While the purebred German Shepherd dog is among the most popular dog breeds in the world thanks to its versatility and prowess in different fields, it has a lesser-known variant. While most German Shepherds will come in the traditional black and tan colors, they can be found in different coat colors. The Panda German Shepherd comes with white coloring that makes it a unique breed not just among the GSD community but also among dogs in general.
This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Panda German Shepherd and help you determine if it’s a great fit for your family.
What is the Panda German Shepherd?
As its name implies, this dog bears a resemblance to the Panda bear but isn’t some kind of combination between the popular bear and a dog. The Panda part refers to the color of its coat — in other animals, the color combination it possesses is known as piebald. When it comes to the German Shepherd dog, this characteristic is displayed as symmetrical white markings around the abdomen, collar, muzzle, forelock, and at the tip of the tail against a black or tan color.
However, these traits come in a few varieties and other colors can also be present (such as tricolor), while there are also differences in the spread and size of the marks. Even so, these markings will still have some kind of resemblance to the ones seen on the panda. In some cases, these German Shepherds could have blue eyes — but in every other aspect, these dogs are normal GSDs which include their intelligence, health, and temperament.
What is the Panda Gene?
Changes to a dog’s genes will usually start through the hybridization of two different breeds — similarly, the white spotting pattern in dogs can be done through crossbreeding. The gene known for this occurrence is the MITF gene but this is usually seen to be faulty; it not only influences pigment coloration but can also pass on health problems. When it comes to the panda gene, a KIT gene mutation is responsible for creating the unique coloring and panda pattern.
This was confirmed in a 2016 study by UC Davis, when panda markings were found to be the result of the mutation of the KIT gene, also known as the CD117 gene. It is known to be a dominant gene which means that only one parent should pass it on — when both parents have the same gene, their embryos won’t survive. The first-recorded Panda German Shepherd occurred accidentally in a female German Shepherd, Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom in 2000.
Unfortunately, the American Kennel Club doesn’t accept these colors to be up to the breed standard for these dogs. Even though they possess everything that makes Panda German shepherds purebred, all of these white German Shepherd dogs are disqualified and barred from the show ring according to the AKC. There’s also the belief that Panda German Shepherds were bred from inferior dogs or were the result of crossbreeding GSDs with Collies.
Panda German Shepherd Colors
A Panda GSD will come in a white, black, tricolor, or tan coat, and no two dogs will ever look the same since the shape and size of their patterns will have variations. They will, however, have a distinctive mask that’s similar to their namesake. Other Panda dogs won’t have the tan coloring; they will simply have a black and white coat that can be just as gorgeous.
While these are colors that make Panda German Shepherds rare, there are a few even rarer variations. Rare colors for this breed include blue, sable, Isabella black and silver, black, red and black, white, gray, and albino.
- Steel Blue Panda German Shepherd: Blue German Shepherds are a kind of diluted black color and the chances of getting this coat variation are rare. At least 35% to 40% of their coat will be white and the rest will usually stick to common panda traits.
- Black and Tan German Shepherd: The black and tan GSD is the most common color found in these dogs and is the acceptable color by AKC. They will have tan spots around their legs, necks, and underbelly, along with black saddles on their backs and black masks on their face.
Panda German Shepherd Appearance
Remember that the Panda Shepherd dog isn’t a separate breed, but simply a differently colored GSD. As such, they also come from Germany and were bred for sheep herding and were also kept as guard dogs. Since their introduction in 1899, the German Shepherd has become highly popular — in the United States alone, they have become the 2nd most popular dog.
In general, Panda German Shepherds will have an average weight of 66 to 88 pounds when it comes to males and between 48.8 to 70.8 pounds for females. When it comes to their height, males will usually measure between 24 to 26 inches tall and 22 to 24 inches for females. Unlike in other breeds, the features between males and females of the Panda GSD are quite similar.
Panda German Shepherd Temperament
While they are mostly kept as companion dogs today, their obedience, strength, and high intelligence make them ideal dogs for a variety of jobs. With proper training, these dogs can work as service dogs for people suffering from physical or sensory impairments. They can also fulfill roles such as military or police dogs, and even search and rescue dogs in times of disaster.
A purebred GSD won’t be naturally aggressive but early socialization and training is essential. A poorly trained and bred German Shepherd may display aggression, which is why it’s important to provide them with a lot of training and to look for a responsible breeder. These dogs will form a strong bond with their family, particularly with the person they see as the leader of their home.
German Shepherds will usually be fearless and alert while also being obedient and loyal — they will be happy to get your cuddles as a reward whenever they do something good. Be sure to look for a dog that’s been bred as a family companion since they will usually have a calmer nature and are more suited to house life. Even so, they will still need enough exercise to keep them occupied and prevent them from developing behavioral problems.
Common Health Issues in German Shepherds
Unfortunately, all dogs are vulnerable to certain health concerns. Fortunately, the Panda German Shepherd doesn’t have any additional health problems apart from what the breed is already prone to. Below are some of the most common.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a condition when a poorly-formed hip joint causes pain when bones rub together.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: Characterized as a progressive and chronic disease of the spinal cord that may result in lameness in the hind limbs.
- Elbow Dysplasia: This is similar to hip dysplasia but could cause more trouble for this more complex joint.
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: EPI is a condition that may stop the production of enzymes in the pancreas. Without it, the dog won’t be able to get the nutrients needed from the food it eats.
- Arthritis: This refers to inflammation of the joints which is common in older dogs. As time passes, bones can start rubbing off against each other which can result in discomfort and stiffness.
- Bloat: This can affect bigger dogs with larger chest cavities. Symptoms of this condition include twisting of the stomach which then cuts off blood supply to the vital organs.
However, these are just the most commonly known health issues with these dogs, and this doesn’t mean that your pup will get them. By choosing reputable German Shepherd breeders that will guarantee a good batch of puppies, you may be able to ensure your dog’s overall health. Giving your pup high-quality dog food suitable for their weight, age, and level of activity can go a long way to giving your dog a long and happy life.
Looking for the Right Breeders
A good breeder is essential for first-time dog owners looking to purchase this white dog, especially since it carries a rare genetic mutation that can be hard to achieve. Many unscrupulous breeders will work hard to cash in on the popularity of these dogs. They will try to pass off a hybrid dog as a purebred dog which only adds to the paranoia and confusion that already plague this stunning dog.
If you’re sure about taking one of these dogs home, there are a few ways to check if your breeder is cheating you. However, you will need to visit the breeder so you can examine these possible telltale signs of a scam.
- Body: A purebred German Shepherd will have a distinctive body that slopes into its narrow hindquarters.
- Muzzle: If the dog’s muzzle is too pointed or shortened, or if its face is too narrow, it could be a cross between a Border Collie and a GSD.
- Tail: The tail of a purebred GSD won’t curl over the body; it shouldn’t be too short and will have a brush-like appearance.
- Colors: The instance of a merle coloration is a red flag. Be sure to look for patches or patterns that could’ve been taken from a different breed such as the Australian Cattle dog or Australian Shepherd.
Apart from this, you can also ask to see the puppies’ parents as well as a DNA test. Moreover, you can ask to get a certification regarding the pedigree or lineage of the parents. Those who won’t or can’t provide these shouldn’t be trusted because they aren’t concerned about their dog’s health.
Caring for Panda German Shepherd Puppies
Because these puppies can be incredibly rare, you may need to wait for them to become available through breeders. Before choosing one to take home, be sure to meet their parents to get a sense of how your puppy may turn out as an adult. Pick a puppy that exhibits a lot of energy rather than a quiet one hidden by the corner — don’t choose a dog that is anti-social, anxious, or lethargic.
Panda GSD puppies will need high-quality food composed of 22% protein and 8% fat. It’s vital that you provide them with a good start; nutrition will play a huge part in their development, growth, and overall health once they turn into an adult. Even as puppies, socialization and training can begin — even if they’re highly trainable, they can develop bad habits if left to their antics for too long.
These dogs are high-maintenance because they will need a lot of grooming and exercise. Be sure to brush them regularly to prevent tangles and matting, and bathe them once or twice a month. When it’s time to shed their coat, usually after transitioning to their adult coat, and then during spring and fall, they will have loose hairs everywhere so be ready for that.
Brushing them daily can help to reduce the amount of hair around your home. It’s also best to brush their teeth, check their ears, and clip their nails frequently — be sure to get started while they’re still puppies to help them get accustomed to the processes. You should then reward them for doing a good job so that they can positively associate with these experiences.
Panda German Shepherd Price
In general, a Panda German Shepherd puppy may cost between $1,000 to $3,000; however, setting prices can be hard for any dog since trends are rapidly changing. Supply and demand also play a huge part when it comes to factoring in costs — if there are more breeders compared to the demand for these dogs, then you may find more competitive prices. However, if there’s only one breeder in your area, then you might find that the prices increase.
Despite all the misunderstandings and misconceptions about these beautiful dogs, they are exactly like German Shepherds; the only difference is their color. These dogs are alert and affectionate and want nothing more than to please their owners and to be part of your family. However, before committing to taking one home with you, it’s crucial that you find a reputable breeder and ensure that you can handle all their physical, mental, and financial needs.