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What age do german shepherd puppies change colour?

German Shepherd puppies go through many changes as they mature from newborns to adult dogs. One of the most noticeable changes is their change in coat color. German Shepherd puppies are born with soft, fuzzy coats that can be quite different from the breed’s signature black and tan coats. The timing of when a German Shepherd puppy’s adult coat comes in can vary, but there are some general timelines that new owners can follow.

Newborn Coat

When German Shepherd puppies are first born, they have very soft and fluffy coats. These coats are designed to keep the puppies warm while nursing with their mother. A newborn German Shepherd’s coat color can vary quite a bit from the common black and tan.

Common newborn coat colors include:

  • Gray
  • Cream
  • Tan
  • Golden
  • Spotted
  • Solid black

These coats may appear lighter or darker depending on whether the puppy will eventually have a black and tan, black and cream, or sable coat. The fuzzy newborn coat does not necessarily indicate what the final coat will look like.

3-6 Weeks Old

Between 3-6 weeks of age, German Shepherd puppies will start to shed their newborn coats. The fuzzy hair will begin falling out and the shorter, smoother adult coat will start growing in. It is normal for puppies to look patchy at this age.

Some of the changes in coat color during this time include:

  • Puppies with tan newborn coats will start to show some black hairs coming in
  • Puppies with black newborn coats will get tan or brown hairs growing around the muzzle and paws
  • Sable puppies will show less gray and start developing the color patterns of dark-tipped guard hairs over a lighter undercoat

Owners may also notice the beginnings of darker guard hairs growing through on the back, tail, ears, and other points. The puppy’s mature coat is starting its growth, but the transition can make their coats look uneven.

8-12 Weeks Old

The most significant coat changes happen between 8-12 weeks of age. At this stage, most of the soft fuzzy hair will be replaced with the short, dense double coat.

Some of the key changes in color include:

  • Distinct black saddle and leg striping on black and tan coats
  • Rich tan, brown, or cream colors coming in fully on the muzzle, legs, and undercarriage
  • Dark guard hairs growing in across the body on sable coats

Though the coat changes significantly during this time, there may still be some uneven patches or areas where the adult hairs haven’t fully filled in. However, the overall color patterns of the mature coat emerge during the 8-12 week phase.

3-5 Months

From 3-5 months old, German Shepherd puppies reach the final stages of getting their adult coats. Their coats should be fully filled out at this point. However, owners may notice some subtle changes in shade or tone over these months.

Some examples of changes to expect include:

  • Black saddles and leg stripes becoming richer, deeper black
  • Tan or cream portions becoming brighter or more defined
  • Sable coats may lighten or darken slightly depending on if the dog matured into a lighter or darker sable

Adolescent German Shepherds often look gangly or awkward during this rapid growth phase, but their coats should be fully developed in terms of color and coverage.

1-2 Years

After reaching adulthood at 1-2 years old, the German Shepherd’s coat color is set. However, their coat texture and density continues changing into early adulthood.

Between 1-2 years of age, owners often notice:

  • The fur becoming thicker and fuller
  • The undercoat becoming denser and warmer
  • The guard hairs increasing in length

The coat may appear slightly lighter and softer during the last phase of development from 1-2 years as the undercoat finishes developing. Mature German Shepherds have very full, dense coats that can withstand the elements.

Coat Color Changes Summary

Here is an overview of the key color changes German Shepherd puppies go through at various life stages:

Age Coat Changes
Newborn Soft and fuzzy coats in gray, tan, cream, or black
3-6 weeks Shedding newborn coat, adult hairs start to come in
8-12 weeks Adult coat grows in, distinct black and tan patterns emerge
3-5 months Coat is fully filled out, final shades/tones develop
1-2 years Coat finishes developing full density and texture

Genetics of Coat Color

The changes in German Shepherd puppy coats correspond with the maturation of color genetics. Different genes influence pigment and patterns.

Some of the key genes that control German Shepherd coat colors include:

  • Agouti – Causes the distribution of black pigment in patterns of banding across each hair shaft. It is responsible for the tan points.
  • Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) – Controls the production of black pigment (eumelanin). Variations cause solid black, saddle tan, or sable coats.
  • K locus – Determines whether a dog is solid-colored or has distinct patterns of color over white areas. Variations cause solid black vs. black and tan/sable coats.

As German Shepherd puppies mature, these genes dictate their final coat colors. Environmental factors like nutrition and climate can also influence slight variations in shade.

Caring for a German Shepherd’s Coat

While colors are changing during puppyhood, owners should perform regular brushing and bathing to remove loose hair and keep the coat and skin healthy. Once the adult coat is fully developed, weekly brushing and monthly baths will help keep it in optimal condition.

Common grooming pointers include:

  • Use a slicker brush and comb to reach the undercoat
  • Bathe with mild dog shampoo when needed
  • Use conditioner or coat sprays to prevent drying of the skin
  • Trim nails, clean ears, and brush teeth regularly

With proper grooming and nutrition, a German Shepherd’s coat can maintain its luxurious colors and vitality for years. While puppy coats go through changes, caring for their skin and fur will set the foundation for a healthy adult coat.


German Shepherd puppies go through dramatic coat transformations in their first few months of life. From fluffy newborn coats to the breed’s iconic black and tan patterns, new owners can monitor these changes while providing proper care. Though puppy coats vary wildly, genetics and maturation ultimately determine the final colors. With the right grooming and TLC, German Shepherd owners can nurture their pup’s unique coat as it develops its adult form.