Long-haired German Shepherd Dogs (or GSDs) are a unique variant of the ever-popular short to medium-length coated Shepherds. The difference between the breed’s coat has little effect on the breed. Rough-coated dogs are considered special due to the rarity and beauty of their fur.
Widely considered a recessive trait, long-haired Shepherds were rejected from competition until recently and were even disliked by the father of modern Shepherds: Max Von Stephanitz.
The GSD is no stranger to having unique coloring and coat combinations, as the blue version has become popular, along with the black, white GSD, and even a red coat. Let’s look into what makes the long coat breed so special.
German Shepherd Overview
The original forebears of the German Shep came into recognition when they were exhibited in 1882 and were previously cataloged as “German Sheepdogs.” The Phylax Society became the first club that focused on these dogs and their breeding capabilities. Even though they made great strides in standardizing these dogs, they quickly disbanded in 1894.
“Vereinfur Deutsche Schaferhund” or the German Shepherd Dog Club was founded in 1899 by president Max von Stephanitz. His decisive and robust view of what direction a breed should take has led to the origin of multiple different dog breeds, including both the Shepherd and the Malinois. He wasn’t interested in the look of the dog, but found beauty in how the dog could be used for working purposes. This led to the Shepherd breed being among the most intelligent, strong, and hardest working.
Long Haired German Shepherds
The rarity of the long hair arises from the recessive gene that was meant to be bred out of the bread entirely. Previously considered an unfortunate consequence of inbreeding, the coat can now be found from selective mating and attention to parenting. The origins of the long-haired variant march in line with their typical, short-haired cousins.
Von Stephanitz stated that long silky hair was often associated with a refined head and often had no undercoat. This would cause the part along the back of the breed to form pockets of moisture when it rained, which led to drenched skin. The long silky or shaggy hair was also likely to mat, get frozen during winter, and get hard with dirt if not properly taken care of.
He viewed long hair too much trouble for what it’s worth. If it was possible to breed long hair out of the Shepherd or to actively breed their short to medium hair counter-part this would be preferred as long hair lacked the density and protection from all elements.
A balance would be necessary for the coat of the average Shepherd, as “coats must be judged simply from the point of view of serviceability because otherwise such dogs are not of importance for the breed.” The focus was more on the undercoats’ protection and the length as the medium-haired German Shepherds were easier to take care of and therefore made better working dogs. These pups are not to be confused with GSD mixes like the GSD/Husky.
Fluffy German Shepherd Origins
It’s unclear how the original long-haired Shepherd came about, but as mentioned their more modern origins come from the Wuttermburg region of Germany. Wuttermberg is mountainous and located close to Switzerland, making it a colder part of Germany despite being more south.
These long coats were likely evolved and considered advantageous to protect them from below zero temperatures. The gene is deemed to be recessive in all modern Shepherds, being found in approximately 10% of the breed.
Removing Long Coats From Breeding
The Breed Survey Scheme in Germany in 1922 removed the rough-coated and shaggy-coated Shepherds out of the breeding pool due to specific instructions from von Stephanitz. However, long coats with an undercoat were still allowed to be surveyed and exhibited at shows.
A specific date for when they were banned entirely from showing isn’t written down but, they were actively being bred out and determined “unacceptable for breeding” around the 1970s. This ban continued until recently. There are other breeds that also have this recessive trait, and it’s also bred out of these breeding lines as well.
Reversing The Rule
The SV amended the standard on December 23rd, 2010, actively reversing the 40-year-old rule allowing “long coats with undercoats” to be exhibited once more. However, they are still not allowed to mate with ordinary coated Shepherds.
It is unclear why this rule was reversed, but it is thought to be done to save the breed from complete extinction. This has opened up the possibility of more long-haired Shepherd being bred in the future.
Impact of the Ban
The ban has made it difficult to find long haired Shepherds anywhere. They were already rare when they were partially banned in the 1920s, but after the full ban in the 1970s recovering from the lengthy no breeding rule has made it difficult to find this breed from a reputable breeder – although not impossible.
It’s possible there will be a rebirth of this variant of Shepherd, as they have a large cult following within the community.
Long Haired German Shepherd Genetics
It’s easier to get two long haired parents to mate than to have one be long-haired, or not at all. The likelihood of getting a Shepherd with long hair with two long-haired parents is high. However, it is still possible to get medium or short length coated puppies, even with two dominant parents.
Spotting A Long Haired GSD
You’ll be able to see this unique variant of the breed from miles away, as they are sporting quite the coat. You’ve likely seen a short-haired Shepherd so, it’ll be easy to compare the two. They have tufts of fur around their ears, back of legs, hindquarters, around the tail, and between their paws.
Most long-haired Shepherds don’t have an undercoat and as a result, look shiny. As Von Stephanitz suggested, they don’t make great workers as they have less protection from the elements. The only significant difference is primarily the length of the coat when compared to a standard German Shepherd Dog.
Coat & Color
As mentioned, the long-haired version of this breed most unique feature is their long, luxurious coat. Most of them don’t have an undercoat, but some are bred to have them. These undercoat variants are large and poofy and would be great for winter months if they didn’t require so much maintenance.
They can be found in all the standard short and medium length colors such as black and tan, black and cream, black and silver, red and black, black and red, solid black, sable, dark sable, black sable, and bi-color/bi-black. As long haired Shepherds are considered recessive, it’s more likely you’ll have a recessive-colored dog to pair with their long coat.
Although rare, pure white, solid blue, fawn color, pure red, and spotted black and white are also found. However, neither of these colors is accepted when it comes to competitions. These colors will only be found due to genetic mutations, or they simply don’t match the breed standards for show. A breeds color doesn’t necessarily come with health issues, and neither of these does.
To know if your Shep is genuinely long haired all you need to do is look at it. Long haired Shepherds have unique features that are associated with their breed, including a lack of undercoat creating a glossy sheen on their fur. You’ll notice that the average German Shepherd has a thick undercoat and are often medium coated. The long-haired variant is rare and can easily be picked out of a crowd.
Coat & Colors In Competition
Color during competition does matter when showing off your dog. Multiple colors aren’t allowed in most competitions including pure white, solid blue, fawn, pure red and spotted black and white as previously mentioned. Some colors such as gray, liver, light blue, and panda are deemed faulty by major kennels, but not always.
The long-haired variant has had a long history of being banned and reinstated. If you want to show off your long-haired beauty, it better have an undercoat, or else they won’t be accepted. Black and tan, black and cream, black and silver, red and black, black and red, black, sable, dark sable, black sable, and bi-color/bi-black are all accepted color variants, so finding the proper color is the least of your worries.
Although the German Shepherd breed has a long track record of competition wins, the long-haired variant is out of luck when it comes to frequent wins, or wins at all. The banning of the long-haired variety has made it difficult for them to be recognized.
They are often overlooked at dog shows in favor of the classic breed look: black and cream. This doesn’t mean that these dogs are bad in competition. It is more likely that the association with the breed is stronger with the tan or sable color scheme. If you want a show dog, I would recommend passing up the long-haired variant. You should only be looking for the short to medium haired version.
Grooming & Living Conditions
Long haired Shepherds shed a lot all year round. Molting will also occur three weeks before fall or three weeks before spring. They are notoriously nightmares to groom as their coats tend to clump and mat – a lot of patience is needed to groom these dogs. You’ll need the perfect brush, a metal brush with lengthy teeth is preferred to get deep into the coat, and a pin brush is recommended to keep your pup’s coat shiny and clean.
Brushing daily for several minutes will prevent knots in the future. Be prepared to vacuum frequently to keep your surroundings clean, and always have a lint roller nearby to clean yourself before leaving the house. Due to German Shepherds being large, powerful, and possessing strong guarding instincts, great care should be exercised when purchasing them. Poorly bred dogs are more likely to exhibit anxiety and nervousness.
To prevent over guarding behavior, it’s best to socialize them at an early age as well as have extensive obedience classes. While with the family, they should be exposed to different elements, including loud noises and children. They like to be active and can get bored easily, so ample exercise is necessary to keep them engaged.
Long haired Shepherds should be kept indoors due to their large coats that can be matted easily. They’re best kept inside to prevent overheating in the summer and frostbite in the winter.
Keep your dog clean and groomed, their fur will attract dirt and mud and may start to mat if not washed frequently. If you’re going away, it’s a good idea to have a house sitter or take them to a kennel as they’ll require a lot of attention.
Finding A Long Haired Puppy
Finding a reputable breeder is the most likely way you’ll find a long haired Shepherd. If you can find one at a local animal shelter though, it will save you a lot of cash. While it can be difficult to find a breeder for these special dogs, it’s your best-case scenario for finding one at all.
Long Coat GSD Price
Due to the rarity of the breed, the average cost will be a little higher. It’s also difficult to determine how many puppies will be in the litter. This means that even if you find a breeder that purposely breeds long-haired dogs, it may not work out. Longer coated Shepherds can be more expensive. The price is mostly determined by the hair color rather than the long hair itself. The cost varies widely, with the price being as low as $700 and as high as $2500.
Long-haired Shepherds will be known right from birth. This breed variant doesn’t change the length of hair as they grow. This means if the breeder states that their hair will grow longer, this is a scam. Ask if their coat is likely to have an undercoat. Most long haired German Shepherds don’t have this feature, but it can happen in some litters.
Reputable breeders will have no issue showing you the parents of your pup. They should also be willing to show papers of the parentage of the puppies you’re wanting to buy. A huge red flag is if they’re protective of this. A legitimate breeder will want you to trust them. Seeing the parentage can also determine potential health problems or the quality of the puppy.
Could Pet Insurance Help?
If your pet insurance covers exam fees and your dog needs to be examined, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse those costs based on your policy details. However, if you are a new customer, vet expenses will not be covered until after your policy’s defined waiting periods, so signing up once you have an existing health concern is not going to help this time. Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any current pet insurance plans.
This is why it is a great idea to sign up for a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and relatively healthy to ensure you will be covered when you need it most.
The century-long attempt of breeding this variant out of existence ultimately failed. The long-haired Shepherd lives on with a large cult following. Their gorgeous hair, plucky light-hearted temperament, and enthusiastic attitude make them unique in their own right.
Are you ready for a high-energy, active dog that requires a lot of care and attention? Don’t mind spending at least 10-15 minutes a day grooming your pup? If all that sounds easy to you, the long-haired German Shepherd will be right up your alley.