The Liver Colored German Shepherd is a beautiful cinnamon or chocolate shade of brown. It is rare that you will get to see one of these amazing dogs. Second to the color “isabella,” liver is very uncommon. Most of us are used to the traditional black and tan coloring GSDs. In addition to their coat color, the eyes are amber and their lips are either brown or pink. For potential owners who love chocolate and dogs, this makes the perfect pet!
Many people want to know what exactly this color is and how does it happen? This article will answer some of the common questions associated with this specific color. It will include the different color combinations, the origin of the unique color, how rare the color is, where to purchase one and how much they cost.
What is a Liver Colored German Shepherd?
The liver colored German Shepherd is a color variant of the GSD. It is one of the 11 standard colors listed for the breed on the American Kennel Club. However, like the blue colored German Shepherd, it is considered a fault according to the breed standard.
You won’t see this color very often at your local park. The liver colored coat is a beautiful brown hue that is more subdued. It is normally cinnamon or chocolate brown. It can range from a lighter reddish brown to a richer darker brown.
They come in three main color variations:
- Solid Liver – The entire coat is a solid liver brown varying in darkness
- Liver and Tan – The body is tan and the normally black saddle and markings are liver brown
- Liver and White – The body is white and the normally black saddle and markings are liver brown
In addition to their brown coat, they will also have amber eyes, a brown nose and brown foot pads. Their lips will also be brown or pink.
The liver colored German Shepherd aside from their color is exactly the same as a normal GSD. They have the same loving and loyal temperament along with the intelligence and trainability of a traditional German Shepherd.
What causes a German Shepherd to be Liver Colored?
The liver brown color is caused by a recessive B gene that occurs naturally in the GSD’s gene pool. This is why it is considered a standard color. Although the solid liver color can be officially registered by the AKC, it is considered a fault similar to blue.
In order for a German Shepherd to be born liver brown, both parents must possess the B gene. For a complete litter of puppies to be liver brown, both parents must be liver brown. If other colored parents carry the B gene but are not liver brown, the litter will be split with some of the puppies being liver brown and some being other colors.
For puppies to be born with the rare “isabella” color, both parents must carry the B gene and D gene which is liver and blue.
As a result all of the areas of the coat that are normally black will instead be a cinnamon or chocolate brown. The shades of brown will vary depending on genetics.
Patterns can also vary since the recessive gene does not affect color patterns. This means that a Liver Colored German Shepherd can still be bi-color, sable, saddle-back or solid.
Are Liver Colored German Shepherds Rare?
Yes Liver Colored German Shepherds are rare compared to other GSD colors. In fact, blue and liver are the rarest colors you will see on a GSD. These two colors are standard but highly uncommon. Other colors like solid black or white are also hard to come by.
The chance of one or both parents carrying the recessive B gene is rare making the liver color rare. In addition, most breeders don’t normally sell liver colored German Shepherds, focusing more on traditional colors that are more prevalent in competitions and dog shows.
If you exclude the standard colors, “isabella” and “piebald” occuring in Panda German Shepherds are the rarest colors. This anomaly happens due to a genetic mutation that causes white spotting. The result is a beautiful piebald colored coat that is approximately 35% white.
Are Liver Colored German Shepherds Unhealthy?
Liver German Shepherds are fairly healthy dogs that do tend to be prone to some conditions larger breeds are susceptible to like Hip Dysplasia. But many people want to know if the color of your GSD has any correlation to health issues.
There is much debate and discussion over this topic and many owners say their is no connection between color and health. While there are people on both sides of the debate, the best evidence we have does show a connection.
According to a study done by the University of Sydney on October 22, 2018, color can affect health in dogs.
The study followed 33,000 Labradors of all colors in the United Kingdom. The study used Vet data to collect information on the dogs such as lifespan and health conditions. The results proved that color does impact health in dogs.
|Non-Chocolate Labradors||Chocolate Labradors|
|Lifespan||12.1 Years||10.9 Years|
|Ear Inflammation||Normal||2X more likely|
|Hot-Spot||Normal||4X more likely|
Although this study wasn’t performed on German Shepherds, the results are relevant. They found a clear correlation between color and health.
“The relationships between coat colour and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations,” he said. “Because chocolate colour is recessive in dogs, the gene for this colour must be present in both parents for their puppies to be chocolate. Breeders targeting this colour may therefore be more likely to breed only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene. It may be that the resulting reduced gene pool includes a higher proportion of genes conducive to ear and skin conditions.”Professor Paul McGreevy, from the University’s Faculty of Science
In other words, breeders that breed this color on purpose will have less of a gene pool to choose from. This means that the specific dogs they use may heave more health problems. On the other hand, the black and tan GSDs are much more common. Therefore it is much easier to select healthier bloodlines for breeding.
This however doesn’t mean that a Liver GSD won’t be healthy. It just means that some health issues might be more prevalent and it may not have quite the same lifespan as other colors.
Does a Liver Colored German Shepherd have the same temperament?
Yes, just like more traditional colored GSDs, the liver colored German Shepherd has the same temperament. They are alert, aloof with strangers, confident, easy to train, full of energy and super smart.
Just like their counterpart they are excellent with children and make great family pets. They also make wonderful guard dogs and excel in many occupations and sports including Schutzhund.
GSD’s are a top choice among families all over the world although most of them probably don’t own the rare liver colored German Shepherd.
What color is a Liver German Shepherd when they are a puppy?
Puppies that inherit the recessive B gene are born with the liver color. Their entire coat of fur will be brown or a combination of browns and patterns will vary.
The main difference between adults and puppies is their footpads and toenails. On a puppy, the footpads will be pink and the toenails will be white. By the time they reach adulthood, the footpads and toenails will be liver brown.
Additionally their eyes will be blue or green as puppies. Their eyes will eventually transition into a red-brown hue at close to six months of age. It can also take up to two years for a bi-color Liver German Shepherd’s coat to reach its full color.
Where to get a Liver Colored German Shepherd?
Finding a Liver Colored German Shepherd to adopt from a shelter will be difficult because of their rarity. In fact one dog enthusiast said that he had only seen one Liver GSD at shelters in his state over a three year period out of 200 GSDs. This means that your chance of finding one at a shelter is slim to none.
There are only a handful of breeders that sell them because of the fault aspect. This make them difficult to find through a breeder as well. On top of that, you want to make sure that you are using a reputable breeder.
There are two main things to look for when looking for a good breeder that you can trust. Number one, make sure that they screen their customers to ensure they are qualified for owning a dog. Number two make sure that they have a waiting list. This ensures that people have time to learn and get ready for their new furry friend.
Ruskin House of Shepherds is one of the few German Shepherd breeders we found that sells Liver GSDs and has good ratings and reviews.
How much do puppies cost?
Due to their rarity, Liver GSDs cost more than traditional GSD colors. They will normally cost between $3,500 and $4,500 for a new puppy.
Always take into account the full lifetime costs of a new dog. According to PetBudget.com, the average cost of owning a German Shepherd over their lifetime is $17,935. Tack on the added cost you are paying for the Liver GSD and you are looking at over $20,000.
This includes the initial price of the puppy, food, grooming, supplies, training and veterinarian bills. There can also be unexpected health issues that are very expensive.
The Liver Colored German Shepherd is a beautiful animal with all of the amazing characteristics of the traditional GSD. Their cinnamon or chocolate brown coat gives them a unique look that many love. In the end, all GSDs are valuable in their own personal way. Like the creator Max von Stephanitz once said, “No good dog can be a bad color.”
If you plan on buying a Liver GSD, make sure to do your homework and research. Many owners who aren’t prepared for the care and training it takes to raise a GSD are found dropping them off at shelters every year.
Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Do you have any experience or have you ever owned a Liver GSD? What is your opinion on this color? Have you seen more health issues? Let us know! We would love to hear about your story!
Photos courtesy of Tina Daly, owner of RuskinHouseofShepherds.com.