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 unique 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 German Shepherd 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 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 led to the origin of multiple dog breeds, including the Shepherd and the Malinois. He wasn’t interested in the dog’s look but found beauty in how the dog could be used for working purposes. The Shepherd breed became one of the most intelligent, strong, and hardest-working canine breeds.
Long-Haired German Shepherds
The rarity of the long coat German Shepherd arises from the recessive gene meant to be bred out of the breed 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 stiff with dirt if not properly taken care of.
He viewed long hair as too much trouble for what it’s worth. If it were possible to breed long hair out of the Shepherd or their short to medium hair counterpart, this would be preferred by von Stephanitz 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 care for 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 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 long hair 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 removed the rough-coated and shaggy-coated Shepherds from the breeding pool in 1922 due to specific instructions from von Stephanitz. However, long coats with undercoats could still 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. Other breeds also have this recessive trait, and it’s also bred out of these breeding lines.
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 again. 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 increased the possibility of more long-haired Shepherds being bred in the future.
Impact Of The Ban
The ban has made it challenging to find long-haired Shepherds anywhere. They were already rare when they were partially banned in the 1920s. However, after the total 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.
There may be a rebirth of this variant of Shepherd, as they have a large cult following within the community.
Long-Haired German Shepherd Genetics
Long hair is a recessive trait, meaning both parents must carry the recessive gene for long hair to present in offspring. Two long-haired parents have a higher chance that a puppy will inherit the trait. Breeding one short-coated parent with one long-coated parent means a chance of getting both long and short-haired puppies if both parents carry the recessive gene. In extremely rare cases, two short-haired dogs who carry the trait can produce a long-haired puppy.
Spotting A Long Haired GSD
You can see this unique breed variant from miles away, as they are sporting quite an elegant coat. You’ve likely seen a short-haired German Shepherd, so comparing the two will be easy. 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 standard German Shepherds.
Coat & Color
As mentioned, the long-haired version of this breed’s most unique feature is their long, luxurious coat. Most 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 the long hair gene in Shepherds is considered recessive, you’ll likely have a recessive-colored dog to pair with their long, double 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 if they don’t match the breed standards for show. A breed’s color doesn’t necessarily come with health issues, and neither of these does.
To know if your Shep is genuinely long-haired, you only need to look at it. Long-haired Shepherds have unique features 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 double coat, which is often medium-length. 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. 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, they must have an undercoat, or 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 short-haired German Shepherd breed has a long track record of competition wins, the long-haired variant is out of luck regarding frequent wins or any 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. I recommend passing up the long-haired variant if you want a show dog. 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. German Shepherds are large, powerful, and possess strong guarding instincts, so great care should be exercised when purchasing them. Poorly bred dogs are more likely to exhibit anxiety and nervousness.
To prevent overguarding and resource-guarding behavior, it’s best to socialize them early and 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 quickly, 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. Do not forget to brush their teeth or try another dental cleaning system to keep their teeth healthy and prevent periodontal disease.
Do your best to 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 leaving, having a house sitter or taking them to a kennel is a good idea, as they require much 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, it will save you a lot of cash. While finding a breeder for these special dogs can be challenging, it’s your best-case scenario for finding one.
Long-Haired German Shepherd Price
Due to the breed’s rarity, the average cost will be slightly higher. It’s also difficult to determine how many puppies will be in the litter. It may not work out even if you find a breeder that purposely breeds long-haired dogs. Longer-coated Shepherds can be more expensive than standard German Shepherds. The GSD price is mainly 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 $3,500.
Long-haired Shepherds will be known from birth. This breed variant doesn’t change the length of hair as it grows. This means if the breeder states the puppy’s 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 want 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 you have pet insurance that covers exam fees and your dog needs a non-routine examination, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse some of those costs based on your deductible and other 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 will not 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.
Other Fluffy Dog Breeds To Consider
The long-haired German Shepherd has a large cult following due to their unique look and fantastic personality. Their gorgeous hair, plucky, light-hearted temperament, and enthusiastic attitude make them unique in their own right. However, if this breed is too big or energetic for you, there are plenty of other German Shepherd mixes and fluffy dog breeds to consider. The Corgi German Shepherd is a unique blend, or perhaps you want a dog that looks like a German Shepherd but is a different breed.
All dogs, regardless of breed or coat length, need high-quality, healthy dog food, regular veterinary care, and plenty of love, toys, and supplies. If you plan to bring home a German Shepherd or other larger breed, remember that they need large to extra large supplies.
Have you ever had a long-haired German Shepherd or any other Shepherd pup? Share your GSD experiences with us in the comments.