Coat (dog)

A dog's coat is its fur. A dog can be double coated—that is, having both a soft undercoat and a coarser topcoat. Some dog breeds are single-coated—having only one type of coat or the other, more often only the topcoat. The state of the coat is considered an indication of the animal's breeding and health.

Many dogs shed their undercoat each spring and regrow it again as colder weather comes in; this is also referred to as blowing the coat. Many domesticated breeds shed their coat twice a year. In some climates, the topcoat and undercoat might shed continuously in greater and smaller quantities all year.

Some dog breeds' coat is more like human hair than like other animals' fur; for example, the Poodle's coat grows continuously, getting longer and longer, and requires frequent trimming.

Show dogs

The nature and quality of a purebred dog's coat is important to the dog fancy in the judging of the dog at conformation dog shows.

Some considerations in judging the quality of a dog's coat:

  • Colour (coat colour other than those allowed in the breed standard results in disqualification)
  • Markings (distribution of colour, spots, and patches; for example the spotted coat of a Dalmatian is distinctive, the markings of a terrier vary.)
  • Pattern (specific, predictable markings; brindle, for example, is a common pattern.
  • Texture of hair (smooth, rough, curly, straight, broken, silky)
  • Length of hair

Colours and patterns

Dogs' coats come in a tremendous variety of colours and patterns. Some breeds come in only one or two specific colours, while other breeds can have a wide range of colours, patterns, and shades. Breeds bred strictly for their working ability tend to have more variations than breeds bred primarily for their appearance over a longer time, although some very old breeds also have more limited coat colours.

Words used for coat colours can vary from breed to breed, so a colour that is called red in one breed might be called brown in other breeds.

Colour names

Brown Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Brown and its variants, including mahogany, midtone brown, gray-brown, blackish brown; the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, whose colour "must be as nearly that of its working surroundings as possible", also uses the terms sedge and deadgrass. (Weimaraners are often described as "steel-grey" but they are in fact light brown.

Red Irish Setter

Dark chocolate Australian Kelpie
Red—reminiscent of reddish woods such as cherry or mahogany—and its variants, including chestnut, , tawny, orange, roan, rust, red-gold, reddish brown, bronze, cinnamon, tan, ruby; also includes liver, a reddish brown somewhat the colour of cinnamon or bronze; the breed often determines whether "liver", "chocolate", "brown", or "red" is used to describe the colour, as in a liver German Shorthaired Pointer or a chocolate Labrador Retriever.

Apricot Poodle

Dark Golden Retriever
Gold Rich reddish-yellow, as in a Golden Retriever, and its variants, including yellow-gold, lion-coloured, fawn, apricot, wheaten (pale yellow or fawn, like the colour of ripe wheat), tawny, straw, yellow-red, mustard, sandy, honey.

Yellow mixed-breed dog

Yellow Labrador Retriever
Yellow—yellowish-gold tan, as in a yellow Labrador Retriever—and its variants, including blond and lemon. Lemon is a very pale yellow or wheaten colour which is not present at birth (the puppies are born white) but gradually becomes apparent, usually during the first six months of life.

Cream French Bulldog
Cream: Sometimes it's hard to define the line between pale yellow and cream. Depending on the breed and individual, cream ranges from white through ivory and blond, often occurring with or beneath lemon, yellow, and sable.

Dark orange sable Pomeranian

Lighter sable Shetland Sheepdogs
Sable: Black-tipped hairs; the background colour can be gold to yellow, silver, gray, or tan. The darkness of the coat depends on how much of each hair is black versus the lighter colour.

Black Newfoundland

Black Labrador Retriever
Black: Usually pure black but sometimes grizzled, particularly as dogs age and develop white hairs, usually around the muzzle.

Kerry Blue Terriers

Blue merle Australian Shepherd
Blue: Not the rainbow's blue but rather a dark metallic gray, often as a blue merle or speckled (with black). Kerry Blue Terriers, Australian Silky Terriers, Bearded Collies, and Australian Shepherds are among many breeds that come in blue.

Silver gray Weimaraner

Salt and pepper (?) gray Miniature Schnauzer
Gray—sometimes also called blue—and its variants, including pale to dark gray, silver, pepper, grizzle, slate, blue-black gray, black and silver, steel, lavender, silver-fawn.

White American Eskimo Dog

White Bichon Frisé
White: Pure white, but distinct from albino dogs.


Patterns, like colours, might be called by different terms for different breeds.

Liver and tan Australian Kelpie

Black and Tan Coonhound
Black and tan, liver and tan: Coat has both colours but in clearly defined and separated areas, usually with the darker colour on most of the body and tan (reddish variants) underneath and in highlights such as the eyebrows.

Black and white Border Collie

Blenheim (Red-brown and white) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Two-colour (also called bicolour, Irish spotting, or flashy) coats such as gold and white, liver and white, tan and white, black and white: Usually sharply contrasting colours, usually with the darker colour on most of the body and lighter colour underneath and in highlights such as the eyebrows, although sometimes one colour is in patches, ticks, or other types of markings. Some breeds have special names for the colour combinations; for example, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel uses Blenheim for reddish brown (chestnut) and white. Irish Spotted or flashy pattern is symmetrical and includes a white chest, white band around the neck, white belly, and white feet or "boots." This pattern is commonly seen in herding dogs, and Boxers, among others.

Black tricolour Entlebucher Mountain Dog

Tricolour Beagle
Tricolour: Three clearly defined colours, usually either black or red on the dog's upper parts, white underneath, with a tan border between and tan highlights; for example, the Smooth Collie or the Sheltie. Tricolour can also refer to a dog whose coat is patched, usually two colours (such as black and tan) on a white background.

Blue merle tricolour Australian Shepherd

Red merle Catahoula Leopard Dogs
Merle: Marbled coat with darker patches and spots of the specified colour. Merle is referred to as "Dapple" with Dachshunds.

Tuxedo mixed-breed dog
Tuxedo: Solid (usually black) with a white patch (shirt front) on the chest and chin, and white on some or all of the feet (spats.) Common colouration in Labrador mixes that may stem from the St. John's Water Dog ancestral breed.

Harlequin Great Dane
Harlequin: "ripped" sploches of black on white. Only the Great Dane exhibits this coat pattern.

Spotted Dalmatian

Red patched Borzoi

Brown and white patched and speckled English Springer Spaniel

Red-speckled Australian Cattle Dog

Liver-ticked German Shorthaired Pointer
Flecked, ticked, speckled: also called belton in English Setters

Orange belton (orange and white speckled) English Setter

Blue speckled Australian Cattle Dog

Darker brindle and white Boston Terrier

Medium brindle Galgo Español
Brindle: A mixture of black with brown, tan, or gold; usually in a "tiger stripe" pattern.

Grizzled German Wirehaired Pointer

White Whippet with brindle saddle

Airedale Terrier with large black saddle
Saddle or blanket: A different colour, usually darker, over the center of the back.

Wolf-sable Finnish Lapphund with white and tan markings
Wolf, wolf-sable or wolf-grey: Possessing a colour and pattern similar to that of a wild wolf. The undercoat is light but the top-coat is dark. This is fairly common among spitz breeds.


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Coat may also refer to a dog coat (also known as a dog rug); a garment made by humans to protect their pets from the elements.

See also

External links

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