Do Shelties Change Colors? [Shetland Sheepdogs]

Shelties are a beautiful breed of dog and one of the aspects that capture most people’s attention is their long hair. Some shelties have a mixture of hair colors while others have just one or two different hair colors. A lot of owners love their shelties’ hair and have been wondering, “Do shelties change colors?”

This is a great question because it might alarm some owners if they woke up one day and their sheltie is a different color than it was the day before. A lot of owners are also scared to ask this question because they do not want to feel inadequate, but for us, we do not think any question concerning this cute breed is a dumb question. A lot of sheltie owners have the same questions. Let’s dive into it!

Do Shetland Sheepdogs Change Colors?

The short and simple answer is yes! So if you find that your Sheltie puppy has one mix of colors then as he or she gets older, your dog tends to turn into a different color completely, do not freak out. This is completely normal.

The reason why is due to their genetic makeup. It depends on their assessors and you can think of it the same way you would a human baby.

The baby could look like either mom or dad in the beginning then as the child gets older, he or she could look more like the other parent. Sometimes kids even surprise their parents by looking more like their grandparents. The possibilities are endless.

Here is what other sheltie parents have to say about it:

  • Certain Sheltie coats can change color quite a lot! I think it depends on what colors they have in their ancestry, for instance, Piper had Sables and Tris and it shows! When Piper was born his breeder wrote “Tri-Color” in his vet book, so he must have been pretty dark. When we met and adopted him at 9 months it was crossed out and written “Sable” and he looked like this: [image on the website]. It’s interesting seeing the changes. I used to love the fact that I had two very similar Shelties, now I love the fact that they are so different. Guess I think they’re permanently adorable either way!
  • When my family first got our Sable & White Sheltie, Spanky. He was mostly an orangey color. As he got older though, he began to have more black in his coat. In the last few years of his life, he was mostly black. We didn’t get him until he was already 8 months old and figured he was just going to stay that same color throughout the years. The only black he started out with was around his face/cheeks. I’m beginning to think he may have been this mahogany color that’s being talked about on here…how interesting! I also read once that in the wintertime their coats get darker and thicker.
  • The puppy we have now is for sure a tri-color Sheltie though! He is a reverse of what Spanky was. He has a mask around his face and his body is all black. A few people have told me that if it weren’t for the white on his feet, chest, and tip of his tail, they would think he was just a fuzzy Doberman haha!
  • Our 9-month-old Sheltie, Scout, is a black and white bicolor – but once he turned about 6 months and started getting his gorgeous adult coat, we were surprised to find some brand new chocolate brown shading on his belly only visible when he rolled over for belly rubs. The black just below his ears has a little brownish tinge to it as well, although the rest of him remains as pure black and white as can be. Articles I’ve read on bicolors say their coat can “rust” and the brown color make more of an appearance throughout their lives, although none really explained why. Personally, I think our little guys and girls just like to keep us on our toes and guessing what they’ll do next!
  • Oh! Just saw your picture and he’s cute as can be! He looks a lot like Scout at that age but with more white on his face. There’s a book written in the ’70s called “Sheltie Talk” by Betty Jo McKinney that has an extensive section on color stating the bi-black (black with white markings and no tan on the face) is recessive to tricolor and needs to be inherited from both parents to be expressed. I know Scout’s dad was a bi-black, his mom was a sable with a bi-black sister, and his litter also had a sable, mahogany sable, tri-color, and blue merle, so he has the bi-color gene on both sides. Whatever his lineage, your little guy is just gorgeous!

If you would like to read more of these fun stories, head on over to this forum.

What are the different sheltie coat colors?

There are so many different sheltie coats that we would be here all day just listing and talking about them all. Well, not really but you get our point. Here is a quick summary of it all though:

  • The sable coat
  • The bi black coat
  • The tri-coat
  • The blue merle coat
  • The bi blue coat
  • The white factored coat
  • The color headed white coat

Now, if you want more detail we would highly recommend checking out this article over at Sheltie Planet. We will give you a small snippet down below if you are curious though:

The Sable Coat – This is the classic Shetland Sheepdog look, with Sable coats ranging from golden to mahogany. As you can see in the mahogany example, the tan color can be overlaid with flashes of black.

Traditional golden Sables might have no black at all. Sable Shelties feature patches of white around the neck, chest, legs, and toes in what’s called an “Irish” pattern, common to all the Sheltie coats.

Sable Genetics and Development – The Sable Sheltie color arises from a dominant allele (gene variant). This dominance makes it the most common coat color among Shetland Sheepdogs.

Curiously, Sable Sheltie puppies are born with subtle gray hues which deepen and intensify to golden with the development of the double coat. The Sable color may develop further as the dog matures, as does the thickness and quality of the coat.

The Sable Breed Standard – Sables can range through many shades of golden through mahogany, but washed-out colors or brindle (striped) markings are considered faults.

Conspicuous white body spots (other than the normal distribution of white on the chest and legs) also lose points. Shetland Sheepdogs with more than 50 percent white fur are disqualified.

Yep, dog standards are pretty strict and they need to be because that’s how breeders maintain the specific look of the breed.

The Bi Black Coat – Bi Blacks consist of solid black hairs which make up most of the color, alongside Irish patches of white fur.

Bi Black Shelties are so named for their black-and-white mixture, where bi is Latin for two. They fall under the umbrella term of Black Shetland Sheepdogs.

Bi Black Genetics and Development – The Bi Black allele is recessive, which makes it the least common type of Sheltie color.

Interestingly, the opposite is true in many other dog breeds, where black is the dominant allele. To produce Bi Black puppies, breeders either need one or both parents to be Bi Black too.

That said, breeding two Tri Colors (see below) can also produce a few Bi Black puppies if both parents are carriers of the recessive black allele.

The Bi Black Breed Standard – Solid black-and-white fur is expected, while rustiness or fading in black fur is seen as a fault. Bi Black Shetland Sheepdogs with more than 50 percent white fur are disqualified.

The Tri-Color Coat – Tri Colors are a gorgeous combination of black, white, and tan. They fall under the Black Sheltie category too.

As per the Irish pattern, the white fur appears on the chest and legs. The tan fur is usually found on the cheeks, throat, ears, eyes, legs, and under the tail.

Tri-Color Genetics and Development – You’ll see a few more Tri Colors around thanks to their genetics: Tri-Color is recessive to Sable but dominant to Bi Black.

Shetland Sheepdogs with both Sable and Tri-Color alleles are known as “Tri Factored” and can pass on either coat color to their puppies.

The Tri-Color Breed Standard – Tri Colors should feature distinctive blocks of each color, with the tan shades ranging from golden through mahogany. Conspicuous white body spots are faults, as are washed-out of degenerate colors.

In Conclusion | Is there anything to fear?

Now, there is a huge difference between a dog’s coat changing due to old age versus their coat changing due to well..nature. So do not freak out too much if you notice your fur baby’s coat changing.

Know that this is normal and also can be quite sweet. We hope that you had found this article helpful and we wish you the best of luck with your sheltie dog.

Do you have all of these? Before you go, be sure to check out my favorite Sheltie Accessories!

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