Dog Coat Color Genetics

Dog coat color genetics will depend on several different factors. Dogs inherit genes that will determine aspects of their physical appearance, such as size, weight, eye color and hair color. Genes are inherited from both the mother and the father, and this includes the genes that are responsible for hair color. Most dogs have either black, gray, tan, brown, white or red coloring, and can have a mixture of colors as well. Dog coat coloring is an aspect that can be as unique as a fingerprint, and will depend on a few different factors. 

Dog Coat Colors

There are several different colors a dog's coat can be, but in general, it is one (or many) of the following colors:

  • Apricot: A light reddish orange or faded yellow
  • Blue: A metallic black or grey that takes on the look of blue in certain lights 
  • Chocolate: A deep, dark to medium brown, often with reddish tones
  • Fawn: Brownish yellow-red or a pale golden brown
  • Cream: A pale yellow or off-white
  • Gold: A bright yellow or reddish-yellow with a sandy or honey tone
  • Fallow: A pale cream or a sandy fawn color
  • Lemon: A pale yellow that resembles the color of wheat or mustard
  • Red: A cherry or mahogany brown
  • Silver: An aluminum gray with a touch of blue

Dog Coat Patterns

The color isn't the only aspect of your pet's coat. Most dogs have somewhat of a pattern or marking on the coat, as well. A dog's coat can be bi-colored, speckled, spotted, mottled, patched and flecked. Very few dogs have only one color on their coat, and many have several colors. Certain breeds are more apt to have spots, patches and specks than other breeds. Markings on the coat can be a good way to tell what the breed is, if the markings are distinct enough. 

Genetics and Coat Colors in Dogs

All mammals have two pigments that are responsible for all colors of the coat and hair. Eumelanin (black) and pheomelanin (yellow or red) are the two pigments that create all color. A gene called MC1R is responsible for the production of pigments, and a variety of other genes create color and pattern variations on the coat. When certain genes combine together, they create different colors such as brown, yellow, apricot, cream and silver. Your pet's genetic makeup will depend on both of his parent's genetic makeup and coat color.

If a two tan colored dogs mate, it does not mean the offspring will be tan as well. There is a very high chance that the offspring will also be tan, but genetics are not as simple as that, especially when dealing with coloring. Both dogs may be carrying genes for black, red, silver, white or any other color, and these genes could be passed on to the offspring, producing a different color. The genetics that are involved in eye color and other physical attributes work the same way. Recessive and dominant genes can also play a role in what color the offspring ends up being. Certain colors dominate over others, and many colors may show up after years of being unseen.