Over the past weeks, we have been looking at the differences in the many coat colourings seen in German Shepherds and the problems that arise when German Shepherd breeders focus on colour and appearance rather than working ability. We have also talked a lot about the difference between recessive and dominant genes. Every dog has two sets of genes, and in a dog with two different gene variations telling it to have two different coats, the dominant gene will override the recessive gene. Uncommon colourings such as solid black, or solid white are recessive to the common black and tan saddle-back coat. However, while saddle-back coats are perhaps the most common and the most well-recognized, the saddle-back gene is recessive to one coat type: sable.
Sable German Shepherds are by no means uncommon, but they are less recognized by the general public than the classic saddle-black coats for which the breed is well known. This may simply be due to the aesthetic preference, as sable coats are perhaps the least visually pleasing of all coat colourings. The term “sable” refers to the colour banding of individual hairs in the coat. The hairs in a sable coat are often tan with black tips, but they can vary greatly from dog to dog. In fact, it is common for a sable German Shepherd’s coat to change greatly as the dog ages from puppy to adult.
As a working dog, the sable colouring is well suited to hunting or guarding live-stock, where camouflage could aid in the dog’s role. As a guard dog, security dog, or personal protection dog, the colour of a dog’s coat offers no real benefit, but a well trained, well-bred sable German Shepherd will be every bit as intelligent, strong and loyal as its saddle-back counterpart. As we’ve said before, the colour of your dog’s coat is not important in true protection work. What is important is that the dog has the nerves and genetics of a true working line German Shepherd.