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Panda German Shepherd: Characteristics and Care

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Panda German Shepherd

The Panda German Shepherd, a captivating and rare color variation of the conventional German Shepherd breed, fascinates dog enthusiasts with its unique and distinguishing markings. This dog is celebrated for its notable white markings, predominately gracing the chest and muzzle, reminding some of a panda bear. 

Navigating through the life of a Panda German Shepherd necessitates additional considerations for pet owners. Given that German Shepherds are predisposed to joint issues, incorporating joint supplements into their regimen is paramount. For more information on essential joint supplements, visit Pawsafe’s Hip & Joint Mobility Soft Chews. Additionally, their heavy shedding demands investment in quality car seat covers to manage the spread of fur; find durable options at Pawsafe’s Dog Car Seat Cover.

In this article, we delve deeper into the enchanting world of the Panda German Shepherd through expert sources, exploring their traits, health considerations, and the science behind their extraordinary coloration. Whether you are an enthusiast, a prospective owner looking for Panda German Shepherd puppies, or simply curious, join us in unfolding the tapestry of this extraordinary canine specimen.

This distinctive tricolor patterning in a Panda German Shepherd is a result of a natural genetic mutation that occurs in a subset of German Shepherds and is often referred to as pied or piebald. However, a more accurate depiction would be tricolor, with white usually covering about 35% of their bodies — including the chest, inner legs, face, muzzle, and throat — and the remaining adorned with the typical black saddle and either tan or red points.

Panda is one of the extremely hotly debated color variations in the GSD breed, much like blue German Shepherds, as there are many ethical issues surrounding breeding dogs for rare colors. Also, much like Silver Labs, many argue these dogs are not purebred, although there is evidence that are. Still, genetic mutations, like dwarfism, are often linked to health issues, so it is vital to do all your research before looked for Panda, pied, or tricolor GSDs.

Origins of the Panda German Shepherd

innocent-looking Panda German Shepherd dog

The German Shepherd is a breed of dog that originated in Germany in the late 19th century. The breed was developed by Captain Max von Stephanitz, who aimed to create a versatile working dog that could be used for a variety of tasks, including herding, guarding, and police work. German Shepherds quickly became popular and were used extensively in both World War I and II. Today, they are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the world.

Panda Shepherd Mutation

The Panda German Shepherd showcases a unique pattern of white spotting, characterized by symmetrical white markings typically seen on the muzzle, chest, tail tip, and other areas, with the amount of white varying among individual dogs. This striking pattern first appeared in a female dog named Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom in 2000. Curious to know more about her? Check out her details here.

A 2016 study by UCDavis unveiled that this Panda marking results from a dominant mutation of the KIT gene. For those interested in the nitty-gritty of the genetic study, you can explore UCDavis’s findings. This mutation is so dominant that having two copies of it is considered lethal, thus no live dog has been observed with it.

If you’re wondering about their pedigree, DNA tests confirm that Panda German Shepherds are purebred, tracing back to true German Shepherd lineage. However, unless the gene mutates randomly, one parent needs to visibly have this KIT mutation to produce Panda-colored offspring.

For breeders and enthusiasts keen on determining whether the white patterning in their dogs is due to the KIT gene mutation, there’s a test available through the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, dubbed the Coat Color Panda White Spotting test. This test can help ascertain the genetic status of the KIT gene in dogs, ensuring the continuation of this unique and lovely Panda pattern in German Shepherds.

The Genetics Behind The Panda Coat Colors in GSD: What Breeders & Owners Need To Know

When it comes to Panda German Shepherds and their unique color patterns, it’s all about the genes they inherit from their parents. Every dog gets one gene from mom and one from dad.

  1. Two Normal Genes (N/N): If a dog gets the normal gene (N) from both parents, it won’t have the Panda pattern and can’t have babies with the Panda pattern.
  2. One Normal and One Panda Gene (N/P): If a dog gets one normal gene (N) and one Panda gene (P), it will have the Panda pattern, and there’s a 50/50 chance it’ll have babies with the Panda pattern.
  3. Two Panda Genes (P/P): If a dog gets the Panda gene (P) from both parents, sadly, it won’t be born. It can’t survive before birth with two Panda genes.

What Happens if You Breed Two Panda German Shepherds Together:

If two Panda German Shepherds (each with one normal and one Panda gene) have puppies, there’s a chance the puppies could inherit a Panda gene from each parent. Unfortunately, puppies with two Panda genes won’t survive. So, breeding two Panda German Shepherds together can be risky.

Important Note on Health:

It’s essential to remember that sometimes, unique color patterns in dogs can be linked to health issues. For instance, some uniquely colored dogs can suffer from hair loss (like color dilution alopecia in dilute colors like blue fawn) or have hearing and eye problems (like in some merle Aussies) . Just like in other breeds, when breeding for specific traits like color, it’s crucial to consider the overall health and well-being of the dogs.

Physical Characteristics

a Panda German Shepherd in sitting position

The Panda German Shepherd is a beautiful breed that is easily recognizable by its distinctive black and tan coat, but with unusual white markings on the chest, muzzle, neck, belly and tail. The fur is medium-length and dense (a double coat), providing excellent insulation against the cold. The breed has a muscular build and an alert expression. The ears are erect, and the eyes are almond-shaped and dark.

Panda German Shepherds shed heavily, especially seasonally and they are not hypoallergenic.

Size and Weight

The Panda German Shepherd is a large breed of dog. Males typically stand between 24 and 26 inches (61-66 cm) tall at the shoulder and weigh between 65 and 90 pounds (29-41 kg). Females are slightly smaller, standing between 22 and 24 inches (56-61 cm) tall at the shoulder and weighing between 50 and 75 pounds (23-34 kg).

Overall, the Panda German Shepherd is an impressive breed with a striking appearance and a strong, muscular build.

Can You Have a Panda German Shepherd with a Long Coat?

Panda German Shepherd with a long coat

Yes, Panda German Shepherds can have long coats. The Panda coloration is a genetic mutation affecting color patterns, and it can occur in German Shepherds with varying coat lengths.

What is A Blue Steel Panda German Shepherd?

A Blue Steel Panda German Shepherd is an exceptionally rare and visually captivating variant of the German Shepherd breed, characterized by its unique greyish-blue coat and potentially matching eye color, diverging from the standard brown/black hues commonly seen in the breed. 

In addition to the remarkable steel blue coloration, this dog bears the distinctive white markings characteristic of a typical Panda German Shepherd and may also feature the tan points commonly associated with the breed. The combination of steel blue, white, and possibly tan creates a truly striking and distinctive appearance

Temperament and Behavior

Panda German Shepherds are known for their courageous, loyal, and intelligent nature. They are highly trainable and make excellent family pets. These dogs are very social and love to be around people. They are also very protective of their owners and will do anything to keep them safe. 

This is a guardian breed, which means they love to bark and they need a lot of active training and socialization. We do not recommend that GSDs and other guardian breeds go to doggy daycares or dog parks, as any bad experience with another dog can quickly lead to a reactive dog that can become aggressive to other dogs. Instead, only get a GSD if you have time for activity and daily lifelong training. 

These dogs thrive when they have a job to do and they can become unmanageable and destructive if they are left to their own devices and become bored.

Panda German Shepherds should not be aggressive and should be good with children. They are also very playful and love to play fetch and other games with their owners. However, always be wary of a breeder who purposefully bred for color to get a Panda German Shepherd, as they may have ignored genetic behavior issues like anxiety or aggression in the parents in order to ask a higher price for the rare color.

Interaction with Children and Other Pets

Panda German Shepherds are great with children. They are very gentle and patient with kids and love to play with them. They are also very good with other pets, including cats and other dogs. They are very social and love to play and interact with other animals. However, dogs are not nannies and should always be supervised with children to prevent accidents.

It is important to socialize your Panda German Shepherd from a young age. This will help them to become well-rounded and well-behaved dogs. They should be introduced to other pets and people as early as possible to ensure that they are comfortable around them.

Overall, Panda German Shepherds make great family pets. They are friendly, loyal, and intelligent dogs that are easy to train. They are also very good with children and other pets.

Panda German Shepherd Controversy

The Panda German Shepherd is a unique and rare color variation of the German Shepherd breed. However, this coloration has been a subject of controversy among many traditional breeders and German Shepherd fanciers.

Due to the fact that any white markings are considered a fault for showing, many German Shepherd fanciers assume that this color is a result of crossbreeding to Collies or similar breeds. Traditional breeders take the stance that the Panda color mutation means that there is a problem with the parent dogs and they do not meet the German Shepherd Breed Standard. 

Another problem is that many argue Panda German Shepherds goes against the GSDCA Breeders Code of Ethics that states:

“Breeding programs should be undertaken with the aim of improving the quality of the breed, and not for producing puppies for profit or for the pet market. Breeding programs should be based on the principles of genetics and should be aimed at producing healthy, sound, and temperamentally stable dogs.”

However, there is evidence that the Panda coloration is just a natural mutation. There is no evidence of having more health issues, or that these dogs are inferior to other GSDs, other than that their coat does not meet the AKC breed standard requirements. The only caveat is that if you breed two tricolor GSDs together, the puppies may not survive birth.

Health and Lifespan

adult Panda German Shepherd dog

There isn’t any established health defect specifically linked to Panda German Shepherds. Tests have revealed that generally, Panda German Shepherds tend to have fair hips and normal elbows. Although mentions of blood disorders and hip and elbow dysplasia do exist, it’s crucial to note that such issues are common across various dog breeds and are not exclusive to Panda German Shepherds. However, poor breeding practices can worsen these conditions.

The unique Panda coloration is often a subject of debate and is not recognized in the show ring; it’s considered a fault and is not accepted by any registry as a breed or variation of the German Shepherd Dog. Despite the heated discussions and speculations of crossbreeding, there’s no actual evidence to back such claims.

However, there is a significant health risk to consider: puppies inheriting two Panda genes will not survive to birth. Additionally, German Shepherds, including the Panda variant, are prone to numerous health issues, as highlighted in this study. According to research by the VetCompass™ Programme, there’s been a decline in German Shepherd numbers in the UK, with an average lifespan of 10.3 years, primarily due to musculoskeletal disorders and related complications. Commonly observed conditions in the breed include ear infections, osteoarthritis, diarrhea, obesity, and aggression.

While there isn’t specific data regarding the lifespan of Panda German Shepherds, it is plausible to infer that their lifespan aligns with that of the standard German Shepherds, given the shared genetic background. Therefore, it is paramount to approach the breeding and care of Panda German Shepherds, and indeed all German Shepherds, with informed diligence to ensure their well-being and longevity.

How Long Does a Panda German Shepherd Live?

While there is no data specifically on the lifespan of Panda German Shepherds, it is reasonable to assume that their lifespan is similar to that of other German Shepherd Dogs, which is an average of just over 10 years. However, generally they live between 8 and 12 years. Genetic health disorders related to bad breeding practices is a common factor that can limit how long a GSD lives.

Care and Maintenance

Like any German Shepherd, tricolors and pied dogs require general maintenance and care. This is what you should consider.

Diet Requirements

Panda German Shepherds require a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain their health and energy levels. A high-quality dog food that is specifically formulated for large breeds is recommended. It is important to avoid overfeeding as this can lead to obesity, which can cause health problems such as joint pain and heart disease. It is also important to provide fresh water at all times.

Exercise Needs

Panda German Shepherds are an active breed and require regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. Daily walks and playtime are recommended, as well as regular opportunities to run and play in a safe, enclosed area. A healthy adult panda German Shepherd should be getting at least one hour of exercise a day. Ideally this should be supplemented with training and other activities like playing fetch.

It is important to avoid overexertion, especially in hot weather, as this can lead to heat exhaustion.


Panda German Shepherds have a thick, double coat that requires regular grooming to maintain its health and appearance. Brushing at least once a week is recommended to remove loose hair and prevent matting. Bathing with a gentle dog wash should be done as needed, but not too frequently as this can strip the coat of its natural oils. It is also important to regularly trim the nails  with dog nail clippers and clean the ears with carefully formulated dog ear sanitizers to prevent infection.

Overall, providing proper care and maintenance for a Panda German Shepherd requires commitment and dedication. By following these guidelines, owners can ensure that their furry friend remains healthy and happy for years to come.

Training a Panda German Shepherd

Start Training Early

Begin training your Panda German Shepherd as soon as possible. Early training helps establish good behavior and obedience from an early age.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Reward your dog with treats, praise, and affection when they display good behavior. This helps reinforce positive behavior and encourages your dog to repeat it.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key when training your dog. Use the same commands and rewards every time to help your dog learn and understand what is expected of them.

Keep Training Sessions Short

Dogs have short attention spans, so keep training sessions brief, around 10-15 minutes at a time, and repeat them several times throughout the day.

Use a Variety of Training Techniques

Mix up your training techniques to keep your dog engaged and interested. Use treats, toys, and positive reinforcement to keep training fun and enjoyable.


Socialization is an important part of training your Panda German Shepherd. Socializing your dog helps them learn how to interact with other dogs and people, and helps prevent behavioral problems. Here are some tips for socializing your dog:

  • Start early: Begin socializing your dog as soon as possible, ideally before they are four months old. This helps your dog get used to different people, animals, and environments.
  • Gradually introduce new experiences: Introduce your dog to new experiences gradually, starting with low-stress situations and gradually increasing the level of difficulty.
  • Use positive reinforcement: Reward your dog with treats and praise when they display good behavior during socialization. This helps reinforce positive behavior and encourages your dog to repeat it.
  • Be patient: Socialization takes time, so be patient and don’t rush the process. Take things at your dog’s pace and give them plenty of time to adjust to new experiences.

Training and socializing your Panda German Shepherd takes time and effort, but with patience and consistency, you can help your dog become a well-behaved and happy companion.

Getting a German Shepherd: Rescue or Ethical Breeding

When considering bringing a German Shepherd, including the unique Panda variant, into your family, exploring rescue options can be a rewarding way to provide a loving home to a dog in need. Numerous rescue organizations specialize in German Shepherds, and you can explore available dogs through resources such as MAGSR, Westside German Shepherd Rescue, German Shepherd Rescue, and Mid-Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue.

Seeking a Responsible Breeder:

If you decide to go through a breeder, it is crucial to find one that is responsible and ethical. Responsible breeders prioritize the health, temperament, and well-being of the dogs over color and appearance. It’s advisable to avoid breeders who charge exorbitant prices for “rare” colors like the Panda pattern, as it’s often a red flag for potential health and temperament issues in the dogs.

Ethical Considerations with Panda German Shepherds:

Occasionally, a Panda German Shepherd may occur due to natural mutations, and having this color pattern doesn’t necessarily mean the dog won’t make a great pet. However, it is vital to ensure that you are supporting breeders who are ethical and do not intentionally breed for this color, potentially compromising the overall health and temperament of the dogs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Consider adopting through reputable rescue organizations to give a loving home to a German Shepherd in need.
  • If choosing a breeder, ensure they are responsible, ethical, and not breeding for color or charging inflated prices for “rare” variants.
  • Panda German Shepherds can make wonderful pets when sourced responsibly, but it’s important to prioritize the health and well-being of the dog over its color pattern.

Remember, the priority should always be the well-being and health of the pet, and supporting ethical breeding and rescue organizations is integral to promoting the welfare of German Shepherds and all dog breeds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Panda German Shepherds rare?

Yes, Panda German Shepherds are indeed rare. This unique color variation results from a specific, naturally occurring genetic mutation, making them quite uncommon compared to standard colorations of the breed.

What is a Panda German Shepherd mixed with?

Panda German Shepherds are not mixed breeds. They are purebred German Shepherds that have a unique color variation due to a natural genetic mutation in the KIT gene, giving them their distinctive panda-like markings.

How much are Panda German Shepherd puppies?

Prices can vary anywhere from $1000 to $10 000, but it’s crucial to be wary of breeders charging excessively for this rare coloration, as it may be indicative of unethical breeding practices focusing on color rather than health and temperament.

Is there such a thing as a Panda German Shepherd?

Yes, Panda German Shepherds do exist. They are a unique and rare color variation of purebred German Shepherds, characterized by distinctive white markings resembling those of a panda bear, due to a genetic mutation.

Does the AKC recognize Panda German Shepherds?

No, the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not recognize the Panda coloration as a standard or variation of the German Shepherd breed, and it is considered a fault in the show ring.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, the Panda German Shepherd, with its striking and rare coloration, adds a layer of fascination to an already beloved breed. Whether it’s the conventional Panda markings or the even rarer Blue Steel variant, these dogs demand responsible breeding and care, prioritizing health and temperament over color. While debates and discussions surrounding the recognition and breeding of Panda German Shepherds continue, their existence and the joy they bring to their owners are undeniable. Regardless of color and pattern, every German Shepherd deserves a loving home, ethical breeding, and proper care, emphasizing the essence of responsible dog ownership and the enduring bond between humans and their canine companions.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.