Many Shih Tzu owners question the official color of their dog. A reason being that breeders may refer to a dog as a certain color, when in fact that dog will be recognized by the AKC or other major dog club as technically, a different color.
Understanding the Key of Pigmentation
When a dog is registered as liver or blue, this refers to the dog's pigmentation and not the color of the dog's coat.
What Qualifies a Shih Tzu to be Blue or Liver
A dog may be registered as blue or liver because of the pigmentation of the dog's skin...not the coat color. Blue and liver Shih Tzu dogs lack black pigmentation.
The pigmentation will be where the color is most obvious: the eye rims, nose, paw pads, etc.
Blue dogs will have a charcoal color.
Liver dogs will have brown that will vary from very pale to a deep dark chocolate.
A dog will be registered with the AKC as a "liver" or "blue" because of the pigmentation of the skin, but the coat can be solid white, a cream color, red, dark chocolate brown, etc.
Blue is a very rare color. Quite often this hue is misunderstood and for good reason. A Shih Tzu of just about any color may have a shade of blue on the skin of their body. This often leads one to assume that this is proof that the dog is indeed blue. However, according to official guidelines, only if blue is present on the nose, will the dog actually be blue.
These are Blue Pigmented Babies. You can see the pigment is almost eggplant colored. Definatly not black.
These babies have liver pigment. Not a speck of black to be found here. The pigment is brown. It can range from light pinkish brown to a deep chocolate brown.
Black- A black Shih Tzu will not have any other color fur. Even a touch of a different shade will move this dog over to a mixed color. Because liver colored dogs lack all black pigmentation you will never see a true black dog with a liver nose.
White- As with the black, no other color will exist in this dog.
Liver- when the dog has brown pigmentation on the nose, paws and eye rims.
Blue- Only if the Shih Tzu's nose is blue, will this be the official color of fur.
Brindle- This is a combination actually of a base coat of fur with streaking.
Gold - A tan - yellow, found commonly among Labrador Retrievers
Red- A very deep and dark orange.
Silver - White but with a deep shine.
There are also recognized mixtures of two
White and Black
White and Blue
White and Brindle
White and Gold
White and Liver
White and Red
White and Silver
There are recognized mixtures of three colors:
Silver, Gold and White
Black, Silver and White
Black, Gold and White
Black, Silver and Gold
Until a future time when more colors may become officially recognized and an owner is able to register their Shih Tzu with the color that they believe their dog is, one must choose from the above list. Do keep in mind that with all colors, there will be shading and deepness levels; thus any dog can be placed into one of these categories. It is very common for puppies to be one color, registered as that color and then have a color change as the puppy matures into adult dog. This is completely normal.
All Shih Tzu are either basically black, liver or blue pointed (points' being eye rims & nose). A liver dog has a liver or reddish colored nose, and no black hair anywhere- liver does not support any black pigment.
Fading: You will see many dogs in the ring that are very light gray or tan and white.
Are they registered as silver and white? Usually not- usually they are gold and white. We have another neat gene in the breed that fades color (the G series). What will start out as a darkly colored pup goes light gray in about a year. It's still gold and white or, perhaps, red and white- and for registration purposes, you can only register the pup as the color it is at the time of registration.
Greying: This is different from fading. In fading the color lightens and fades, this gene changes the color to a silver as rich as the original color. The gene for this is called the Chinchilla gene (CH series). It will be a while before you know if you have this gene, they can still be close to the normal color at well over a year.
Banding: This is a fairly well ignored gene series, I have not found any research on it. It is when all the new growth comes out in a different color, leaving a darker band, or a lighter band. You can see banding in silver, and brindle tones.
Brindle: Many people confuse banding and brindle. They are quite different. Banding is along the hair shaft- all change color at once. Brindle is on the skin, the colored areas are in patches of different colored hair. This can be hard to see in a grown-out coat, as the hairs mix together, but easy to see in a cut-down, whereas with banding, just the opposite is true. In a cut-down dog, you are unlikely to see banding in action, but on a long coat, you will see the stripes of different color that have grown out.
Blue and liver are about skin pigment, and not hair color, but they are on different genes. The dog is basically black or liver (the B series), and blue (the D series) modifies either one when present.
Black Tipping is when all of the colored hairs (not the white) have black tips. This is very dramatic and attractive. Dark tips on the ears are not black tipping, as the color goes to the root of the hair. Eye stripes, also are not black tipping- the color goes to the roots. The dog will always have eye stripes and dark ear tips, even after cutting.
Solid is dominant- so two Partis cannot produce a solid. Two solids can, however, produce partis, as they may well each carry a recessive parti gene, and can carry that gene for many generations.
Fading is dominant, so a fading dog with Gg can produce non-fading offspring unless the fading gene is double GG, in which case it will produce only dogs that fade.
Black points are dominant to liver points, so two black pigmented dogs can produce black or liver points, depending on what they carry- BB will look black pointed and produce only black points, Bb will look black pointed, but can produce liver if bred to a liver bb or another dog that carries liver.
Blue dd is recessive, and pops out every now and then. This happens when your non-dilute dog carries the blue gene Dd. Non-dilute dogs that do not carry the dilute gene DD will never produce it.
When you have something pop up in a litter that neither of the parents show, you know that the trait is carried on a recessive gene and that both parents carry the recessive gene. In the reverse, when you have a dog with an unusual trait that none of it's offspring carry, that is a recessive trait, and since the dog that shows the trait must carry two genes for the trait to show up, 100% of the offspring carry the gene from the dog that has the trait. Line breeding will likely pop the trait out, good or bad. It is much easier to breed out a dominant trait than a recessive one, as the recessive trait can be carried for generations before it crops up.
Environmental Factors on color- just to confuse things a bit more! Many people think that environmental factors can trigger color changes. These factors include climate, stress, and diet. Environmental changes seem to crop out once, then revert to normal.
So, you see color in Shih Tzu is not an exact science- you just come as close as you can. It is best to use the birth color, as that is the underlying color, even if it grays out.
support black pigment. This dog will have a liver nose, varying in intensity from red-tan to chocolate, and there will be no black on either the skin or coat.
The Maltese Dilute (D series) gene modifies the base color- black or liver- with a grayish blue like you see in Maltese and Russian Blue cats. The dominant side of the gene (D) is actually non-blue-dilute, and does not affect pigment. DD will not have blue-dilute pigment, nor will any of the offspring be blue-dilute. Dd does not affect pigment, but a blue-dilute offspring may be produced. dd is blue-dilute pigmented, and will always pass a blue-dilute gene to offspring, so they will either be blue-dilute or carry it.
Normal Pigment, Livers & Blues in Shih Tzu
There is a lot of confusion regarding dogs of normal pigment livers, and blues. For the purpose of this discussion, we are going to concentrate on two gene series- B and D. We are discussing skin pigment, not coat color. The genes in this discussion have minimal impact on coat color, though there definitely is some.
In Shih Tzu, the points (eye rims, nose, lips) are always first controlled by the B series gene. The B series has two color possibilities- Black (B) or no black (b- liver). BB (the homozygous state for black, homozygous meaning two of the same gene) is black points and can only produce black pointed offspring because B is dominant, and all offspring will carry a B (the other side of the gene pair will carry a gene from the other parent). Bb (the heterozygous state) will be black pointed, but can produce either black or liver pointed offspring. bb (again homozygous, but this time for liver) is always liver pointed. The offspring can be liver or black, but ALL will carry b (liver) and be able to produce it.
The skin of the bb, or liver, dog cannot B/D Interaction
Here’s where it gets interesting! When you see a dog that is a clear, easily to identify blue, it is likely that the blue-dilute gene is active over liver- one gene pair being bb and another dd. When blue-dilute is active over black points (BB with dd or Bb with dd), it becomes much harder to distinguish. Many people confuse the transmission of blue with that of liver, and think that a blue dog cannot support black pigment, and this is true, to a point. Remember that when you have blue-dilute over black, the black will be diluted to blue. Over good, black pigment, dilution can produce a strong gunmetal color in the hair that is VERY difficult to distinguish from undiluted black, and for all intents and purposes appears black, though you notice it shines blue in the sun!
How Do I Recognize Blue when it is over Black?
This can be a very difficult task! Many a blue with excellent pigment for a blue is mistaken for a normal pigmented dog with poor pigment, and left out of the points for no reason! First, look at the pigment on the lips. In a blue over black, this will take on a lavender tint. When you see this, look CLOSELY at the nose. On a normally dark pigmented dog, the nose will look normal until you really look. There will be a blue-gray cast to the skin on the nose, sometimes so dark that it is difficult to see until you are out in sunlight!
(If you are judging inside and in doubt, ask the owner- they should know! Remember blues are legal and no preference should be given for color!)
The rims of the eyes will have the same lavender cast. Do not be fooled by eyelashes or eye stripes that look black- they may be a gunmetal color so dark you will not spot it except for the blue shine produced in direct sunlight.
Hopefully this will help clear up some confusion!