Dog Colors & Coat Patterns

Find dog breeds with a particular coat color or pattern. Click on one of the colors or patterns below to see all the dog breeds that have coats in that color.

What Determines a Dog's Color

You may be surprised to learn that only a few genes are responsible for determining the color of your dog's coat. What's even more surprising is these genes can generate 22 shades and colors by controlling the intensity of black, red, and white pigmentation in the coat. While genealogy may be a fascinating topic for some, it's not everyone's favorite topic. So we'll try to condense the science of dog coloring into an easy to understand summary.

Black and Brown Coloring (Eumelanin)

Eumelanin is responsible for producing the black or brown pigmentation in a dog's coat. This pigmentation is controlled by the B-Locus gene, which isn't too difficult to understand.

  • Dogs who inherit a dominant B-Locus allele from either parent will be black
  • Dogs who inherit a recessive B-Locus allele from both parents will be brown

Some breeds also express another gene called D-Locus, which causes the black or brown pigmentation to become diluted in hair follicles. This creates uneven pigmentation in the follicle and results in gray, blue, and lilac coloring in the dog's coat.

The table below shows how these two genes can generate four different colors in dogs.

  • B - Indicates the B-Locus allele was dominate (Black)
  • b - Indicates the B-Locus allele was recessive (brown)
  • D - Indicates no dilution genetics was inherited (D-Locus dominant)
  • d - Indicates dilution genetics were inherited (D-Locus recessive)
ColorGeneticsBlackBDBrownbDBlue or GrayBdLilacbd

Not all dogs will have the genetics to produce black or brown pigmentation in their coat. These dogs will rely on the other type of pigmentation called pheomelanin and will have coats that are cream, yellow, orange, or gold color.

Red Coloring (Pheomelanin)

Pheomelanin is responsible for the red pigmentation expressed in a dog's coat and, depending on its intensity, can produce shades of cream, yellow, orange, and red.

Not all dogs will inherit the genetics for red coloring. The dog without any pheomelanin will generally be a solid black, brown, or gray color as their coat will only receive pigmentation from eumelanin.

It's difficult to identify all the genes which influence pheomelanin, so most genetic tests will use a "Red Intensity" scale which ranges from low to high.

ColorRed IntensityIvory to BiscuitVery lowCream to Light-yellowLowYellow to GoldMediumOrange to RedHigh

Keep in mind that dogs will only display the colors in the table above if they inherit the genetics for producing pheomelanin.

White Coloring

The last color category expressed in dogs is white, which can be either a lack of pigmentation or hair that only has white coloring.

Residual White

Small areas of white coloring that appear on the paws, muzzle, chest, and tail is called "residual white" and is fairly common in most breeds (even in solid colored coats). These markings are caused by a lack of pigmentation at birth and may recede with age. Residual white can be genetic so dogs that don't express residual white are often sought after for show dogs and by breeders.

White Spotting

Some breeds will have larger areas of white appear in random patches on the coat. This is called "white spotting" and is caused when hair follicles don't contain any pigmentation, which creates the white color. White spotting can vary in size and is inconsistent between dogs. Some dogs can only have a tiny areas of white, others may have a completely white stomach, and some breeds can have a completely white coat.