Dog Coat Colors and Factors Affected by Them

Alaskan Malamute dog with white and black coat on blue colored background

Allow us to explain the title of this article. When we first decided to post on the topic of dog coat colors, we weren’t going to talk about the most popular dog coat colors. That article would actually only come under the category of “most popular dog breeds” since most people who love specific dog breeds would not differentiate further based on dog coat colors. On the contrary, this article will focus on dog coat colors which are typically seen around the world as well as their genetics and other factors that they affect.

Common dog coat colors available around the world

The most common dog coat colors are as follows:

  • White– This can vary from pale yellow to ivory or white
  • Black
  • Brown or Café Au lait. There is also Tan or deadgrass or dull straw color
  • Chocolate brown which varies from dark to reddish. It is also known as ‘liver color’. Some chocolates have reddish undertones.
  • Blue dog coat color– There are several sub varieties in blue color in dog coats. A diluted blue is seen in the Great Dane species and it gives the animals a metallic blue gray appearance. The Kerry blue terrier is also bluish and there is also a Blue Merle which is marbled grey on black. The grizzle dog coat color is also bluish grayish in color.
  • Lemon – Pale yellow or wheatish falls under this category of dog coat colors. Puppies usually are born with white coat but they start changing the color to lemon as they grow.
  • Fawn or Fallow– Fawn dog coat color is usually of two varieties-a brown-red-yellow with medium brilliance or pale grayish brown.
  • Apricot– This is a beautiful pale orange color usually seen in Poodles
  • Golden– Like in Golden Retrievers, you get to see yellow gold, wheat or pale yellow or even straw, sandy mustard coat colors. Lion color also falls in this category but it is tawnier as seen in the Ibizan Hound.
  • Silver –This coat color is a diluted version of blue as seen in coins or aluminum cans etc.

What do dog coat colors indicate?

Dog coat colors affect various factors including the canine’s olfaction ability. This means that its sense of smell is affected by its coat color mainly due to genetics. Paler dogs and especially albino dogs are known to have an underdeveloped sense of smell. This is one of the main reasons why Albino animals tends to live for shorter periods in the wild as their whiteness makes them more susceptible to predators apart from the fact that their olfactory/sense of smell is affected.

Another factor influenced by dog’s coat colors is the human response to them- many pet owners choose dogs based on their coat colors.

Additionally, the coat’s color also impacts the animal’s temperament and sense of hearing. This is again linked to the study of genetics. Just like genetics in fruits and vegetables affect the way they smell and taste, the same is true in dogs. Research has now proven that a dog’s fur color is linked to whether his/her hearing will be normal or not. A study using the BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) was performed on 11,000 dogs which took a look at the brain wave response to sounds. Based upon this, the researchers noted that the following dog coat colors are at a greater risk of congenital hearing loss:

  • Merle coat color – Blacks with bluish grayish appearance
  • White
  • Piebald – Which is white with some spotting

Thus, Dalmatians belonging to the Piebald category is one breed of dogs that is most likely to experience congenital deafness- nearly 22% in single ear and nearly 8% deaf in both ears.

Secondly, in dogs with white coat colors, the best example being that of Bull Terriers, the deafness rate was found to be nearly 20%. The British Cocker Spaniels (both solid colored and parti-colored) had a congenital deafness rate of 6% in both ears and 1% in single ear.

The same gene that causes whiteness of coat in dogs is also responsible for blue eyes. A study also showed that Dalmatians with blue eyes are even more prone to deafness (nearly 51% deafness in either single or both ears). Also, even if a Dalmatian has brown eyes but has one parent with blue eyes , then it’s risk to congenital deafness goes up even more.

These are some of the important factors affected by dog coat colors.