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Dog Colors 101: An Introduction To Doggy Shades And Patterns

Dog Colors 101: An Introduction To Doggy Shades And Patterns

“Sometimes, all you need is a little splash of color!”

The world would be such a sad place if everything was one solid color. Thankfully, that is not the case, and we have a lot of beautiful colors and shades all around us.

The same thing also applies to dogs. Black and white might be the most common colors, but they are not the only ones. Actually, most dogs come in various patterns of different colors.

That is exactly what makes them unique and special. We all seek to be a little bit different, to stand out, and in the end, that diversity is what brings value to us and to the community.

If you want to learn about different dog colors and patterns, stay with us to experience the most adorable splash of color in your life.

The Ultimate Guide To All Dog Colors And Patterns

Before going into detail about different coat colors, let us first briefly explain what exactly a coat color is, and what determines which color the dog will be?

Coat color is essentially regulated by the pigmentation present in the canines’ epidermis, which is controlled by cells called melanocytes. These cells create the pigment, melanin, which is then responsible for skin, eye, and hair color.

There are only two types of this pigmentation: eumelanin (black), and phaeomelanin (red or yellow). All other distinct hues are created under the influence of different modifiers and genetic factors.

Now that you know how dog color is created, let’s skip to the actual rundown of different colors, and after that, unique coat patterns.

Solid Dog Colors

A solid dog color means that their entire body is that particular color, and there are no color variations, spots, or patterns visible anywhere on the body.


cute Black Havanese

Black is one of the most important colors, without which, many other colors wouldn’t exist. In the canine world, this color is also number one when it comes to popularity.

So, the color by itself is pretty self-explanatory, as we all know what black looks like. Although there are many solid black dogs out there, most black dogs also have some kind of marking on them; usually white or tan.

However, since most of their coat is actually black, people will just call them black dogs for simplicity because why make things complicated?

Black Dog Breeds

• Solid Black Dog breeds: Australian Shepherd, Beagle, the Bernese Mountain Dog, black Labrador Retriever, Giant Schnauzer, Portuguese Water Dog, Scottish Terrier, Neapolitan Mastiff, Newfoundland…

• Solid Black Dogs with tan markings: Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Beaucerons, Hovawarts, Black and Tan Coonhounds, Gordon Setters, Dachshunds, Airedale Terriers…

• Solid Black Dogs with white markings: Dalmatians, Boston Terriers, Border Collies, French Bulldogs…


Dogo Argentino standing in woods

White dog breeds are definitely a beautiful sight to see. I am sure that I am not the only one when hearing a “white dog”, a picture of a cloud-like furball pops up in my mind.

For centuries, the color white has been connected with qualities such as innocence, purity, and goodness, so it is expected that a dog that dresses up in that color also bears similar traits. One thing is for sure – they are definitely gorgeous-looking dogs.

This color, too, is one of the most common ones, so you will definitely be able to find a completely white dog nearly everywhere.

Compared to the color, black, there are much more solid white dog breeds that are only white, and that do not have even the slightest marking on their coat, even though it is also possible.

White Dog Breeds

There are many small, medium, or big-sized white dogs that can be short-haired, long-haired, or fluffy. The most popular ones are the Maltese, Bichon Frisé, Samoyed, Japanese Spitz, Dogo Argentino, Poodle, West Highland White Terrier, the Great Pyrenees, and many others.

Recommended: Bichon Frise Colors: Is White Really the Only Option?


Shiba Inu standing outside

The red color is definitely one of the most beautiful dog colors, and surely one that is going to catch the attention of many people. When I say red dogs, I don’t actually mean the blood-red color that you must have thought of when you saw the word red.

Although this kind of hue is called red, it actually resembles something between a deep brown and a bit of orange. So, their fur is usually reddish with amber and mahogany pigments.

No matter what the color is called, these dogs always look remarkable and stunning.

Red Dog Breeds

The most popular red dog has to be the Irish Setter, with his deep, rich red coat. Some other red dog breeds include the Irish Terrier, Dachshund, Redbone Coonhound, Vizsla, Shiba Inu, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, red Golden Retriever, Pomeranian, and many others.


happy labrador retriever

The color, brown, is among the most common ones. There are many dog breeds that come in this color, and you must have seen a lot of them in your life.

The interesting thing about this color is its wide spectrum. For example, dark brown, mid-tone brown, gray-brown, and many other tones fall all under the category of brown. Some even consider fawn and liver to be just brown, but we will mention them later on.

Brown Dog Breeds

Many consider the Chesapeake Bay Retriever to be the perfect example of the color, brown. Their wavy, waterproof coat is always solid-colored, either dark brown, light brown, or somehow chocolatey brown.

Some other great examples of this color are the Labrador Retriever, American Staffordshire Terrier, Dachshund, Boxer, Australian Shepherd, Chow Chow, Airedale Terrier, etc.


close shot of grey Great Dane

First of all, blue dogs aren’t actually blue as we know it, so don’t expect to see a sky-colored pup (because that would be unrealistic). The blue dog coat color is actually gray or silver with a blue tint.

Blue-colored pups are really gorgeous, and they have that exotic look that steals hearts. Recently, they have started gaining popularity, but are still rare and hard to find since not many dogs can be this color.

You can find blue-colored dogs in all sizes and shapes. These pups have a recessive gene for blue color that they inherit from their parents, which don’t need to be blue, but must have a diluted black color gene.

Blue Dog Breeds

Some of the most popular blue dog breeds include the Kerry Blue Terrier, Italian Greyhound, Blue Lacy, Irish Wolfhound, Great Dane, Blue Bay Shepherd…


Chihuahua looking up at camera

These pups should not be confused with white dogs since they are two different colors. An interesting fact about cream dogs is that they do not have the pigment, eumelanin, but rather a gene for dilution.

This would mean that the color, cream, is actually a very light red, which just resembles cream. Due to this dilution gene, these doggies are still quite rare.

Cream Dog Breeds

Probably the most famous cream dogs are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. They are beautiful dogs that usually also come in other different colors.

Other than these two, this dog color includes breeds like the Poodle, Dachshund, Chihuahua, Cream Saluki Dogs, Bedlington Terrier, and others.


the Gray Ghost

The gray color is often confused with blue, or it is better to say that the blue color is often seen as gray. As a matter of fact, in most cases, they are really difficult to differentiate (especially to the untrained eye) since the blue color has only a bluish tint to that gray/silver base.

Although, in real life, gray is not that exciting, and many people would actually describe it as boring, but on certain dogs and certain fur, it can look really mesmerizing. So, how does a dog get a gray-colored coat?

As we have previously said, there is the black pigment, eumelanin, which is important. But, sometimes some dilution genes suppress the production of this pigment, and as a result, you get beautiful gray/silver dogs whose color can range from dark to lighter gray, silver-gray, blue-gray, and other gray color variations.

Gray Dog Breeds

The most famous example of a gray dog must be the Siberian Husky, although he is rarely completely gray. Huskies usually have white or black patches on their gray fur.

With its beautiful, silky gray coat, the Weimaraner, or the Gray Ghost as it is often also called, is probably the only dog with a completely solid gray coat color. Other gray dog breeds include the Italian Greyhound, Alaskan Malamute, Irish Wolfhound, Thai Ridgeback…


Pembroke Welsh Corgi running outside

Gold is definitely one of the most beautiful colors that is often associated with richness and beautiful rays of sunshine. Certainly, you immediately think of Golden Retrievers when gold dog breeds are mentioned, and how wouldn’t you when they are the most famous golden boys.

Their luscious, golden coat is often set as the perfect example of this beautiful dog color. However, as is the case with Goldens, their gold coat is rarely pure gold. There are many shades of gold, ranging from light gold to yellow-gold, honey, mustard, or wheaten gold.

However, no matter the shade, these pups are always among the most loved, and their stunning coat is for sure the first thing that catches your attention.

Gold Dog Breeds

So, as we have already mentioned, the perfect example of a gold dog is the Golden Retriever. However, there are many other different golden breeds out there. Some also come with white patches on their fur.

The Cocker Spaniel, Boerboel, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Chow Chow, Carolina Dog, Wirehaired Vizsla, and Basset Fauve de Bretagne are just some of the examples. Also, many Golden Retriever mixes come out sporting a gold coat such as the Goldendoodle, Golden Cocker Retriever, Golden Shepherd, etc.


happy Labrador sitting outside

Often confused for a golden shade, yellow is also one of the famous dog coat colors. Interestingly, it has been found that the yellow coat color is among the most ancient ones.

Many researchers believe that the genetic combination which is responsible for producing this color is related to Arctic white wolves, which then somehow ended up in dogs many years ago.

By either being a very pale yellow (also called lemon), a bright yellow, or any other shade, yellow is actually a really beautiful coat color.

Yellow Dog Breeds

The most famous yellow-coated dogs have to be Labrador Retrievers; however, there are other breeds that can come in any of the variations of this color such as the French Bulldog, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Bearded Collie, Pekingese, Pug, Basenji, Pomeranian, Lhasa Apso…

Related: Labrador Colors: The Pinwheel of Colors and Markings

Liver (Chocolate)

cocker spaniel standing on grass

A liver color in dogs is caused by a dilution of the black pigment. Basically, this color is best described as dark brown, or in some breeds, it is called chocolate brown.

While the color, brown, has a much bigger spectrum of different shades, the color, liver, is limited to dark brown, and that is what separates them. However, they are still somehow considered to be interchangeable since, after all, liver is just a darker color combination of brown.

There is also a color variation called Isabella (or sometimes called Lilac), which happens when a dog possesses both liver and blue dilution, making them light brown/gray — Weimaraners.

Liver Dog Breeds

The most popular breeds that are considered to be solid liver/chocolate coat colored are the Labrador Retriever, Field Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and German Spitz.

There are also many liver dogs with white markings such as the German Wirehaired Pointer, English Springer Spaniel, Spanish Water Dog, and Dalmatian.


cute cavapoo sitting on grass

Apricot color is another dilution of brown, which is called apricot because of its resemblance to the actual color of apricots. This is a very rare dog color since it is a bit difficult to breed dogs with this hue.

This color is created by a recessive gene that fades quickly under UV exposure, so it is highly possible that your apricot-colored puppy will fade over time to a lighter cream color.

Apricot Dog Breeds

Even though it is a rare color, there are some dog breeds that come in this hue, or actually, start with it before they fade: the Poodle, Afghan Hound, Cavapoo, Cockapoo, Anatolian Shepherd, and Vizsla.


Great Dane sitting outside

Fawn is a dog coat color that is best described as a yellowish-tan shade. Some people even call it blonde or fallow. This color can range from a light yellowish-brown, to a soft tan, to even somehow a light reddish shade. The best is to see pictures of these dogs to understand exactly what kind of color it is.

Fawn Dog Breeds

Some of the most famous dog breeds that can have a fawn coat color are the French Bulldog, English Mastiff, Chow Chow, Pug, Great Dane, Presa Canario dog, Shar Pei, Saluki, Chihuahua, and others.

Dog Coat Patterns

Now that we have shown you all the important solid dog colors, it is time to introduce you to beautiful coat patterns that can make your pup look extraordinary and unique.

This means that the dog has two or more colors on their coat, interchanging and creating quite unique and stunning patterns. Let’s see what some of those patterns are:


German Shepherd sitting on grass

The Bicolor pattern is when a dog’s coat is covered in two colors, for example, black and white, or black and tan. These two colors are usually the most common ones, but there could be any other color contained in this pattern.

The most common examples of bicolored dogs are German Shepherds (black and tan), and Border Collies (black and white).


close shot of Australian Shepherd

Also pretty self-explanatory, but to be precise — tricolor dogs have a coat made of three separate colors. Those colors are often black, white, and tan, but of course, they can be any other solid color.

For example, a Bernese Mountain Dog or an English Setter with a black base color, and white and tan markings.


merle pitbull

Merle is a beautiful and attractive dog pattern that is characterized by the marbling effect of darker shades on a usually lighter base color. Often, this pattern produces blue or odd-colored eyes, and it can be connected with different health issues. This pattern is mostly seen on dogs like the Border Collie, Dachshund, Great Dane, or Australian Shepherd.

Related: Remarkable Blue Merle Australian Shepherd: All You Need To Know


tired Great Dane lying outside

Harlequin is a very unique and rare dog pattern that isn’t seen every day. This pattern is created with a white base color, and black (or gray-bluish) irregular patches that can either be smaller or bigger.

The most perfect example of this pattern is the harlequin Great Dane. Some people might confuse it for a Dalmatian; however, there is a big difference between the two. With harlequin, the black patches are quite different and torn, but Dalmatians have regular and smooth patches.


Siberian Husky

The Agouti (or the wolf-gray pattern) is considered to be one of the oldest coat patterns in dogs. This pattern includes different bands of pigments that go from dark-colored to lighter ones (gray, cream, or yellow). The Agouti pattern can be seen in Siberian Huskies, Norwegian Elkhounds, and others.


Saint Bernard Growth Chart How Big Will This Puppy Grow

Piebald pattern is actually quite common in the canine world. This pattern features asymmetrical white markings that are spread throughout the whole body. Sometimes, this pattern is compared to cow-like markings because of how it looks.

These random white markings can be seen on many dog breeds such as Bulldogs, Whippets, Saint Bernards, Portuguese Water Dogs, etc.

Read also: Piebald French Bulldog – Facts About The Frenchie Color Palette


Boston Terrier lying outside

You must have heard of the fashion piece called the tuxedo, but have you heard of a tuxedo dog? If you have a pup with this kind of pattern, it means that your dog is usually solid black with white markings on his chest and chin, which then makes them look like they are wearing a tuxedo; hence, the name. The tuxedo pattern is most commonly seen in Boston Terriers.


Brindle Pitbull standing by lake

Brindle is also one of the most unique patterns that can be seen on dogs. It is often compared to the tiger pattern because of its unique stripes. These stripes are usually dark-colored on a slightly lighter base color, such as gray or brown.

As opposed to the actual tiger pattern, these stripes are irregular, more subtle, and blended. The most popular dogs that carry brindle patterns are Basenjis, Boxers, Cairn Terriers, Corgis, Bulldogs, and others.

Recommended: The Fabulous Colors: From Brindle To Sable French Bulldogs


portrait of German Shepherd

Sable dogs are incredibly stunning pups. This kind of pattern is really unique and quite fascinating. Sable does not mean that the dog’s whole coat has two distinct colors, but actually, each strand of hair – giving them a somewhat ombre effect. Quite amazing, isn’t it?

This two-tone fur usually has a lighter color at the base and a darker one at the tip of the hair. Many dogs come in this beautiful color pattern, but some of the most popular ones are sable German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs, Borzois, Salukis, and many more.


German Shorthaired Pointers standing outside

The roan dog pattern is best described as parts of the dog’s coat that contain heavily spotted or ticked white areas. This is usually a dog with a black or a tan base color, and white markings scattered in small amounts.

The best examples of roan coat patterns can be seen on dogs such as the Australian Cattle Dog, Basset Bleu de Gascogne, Schnauzer, and German Shorthaired Pointer with a liver roan.

Related: German Shorthaired Pointer Colors – What Is A Roan German Shorthaired Pointer Color


dalmatian howling

A spotted dog pattern is usually made of white or a lighter base color, with darker spots or flecks. The most famous spotted dog must be the Dalmatian, but there are also some other spotted dog breeds such as the Dogo Argentino, the Bluetick Coonhound, the Brittany Spaniel, the Great Dane, etc.


German Shepherd sitting on grass

The saddle coat pattern is caused by a certain gene that causes black fur to lighten to tan on the legs, face, and belly as the dog ages, creating a kind of “saddle“ shape on the dog’s back. This kind of pattern can be seen in German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, or Airedale Terriers.


A Grizzle coat pattern, also called domino in some breeds, is a mix of two pigments that are so well-blended together that they resemble one color until you look more closely. Usually, it is a blend of black and white colors, or black and tan (brown).

The Saluki dog and the Afghan Hound are two dog breeds sporting this coat pattern. The only difference is that with the Saluki dog, this pattern is known as grizzle color, and with the Afghans, it is known as domino.


Cavapoo sitting on bag outside

Blenheim is a pattern of two different colors: white and red, that is connected to certain spaniel breeds. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the most famous dogs sporting this pattern. However, there are also some other breeds that can have it, for example, the Cavapoo, or other King Charles mixes.


portuguese water dog and poodle mix

Phantom dogs usually have a single-colored coat, with specific parts of the body such as the legs, eyebrows, mustache, and inside of the ears in a different color. The Phantom Poodle is the most famous dog breed sporting this kind of marking.

Do Dog Colors Matter?

In most cases, the color of the dog’s coat does not affect the dog’s personality, obedience, intelligence, or other essential qualities. So, a dog’s color shouldn’t matter, right? Well, not exactly true.

While yes, we shouldn’t discriminate against dogs because of their coat color, the truth is that in recent years, it has been proven that certain dog colors actually affect a dog’s lifespan as well as the development of possible health issues.

For example, researchers have discovered that chocolate Labrador Retrievers have a shorter life expectancy, and are more prone to developing certain health conditions than other colored Labs.

However, this is still new research, and this matter should be discussed more in the future. Until then, it continues to be valid that every dog is beautiful and worthy no matter its color.


1. What Is The Most Common Dog Color?

Although it is difficult to give an exact answer with such a high number of different-colored breeds, usually the most common dog colors are black, white, brown, and red.

2. What Is The Rarest Dog Color?

The rarest dog colors would be true blue, and apricot since it is hard to breed dogs with such specific hues. When it comes to the rarest dog coat patterns, then the answer would be merle or brindle.

Final Thoughts

Dogs are amazing creatures that are not said to be human’s best friends without a reason. They can come in various colors, shapes, and sizes, but they will always be great companions that love their humans unconditionally.

Different dog colors are just a major plus to their diversity and beautiful appearance. However, no matter the color or the pattern, they should always be provided with the same care and love.

If you love your dog, and give him a happy life, he or she will, in return, show you why they are the best pet that people could ask for.

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• Corgi Colors: The Coat Colors And Markings Of The Corgi

• Samoyed Colors & All About That Cloud-Like Coat