Toy Shelties come in a variety of beautiful colors to appeal to every taste! From the ever-popular sable to the more unusual shades of merle and the new popular Color Headed Whites, all shelties colors come with that precious sheltie personality inside!
There are basically four colors; pure-for-sable Sable, mahogany or tri-factor Sable, Tri (black with tan highlights) and Bi-Black.
Each of those colors can have the Merle gene act upon it. When a merle gene is present we see; Sable Merles, Blue Merles (with tan accents) and Bi-Blues (no tan). Many merles have one or both eyes blue, some pure-for-sables/tris and cryptic merles are only differentiated by blue eyes or by the get the dog produces. Merle dogs should never be bred together because deafness and eye problems are very common in double merle dogs.
White-factor is another gene that acts in conjunction with base color. A white-factored dog usually has a full white collar and high white on its legs, many times coming up the stifle on the hind legs. The white markings on the face appear to be a separate gene. One can have heavily white-factored dogs with no face white.
If one breeds two white-factored dogs together, you may get a Color-Headed-White (CHW). These should not be confused with double-merles (which often are deaf and have blindness) and are completely healthy, just heavily white-factored. With buyers requesting full collars, more CHW are being produced than ever before.
White markings and color have no affect on your dog's intelligence, temperament or personality, it's all a personal preference. Don't pass up the perfect companion on white markings alone. Each sheltie has unique coloring, that's part of the breed we absolutely love! Embrace your dog's uniqueness and show it off!
We have seen occasionally an extremely loudly colored white-factored dog may carry health defects like double overo horses. In these dogs and these horses the digestive system may be not fully developed or incomplete. Most puppies without a fully formed digestive tract will die in the first 48-72 hours after birth. If the puppy you are considering is extremely small for its litter (a runt) or is small with much more white than its littermates, have that puppy fully examined before and after you get it but liscensed vets. Most breeders are agreeable to exchanges, refunds and replacements within the first 72 hours. After that window, few breeders will guarantee a puppy. Tiny size and lots more white than littermates may be nothing, or could be something - INVESTIGATE before you fall too deeply in love!!!!
Sheltie Coat Color Inheritance
Let's pretend that two genes explain the inheritance of Sheltie coat color (this ignores several complications such as variability in the extent of dark fur shading in Pure for Sable and Trifactored Sable Shelties). These two genes are 1) the gene for sable coat (with alleles for Sable , Tricolor [Black with tan points], and Bicolor [black without tan points]), and 2) the merling gene. This ignores the a number of complexities. We can ask what the coat colors would be expected in Sheltie puppies produced by different combinations of parents. For example, what happens when Trifactored Sable and Blue Merle Sheltie parents have a litter of puppies?
Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) puppies look like their parents, but not exactly. Sheltie puppies inherit characteristics from their parents. Individuals have an appearance (say a Sheltie with a Golden Sable coat). Individuals also have genes. Each Sheltie carries two copies of each gene, one from each parent. A gene often comes in two or more flavors (such as a gene for the extent of white in the coat that can make the coat mostly white, give large white patches in the coat, or produce the typical Sheltie white bib, neck, feet, and tip of tail). A Sheltie can thus have two copies of the gene with the same flavor (sable-sable), or two copies of different flavors (sable-bicolor). Sheltie Coat color is controlled by more than five genes, three of which are probably the most important.
Dogs, including Shelties, have several coat color genes. Two of these genes are named Agouti and Merle. You can use a Punnett Square to work out the crosses, and figure out what offspring the breeding of a particular Sheltie might produce.
Ignoring the extent of white in the coat, the standard hypothesis for the genetics of the most important coat colors in the Sheltie. This hypothesis is that one gene (the Agouti gene) has three alleles (Sable, Tricolor, Bicolor) and that this single gene controls both whether a Sheltie is sable or black, and whether it has tan points (Tricolors having a black coat with tan points). An alternate hypothesis is that two separate genes are involved. Under this alternate hypothesis, one gene (the Agouti gene) produces sable or black coat colors, while the other gene can produce tan points on black coats. Breeders have conflicting opinions about these hypotheses. We favor the hypothesis of a separate gene for tan points, but present the three alleles of Agouti here for simplicity.
Another complication is the extent of dark fur shading a sable coat. This trait is highly variable, and it is often unclear whether an individual with a shaded sable phenotype has a Pure for Sable or Bifactored or Trifactored Sable genotype.
For more details, see: Sheltie Coat Color Genes