Not all colors and/or patterns are approved by AKC, but most are recognized and welcome at other registries. Some - like merles and brindles - are rather unusual and can be hard to find, but they are "out there".
This page is intended as a basic introduction to poodle colors for the pet buyer, without confusing the issue by throwing in technical [genetic] terms, using other breed specific names for similar colors, or by assuming you know [or your breeder knows] what colors the pup turns out to be as an adult.
This is to explain basic colors, without going into detail about genetics, or what certain gene combinations can do to certain colors. If you want more details about genetics, there are several very thorough websites discussing dog genetics on the web - google for them!
Gene dilution explain to a certain extend why sometimes puppies are changing colors when they mature, and what to expect in the adult color version. That said however - food quality, sun/water/chemical exposure and aging also influence the color of your dog, and to make matters even more confusing - in some cases the length of the hair does too :o). Click on the colored links for more details on those particular colors.
- phantom markings
- parti or tri colors
- mismarks [aka tuxedo or irish markings]
Chocolates Poodles are also often referred to as brown poodles.
All chocolates, cafe au laits and silver beiges are born various shades of chocolate brown and have brown nose, and pad pigmentation - the darker the more desireable. As the pups mature, the coat lightens - and this is where the confusion in the chocolate colors begins.
The first thing you need to understand, that all brown or chocolate poodles and their color varieties will lighten as they mature. I've been breeding poodles for 13 years at this time, and I have yet to see an adult chocolate poodle over 3-4 years of age that has kept his dark color. Keeping your chocolate poodle inside [lots of sunlight exposure, chlorine and seasalt water will fade them even faster] and top quality nutrition will help you preserve the rich color to an extent, but some fading is generally unavoidable unless you have the darkest chocolate poodle color to begin with.
Cafe au lait and silver beige pups are also born chocolate, but similar to silver and blue poodle pups, the knowledgeable breeder will be able to tell the color difference by the time the pup is 6-7 weeks of age and should definitely be able to give you an idea on the adult color shade by the time the pup is ready to go home around 8-10 weeks of age. In a nutshell - as there is a lot of differing and misleading information about these two color shades to be found - cafe au laits are milk chocolate shades as adults - think coffee with a lot of cream. Silver beiges often crop up in silver parented litters, and their adult color when clipped short is more of a silvery or lilac-ey shade of chocolate. Both colors are beautiful in the adults, and both offer a lot of color variation from long hair areas such as ears, topknot and tail pompom, to where the hair is clipped shorter on the body. In both - when the hair is long it is several shades darker than where clipped short, which can create beautiful visual effects if you have a knowledgeable groomer who can blend it just right.
Photo: red mini poodle boy @ 7 weeks
Red and apricot poodles often show up in the same litters, if the parents are red or colorbred apricots. You may also find apricot puppies in black and white parented litters. Ideally these pups have black noses and pigmentation, but on occasions you will find some with chocolate noses and lighter colored eyes, if they have chocolate or cafe au lait parents or ancestors.
One thing you will want to know - is that reds and apricots, especially the later - will lighten as they mature. They rarely keep the vibrant puppy color into adulthood, especially if they are from non-red or apricot and cream parents. You should - more often than not - expect for your apricot colored pup to lighten as it grows up and matures.
Some apricot puppies may fade so much, that they appear to be cream or even white at adulthood, after they have reached their adult color by the time they are 18 months or older. You can usually tell them apart as adults by the apricot guardhairs many continue to grow, when they have longer coats.
Phantom Poodles are poodles with red, tan, silver or cream markings on their points - eye brows, face + cheeks, legs + chest and underneath the tail area. This is a color pattern you're most likely associate with Dachshunds, Rottweilers or Doberman Pinschers and adds a gorgeous color contrast to your solid or parti colored poodle.
A tri-colored poodle is a parti colored phantom poodle [color + white + colored points].
Left: blue phantom poodle boy [body color will change to blue @ adulthood with cream phantom markings]
Photo: black mismarked puppy
This is where a lot of the nicest poodle color variations and blends tend to fall into - and where you run into most of the issues and problems with some of the older breed registries as lots of color combinations are not accepted for registry or show. For example the AKC still does not allow parti or tri colored poodles to be shown and finished - I clearly recall seeing Harlekin Pudels [which is what they call parti poodles in Germany] in my childhood in the 60ies back in Germany, so poodles in a variety of colors have been around a long time, even though they may not be acceptable in certain show registries. If you're looking for a pet poodle and family companion, don't let that mindset keep you from looking at non-traditional poodle colors.
Mismarks: are solid colored poodles in any color, that have white paws or toes, white on the chest and sometimes a white blaze. This color pattern is also often referred to as 'tuxedo markings". If they have considerable white on them - white legs, white belly, lots of white on face and chest, possible a white color - this is often referred to "irish markings" in some breeds, or bi-color.
Parti-color: is a predominantly white dog with colored patches or spots. I'm not sure about the correct percentages of white to color, but would say 75+% white or more would make it a parti color, rather than a bi-color. Partis can be stunning and come in all colors - but show best in the richer colors such as black, chocolate, red and dark apricots, not to say that silver partis or cafe au lait partis are not handsome to look at as well... The lighter the coat color, the harder it is to see the color effects of partis - a pale apricot parti or a cream parti really doesn't show its pattern very well.
Tri-color: is a parti colored dog that has cream, silver, tan or red points - kind of the icing on the cake if you want a multitudes of colors in your poodle child. They are always attention getting and tend to be stunners if properly kept and groomed.
This is another hard to find poodle color - we used to get the occasional brindle pup in both our toy and miniature poodle lines - from totally unrelated sires. Like the merle gene, this is a partially occuring dilution gene, and the coat pattern shows best in a short clip to show the different colors swirling into one another...