Dog coat colours explained

Dog coat colours explained

Breed Facts

“The brown dog” is just about the most common descriptive that you will hear used to explain the coat colour of a dog, but dogs come in a whole rainbow spectrum of different coat colours and patterns that often come accompanied by unusual and exotic sounding names as well!

If you want to brush up on your knowledge of canine coat colour combinations and the proper terms to refer to different shades and mixes of colour on dogs, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn about all of the main dog coat colour terms and what they mean.

Basic colours

Many of these are self-explanatory!

  • Black: Needs no explanation!
  • Brown: “Brown” can range from a bright mahogany colour to a darker liver colouration, and everything in between!
  • Chocolate: Think chocolate Labrador! Chocolate is a rich, luxurious mid brown shade that is one of the most commonly seen Labrador Retriever coat colours.
  • Red: Red can come in shades from a bright auburn or flame colour, right the way through rust, red-gold, cherry, chestnut or red mahogany.
  • Ruby: Ruby is a rich, bright and opaque red colour, generally used to describe one of the four permitted colour variants of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
  • Yellow: Anything from a pale cream colour through to a deep goldish-yellow.
  • Gold: A bright, reflective colour ranging from a bright apricot to a rich red-tinged yellow. Most recognisable on the Golden Retriever!
  • Grey: Almost fifty shades! Grey can range from a pale, almost white colour to a deep, dark steel grey that appears almost black. Grey can also involve a flecked pattern of black and white, which upon closer inspection is clearly composed of mixed colours.
  • Blue: Blue is the term for a very specific shade of grey that is almost metallic in appearance, and comes about due to the dilution of the black colour pigment.
  • Sable: Sable refers to a coat where the tips of the hair are black, but the colour along the rest of the hairs is grey, tan, gold or silver.
  • White: White dogs are distinct from albino dogs, as the eye colour is blue, amber, brown or any other normal colour other than red/pink. The skin of white dogs can be either pink or grey.
  • Albino: Albino is a white coat colour that comes accompanied with the other traits for albinism, such as pink/red eyes, and lack of pigment.
  • Buff: Buff is a pale yellow or dirty-looking cream colour with hints of yellow in it.
  • Self coloured: Self coloured is the term used to refer to a coat of any colour that is all the one colour without any patterning or mixture of colours such as outlined below.

Coat colour combinations

When more than one colour is mixed within the coat of the dog, there are usually specific terms to refer to the subsequent colour mix!

  • Bicolour: A bicolour coat consists of a mixture of two colours in clearly delineated patches.
  • Particolour: A particolour coat consists of two colours where the two colours are present in roughly equal amounts and with an even distribution.
  • Tricolour: Tricolour dogs are dogs that have three distinct colours present in the coat, again in clearly delineated patches.
  • Brindle: Brindle colour is a mixture of black with either gold, tan or brown, which can either be present in a tiger pattern where the black element makes up lines, or a grizzled pattern where the pattern is a mixture. Around a third of Boxer dogs are brindle coloured.
  • Roan: Roan is a pattern comprised of a “ticking” effect in the fur of the coat, where a base colour is liberally interspersed with hairs of another pattern. From a couple of feet away, the mixture of hairs will appear to blend to make the coat look like it is all one colour.
  • Harlequin: A harlequin pattern consists of black or brown patches on a white base, with the edges of the black not as clearly delineated as they would be in a bicolour coat pattern. The Dalmatian dog is the most well known example of a harlequin patterned dog.
  • Merle: A merle coat is made up of a marbled pattern with darker patches and spots of colour blending into the second colour present.
  • Tuxedo: The tuxedo pattern is mainly self explanatory, and consists of a dark main coat colour (usually black) with a solid patch of white across the chest, giving the dog the effect of wearing a tuxedo! There may also be white present on the feet.
  • Inverted tuxedo: The inverted tuxedo pattern is when the main coat is a light colour, with a “tuxedo” patch of darker hair on the chest, and possibly the feet.
  • Blenheim: Blenheim pattern is a red and white bicolour mixture, as seen on some Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs.
  • Domino: The domino pattern is exclusive to the Afghan Hound, and exhibits a specific mottling of the face and body colour.


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