They may be Caucasian, but whatever you do, do not call the White Shepherd an albino. Along with that myth, the white version of the great German Shepherd often faces plenty of confusion. As in, are they a distinct breed or are they a blemish of the German Shepherd?
Indeed, the White Shepherd is its own breed. Ever since German breeders and the AKC oddly left them out of the German Shepherd standard, others have made great efforts to preserve the breed.
And for good reason! Aside from their beauty, the White Shepherd has all of the goods that a German Shepherd does. They are hard working, loyal and very smart.
But will they fit in as an addition to your family?
Here is what you need to know about the White Shepherd.
Before the German Shepherd was the black and tan handsome canine we all have come to love, the White Shepherd was herding pastures countryside. Indeed, the first German Shepherd of note, was the grandson of Greif, a white coat German sheepdog, born in 1879. Horand Von Grafrath was the first German Shep of record, the dog that would lay the foundation for the gene pool of a great dog for years to come.
During the turn of the 20th century, just as much part of the German Shepherd’s standard was the white coats. But at some point, likely when the Nazi regime began to rule Germany and control kennels (and the whole country) that would change. White coats would become a disqualifier in shows and in the standard. This crusade against white coats would travel around the road creating a divide forever.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the first White Shepherd to arrive in America from Germany was back in the 1920’s. The unique and graceful looking type wouldn’t pique much of the public’s interest, however. For that reason, and the decision by the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and the AKC to disavow white coats from the standard, the breed was facing extinction.
Yet, it wouldn’t be. Enthusiasts and dog lovers would fight to preserve the breed knowing that the White Shepherd was a great breed. The efforts by the GSD Club of America in 1959 wouldn’t deter enthusiasts moving forward.
In came the formation of the White Shepherd Club of Canada in 1971. It would be their mission, one that they would succeed in doing so to gain distinction, separation and recognition. Although the AKC and other clubs would remain stubborn on the issue, one major kennel club would step forward.
In 1999, the UKC would grant the White Shepherd its first recognition, while designating them into the herding group. The promoters and breeders from the clubs in Canada and United States are still hopeful in gaining recognition from the AKC.
The White Shepherd is an athlete, a hard worker and a great family companion. They still hold many of the great traits that the German Shepherd owns. Moreover, the breed, despite the lack of promotion from the AKC and other major clubs, is very popular. According to Indian Rock White Shepherds, a web site, the White Shepherd would be the 41st largest breed if they had recognition from the AKC. It is their estimate that there is 5000 yearly WS registrations in America.
The compact and hustling White Shepherd can vary from a medium size breed into the smaller side of a large breed. According to the United Kennel Club standard — A male should stand at 25 inches, where a female should stand at 23 inches.
With regards to weight, a male should range between 75 and 85 pounds, whereas a female should weigh between 60 to 70 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
This is an active breed, that really loves a large backyard and extending its limbs. The White Shepherd is a runner to nobody’s surprise. They are content running or herding or just horse playing with children throughout the day for their physical stimulation. For sure, the White Shepherd does like to have a good share of challenges to help with stimulating their mind and body. Agility, flyball, or a game of fetch is all good with this breed.
Speaking of children, expect a playmate and protector. That the breed is very capable of doing, As pups, this is a high energy breed. Sure, they take longer to mature, but once they do, they settle into a nice two dimensional dog. That is, the WS can turn it on and turn it off.
They like to have a job or role. The WS will yearn to be part of family encounters. That’ll include walks around the neighborhood to outings at the park or at the beach. With their double coat, don’t find it surprising to see them jump in for a dip.
Friendly but a bit aloof, the WS should never be shy nor aggressive. They’ll give anyone a chance and are warm and embracing to those they know. Affectionate and accepting of all the attention they can get.
A White Shepherd can live just about anywhere as well. Just as long as they get their daily fix of exercise, that is. The breed is willing to learn, and simple to train due to their high intelligence. What would you expect from a breed that is of German Shepherd descent?
The breed has a bit of a vocal side to them. They’ll let you know about their excitement or disappointment through growls, moans or even a howl.
Curious, alert, observant and always ready to go, this is a great dog for someone who has a ranch or loves the outdoors.
All in all, a great family dog. The White Shepherd will work hard, play hard, be loyal and protect.
When you buy a White Shepherd make sure you only buy from a reputable breeder. A breeder should be able to provide you with the proper paperwork and documents you need. Always ask for the health clearances to make sure you’re getting the healthiest dog possible.
In addition, it is always a good practice to schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to maintain your WS’s health. If you do the above, then there’s no reason to believe your White Shepherd won’t live upwards to 11 to 12 years.
Cautious owners feed their dogs portion meals and break them up into two to three meals. That’s because certain disorders that are deadly like Bloat can have a negative impact on a dog. Gastric Torsion or Bloat as many call it, it is a complication in the dog’s stomach. When your White Shepherd has too much air or gas inside and no way to release it, the stomach tends to distend. This will wrench and twist, creating a painful consequence for the WS. Again, this is a problem because it can be fatal. If you suspect your WS has Bloat make sure you consult your Veterinarian about your options.
The breed does have issues with Hip Dysplasia. This is common for most breed, including this dog. Hip Dysplasia is the malformation of the hip joint, which will cause lameness, discomfort and pain. It can lead to other arthritic issues down the road. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the White Shepherd is the 42nd worst on their list of 187 breeds. Out of only 140 evaluations, the OFA found the breed to have a 20.0 dysplastic rating. This puts the breed in the company of the Chow Chow, Golden Retriever and German Shepherd.
Elbow Dysplasia is a big problem for the breed as well. This complication is when there is abnormal growth in the elbow leading to osteoarthritis if it progresses. Lameness, pain, and discomfort are all common symptoms as well. The OFA ranks the WS 17th worst on their list with an incredible 19.0 dysplastic rating from 126 evaluations. This puts the breed in the company of the Cane Corso, AmStaff Terrier and American Bulldog.
There have also been reports of deafness from this breed, which is common for white coat breeds.
If this is your first rodeo with a breed that his this much high energy and activity requirements then they may not be the dog for you. You should be someone who loves the outdoors but who also has experience with herding breeds. Of course, nothing is concrete and every dog is different when it comes to ownership. This is a breed that needs an early commitment from their hand. They should bring law and order, but in a fair way, Positive reinforcement will work best for the White Shepherd. Early training and consistency is key for this breed, but so isn’t socialization with new things and people.
This breed thrives when they have a role or purpose. They are a hard working breed that excels at herding and other canine events. Make sure you give them adequate exercise and walk them daily.
Companionship is a must but so isn’t involving them in your affairs. The White Shepherd prefers attachment rather than cold separation from their family.
With children and other dogs, due to their herding instincts, make sure you supervise those encounter. As innocent as it may be, the White Shepherd, especially as a puppy, can be a bit boisterous playing. Also watch for prey drive.
This isn’t an outdoor dog nor a dog that should be left alone. If you are going to live in an apartment, exercise and involvement is key, especially if you want to avoid angering the neighbors.
They do like to run so a leash or a fence will be necessary. Check their ears routinely, trim their nails to protect from overgrowth and bathe them on occasion.
A working breed or a herding breed will need a high quality dry kibble and quality calories. As much as they’ll burn them, it is your job to help return them. Top notch crude fat, protein and carbs will all play a role in how healthy your dog’s coat, heart and joints remain.
Of course, not all dogs will eat the same amounts. Metabolism, age, or activity rates can all play a role in how much your White Shepherd eats. Spaying and neutering can be contributing facts in portions as well.
Meat should be the first ingredient and there should be a healthy balance of vitamins, minerals, etc. Most people seem happy feeding their White Sheepdog between 2 2/3 cups to 3 1/3 cups per day. You should break those portions up and feed them two to three times per day.
As always, you should provide your White Shepherd with fresh drinking water.
The White Shepherd has a double coat, which helps protect them from harsh weather like rain and the cold. With their extra insulation it is easier for the breed to perform hard tasks like herding all day in the cold.
They do shed and you will need to groom or brush their coat at least once or twice per week. The coat on the outside is close to the body, dense, straight and harsh texture. The undercoat should be a fine texture, short and thick.
According to the United Kennel Club, the follow is acceptable options for coat color: White, off-white.
Fun White Shepherd Facts
- According to WTHR, a NBC affiliate, one White Shepherd by the name of Mosha, gave birth to an incredible 17 puppies. Talk about jacking up the registration numbers.
- Some people confuse the breed with the separate and distinct Berger Blanc Suisse, which is essentially a White Shepherd. The FCI recognizes the Berger.
- The White Shepherd can compete at AKC events except for conformation competitions.
For whatever reason there is contention with white coats, just think, if there wasn’t, the breed wouldn’t have the honor of having their own distinction as a breed.
Much like their relative, German Shepherd, the WS is thoughtful, calm and confident. Always looking to go, willing to accept the next challenge and at the end of the day, rearing to roll up next to their owner, where they are happiest.