Multi-Color Poodles and Their Explanations
Here you will find a breakdown of multi-color Poodles! Multi-color refers to any Poodle that is more than one color at the skin. Multi-Color Poodles are recognized by the Poodle Club of America as purebred Poodles; however, PCA decided long ago that multi-color was a disqualification in conformation. This means that while multis are recognized as Poodles, they cannot compete in AKC conformation. Multi-colors can compete in all AKC performance events and can earn AKC sport titles as purebred Poodles. Multi's can show in venues such as the United Kennel Club (UKC), International All Breed Canine Association Inc. (IABCA), International Canine Kennel Club (ICKC), and a few others. In Europe they actually have their own multi-color kennel club shows! Clubs such as Continental Kennel Club (ConKC), Americas Pet Registry Inc, (APRI), and many, many others are not ethical clubs and they are not worth the paper pedigrees are printed on. Please do not be fooled by breeders trying to sell you dogs registered with these clubs. However, dogs registered or shown in the clubs above do not guarantee quality dogs or an ethical breeder.
UKC, the venue we primarily show in, has their own kennel club for multi-color Poodles called the United Poodle Association. Our breed standard is primarily identical to the PCA breed standard, but our breed standard allows for not only multi-colors, but we are allowed to show in multiple breed cuts besides the traditional puppy cut and continental cut. The UPA is so far the only club to take a public stand against merles.
Now, onto Poodle colors! Any photo of dogs that are not my own past/present are marked with credit to owners who have given permission for them to be used. Dogs posted either have verified testing results or are pedigree certified. Huge thanks to their owners and breeders!
Click here to go to a color genetics page that covers all breeds, but taught me a lot and helped me apply the all-breed knowledge to Poodles specifically. Not every color rule posted in the above website applies to Poodles (as we seem to break a lot of rules!), but it is a fantastic learning source that is far more educated than I am!
a locus- photo Kovu of Alue Poodles
Sable is a tricky one! It presents many different way in Poodles. Genetically, they can be either brown or black based; pheonotypically they can look silver based like Kovu and red based like the bottom dog in the above collage, or cream . A very typical expression of sable you will see is a dog with a solid cream body with brown and black tipped ears. Genetically, sable is "Ay" and is the dominant A locus gene. Since sable can present in so many ways, I always suggest color testing. Sable can also present in a "phantom" pattern like Kovu, but it is important to know that a dog cannot be both sable and phantom as they are both located on the A locus.
Sables (except for brown) should have dark eyes, and dark inky black pigment on their eyes rims, nose, lips, and paw pads. They should have black or self colored nails (for browns/reds that would be "liver" colored). Browns should have liver points, reds should have black points and dark eyes but can have liver points Apricots can have liver points with amber eyes but it is undesirable.
A locus- Photo Halo Alue Poodles
Phantom is one of the more straight forward patterns. Phantom is a recessive on the A locus. Phantom in Poodles is what other breeds call "tan points" such as the coloring on a Doberman. However, phantom Poodles can be many more colors than just black and tan! Poodles can be black/red, black/cream, blue/cream, brown/cream, and even silver! A phantom will have leg and chest markings along with a color break on their face with their base color and their point color (point color referring to the cream/red coloring on chest/eyebrows/etc), along with markings on their back legs and under their tail. Some phantoms will hold their pattern, others will fade.
In this collage we have two silver phantoms on the top, both actually related! Halo was thought to be a blue phantom when she was brought home, but as she has matured she has really silvered out. On the bottom we have an exciting new addition, a phantom parti! Phantom partis will only retain their phantom phenotype on their faces as the parti patern will generally block all other coloring out. While it isn't a true Poodle term, some will refer to phantom parti's as tri color. Next we have a brindle phantom and to round it out a brown and cream phantom.
Phantoms should have dark eyes and dark inky black pigment on their eye rims, nose, lips, and paw pads. Reds should have dark points, but may have liver though it is undesirable. Apricots are preferred to have dark points and eyes, but they are allowed to have amber eyes and light points. Brown phantoms will only have liver points. Brown dogs, solid or multi, can only have brown points.
And now the one everyone knows, onto Partis!! Parti means a dog that is 50% white with any other color. So, not only do you have solid colors like blue, black, silver, red, cream, apricot, brown, café, silver beige, but you can also have sable parti, phantom parti, and brindle parti! You will also hear people talk about tuxedos, and that just refers to how the secondary color pattern presents, they are still parti Poodles.
Partis should have dark colored eyes with dark inky black pigment on their eye rims, nose, lips, and paw pads. Partis will sometimes have what is called a white haw showing on their eyes, which is acceptable. They should have black or self colored nails. Brown partis should have liver points, red partis can have liver points but it is undesireable, apricot partis can have amber eyes and liver points, but that is not preferred.
the genetic locus for this is unknown
Seal is one of those patterns that very, very little is known about it. Most dogs who are seal test as dogs that shouldn't show any color patterns, so we aren't really sure which locus it comes from. What is thought about it currently is that it has a play on the K locus, the A locus, or a modifier that works on one or both. There are seal Poodles who have a brownish coat color but they will have dark eyes and dark inky black eye rims, nose, lips, and paw pads. Brown based seal Poodles will have brown points and self colored nails.
Agouti/Wild Sable "aw"
This is one you don't see often in Poodles, but that could purely be because it looks like sable and there are not many genetic companies that can test for the agouti gene. A wild sable Poodle will have banded hair strands, meaning the hair goes from a dark color, to a light color, to dark again. The difference between a sable and an agouti comes down to the banded hairs, because even normal sables can retain their nose band.
Black based sables should have dark eyes and dark inky black eye rims, lips, nose, and paw pads. Brown based should have liver points.
Recessive Black "a"
Recessive black is the last a locus gene and is also a recessive, it is simply "a" on genetic tests. Since it is the least recessive gene, if a dog has one copy it will still present the dominate pattern on the a locus; so for example, if a dog is Ay/a (sable and recessive black), the dog will still be visually sable. However, a dog born from two dogs that carry recessive black can be born solid black.
The dog pictured here is a solid born from two multi colors who both carry recessive black. Blue is the recessive to Black. Since this dog was born from two multis with the recessive "a", he will be able to produce multis and will only pass on one copy of "a" unless bred to another dog who carries "a", if that's the case there will be both multis and solids like this boy in the litter. Genetics are fun!
Brindle is a fun one, because it plays off the A locus patterns of sable and phantom! As I mentioned earlier, sable is Ay and phantom is at with brindle being kbr on genetic tests. So if you have a dog that is kbr/kbr (the first kbr is what the dog is, the second kbr is what the dog carries/can give to their offspring) and Ay, the dog can present as a solid brindle dog. If the dog is kbr/kbr and at, the brindling will be seen in the phantom points of the dog. It is unkown how a dog will present if kbr/kbr and aw, they could be either a solid brindle or only the red points could show brindleing. Brindle is typically red stripes on a black base, but in Poodles you can also have silver brindles.
Abstract dogs can have any amount of white that is under 50% of the dog. They can have any amount from just a white chin like the photo, to a white chest with white on legs/head as well, it just has to be under 50%. There is a common misconception with abstract marked dogs that they came from or carry parti (sp). This has been proven false through genetic testing and litters from other breeders. Abstract dogs can come from solid parents and not carry parti, or they can come from a parti/solid breeding and be S/sp, meaning they are not parti but can produce parti. There isn't much known about what exactly causes abstract markings, because those white spots aren't necessarily due to carrying parti in parti carriers.
This is a screenshot of Kovu's color testing results from Paw Print Genetics, I want to explain some things that aren't seen in pictures of the dogs themselves. To break down his results, we will start with the D locus.
Most Poodles will be D/D because it is quite rare for a Poodle to be dilute, but there are a few documented Poodles born dilute. Blue and silver do not play off the D Locus nor do they have anything to do with it.
The K locus is what determines what you see on the A locus. So as you can see, Kovu is ky/ky and Ay/at which is why you can see his sable. If he were KB/ky and Ay/at he would not show his sable, he would be solid colored. Ky is what allows the A locus to express itself. If Kovu was KB/ky, he himself would be solid but he would pass on a ky to his puppies giving them the chance to express their A locus.
Next we go to B locus which is black and brown. Kovu is B/b, which means he is black but carries brown. So to tie it together, if he were KB, he would be a solid black dog!
E locus is where our white/cream/red/apricot colors come from. He is not any of those and he cannot produce them. S locus is parti, he is not parti and he cannot produce it. I hope seeing this will help color genetics make some sense now! It's a very complicated subject but one that is very fun to learn about!