Rev. Ed. New York: New York: Macmillan. ISBN 9780026149907. 
  • Ruvinsky, Anatoly (2001). The Genetics of the Dog. Wallingford: CABI Pub. ISBN 9780851995205. 
  • Isabell, Jackie (2002). Genetics: an Introduction for Dog Breeders. Loveland: Alpine Blue Ribbon Books. ISBN 9781577790419. 
  • Raisor, Michelle (2005). Determining the Antiquity of Dog Origins: Canine Domestication as a Model for the Consilience between Molecular Genetics and Archaeology. Oxford: Archaeopress. ISBN 9781841718095. 
  • Hart, Ernest (1988). This Is the German Shepherd. Neptune City: TFH Publications. ISBN 9780876662984. 
  • Dodge, Geraldine R (1956). The German Shepherd Dog in America. New York: O. Judd Pub. Co. 
  • Hart, Ernest H (1968). Encyclopedia of dog breeds: Histories and official standards: evolution, genealogy, genetics, husbandry, etc.. Crown Publishers. 
  • Goldbecker, William (1955). This is the German Shepherd. Practical science Pub Co. 
  • Reeves, Jean (2007). White Shepherd. Kennel Club Books, Inc.. ISBN 9781593785895. 
  • Schmutz SM, Berryere TG. (July/August 2007). "The Genetics of Cream Coat Color in Dogs". Journal of Heredity. PMID 17485734. 
  • Kerns JA, Olivier M, Lust G, Barsh GS (2003). "Exclusion of melanocortin-1 receptor (mc1r) and agouti as candidates for dominant black in dogs". Journal of Heredity. PMID 12692166. 

External links

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