Left: Bosco with choco highlights around his snout. His mom is red, the black coloring comes from his dad. His owners love his highlights and keep him in a mustache to show them off :o).
Some blacks are actually "grays" - courtesy of a different gene, and will have salt + pepper type hair mixed into their black coat. Their color will eventually fade, get grizzled and they may get gray muzzles early on.
Unfortunately - short of doing some genetic testing - you won't be able to tell while they are puppies or teens, and in many cases you won't be able to see the difference until the dog is hitting the 2-4 year range.
Some blacks get reddish or brownish highlights as they mature. This can be caused by two things - there is either chocolate, cafe au lait, red or apricot in the bloodlines or the dog spends a considerable amount of time outside in the sun or in a chlorinated pool.
If you are looking for a black poodle that stays black
- look for one that is color bred, meaning both parents are black and
out of black grandparents, and great grands. The entire litter should
have only black puppies in it, and the breeder breeds specifically for black poodles.
All silvers and blues are born black, even if they are out of silver parents themselves!
What does that mean?
As the puppy grows and the hair coat comes in, it will start showing the lighter coat underneath the black.
By the time a puppy is 6-7 weeks old, an experienced breeder can usually tell if it is a silver. Blues [dark gray] change colors slower than silvers, and it can take as long as 8-10 weeks, sometimes more - to be certain that a black puppy will be a blue instead.
Most silvers and blues have their final adult color by the time they are 15-18 months old. After every hair trim at the groomers, they come back lighter and lighter. Also with most silver and blues - when the hair is trimmed short, they appear several shades lighter than where the hair is kept long. In the hands of an experienced groomer this can make for some gorgeous color distinctions, playing with the different lengths of hair.
Most adult silvers are a medium gray color - similar to the color shades t-shirts come in. Platinum silvers are very bright silvers, blues are dark gray [pewter color].