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Have you ever compared your puppy pictures to what they look like as an adult dog? Adult dogs have lost their soft downy fur, their puppy pudginess, and have gained muscle and of course is much bigger. However, some people might notice changes other than simply growing up. Some dog breeds appear to have changed into an entirely different color.
Just like people, dogs’ fur tends to turn grey and fade as they get older. Going grey is a natural part of the aging process, and most dogs will start to get silver hair starting around their muzzles as they get into their senior years.
However, some dog breeds change color in the first year of their life. Sometimes the contrast can be drastic, making it hard to recognize the puppy pictures when you look at them later. Genetics usually plays a huge role in causing dog breeds to change color.
So dog breeds are more likely to change colors?
Dog breeds known to change colors from puppyhood into adulthood include Kerry Blue Terriers, Dalmatians, Bearded Collies, Bedlington Terriers, Poodles, Schnauzers, Havanese, and Shih Tzus. Many breeds might have temporary color changes seasonally, but these changes are not so permanent.
Let’s take a look at these unique dog breeds that are known for being born one color but mature into a different color by the time they are 18 or 24 months old. We will also discuss what might cause these color changes.
Puppyhood To Adulthood: What Causes Dog Breeds To Change Color?
The main factor in a dog changing color has to do with genetics. Below are two common genes that usually cause a dog to change color as they grow from puppyhood into adulthood.
A dominant gene on the G-locus, the greying gene causes progressive greying from the moment a dog is born. Most dogs who carry this gene are born black and will be silver or grey by the time they are 18 months or 2 years old. They often continue to lighten as they age. Since it is a dominant trait, if one parent carries this gene it is very likely many of the puppies will also inherit progressive greying.
The greying gene tends to affect bearded and wiry-coated dogs. This is probably why you see so many terriers and hypoallergenic dogs on this list!
The fading gene, or dilution gene, seems to have the same effect as the greying gene, but this gene is on the D-locus of a dog’s genetic code. It is another dominant gene, so if both parents have it, the litter of puppies has a high probability of inheriting it.
Instead of greying, the fading gene causes a dog’s coat to fade into a seemingly new color. Dark chocolate puppies age into a light sandy color and red puppies will age into blonde or apricot adults.
Bringing home a puppy is a lot of hard work and there are a lot of reasons to worry about your new best friend. However, changing colors is not one of those reasons, especially if you have one of these breeds known for changing colors.
8 Dog Breeds That Change Colors
Now it’s time to dive deeper and discover these dog breeds that are born one color and mature into a different color.
Coming from Croatia, the Dalmatian has a long history and has been around at least the since 14th century. However, in modern times we probably know Dalmatians better for their associations as firehouse dogs and the famous Disney movie 101 Dalmatians.
Dalmatians became firehouse mascots because of how they ran alongside the horses pulling water carts and keeping them away from the flames. Above is a video of a modern-day Dalmatian living in a firehouse.
Their unique spotted coat is what made this breed the main protagonist in 101 Dalmatians. They are very unusual-looking dogs with short, smooth white coats dappled by black, liver, or sometimes even lemon-colored spots.
However, they are born with a simple plain white coat, although you can sometimes see the black pigment on their skin. They start to develop their spots at around 10 days old and continue to change until they get the color and spots of their adult coat at around 18 months old. Unlike the other dogs on this list, they do not have the greying or fading gene; their dark pigmented fur just needs a little extra time to grow in.
2. Kerry Blue Terrier
Named after County Kerry in Ireland where the breed was originally developed, this all-around working terrier is non-shedding and has a typical terrier attitude. Kerry Blue Terriers are wonderful farm dogs and family companions and have a nice dense coat which is great for moist climates.
However, when they are born Kerry Blue Terriers are a deep black color. But because of the greying gene, a well-bred Kerry Blue Terrier will have grown out of its black coat and changed colors to blue by 18 months old. Kerry Blue Terrier breeders call the process of changing colors from almost black to the mature blue color “clearing.”
3. Bearded Collies
One of the older herding dogs from the United Kingdom, the medium-sized Bearded Collie is an active, intelligent dog. These dogs are barkers and can easily get into trouble if not given enough exercise or mental stimulation.
On top of their soft undercoat, Bearded Collies have a long harsh coat that gives these dogs their namesake beard. Adult Bearded Collies come in brown, black, blue, or grey, usually with white markings on their face and chests.
Some Bearded Collies have the fading gene. For example, a dark brown puppy will start lightening up around 8 weeks old to light milk chocolate by the time they are 18 months old. While not every Bearded collie changes color as they get older, it is common enough that they ended up on this list but this isn’t the only list we’ve featured them on and they’re also one of the breeds that look a bit like the famous Benji!
4. Bedlington Terrier
Named after the small mining town it came from in northern England, the Bedlington Terrier is a smaller versatile dog breed that has been used in all sorts of dog sports from racing to agility. They make lovely family dogs and when they have their full distinctive show cut, resemble baby lambs like those born on the green fields of England.
As adult dogs, these active water-loving dogs can be light blue, liver, or sandy colored and often with tan points. However, as puppies, Bedlington Terriers are born dark brown or black.
Bedlington Terriers change color because this breed has a dominant trait that carries a graying gene. So while they are born dark, their rugged, shaggy fur will lighten as they age. By the time they are around one year old, Bedlington Terriers usually have their light coat.
Another breed that carries the greying or fading gene causing them to change color is the poodle. One of the most popular hypoallergenic dogs, the poodle comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. They also come in a wide range of colors, and with so many different sizes there is a poodle that will fit almost anyone’s lifestyle.
However, even the smallest toy poodle still requires an active lifestyle, as these dogs are very smart working dogs. Not all poodles will change color, but many poodle puppies that are black, brown, red, or blue will begin to lighten up around twelve weeks old if their parents carry the greying or fading gene.
If only one poodle parent carries the gene, there is a 50% chance that a puppy will inherit it and start to change color. Poodles that carry this gene might change colors drastically like going from black to silver, or it could be more subtle like going from a dark chocolate color to a lighter milk chocolate color.
Known for their distinct hard wiry coat and prominent eyebrows, the schnauzer is an affectionate but stubborn family dog. There are three sizes that schnauzers come in; giant, standard, and miniature and the video above give you an idea of the differences between them. All sizes make wonderful working dogs and excel at dog sports like agility. The larger ones are also popular police dogs.
Schnauzers come in two AKC-approved colors: salt and pepper, and black. Most of this versatile sassy breed have the fading gene and their coat will start to change colors shortly after birth. A dark black puppy will usually fade into a dark silver and salt and pepper puppies will lighten to a lovely gray.
Salt and pepper schnauzers need a special grooming technique called “stripping” to keep that beautiful color. This removes dead hair and keeps healthy hair. If you clip a schnauzer instead of stripping it, your dog will look like they have changed color. The salt and pepper effect is from each hair being banded with different colors. When you clip them, they might appear to have changed colors from gray to white.
As the national dog of Cuba, the Havanese is a naturally hypoallergenic dog with a long lightweight coat made for the tropical climate of the Caribbean. This wonderful toy breed makes a great companion dog and loves socializing with their family. The Havanese has a coat that needs regular grooming and comes in a wide variety of colors.
However, that color might change over time. Breeder and Havanese enthusiast Island Havanese shares her experience as a breeder and how most people’s Havanese puppies will change from puppyhood to adulthood. Her personal dog was dark chocolate brown when he was born, but now is the color of a cafe latte! Some puppies will fade, and others might get darker, and that makes choosing a Havanese puppy by its color difficult. You might end up with an adult dog that looks completely different!
Like most of the dogs on this list, your Havanese puppy changing color comes down to genetics. The fading gene affects the coat of most Havanese dogs, and you can usually get a good idea of what their final coat color will look like by taking a look at their parents. But genetics can be tricky, they might have inherited their fading gene and coloring from their grandparents, making it hard to tell what color this breed will change to.
8. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a popular toy breed that makes a great apartment dog, not only because of its small size but because it loves to snuggle and nap. According to the AKC, they are especially affectionate with children making them wonderful family dogs.
Their coat, which comes in many different colors, does not shed much but still needs regular brushing as it tangles easily. Much like the Havanese, the Shih Tzu puppy you buy at 8 weeks old can drastically change colors as they get older. The only Shih Tzu color that does not change from puppyhood to adulthood is black and white.
So why do Shih Tzus change from gold to orange or black to grey? Shih Tzus can carry both the fading gene and the graying gene, causing the breed to change color, usually by the time they are around one year old.
Seasonal Color Changes And Snow Nose
Some dogs certainly appear to change colors seasonally because of environmental elements like shedding and being bleached by the sun. Black dogs in particular often look like they are turning brown! However, this is usually a temporary change.
Another seasonal color change that some breeds can get is snow nose. Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers in particular are known for their nose changing from black to pink in frigid temperatures. When the weather warms up, their nose usually turns black again. Interestingly, these breeds were also bred to work in colder climates.
If you are looking for a striking dog breed, it is important to remember that the puppy you pick up at 8 weeks old might grow up to be a completely different color. Dog breeds that carry the greying gene or fading gene make it hard to determine what your dog might grow up to look like.
Looks are important to many people, and the best way to know what your puppy will look like when they are an adult is to look at what the parents look like. For example, your dark black poodle puppy has silver parents, so genetically there is a high percentage they carry the greying gene and will start to turn grey before they turn one.
Breeds like poodles with curly, wirey, long hair, are more likely to carry these greying and fading genes, and that kind of coat typically requires a bit more maintenance.
Therefore, you need to make grooming a part of your routine as an owner of one of these wonderful color-changing breeds, as their coats will need regular maintenance. As a responsible dog owner, be more worried about their quality of life and relationship with you than the color of your dog!