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The Complete Guide to Colors of Dogs – Patterns, Markings & Coats

The many colors and patterns of dogs.
Written by Tracey

Like humans, dogs come in all shapes, sizes and especially colors. After all, it’s what makes them unique creatures and why we love them. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that there are many more colors than just black and white.

So, what are the different colors of dogs? Dogs can come in many colors, but are mostly bred with 9 base colors: black, white, brown, red, yellow, gold, cream, gray and blue. However, there are plenty of dogs with patterns that have multiple colors, including merle, bluetick & more.

The wonderful colors of different dog breeds can range quite a bit. Many dogs aren’t a single solid color, but rather a pattern of different colors. In fact, it’s incredibly rare to find dogs that have just a single color with the exception of a few breeds.

What’s the Most Popular Dog Color?

Believe it or not, the most common coat colors of dogs are black, brown and white. According to the Family Pet, it’s because these are the colors of several of the most popular dog breeds. The Lab, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Poodle and Beagle all fall in this category.

But what’s really interesting is that red or auburn colored dogs have by far the highest adoption rates in North America. The original belief was that blonde dogs were the most popular in regards to adoption, though new data suggests otherwise.

According to Giles Webber from Dog Trust, it may be because of the rarity of auburn colored dogs at the rescues. Just 3 percent of dogs at Dogs Trust are red or auburn. So, it may be because these dogs tend to “stand out” at the shelters.

What’s more surprising is that red or auburn dogs find a new home 3 days quicker than the average. Though black, white and brown may be the most common dog colors, there’s a good chance that red and auburn are the highest in demand.

Solid Colors of Dogs

Dogs can come in all sorts of colors. However, we’ve identified 9 solid dog colors that are by far the most popular and common. We understand that there are other solid colors out there. If we’ve missed any that deserve to be on this list, let us know in the comments section below.

With that said, here’s our list of the most popular colors and interesting patterns seen in dog breeds all over the world. What’s your favorite?

1. Black Dogs

Black colored dog breeds may just be the most common dog color out there, though often with a marking or complimentary color. Popular markings with the solid black as the base include tan and or white markings. However, there are plenty of solid black dogs.

For instance, the Rottweilers, Black and Tan Coonhounds, Doberman Pinschers, Beaucerons and the Hovawarts all have a solid black coat with tan markings. It’s been an attractive color combination for years and breeders have taken notice.

Some dog breeds will have a solid black coat with tan and white markings. Although these dogs are usually referred to as “tri-colored,” the majority and base is solid black. So, we’ll just call them black dog breeds for simplicity.

These dogs include, the Bernese Mountain Dog, Australian Shepherd, Beagle and more. And finally, you have black dogs with only white markings (monochromatic), such as the iconic Border Collie, a Boston Terrier or Dalmatian.

RECOMMENDED: 34 Beautiful Black Dogs

2. White Dogs

Another unsurprisingly common color of dogs is the classic white. It’s a classic color that represents purity, innocence and goodness. In fact, it’s everything that dogs are. We can’t think of a better color perfectly suited for dogs.

There are a lot of dog breeds that come in solid white, though many come with other traditional colors mixed into their coat. Even so, it’s hard to deny the majestic aura of a solid white dog. They’re as stunning and gorgeous as you imagine.

When you think “white dog breeds,” you imagine the classics. The Samoyed, Maltese, Bichon Frise, Great Pyrenees, West Highland White Terrier, Japanese Spitz, Dogo Argentino, White Shepherd are some of the most notable breeds

However, white dogs with markings are much less common than their solid white counterparts. It’s actually the opposite of black dogs. With colored markings, you have the Dalmatian, Siberian Husky, Pomeranian, Borzoi, Lhasa Apso, French Bulldogs and more.

RECOMMENDED: 37 Wonderful White Dogs

3. Brown Dogs

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With dogs, the color brown can get a little tricky. Why’s this? Because there are so many variations of brown within numerous dog breeds. It’s not as black and white as, well, black and white colored dogs. Brown dogs vary tremendously.

The shades of brown can include a gray-brown, fawn, dark brown, milk chocolate, mid-tone brown, liver and even mahogany in some cases. Others similar colors are debatable. Still, there are plenty of “classic brown dogs” that you have certainly heard of.

For starters, there’s the renowned Chesapeake Bay Retriever – one of the world’s most skilled and talented water retrievers. Other brown dogs include the Bloodhound, Airedale Terrier, Chow Chow, Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer and much more.

In addition, quite a few spaniel and terrier breeds fall into the brown dog category. Though, mostly consisting of the lesser known dogs of those groups, such as the Field Spaniel or Border Terrier. Look up these few dog breeds, then you’ll see what we mean by the wide spectrum of brown.

4. Red Dogs

Red dogs are not as unusual or unique as they sound. When we say red dog, we don’t really mean Clifford the Red Dog. They’re not literally red dogs. Rather, red dog breeds are dogs that sport a nice bright brown, orange or tan coat with a slight hue of red.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. If you see one in person, you’ll know. However, some red dogs are often mistaken for brown dogs (and vice versa) because the colors can be so similar. As such, we wouldn’t blame you if you called a red dog, brown.

In other dog breeds, “red” can also refer to chocolate, liver or straight up brown. It really depends on the dog breed too. There are few dog breeds that are solid red. Nonetheless, the Irish Terrier is most famously known for being the only all-red terrier.

Other red dogs can include the Beagle, Irish Setter, Shiba Inu, Vizsla, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and more. All of which, are simply stunning in person. There’s a reason why red dogs are some of the most popular dogs from animal shelters!

5. Gold Dogs

Golden Retriever German Shepherd mix

When you think “gold dogs,” nothing comes to mind more than the beloved Golden Retriever. But did you know there are several shades of Golden Retrievers? That’s right, not even a “golden” dog tends to always be truly golden.

Like the other dog colors on this list, there are different variations of the color gold when it comes to dogs. Some more obvious than other gold colors. For example, there’s the classic yellow-gold, lion gold, fawn, apricot, mustard, honey, wheaten gold and sandy.

And believe it or not – there’s more gold dogs than just the Golden Retriever. Other gold dog breeds include the English and American Cocker Spaniel, Finnish Spitz, Wirehaired Vizsla, Pharaoh Hound, Basset Fauve de Bretagne and more.

Plus, many of the Golden Retriever mixes also come in gold thanks to the dominant color genes. As a result, many Goldendoodles, Golden Shepherds and other Golden Retriever mixes will inherit a coat in an obvious golden color.

6. Blue Dogs

Blue dog breeds are much rarer than the others. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not exotic and beautiful dogs with a wonderful personality. Keep in mind, when referring to blue dogs, we don’t mean the blue that you’re accustomed to.

Rather, blue refers to a gray, sliver or slate color with a hue of blue. As you can imagine, there are not many solid blue dogs on the market. That said, the most common blue dogs are the Blue Lacy, Kerry Blue Terrier, Thai Ridgeback, Weimaraner and Great Danes.

Some dog breeds aren’t typically bred in blue, but still see a huge demand for the color – such as the French Bulldog, which comes in two variations of blue: brindle and fawn blue. But don’t look for one yet, there are problems with dog breeds that aren’t meant to have a blue coat.

With the color of blue comes a condition called Color Dilution Alopecia. This “genetic defect” tends to cause some abnormalities in how pigment (color) gets distributed to the fur of the coat. As a result, it can lead to hair loss, skin infections, stunted fur growth and more.

For this reason, I highly recommend not picking a blue dog if they weren’t meant to sport that color.

7. Gray Dogs

Like with brown and red dogs, blue and gray dogs are very similar. And although the Weimaraner is called the “Gray Ghost,” they have been called blue dogs as well. They’re so similar that they can be easily mistaken for by the untrained eye.

The most popular gray dog breed is by far the Siberian Husky. Even then, they rarely sport a solid gray coat. Often times, the Siberian Husky’s (and other “gray dogs”) coat is accompanied by white and sometimes black in rough patches.

With that said, the only purebred solid gray dog breed is the Weimaraner. However, the Scottish Deerhound comes close. Weimaraners come in a few color variations, such as silver-gray, mouse-gray, blue-gray and just simply silver. All of which, have the underlying gray tone.

Most “gray dogs” have coats accompanied by other color markings. The most common additional colors are black, white, tan and brown. These other gray dogs include the Alaskan Malamute, Irish Wolfhound, Norwegian Elkhound, Keeshond and more.

8. Cream Dogs

Cream colored Golden retrievers have a light off-white.

The cream color is used to describe the pastel color of yellow, though it can also be called an off-white color. And because of the similarities, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate cream from yellow or an off-white.

This color will range depending on the dog breed. Cream can be anything between white with a touch of yellow to a more obvious yellowish blond. There are no dog breeds that are known for a cream color. That is, most cream dog breeds are more popular in other colors.

For example, Golden Retrievers have a cream variation, but are most known for being gold. Other cream dogs include the Pug, Great Pyrenees, Shar Pei, Chow Chow and more. Cream is not the most obvious dog color. You likely won’t even know until someone points it out.

9. Yellow Dogs

Yellow is another color that’s much harder to differentiate. Not only is this color similar to cream, but also to gold. It’s worth noting that puppies may initially have a white coat, but develop into a more obvious yellow as they age. In addition to a color change, patterns may form as well.

Yellow dog breeds can come in a yellowish gold tan, as seen in the yellow Labrador. Or they can come in a lemon (pale yellow), such as the Beagle (though lemon Beagles usually have white too). Though, the color will be brighter than gold.

Despite popular belief, there are more yellow colored dogs than you think. For example, the Bearded Collie, Afghan Hound, Anatolian Shepherd, Scottish Terrier, Pomeranian and others all can come in a yellow variation.

Does the Color of a Dog Matter?

Usually I would say no – all dogs are loving and would make great companions. We shouldn’t judge a dog based on his or her appearance. However, according to newly-discovered scientific research, the color of a dog may actually matter.

How does the color of dog matter? The University of Sydney in Australia revealed in 2018 that the color of a dog can impact life expectancy and the frequency of health issues.

Research on Labrador Colors

Because Labradors were one of the most popular breeds, the Australian university decided to do a study on Labradors. As such, they analyzed roughly 33,000 dog patient records from veterinary practices in the United Kingdom.

What they found was shocking. The university researchers discovered that chocolate Labradors had a much higher chance of developing ear or skin conditions.

In fact, Paul McGreevy (research lead), said chocolate Labs were twice as likely to suffer from an ear inflammation. He added that they were four times more likely to develop dermatitis.

The relationships between coat color and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding certain pigmentations…

– Paul McGreevy

In addition, chocolate Labs lived 10% shorter lives (on average) than their yellow and black Lab counterparts. As a matter of fact, the average lifespan of a chocolate Lab was 10.7 years, while non-chocolate Labs lived 12.1 years.

So maybe the color of a dog matters more than you think when it comes to a dog’s health. And just because there’s a correlation does not equate to causation. So, we still think that it’s probably not a great idea to reject a dog simply because of color.

Discrimination of Dogs

According to PetMD, the colors of dogs matter – especially if you’re talking about adoption. The reality is that hundreds of shelters across the world are facing this epidemic: the “black dog syndrome.” It’s a bigger problem than you think.

Animal shelters and rescues are used to having a large number of black dogs that never seem to get adopted. Are solid black dogs really that scary? The bias against black dogs is real. People find black dogs intimidating and prefer to go with a “warmer” color.

In addition to absurd superstitions, the word “black dog” also refers to depression. But what’s even worse is that they’re not the only dog group facing discrimination, white dogs are too. In fact, white dogs may have it even worse.

Thanks to the breed industry standards, white dogs are looked down upon if they weren’t meant to be white. Unfortunately, breeders view a litter of white dogs as a defect in the lineage. The solution? To terminate these white dogs because it may ruin the breeder’s reputation.

It’s a horrible situation. So next time you’re looking for a specific color, consider picking up a black or white dog instead.

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About the author

Tracey

Tracey J is a licensed vet tech. With over 5 years of veterinary technician experience, she's dedicated her life and career to dogs. When she's not studying or working, she's taking care of her Mini Australian Shepherd - Olympus!

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