If you love German Shepherds, the Panda German Shepherd might well be your ideal companion. Like all German Shepherds, they’re calm, loyal, courageous, and devoted family pets. They’re also incredibly intelligent, athletic, and protective. In fact, they’re exactly like every other variety of German Shepherd except for one, very distinctive feature – their coat. Whereas most German Shepherds are black and tan, Panda German Shepherds are white with black or tan spots – much like the Panda after which they’re named. Their unique coloring arises from an exceptionally rare mutation, and while some people remain convinced that they’re the product of crossbreeding German Shepherds with other breeds, they’re 100% pedigree. Here are 20 things you might not know about the Panda German Shepherd.
1. They’re German Shepherds by any other name
With its distinctive looks, it’d be easy to think that the Panda German Shepherd was a different breed to the regular German Shepherd we’re all used to. In fact, the only difference between a Panda German Shepherd and every other type of German Shepherd is its unique coloring. Whereas the standard colors of the German Shepherd are black and tan, the Panda German Shepherd has symmetrical black and white markings around its muzzle, stomach, collar, and the tip of its tail. It’s these unique markings that make them stand out from the pack.
2. They’re aren’t related to the White Shepherd
Although it varies by dog, around 35 percent of a Panda German Shepherd’s coat is white. Despite their abundance of white markings, they aren’t, as many people think, related to the White Shepherd, a variety of German Shepherd bred predominantly in the US that’s been recognized as a separate breed by the United Kennel Club.
3. They were first reported in 2000
As anythinggermanshepherd.com explains, the first-ever recorded Panda German Shepherd was bred unintentionally by Cindy Whitaker in the US in 2000. The father was a black and tan dog named Brain vom Wölper Löwen SCHH II and the mother was a solid black Shepherd named Cynthia Madchen Alspach. The rest of the pups in the litter were standard black and tan German Shepherds. Frankie, as the Panda Shepherd was named, was not only the sole pup with black, tan, and white markings, but she was the only one with two blue eyes. The same sire and dam were bred three more times, but never again produced a piebald pup.
4. They’re purebred GSDs
When Frankie, the first recorded Panda Shepherd, was born, questions were raised about her pedigree status. To protect the reputation of her breeding program, the breeder took Frankie and her parents to Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital for genetic DNA testing. The parents were confirmed as purebred German Shepherds with no White German Shepherd or other breeds in their lineage. Frankie was also confirmed as a purebred GSD, and was subsequently registered with the American Kennel Club. When Frankie was old enough to be bred, she was mated with a standard black and tan GSD. She produced four puppies, three of which displayed her piebald marking, but none of which had her blue eyes.
5. They’re misunderstood
Although tests have shown that Panda German Shepherds are every bit as pedigree as their black and tan siblings, many people continue to doubt it. As white markings are considered a fault in the show ring, some German Shepherd fanciers have suggested that the Panda’s white markings are the result of crossbreeding GSDs with Collies or other similar breeds. Some have also suggested that the piebald coloring comes from breeding inferior stock and have claimed that many breeders of Panda GSDs are working against the GSDCA Code of Ethics. Some might be, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the color is the result of a mutation in their genes, rather than a specific or deliberate breeding process.
6. They can trace their lineage to Horand von Grafrath
Like all German Shepherds, Panda German Shepherds are descended from Horand von Grafrath, a dog Wikipedia describes as the very first German Shepherd and the genetic basis for modern German Shepherds. Horand was born in Frankfurt, Germany in January 1895 at Sparwasser Kennels. He was sold to Max von Stephanitz, a breeder intent on combining the best characteristics of the Thuringian shepherds from the North with the Wurtemberg shepherds of the South. He subsequently became the first dog to be officially registered as a German Shepherd. His parents, grandparents, and brother were all registered as German Shepherds shortly after, but Horand’s heirs went on to dominate dog shows and championships, with the result that almost all German Shepherds, including those of the Panda variety, can trace their lineage back to him.
7. They’re sturdy
Panda German Shepherds are sturdy dogs with an elegant but muscular build. Males typically weigh between 75 and 95 lbs and measure between 24 and 26 inches in height. Females are a little smaller, and will usually weigh between 55 and 73 pounds and measure 22 to 24 inches in height. Their heads are in proportion to their bodies and their foreheads will usually be slightly rounded. Their eyes are almond-shaped, while their ears are pointed, upright and turned forward. Their tail is bushy and hangs down. Their legs and shoulders are muscular while their round feet tend to have very hard soles
8. Early socialization is a must
All German Shepherds should be socialized from a young age and the Panda German Shepherd is no different. Aggression often stems from fear, which can arise when a dog has not been exposed to a wide variety of people, animals, environments, and situations from puppyhood. To prevent any issues in later life, pups should be gently introduced to all the things they may come across in daily life, whether that’s traffic, loud noises, people on bicycles or using mobility aids, and other household animals.
9. They aren’t for passive owners
Panda Shepherds need a strong owner with the time, patience and expertise to train them as needed. If their training requirements aren’t met, or if their owners are too passive to assert themselves as a pack leader, they can become timid, skittish, and prone to developing guarding issues which, in turn, can lead to aggressive behaviors.
10. They’re expensive
Compared to regular black and tan German Shepherds, Panda Shepherds are few and far between. Rarity often equals desirability, and Panda Shepherds are no exception. As you’d expect, when the demand is higher than the supply, prices go up. According to trainyourgsd.com, the cost of a Panda German Shepherd now sits at between one and three thousand dollars, depending on breeder, location, health, and lineage. Don’t expect to be able to simply turn up at a breeder and have your pick of pups, either – due to their rarity, they’re almost always spoken for before they even take their first steps.
11. They’re prone to hip dysplasia
The Panda German Shepherd is no more and no less healthy than a standard German Shepherd. Like all pedigrees, their overall health will usually depend on the breeder they come from, as responsible breeders will not breed dogs with health issues and will regularly screen the dogs in their breeding pool for potential red flags. However, certain health problems relating to the Panda GSD’s genetic makeup can arise regardless of how careful the breeder is. Some of the most common issues to afflict Panda German Shepherds include hip dysplasia, bloating, epilepsy, keratitis, and degenerative myelopathy
12. They’re losers in the show ring
The Panda German Shepherd may be a beautiful and distinctive dog, but it shouldn’t bank on winning any prizes in competitions. As allshepherd.com explains, while the American Kennel Club recognizes the Panda German Shepherd as a full-bred GSD, they don’t register it for shows. Their criteria for show dogs states that “The German Shepherd Dog varies in color, and most colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Pale, washed-out colors and blues or livers are serious faults. A white dog must be disqualified.” Even though the Panda is only 35% white, it’s 35% too much for the show ring.
13. They’re extremely rare
The KIT gene mutation that causes the white markings in Panda German Shepherds is not only recent, it’s incredibly rare. Most German Shepherds don’t express the mutation, and even those that do aren’t guaranteed to have Panda German Shepherd puppies if they’re bred (although they do stand a better chance than a standard GSD without the mutation). As a result, it’s extremely uncommon to find one, and those breeders who bank on it are either out of luck or unconcerned about the health of the dogs they breed.
14. They go by more than one name
Although Panda German Shepherd is the name most commonly assigned to German Shepherds with the KIT gene mutation, you might occasionally hear them referred to by other names too. As dogbreedinfo.com notes, some of the other names for the breed include Piebald German Shepherd, Tricolor German Shepherd, Piebald GSD and Tricolor GSD.
15. They hate being alone
Panda German Shepherds are, like all German Shepherds, serious, alert, and courageous. Providing they’re properly trained, they tend to be cheerful, calm, and eager to learn. They’re extremely loyal, and love to stay close to their families as much as possible. Unfortunately, their devotion can create problems if it develops into separation anxiety, which can make them extremely anxious and stressed whenever they’re left alone. As a rule, Panda German Shepherds shouldn’t be isolated for long stretches of the day. Training can help ensure they adjust to short periods of time alone without becoming fretful.
16. They’re wary of strangers
Although Panda German Shepherds are extremely devoted to their family, they tend to look on strangers with suspicion. It’s part of the reason they make excellent guard dogs. Left unchecked, however, their natural wariness of unfamiliar faces and strong protective instincts towards their pack can become problematic. To prevent them from becoming a menace to every delivery driver or visitor to the house, plenty of early socialization and training will be needed.
17. They’re extremely intelligent
Like all German Shepherds, the Panda German Shepherd is extremely smart. Throughout the breed’s history, their intelligence has made them extremely useful as guides for the blind, in search and rescue services, the military, police work, and as sheepdogs. They’ve even been used to sniff out drugs and underground gas leaks. Thanks to their big brains, they excel at tracking, obedience, flyball, and ring spots
18. They need lots of exercise
Whatever else Panda German Shepherds are, lazy they aren’t. Like all German Shepherds, they’re high-energy dogs that require plenty of exercise to stay healthy and happy. Structured walks are a must, but they’ll also love running alongside you when you go for a bike ride. Never ones to say no to a game, most Panda German Shepherds love a session of Frisbee or chasing a ball around the yard. Regardless of the type of activity you give them, it needs to be provided in several sessions throughout the day – a Panda German Shepherd left without exercise for long stretches of time will become restless and destructive.
19. They’re heavy shedders
As Wag Walking notes, Panda German Shepherds shed hair constantly and are seasonally heavy shedders. Unless you want to spend your days plucking bits of hair off the furniture, daily brushing is a must. This will help remove dead hair and keep shedding to a minimum. As over bathing can deplete the skin and hair of the natural oils that keep them healthy, bathe only when necessary and no more than once every 6-8 weeks. Other care requirements include weekly ear checks, thrice-weekly teeth cleaning, and monthly nail trimming.
20. They’re adaptable
Panda German Shepherds are big dogs with lots of energy. Living in a small apartment without access to outside space can leave them frustrated if they don’t receive plenty of opportunities to burn off some steam. However, provided they receive a good amount of interaction and lots of exercise each day, they can adapt to most living situations. They also adjust to a variety of climates, and, unlike some breeds, don’t have any special dietary requirements.