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Guide to dog colors, coat patterns and markings

The essentials

  • A dog’s coat is determined by their genetic makeup — Genes passed down from their parents determine their coat color, resulting in a diverse range of hues and patterns.
  • There are six main dog coat colors — Canines come in black, brown, grey, red, white, and yellow, but there are dozens of shades within each primary color.
  • Patterns and markings make each dog unique — Dogs can inherit genes for two or more coat colors, which create intricate patterns or markings.

When it comes to dog colors, canines come in an array of magnificent coat hues, with the classic base colors being black, brown, white, grey, red, and yellow. Within each solid color, there are various shades, with some distinct enough to have their own names, like gold, cream, blue, and silver.

These variations of color combinations contribute to a diverse and captivating spectrum of colors in our beloved furry friends’ coats. Let’s explore the variety of beauty found in the patterns, marking, and coat colors of some of the most beloved dog breeds.

The six dog coat colors

The breed standards set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) cover a wide array of coat colors, crucial for registering purebred dogs (and sometimes resulting in high prices for those with rare hues). However, when it comes to mixed-breed or unregistered dogs, the color options expand, offering a variety of different shades and pattern combinations.

To make it easy, we’ve grouped some of the most common dog coat colors for you below.


Black is one of the most common dog colors. And while this coat shade is elegant and striking, these pups often face some distinct challenges. For one, their dark fur and black pigment can make them more prone to overheating in warmer climates due to increased absorption of sunlight.

Additionally, black-coated dogs are sometimes associated with misconceptions and stereotypes, leading to lower adoption rates. Research conducted by scientists in past studies has shown that black dogs or pets often tend to be adopted less frequently from shelters compared to those with lighter-colored fur. At the same time, many black-coated breeds such as labrador retrievers, poodles, and rottweilers remain popular pets among people due to their loyalty and intelligence.

In terms of health, while coat color alone doesn’t cause health issues, certain skin conditions might be more visible in dogs with black fur. Skin problems such as hot spots or allergic reactions might be more noticeable against their darker coat. Nevertheless, responsible care, regular grooming, and providing shade and appropriate hydration in hot weather can help mitigate potential issues for black dogs.


Brown dogs come in a wide spectrum of hues, making it a versatile canine coat color. If you’re looking for a pooch in shades of brown, such as fawn, tan, or chocolate, there are many breeds to choose from, like spaniels, dachshunds, boxers, and others. However, some brown-coated breeds, particularly labradors in the chocolate color range, might be more predisposed to things like weight gain and related health concerns. It’s especially important with these breeds to ensure adequate nutrition, frequent exercise, and regular veterinarian check-ups.

In general, many brown-coated dogs are admired for their affection and adaptability, making them excel in various roles, from family pets to working dogs.

Grey, silver, or blue

Dogs with grey coats, which can sometimes lean towards silver or blue hues, have a distinct and elegant appearance. Popular grey-coated dogs include Weimaraners, Siberian huskies, and greyhounds. This coloration can sometimes be linked to specific health issues, particularly in certain breeds.

For example, Weimaraners may be prone to separation anxiety and require ample exercise due to their energetic nature. Despite the potential health considerations, these dogs are esteemed for their loyalty, intelligence, and versatility. The sleek appearance of grey-coated breeds makes them an attractive choice for dog lovers seeking a pet with a striking and distinguished coat color.

👉 Dogs with grey coats often have blue eyes—to have blue eyes, a dog must have a genetic variation, and this is the case in about 5% of dogs.


Dogs with red coats showcase a range of shades from deep reds to lighter copper tones. Breeds like Irish setters, vizslas, and Rhodesian ridgebacks carry these distinctive bright colors, capturing attention for their bold and eye-catching appearance. Red-coated dogs are celebrated for their energy and often have an adventurous spirit, making them wonderful companions for active owners.

While coat color doesn’t directly cause health issues, some breeds with red coats, like Irish setters, may be more susceptible to certain conditions, such as bloat or skin problems. Nevertheless, their intelligence and vivacious nature make them appealing pets for various roles, from loyal family companions to capable hunting partners.

White or cream

Dogs with white coats present a pristine and elegant look, coming in shades from pure white to cream. Breeds like the Samoyed, Maltese, and West Highland white terrier are among the more popular white dogs. White-coated dogs often capture attention for their ethereal beauty, but can sometimes be associated with particular health issues.

Dogs with white coats can be more prone to sun damage-related skin problems, so make sure you have that doggy sunscreen on hand. It’s also worth noting that dogs with lighter pigmentation are more prone to deafness as well as blindness or other vision problems.

While this isn’t a health issue, dogs with lighter coats tend to look dirtier after a romp in the yard—that’s why regular grooming and bathing are essential. Ultimately, white is one of the most popular colors for dogs and is ideal if you’re looking for a pup with a graceful appearance.

Yellow or golden

Dogs with yellow coats showcase a vibrant spectrum of shades, from wheat-color hues to rich golden tones. Breeds like the golden retriever, labrador retriever, and cocker spaniel display this warm coloration, often capturing attention for their friendly and outgoing nature.

Certain breeds with yellow coats, like golden retrievers, might be predisposed to specific health concerns such as joint problems. Responsible care and regular vet check-ups are crucial to maintaining their health and vitality.

Dog coat patterns and markings explained

We know that the primary coat colors define a dog’s base hue, but the magic of their appearance often lies in the intricate patterns and markings they carry. Most dogs don’t simply stick to a single color, but flaunt a beautiful blend of shades that create unique patterns on their coats.

The AKC maintains specific breed standards, even for markings, with some rare patterns highly sought after. While patterns refer to the overall distribution and arrangement of colors on a dog’s fur (such solid, bi-color, or tri-color), markings indicate smaller areas where the coat displays a different color or pattern.

For instance, markings could include spots, patches, stripes, points, or other distinct color variations that appear in specific areas like the face, legs, tail, or body. Here are some of the more common coat patterns and markings you may find.

Coat patterns and markings

Term Description Breeds
Solid One solid coat color with no patterns West Highland white terrier, poodle
Black and tan, brown and tan, blue and tan Dark color on most of the body with tan patches on the face, eyebrows, belly, legs, and chest Doberman pinscher, rottweiler
Bi-color White spots found anywhere on the body, commonly on the feet, nose, tail, and neck—this pattern can be found with any color Border collie, Australian cattle dog
Tri-color A pattern with three distinct colors, typically a black or brown body with tan patches and a white belly Beagle, foxhound
Merle/dapple * A dog’s coat color has white markings and patches Australian shepherd, Cardigan Welsh corgi
Brindle A “tiger stripe” pattern where a dog’s coat is a mix of black, brown, tan, or gold Great Dane, French bulldog
Spotted A mostly white dog with small spots of any color Dalmatian, English setter
Piebald Irregular white patches Whippet, dachshund
Ticked or Flecked Flecks of color against a white coat German shorthaired pointer, Brittany spaniel
Roan When a base coat color is muted by a mixture of white hairs Cocker spaniel, English springer spaniel
Sable Tan or light brown coat with black hair tips all over the body Belgian malinois, shetland sheepdog
Fawn Light yellow or tan English mastiff, chow chow
Mask Black on the muzzle area Pug, boxer
Harlequin White fur with large black patches Great Dane

* While merle is a popular pattern among pet parents, breeding two dogs with the merle pattern gene can result in a “double merle” mutation in puppies, which often means being born blind, deaf, or both. If you’re considering a merle puppy, make sure to do extensive research to determine they’re coming from a responsible breeder.

Whether you’re seeking a purebred with a specific pattern or considering a mixed breed from a breeder or animal shelter, the distinctive patterns add an extra layer of charm and individuality to our beloved canine companions.

The world of dog coats is a captivating tapestry of colors, markings, and patterns. Each dog color tells a special story, giving our furry friends their unique charm. Whether it’s the elegant white coat, the friendly yellow fur, or the intriguing patterns on a pup’s body, these attributes are what make our furry friends special.

Frequently asked questions

What is a common dog color?

Among the most common dog coat colors is black. Black coats are frequently seen in various breeds, ranging from solid black to combinations with other hues, contributing to their widespread popularity among dog owners. While coat colors vary extensively among different breeds, black remains a prevalent and striking color across the canine spectrum.

What colors are dogs?

Dogs come in a wide range of colors including black, brown, white, grey, red, yellow, and many variations in between. These primary colors may be accompanied by an array of different shades and markings, from solid hues to intricate patterns, creating a vibrant palette that adds to the unique charm and personality of our canine companions.

Why are dogs different colors?

Dogs display a variety of colors due to their genetic makeup. Genes passed down from their parents determine their coat color, resulting in a diverse range of hues. Specific genes control the production of pigments, leading to different colors and patterns. Factors like genetics, breeding, and gene mutations influence the dog’s coat color, resulting in the stunning variety of colors and patterns we see in our canine companions.

Why do dogs have two colors?

Dogs often have two colors due to their genetic inheritance. Genes control the production of pigments in their fur, and some dogs inherit genes for two or more coat colors. These genes work together, resulting in patterns or markings where different colors appear on their coats. The combination of inherited genes determines the dog’s appearance, leading to the remarkable variations in their fur color and patterns we see among different breeds.

What colors can a dog see?

Dogs primarily see the world in shades of blue and yellow. They have limited color vision compared to humans, perceiving the world in a spectrum of blue and yellow tones. Their color perception is dichromatic, lacking the ability to distinguish between red and green colors, similar to the way human eyes perceive color in a person suffering from red-green color blindness. Despite this limitation, their superior ability to detect motion and see well in low light makes them highly adaptive and skilled.