Color genetics are one of my favorite topics to discuss and with the Shih Tzu, the skies the limit when it comes to color variations. I have put together some visual aids to help you better understand each of these variations. I will try to explain this as simplistic as possible. Although there is so much research on coat, color and pattern genetics, I will only be addressing what is seen in the Shih Tzu. This is a work in process as there are so many differences, so please bare with me but for now here is what I have.
This is the list of colors and markings that AKC has for us to register our beloved breed under. S is for standard colors/markings and A is for alternate colors/markings. The code to the far right is what we would use on our registration paperwork. Although the Shih Tzu coat tends to change it's color as the puppy matures, it's the puppies coat color we use when we are registering our dogs.
|Black & White||S||019|
|Blue & White||S||045|
|Brindle & White||S||059|
|Gold & White||S||092|
|Liver & White||S||125|
|Red & White||S||146|
|Silver & White||S||182|
|Black Gold & Silver||A||235|
|Black Gold & White||A||310|
|Black White & Silver||A||033|
|Silver Gold & White||A||188|
~ With and without White Markings ~
~With and without Black Mask~
~ Skin pigmentation will look similar to the example above when the Shih Tzu has been shaved. Brindle is a dominant gene. Brindle truly is not a color but a marking and needs to be changed in the ASTC and AKC to reflect such a marking. Brindles can be found in every color of Shih Tzu. Gold brindles, red brindles, blue brindles, silver brindles, liver brindles and yes... black brindles too. ~
~With and without Black Mask~
~ Gold is a dilute of red. Gold is recessive ~
These colors are fun to work with, as you don't see them as often as you do the others. Many breeders today are specialized in these lovely colors. Although they are not considered common colors that we see in the Shih Tzu breed, they are also not "RARE" colors as some breeders would have you to believe. Please note that AKC deems ALL COLORS of the Shih Tzu equally under the breed standard.
Solid Silver ~ Silver/White
~Silver is a dominant gene. It only takes one copy to pass to the offspring. Many Shih Tzu's are born one color and change over to silver as they age. Solid blacks have the most dramatic change before they reach age 1. The G series is the same gene series responsible for age related graying.~
~ Dobie markings (Tan Points) are a recessive gene from the Agouti series (at). Both parents must carry the gene in order to produce "Dobie Marked" offspring. ~
~White or Isabella (cream) white colored Shih Tzu are Extreme Piebalds. The piebald is a recessive gene. Both parents must carry the gene in order to produce solid white colored offspring. ~
~ Grizzle, also known as Agouti in some animals is an ancient color in the Shih Tzu. Not to be confused with Brindle, as Grizzle does not have the common stripes we see in Brindle's when shaved down. When researching pedigrees, you will find this amazing color way back in generations of the pedigree. This is a beautiful color and seems to be slowly returning to our breed. Grizzle is a dominant gene ~
Solid Liver ~ Liver/White
~Liver will not have any black hairs or pigmentation. All liver colored Shih Tzu’s must have a chocolate nose, eye rims, lips and paw pads. Eye color will be green or copper. Liver is a recessive gene. Both parents must carry the gene in order to produce Liver colored offspring. ~
Sold Blue ~ Blue/White
~ Blue or also known as a Maltese Dilute is a dilute of black and will not have any black hairs or pigmentation. Some hair may look black but it will actually be a very dark gunmetal color. All blue colored Shih Tzu’s must have a blue/gunmetal color nose, lips, eye rims and paw pads. Eye color will be grey blue or light golden hazel. Blue is a recessive gene. Both parents must carry the gene in order to produce Blue colored offspring. ~
Common terms you will hear from a breeder when they are describing the markings on a Shih Tzu
Blaze ~ a white stripe running up the center of the face, usually between the eyes
Flare ~ a blaze that widens as it approaches the topskull.
Mask ~ dark shading on the foreface, including the muzzle up to the eye brows
Eye Stripes ~ dark shading from the corner of the eyes that resemble an eyebrow.
Collar/shawl ~ the marking around the neck. Usually white
Saddle ~ A large patch of color over the back., where a blanket or saddle would go. Not to be mistaken for the Tuxedo marked
Tuxedo ~ A "self" colored dog with a white patch on the chest (shirt front) and chin, and some white on the feet/toes/ The darker color extends down the legs to resemble the Tuxedo jacket.
Ticking ~ tiny spots that appear on the white marking of the body as the dog matures. This resembles the spots on a Dalmatian Dog
Now we are going to talk a little about coat length and textures along with a strange "Phenomenon" called a "Prapso" that happens from time to time. Most breeders either have not experienced it or have experienced it but don't wish to discuss it because it is a "fault" within the Shih Tzu breed standard. Even the breeder club has ignored it existence but we are going to discuss it at length because it deserves mentioning. If not to help explain a bit to those bewildered puppy parents that don't understand why their precious full blooded Shih Tzu's hair will not grow.
Cotton ~ a cotton coat is seen in the show ring more then any other. The cotton texture of the coat gives the Shih Tzu the soft, full, fluffy look we have come to love within our breed. Cotton coats require a ton of daily maintenance, as they can tangle and knot easier then the other two textures.
Silkie ~ a silkie coat is beautiful, soft and sleek. It still has the fullness of the cotton coat but the maintenance is so much less. Tangles seem to fall out. Brushing a few times a week will keep a silkie coat in great condition.
Course ~ This is the easiest to care for of the three coat textures. They don't seem to shed as much as the course hair keeps it trapped in the coat until brushed. Tangles and knots are almost non existent. There are drawbacks though. A course coat does not look full and may also look a bit ragged looking in comparison to the other two textures.
LENGTH: Long, Mid length and Prapso
There are 3 lengths in the coat of the Shih Tzu breed that most breeders do not discuss because two of those lengths are considered faults within our breed. Shih Tzu should have a Long coat that grows to the ground. Beautiful and flowing. The picture perfect show coat. Sadly though that is not always the case. Many times you will find "pet quality" Shih Tzu that have a coat that only grows to a mid length. These coats tend to have the courser textures. Although this is a great coat for a pet owner that wants the beauty of the Shih Tzu coat without the maintenance that goes with it, it is a fault. A mid length coat can be beautiful as long as it is kept trimmed to keep it from looking ragged. Major grooming on these coats are only needed a couple of times a year rather then every 6 to 8 weeks required on the cotton or silkie long coats.
The history of our breed shows that there were many breeds involved in their development. The intermixing of the Tibetan Spaniel with the Tibetan breeds Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu resulted in both the latter breeds birthing the occasional "Prapso"
This is a breeders nightmare but a pet owners dream. This strange phenomenon causes the hair on the Shih Tzu to stop growing. You can tell by the time the puppy reaches 4 to 6 weeks of age that there is a difference in appearance from a normal Shih Tzu puppy.
I would have never believed it if I hadn't experienced it for myself. I was horrified at what I had produced in my breeding program with these two beautiful AKC Shih Tzu parents that had never produced this with any other pairing but for some strange reason it occurred with this breeding. Although I am not completely sure why it happened, my guess would be that the pairing of these two dogs caused a double recessive gene to pop up in this breeding. (note to other breeders: Do not repeat the breeding of the two dogs that pulled Prapso pups. This is a fault and the Prapso pups should be sold on a LIMITED Registration, spayed/neutered, as they should not be bred).
A Prapso puppy won't only look different from the typical Shih Tzu but it is said to also be more intelligent, as it develops faster then it's Non Prapso litter mates. They are also more dominate in their personalities.
These lovely pups are a throw back to the Tibetan Spaniel. Giving the look of a Pekineses in the face and muzzle as a young pup but as the pup matures you can really see the Tibetan Spaniel in them. They do not require the grooming of their Non Prapso litter mates, which makes this a pet owners dream. They get the loving personality of the Shih Tzu without all the maintenance that is required.
There are breeders that specialize and breed these Prapso's on purpose. If that is what you are looking for, just look up the Non grooming Shih Tzu.
Here is an example of what a Puerbred "Prapso" Shih Tzu looks like as a puppy and an adult. Notice the lack of muzzle hair.
The more dominant genes carry or hide the recessive genes; therefore, it is a challenge to wrap your mind around planning the breeding for a specific color. However, if you think about the information, considering which genes are expressed as recessive or dominant genes, you can start to understand the ‘rules-of-thumb’ handed down from the old time breeders. “You don’t breed livers to livers” (double recessives). “Don’t breed parti-colors together because you may lose color” (increases chances to express ‘extreme white spotting’ that is the only other gene carried by the parti-color). ‘To maintain color, breed dark to dark” (allows for the expression of the Dominant black genes). In other words if you have a color you want to "lock in" breed that color back to the darkest shade of the color you are trying to produce or back to a black or black/white. This will help to bring out the vibrancy of a color and keep it from fading out.