In previous articles, we have mentioned our love for our doodles’ versatility on the color spectrum. This is one of the characteristics of the breed that attracts so many owners.
While there are a handful of colorful dog breeds out there, the doodle family may be the most colorful and have the most variety in coats in regards to color, pattern and texture! However, there’s a lot to understand. While color and coat genetics can be complicated, we try to break things down here and provide you with a rough guide of the vast color wheel of doodles. So let’s get started!
First of all, where do all these doodle colors come from? If you guessed poodle, you’re correct! The poodle is perhaps the most diverse breed in the dog world in regards to color and size! As a result, any type of doodle can come in any of the colors mentioned in this article. Many doodle breeds have a color that is most commonly associated with them.
For example, most people envision a blonde or red Goldendoodle, a merle Aussiedoodle and a tri-color Bernedoodle as these colors are most typical in the “non-poodle” breed represented in each of these doodle breeds. However, thanks to the poodles’ genetics, a Goldendoodle can be merle and a Bernedoodle can be red and everything in between, which is why we recommend deciding on which breed fits your family and lifestyle best before choosing a preferred color.
The base color of a dog plus his or her coat pattern is what creates the overall look of a dog. Let’s begin by discussing the wide range of colors that poodles, and therefore doodles, can come in.
Poodles come in solid white, black, blue, various shades of gray/silver, various shades of blonde from cream to red and various shades of brown.
Doodle Colors May Subtly Fade
This all sounds easy enough, but poodles like to keep things interesting and may be born one color and slowly fade into another! For example a chocolate puppy may turn into a light brown (or ‘silver beige’) adult. A dark red may fade into more a rust or apricot color.
The fading gene is primarily seen in Poodles and can affect any color besides white. A young poodle will typically gradually lighten in color. Most are their official adult color by the time they are around 2 years old. Most Poodles (and doodles) are subject to this fading gene, but how much they will fade is often related to what color they are and the exact genetics in their family tree.
Black Poodle or doodle pups have the potential to fade more dramatically than any other color. A puppy who looks as black as midnight at birth can be a lovely light silver hue by his second birthday and look like an entirely different dog. The “blue” color of a Poodle or doodle is used to describe those pups who fade or mature to a color somewhere between black and silver and could also be described as a very dark gray.
So if you are getting a black doodle, how will you know if it will actually be black, blue or silver as an adult? One way to know what your Poodle or doodle will look like as an adult is to see pictures of his parents and grandparents. If your pup is black, but his mom is silver— the odds are strong he will end up silver. Another trick is to look at the hair between the pups’ toes. Those pups who have a fading gene will often have white or silver hairs between their paw pads even as newborns.
And then there’s sable – we saved this canine kaleidoscope for last as it is the most difficult to explain. A sable pup is born looking dark brown or even close to black. A close look will reveal that each individual hair is actually two-toned. The base of the hair is lighter and the tip is black - giving the pup a darker appearance.
As the pup mature and particularly after he gets his first big groom (cutting off the darker ends of the fur), he will take on more of a light brown or cream appearance while usually keeping some of his darker markings on the long hair on his ears. This is the trickiest color to predict as both the fading gene as well as the pup’s haircut plays a role in the appearance.
If you are very concerned about fading and want to feel certain of what your pup will look like as an adult, it would be best to pick an already light color such as cream as these colors typically fade very little if at all, considering they cannot get much lighter to begin with!
For most doodle pups (outside of the silver or sable color), the fading will be subtle and overall your pup will look similar to how he did as a pup. Furthermore, while your pup’s color may fade over time, his overall coat pattern will stay the same — i.e. he or she will keep phantom, parti or merle markings even if they become a bit lighter over time.
There is some controversy surrounding the coat patterns of Poodles and doodles as the AKC only admits solid colors poodles. Some would say a parti or otherwise “patterned” Poodle must not be “purebred.” While this argument can go in circles, we find evidence that historically Poodles have had a variety of coat patterns and in only the last century did the push for solid colors in AKC circles surface. Take these illustrations of historical depictions of the parti patterned poodles as an example.
For purposes of this article, we feel confident that purebred Poodles (and therefore doodles) can come in the following coat patterns: solid, parti, phantom, brindle, tuxedo/abstract, tri-color and merle.
Solid is of course the simplest explanation — your doodle is only one color across his whole body and can be any of the aforementioned Poodle colors! The solid colors are often popular among Goldendoodles and Labradoodles to mimic the blonde, black or chocolate in a golden retriever or Labrador. While poodle can come in a stark white color, doodles are typically a light cream at their lightest.
Doodle Parti Coats and Colors
Parti means that your doodle has at least 50% white on his coat plus another of the aforementioned colors such as black, chocolate or red.
Tuxedo and abstract coats are variations of the parti coat. The tuxedo variation means there is white specifically on the neck, chest and feet. Abstract means there is some white on your doodle - maybe a couple feet or a splash of white on the chin, but the overall white amounts to less than 30% of his total coat so he is not a true parti.
While we previously mentioned that doodles do not come in stark white (typically only light cream), there are some rare exceptions to this rule. When the parti gene expresses itself extra strongly, the result can be a pup that is mostly white with only a small spot or two of another color. While these white doodles are beautiful, keep in mind that you need to pay attention to extra issues such as sunburn.
Furthermore, a significant amount of white on a doodle’s face can sometimes be associated with deafness. So again, if you find a mostly white doodle, just be sure that you are purchasing from a reputable breeder who is willing to verify the pup’s ability to hear.
Doodle Phantom Colors
The doodle that is most commonly associated with the parti color is likely the Sheepadoodle—they are often thought of as black and white or silver and white dogs. Although, as previously noted, any doodle can comes in any of the coat colors and patterns!
Phantom is a coat pattern that involves a base coat with lighter markings on the eyebrows, muzzle, chest, under the tail and on the inside of the legs. Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers are two easily recognizable breeds that frequently have this coat pattern.
When one combines the phantom and parti genes, the result is a tri-color doodle. A tri-color doodle will have the parti markings of at least 30% white plus another color, plus a third shade or color variation for their eyebrows, chest, and other phantom points.
The phantom and tri-color patterns are most often associated with the Bernedoodle as breeders seek to mimic the phantom points of the Bernese Mountain Dog.
And if all these options were not enough, you can also pick if you want stripes or spots on your beloved pooch!
Brindle doodles have two colors that form a striped pattern. The brindle markings can be on part of the dog’s body such as in a brindle-parti or across his entire body.
The merle gene creates mottled patches of color on a dog’s coat. The most common is blue merle – the dog’s base is a shade of silver with darker gray spots or patches. This coat pattern is often associated most with an Aussiedoodle as again, many Australian Shepherds come with a blue merle coat.
All of these colors and patterns can be combined to create a nearly endless combination of coat types! For example, you could have a sable parti pup — a dog with 30% white plus sable patches on his body. Or you could have a merle phantom — a base merle coat with lighter tan markings on the eyebrows, chest, etc.
Another question we get asked a lot is understanding what color your doodle’s features will be such as eyes and nose. Puppies are often born with a pink nose as their pigment has not filled in yet. As they get older, their nose will turn to black or liver (a brown color). In general, pups with dark features will have brown eyes, while some of the lighter colored poodles and doodles (such as silver beige) will have hazel or amber eyes.
Merle Colored Doodles
The merle gene can add some extra fun to this conversation as it sometimes creates blue eyes. It’s possible for a doodle to have fully blue eyes or even just a partial blue eye if he/she has a merle gene. The merle gene can affect pigment, too, and in some cases, the noses of merle pups will remain with a pink spot or two as the pigment does not fill in completely. This can create a stunning and unique looking dog!
However, as striking as a merle doodle is, always make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder. Two merle genes together can cause all sorts of genetic concerns including blindness and deafness. As a result, only one parent of any given litter should carry for merle.
Understanding that your Doodle pup can be a bit of a chameleon is important as color should be only one factor in the equation of selection your new family member. Since it is subject to change, selecting your new family member on more permanent qualities such as temperament and size can be important.
The biggest indicator in what your pup will look like as an adult in regards to coat is looking at his family tree. If he is from dark red parents and grandparents who kept their color into their adulthood, he will likely keep his color well, too. If your puppy is chocolate, but his parents or grandparents are a silver-beige, you can assume that your pup will slowly fade as well.
Jenna and the JLDD Team