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Your Guide To Dog Coat Color

white fluffy dog rough collie and black and white great dane

Look around any dog park, and you’ll see it’s full of canine color. But do you know what each shade is called? How do you tell a merle pattern from a brindle? Let’s dive into the multi-hued world of doggy coat colors!

The Main Dog Coat Colors

A quick look at the breed standards set by the American Kennel Club reveals a bewildering spectrum of coat colors. For dogs to be registered as pedigrees, these standards are important – and you can pay thousands for a perfect pooch in a rare hue.

For pooches that are cross breeds or of unknown heritage, then the choice is wider! You’ll find all sorts of shades, each with its own appeal. And for many owners, color is only a secondary consideration: health, temperament, size and other factors all play a greater role in their choice of pup. 

To make things a little easier, we’ve grouped together some of the most common dog coat colors into a few categories below. Here we go!

  • Black

This is probably the most common dog coat color. Many breeds come in glossy jet black shades: some are solid black, while many also have markings in tan or white.

So if you want a glossy or sleek black beauty, you’re spoilt for choice. Collies, Labradors and Poodles can all be found with ebony coats. Stunning!

  • White/cream

White is an eye-catching color for your furry friend, and again, there’s no shortage of hounds in this hue. They tend not to have markings in other colors – they’re just pure, dazzling white. The contrast with their black noses and eyes is oh-so cute!

Classic lily-hued breeds include West Highland White Terriers, Samoyeds, and Bichon Frises. 

Of course, white coats do have a tendency to become spattered with mud – but that’s part of a snowy dog’s charm! Just keep up with those regular grooming sessions to make sure your pup looks their best.

  • Brown

Brown is a wide spectrum that veers into red or gold (see below), so it’s not surprising that many pooches fall somewhere in this category. It’s a great earthy shade for an outdoorsy dog who loves a jump in a muddy puddle!

If you’d like a canine in some shade of brown – fawn, tan, liver or chocolate – then you can take your pick from Spaniels, Terriers, Retrievers, Boxers and many more. It’s a hugely versatile and attractive category. 

  • Red

Moving into the more unusual hues, red is a fine shade for your furry friend. In dog terms, this means a rich auburn or chestnut brown, though in the sunlight it can certainly take on a fiery tinge!

Irish Setters are famed for their flowing auburn locks, while Irish Terriers lean more towards the ginger end of the red spectrum. Both are real head-turners!

  • Golden/yellow/cream

The colors of sunlight and sand, these shades are highly desirable in family dogs. Variants include apricot, wheat, and even lemon. 

There are some real beauties in this category, including Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Beagles. Which one can you picture racing around your yard or curled up on your couch?

  • Gray/silver/blue

A blue dog? Yes, it’s a thing. However, when talking about hound hues, blue means diluted black – a slate shade that’s similar to gray or silver. 

If you’d like a steely or sparkly pooch, then Weimaraners or Siberian Huskies might fit the bill.

Don’t forget that many dogs will become silver foxes as they age, adding a distinguished tone to coats of any shade. 

The Main Dog Patterns And Markings

So those are the main colors – but many dogs don’t limit themselves to just one! They boast beautiful markings in at least one other shade. 

Again, the American Kennel Club has strict breed-specific standards for markings, with some of the rarer types being highly prized. Of course, this won’t matter to you if you’re not looking for a pedigree dog, but do make sure you get your pup from a reputable breeder or animal shelter. 

Brindle: 

This pattern of irregular stripes against a lighter background can look somewhat tigerish! Breeds with these coats include Great Danes and Boxers. 

Brindle greyhound

Brindle Greyhound

Merle/dapple:

These dog coats appear marbled, with splashes of darker colors against a lighter background. Australian Shepherds and Corgis are among the breeds you’ll find with merle coats. 

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd

Piebald: 

White, irregular patches are known as piebald. The piebald gene occurs in many breeds, including Whippets and Dachshunds. 

Pibald Dachshund Puppy

Pibald Dachshund Puppy

Spots: 

Regular dark brown or black spots on a white background – yes, it’s got to be the dapper Dalmatian! 

Spotty Dalmatian

Spotty Dalmatian

Ticked: 

This refers to flecks of color against a white background. Pointers and Spaniels are among the breeds with this type of coat. 

Ticked Spaniel

Ticked Red Spaniel

Bicolor: 

This means two colors, and there are many combinations found across a variety of breeds. A tuxedo – black with a white chest – is one, commonly found on Boston Terriers. 

Black and White Boston Terrier

Black and White Boston Terrier

Tricolor:

You guessed it, this means three colors! Tan, white and black are a common combo, found in Beagles, Papillons and Basenjis, among other breeds. 

tri coloured rough collie

Black Tri Rough Collie

Sable: 

Light fur with black tips is known as sable – stroking a sable dog will reveal the hidden depths! German Shepherds are classic sable-coated canines. 

Sable German Shepherd

Sable German Shepherd

Does Dog Coat Color Matter?

We think that all dog coat colors are absolutely gorgeous. But you might well have a personal preference for one shade over another, so does it matter which one you pick?

Certain colors are the result of selective breeding, and that can have implications for a dog’s health. One study, for example, found that chocolate Labradors have shorter lifespans than other shades. 

When it comes to coat markings, there are health issues associated with a few types. For example, it’s inadvisable for two merle dogs to be mated together, as their puppies could have a higher chance of developing serious conditions, especially deafness. 

So if you have your heart set on a particular breed in a certain shade or marking, do your research to make sure there are no implications for its health. Choose an ethical breeder who understands the risks. 

And remember – dogs themselves have limited color perception, so it’s unlikely that their coat color matters to them. They just want food, walks and lots of love from you!