People who see the White German Shepherd (WGS) automatically think that it is an albino GSD, much like an albino Python or an albino Zebra. But the thing is this handsome fellow is not an albino. Neither is it a genetic fluke of traditional black-and-sable German Shepherd Dogs. Self-confident, poised, alert, and very eager to perform the different roles that its human master expects of it, the WGS retains many of the fine qualities of the GSD except for its coat color. To date, only the United Kennel Club considers it as a separate breed from the German Shepherd. Let’s learn more about this Snow White of the GSDs.
History of the White German Shepherd
It was long believed that the white coat of the WGS is nothing more than a problem of color paling wherein the color white was taken as a masking gene. As such, GSDs can still have the same classic color of coat except that this is masked by the white color gene. However, WGS fanciers now say that white color is a recessive gene and this owes its existence from Grief, a white herding dog who also happens to be the grandfather of the GSD that is recognized as the foundation of all modern-day GSDs – Horand von Grafrath.
Historical records show the existence of white German herding dogs even before Horand – formerly Hektor Linksrhein – was bought by Max von Stephanitz in 1899 at a dog show. These dogs had upright ears and many of the physical characteristics that modern-day German Shepherds possess. They were still used in the intensive line and inbreeding program of the late 19th century to the early 20th century since the color white was a recessive trait. The only way for a GSD to show with the pure white coat is when both its parents carry the recessive white gene. If a WGS is bred with a standard GSD, they will never produce a WGS puppy. However, some of these puppies can carry the recessive white gene. When they are mated with another white coat carrier, they can produce a White German Shepherd.
Unfortunately, with the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, any GSD that did not have the classic colored coat was disqualified by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany. The standard of the GSD remained unchained even after the conclusion of the Second World War. Even the GSD Club of America viewed the colored GSD as the breed standard. By 1968, the AKC started barring WGS dogs from competing in conformation shows. However, these dogs were still allowed to compete in other events.
In 1969, WGS fanciers in the US and Canada opted to form their own breed club, establishing the WGS Dog Club of America. The Canadian Kennel Club allowed the WGS dog to compete in conformation shows, something that the GSD Club of Canada vehemently objected to. Sadly, by 1998, the CKC officially disqualified the WGS from conformation rings.
In 1995, the American White Shepherd Association was created to advance, promote, and protect the WGS. It worked with the White Shepherd Club of Canada to create and publish the standards for the new breed. The group petitioned the AKC to recognize the WGS as a distinct breed from the GSD. Regrettably, such petition remains unanswered to this very day.
In 1999, some AWSA members reorganized and formed the United White Shepherd Club and became an affiliate club of the United Kennel Club. The group immediately petitioned for the recognition of the WGS as a distinct breed. The UKC gave the recognition in April 1999.
The White German Shepherd excelled in tracking, agility, flyball, rally obedience, and competition obedience. Many have become champions for their herding abilities.
Since the WGS breed standards are only officially recognized by the United Kennel Club, we shall look at these facts based on this canine organization.
- WGS dogs are generally shorter by about an inch compared to a GSD. Male WGSs can stand anywhere between 23 and 25 inches while female WGSs can reach a height of 21 to 23 inches.
- They are lighter, albeit with narrower weight ranges relative to GSDs. Males typically weigh between 75 and 85 lbs with females lighter by no more than 15 lbs at 60 to 70 lbs.
- The WGS can have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.
- It retains the classic double coat of the colored GSD. The coat is medium in length and it should be white, although shades of white like a light biscuit or light cream can be considered normal but not preferred.
- The undercoat is fine, short, and thick; the outer coat is straight, harsh, dense, and lie close to one another.
- The WGS is a medium-sized, muscular, well-balanced dog that is slightly longer than it is tall.
- The length of both the muzzle and the head is almost equal and are oriented almost parallel to each other.
Things You Should Know
Caring for a White German Shepherd should not really be that different from a GSD. After all, the recessive white gene only codes for the color of its coat, not its temperament; although there are also some slight differences in their size. Regardless, here are the things you have to keep in mind if ever you’re pondering on getting a WGS.
The White German Shepherd is as biddable as its colored brethren. This makes it so much easier to train, but only if you use the correct methods and apply the right principles for which GSDs are known to pay attention to.
Before you start training the WGS on obedience, agility or even tracking, you need to housetrain it first. This lays down the ground rules that every other pet in your household will have to observe. Things like where to pee, eat, and do their stuff may seem mundane to us humans, but for these dogs, it gives them a sense of order.
Like the colored GSD, the WGS is intelligent and would love nothing else than be trained to do a particular task. Even teaching it the simple art of recall can already be a source of great joy for this hound. However, as intelligent as they are, you should still keep the training sessions relatively short but highly interesting. This is to keep the dog highly motivated.
The White German Shepherd doesn’t require any special diets, except that it should be fed more frequently than usual but in substantially smaller portions per meal. This is to help avoid the development of bloat which can lead to a more life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus. Some WGSs may show allergies, so it is important to look for a limited ingredient diet, preferably one with a novel animal protein and a novel carb.
A 75-lb male will usually need, on a daily basis, 1,500 to 1,600 calories divided into 2 to 3 meals. Of course, this is just a recommendation based on the dog’s weight and only if it is already neutered and leads otherwise normal levels of activity. Other life stages and health conditions can warrant modification of the dog’s calorie requirement. Whatever you do, don’t rely only on cup portions. You should strive to learn how to compute for your own dog’s nutrient requirements.
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WGS dogs are highly active hounds. They are shepherd dogs, after all. They were bred to herd their master’s flock while also protecting them from possible intruders. When not guarding the sheep or other livestock, WGSs will be running in wide open spaces. They jump, play with kids, and run through an imaginary obstacle course for them to maintain their speed, strength, and agility. They love to play fetch as well as other activities. These should always be incorporated into their activities of daily living.
As the pet parent of this dog, you should be keen enough to take it for a walk. Bringing it to the park and letting it loose so it can play and run free should be an excellent form of exercise for this GSD. One to two hours of walking every day is often all that the WGS needs to stay healthy and sane. Yes, we mean that. You see, without the ability to spend excess energy through more positive means (through exercise), the WGS can easily use this energy for more destructive purposes such as nuisance barking, digging, scratching, and even destructive chewing.
A well-socialized White German Shepherd lives exceptionally peacefully with other pets and even other dogs in the household, especially if it grew up with them. It retains the fine qualities of a herding dog, protecting its flock or herd. As such, whenever a stranger comes along, it will show its natural protectiveness. It will not bite or show aggression, but it will always be reserved and aloof towards these new people. The dog will try to be as attentive to the behavior of strangers, trying to decide whether they came as friend or foe.
In the company of its family, however, the WGS is affectionate, loving, and loyal. It loves the children of its family and wouldn’t mind getting roughhoused by them. However, small kids should always be supervised when playing with a WGS since even a puppy can be quite heavy for a small child. The WGS should always be socialized as early as possible if you want it to have a more even temperament.
German Shepherds are especially known for being heavy shedders, having been colloquially called the German Shedder. The WGS is no different. It sheds a lot. As such, it is not really a good idea to get one if you or anybody else in your household happens to have a diagnosis of pet dander allergies. And even if you don’t, you’d still have to be prepared cleaning up your carpets and furniture of pet hair. Daily brushing of the WGS’s coat is ideal; if not, every other day should suffice.
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Like any other dog, caring for the WGS’s teeth is a fundamental everyday requirement using only an appropriate doggie toothpaste and toothbrush. Its nails need to be inspected and clipped once a month or as soon as you hear them scraping on your floor. The ears have to be meticulously inspected for signs of inflammation or discharge and then cleaned once a week.
Bloat is a real issue among German Shepherds, whether they’re white, black, or colored. Hip and elbow dysplasia is also common. Food-related and flea-bite allergies are always concerns that pet parents of WGSs should be familiar with. They can also suffer from Von Willebrand’s disease, epilepsy, malignant hypothermia, hock walking, panosteitis, degenerative myelopathy, and heart disease.
The White German Shepherd is perfect for folks who…
- Lead a very active lifestyle, preferably those who love outdoor sports and physical activities
- Are not new to owning, caring for, training, and socializing a dog, especially a GSD
- Understand the implications of not properly training and socializing dogs
- Can devote sufficient time and resources for the dog’s grooming and veterinary needs
This dog is not recommended for…
- People with allergies
- Families who are couch potatoes
- Individuals who don’t like socializing and training dogs
While WGS dogs are very open and friendly, they reserve these traits only to those persons that they know or are comfortable with. And even though they are not apprehensive of or aggressive towards strangers, they can still show a certain level of aloofness. They are especially observant, trying to figure out if this person should be considered a friend or a foe. The White German Shepherd has a personality of its own, typically described as poised and self-confident. However, you can always rely on the WGS to serve in any role or capacity that you want it to take.
White German Shepherds have a playful streak. They are pleasant around kids and can be excellent watchdogs, too. Their protective instincts can serve them well in such duties. Unfortunately, they can be quite vocal, often exhibited by howling, whining, moaning, and grunting. Despite this, the WGS is a very clever dog and its persistence can be quite a nuisance sometimes.
White German Shepherds may be shunned by major canine organizations as a disqualification to the GSD breed standard, but no one can ever deny that it’s a handsome dog. It also has a milder temperament than its colored brethren, making it better-suited for well-meaning families.
- The White Gene, White German Shepherd Dog Club of America