Hair Colors of Shih Tzu Dogs
When a person first looks or think about a Shih Tzu dog or puppy, they see the gorgeous coats of
many colors characteristic of Shih Tzu Show Dogs. Unlike some breeds that are typically one color or
a variety of a few colors, the Shih Tzu come in an amazing array of rich colors. But with such a rich
variety of Shih Tzu Colors, color combinations and markings comes a great deal of confusion. In this
article about Shih Tzu colors, I will try to explain the many variations of colors that are present in the
breed today and help you decide on your perfect Shih Tzu color.
Shih Tzu puppies can be born with a solid coat of hair, a combination of two colors, or a mixture of
three colors. To complicate matters worse, Shih Tzu dogs can be registered with the American Kennel
Club, (AKC) based on the pigment of their skin rather than the color of their coat! Can the “experts”
make it any more complicated? Well, the short answer is yes and no. Understanding what is
considered a specific color can be even more difficult if you’re as nearsighted as me, so how does one
determine the color of a Shih Tzu dog?
If a puppy is going to be registered with the American Kennel Club, the breeder has a choice of eight
solid colors, seven varieties of two color combinations, four combinations of three or more colors and a
variety of different types of markings that occur with the combinations listed above. Let us start with
the solid colors. There can be eight solid colors from which to choose:
Solid Shih Tzu Coat Colors
- Black is the most dominant color and a true black Shih Tzu will have no other hair color. Even if there
is a small trace of another color, the dog will then be considered to have a combination of two colors.
All Shih Tzu dogs that have black hair will also have black noses. You will never see a Shih Tzu that is
all black with a brown nose. It does not exist.
- A White coat is similar to black in that it only has one color with no traces of any other colors. The nose
is black unless the dog is considered to be liver and then the dog will have a brown nose and be liver
- A silver color coat tends to look white with a deep shine resembling silver. It is not grey, but rather a
shiny, silky color. The dog will have black lips, pads, eye rims and a black nose.
- Red is a solid color that looks deep, dark, orange. The dog's nose and other points (eye rims, pads,
lips and nose) will be black.
- Gold solid resembles a tan-yellow
- Brindle is really a combination with one color and a streaking of another color running throughout such
as a gold-black brindle
- Liver is confusing because it is the color of the points (the dog’s nose, eye rims, pads, and lips and not
the actual coat color. Only when the points are a brown or liver color will the dog be labeled “liver.”
These dogs lack the black pigmentation of the skin. Their noses, pads on their feet and lips will be
brown, but their hair may have other coloring, from very light to deep chocolate and everything in
between. Livers can range from light red, orange, and cream coloration to deep chocolate. So, you
could have a white-liver, a cream colored-liver, a red-liver, or a chocolate liver. Some Shih Tzu dogs
may also have green eyes with this coloring, but not always. The liver color comes from a recessive
gene and for it to show up in a puppy, both mother and father must carry the gene.
- Blue is another confusing color. A true blue Shih Tzu will have a blue nose, but can have other colors
of hair. The color looks more charcoal and is often difficult to see except in natural light. Sunlight is
the best way to observe this rare color. This rare color comes from a recessive gene and it show up in
a puppy, both mother and father must carry the gene. So, if you are contemplating the purchase of a
true blue colored Shih Tzu, it is best to visit the breeder personally rather than depend on a photo on
Two Color Coat Color Combinations
There are seven varieties of colors that contain two combinations, a white with another color:
- White with black,
- White with blue,
- White with silver,
- White with red,
- White with gold,
- White with brindle,
- White with liver
Another combination of two colors includes dogs with red and gold colorations but this combination
does not appear on the official AKC Registration paperwork, even though it exists. When there are two
combinations, the color patterns can have endless possibilities. No two Shih Tzu with two colors will
ever look alike. Symmetry in color combinations is highly desirable, but not necessary.
Three Color Coat Color Combinations
Shih Tzu dogs can also have a combination of three colors. The most common combinations of these
1. Silver, Gold and White
2. Silver, Black and White
3. Black, Gold and White
4. Black, Silver and Gold
In addition to the solid colors, and combinations, certain markings on the fur can occur. Sometimes a
dog will have a black coloring of hair on his muzzle which may extend towards his eyes and on his ears
and even up towards his forehead. This is called a black mask.
A very rare colored marking called Dobie markings occurs when a puppy is born with tan markings on
an otherwise black or very dark coat. These markings can be found above the eyes, on the jowls, on
the lower legs, and under the tail. This is considered very rare and breeders will often sell these pups
at a premium.
Another interesting occurrence in hair color is black tips. When the puppy is born, the coat is one color
such as red or gold with black tips at the ends of the hair shaft. This occurs over the body and should
not be confused by the black that some Shih Tzu dogs have on their ears. This black tipping
disappears entirely after the puppy's first hair cut, but is very striking and beautiful when the dog is
young or if the dog remains in full coat.
Another interesting phenomenon of Shih Tzu coat colors is that they tend to change over time, most
will lighten somewhat. It is not uncommon to see a color marked on the AKC paperwork for a puppy at
8 weeks that is totally different from the reality of the adult coat color.
So how does one choose a color? It is really all about personal preferences. A light colored coat will
require more bathing and grooming. A white coloration on the face, around the muzzle or under the
eyes can stain easily and will require frequent washing. Products that eliminate tear stains may be
necessary in these light colored Shih Tzu. Chocolates are “hot” now and rare colors are more
expensive. Colors are beautiful, but hair and point colors are only “skin deep.” The true personality
and amazing characteristics of the breed goes deep and comes in any color!