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Sheltie Colors: Rarest to Most Common Coats (2024)

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do shelties change colors shetland sheepdogsImagine the enchanting sight of a Sheltie, with its fluffy coat and captivating colors. These lovely creatures come in a range of hues that can vary from the rarest to the most common shades.

In this article, we will delve into the mesmerizing world of Sheltie colors, uncovering their genetic origins and explaining why certain coats are more elusive than others. Whether you’re an avid admirer or considering adding one to your family, understanding these color variations will deepen your appreciation for these remarkable dogs.

Key Takeaways

  • The merle gene causes mottled patches and can dilute to a gray-blue coat color.
  • Breeding two merle Shelties can result in double merle offspring with severe health issues.
  • Blue merle Shelties often have differently colored eyes and vision/hearing issues.
  • DNA tests can detect if a cryptic blue merle Sheltie carries genes for other coat colors.

What Are Shelties?

What Are Shelties

  1. Shelties are a nickname for the Shetland sheepdog breed, known for their intelligence and versatility.

These dogs have been bred to be excellent herders and companions, making them popular choices as family pets.

They come in a variety of coat colors, including blue merle, sable, bi-black, tri-colors (like black with tan or white markings on the chest and legs), mahogany sable (a deep reddish-brown color), pure sable (a lighter brown shade without any black hairs).

As far as shedding goes it’s not excessive but they do shed moderately year-round so regular grooming is necessary to keep their coats looking beautiful.

In terms of training shelties are highly trainable due to their high intelligence levels but also because they enjoy learning new things which makes them very receptive during training sessions.

Colors of Shelties

Colors of Shelties
Shelties come in a variety of coat colors, ranging from rare to more common options.

  • Bi-blue or double merle is the rarest coat color due to the recessive genes required.
  • Pure sable, mahogany sable, blue merle are less common.
  • Tri-color and bi-black are the most prevalent coat colors seen.

The different colors are produced by 11 genes that determine pigmentation as the Sheltie matures. Merle patterning, caused by a color modifier gene, produces the blue merle and bi-blue coats.

All Shelties shed seasonally and require regular grooming to maintain coat health. Their luxurious double coats also demand daily exercise for optimal shedding. Responsible breeding is crucial, as mating two merle Shelties can result in vision and hearing impairments in offspring.

Rarest to Most Common Sheltie Colors

Rarest to Most Common Sheltie Colors
When examining Sheltie coat colors, the rarest are double merle or bi-blue due to the recessive genes required.

Next in rarity comes pure sable, mahogany sable, blue merle, and tri-color coats before reaching the most prevalent bi-black Shelties.

Understanding the genetics behind Sheltie coat color expression aids breeders in producing healthy litters.

Double Merle

When breeding two merle-coated shelties, you risk producing double merle puppies with severe health issues from incomplete development of the eyes and inner ears. This can cause vision and hearing impairments. Responsible breeders avoid merle-to-merle pairings.


You’ll rarely come across a bi-blue Sheltie due to a genetic mutation.

They’re rare and have potential health risks, requiring special grooming due to their shedding.


Having a solid black coat with tan markings, bi-black Shelties are one of the more common coat colors you’ll find.

Their bi-black gene produces a black coat with rich tan accents.

Shedding and grooming needs are typical for the breed.

Blue Merle

Continuing from the previous discussion on Sheltie coat colors, let’s delve into the fascinating world of Blue Merle – a rare to common shade found in Shetland sheepdogs.

Explore their unique blue merle coats, captivating blue merle eyes, and learn about grooming and shedding.

Discover where to find adorable blue merle puppies.


As we continue our discussion on Sheltie colors, let’s now explore the tri-color coat, which ranges from the rarest to the most common among Shetland sheepdogs.

Tri-color markings are a combination of black, white, and tan on a Sheltie’s coat.

The tri-color coat is characterized by distinct patches or areas of each color.

Tri-color puppies often have more variation in their markings compared to adult dogs.

tri-color markings, tri-colored coat, tri-colored puppies

What Causes Rare Sheltie Colors?

What Causes Rare Sheltie Colors
Rare Sheltie colors, such as bi-blue or double merle, are caused by specific genes that determine the coat color of a Shetland sheepdog. These rare colors emerge due to recessive genes or mutations in the genetic makeup of the breed.

The dilution gene plays a role in creating unique coat colors like blue merle, which is diluted to gray-blue with mottling.

Sheltie Coat Color Genes

To understand what causes rare Sheltie colors, let’s delve into the genetics behind their coat color.

Shelties have 11 genes that determine coat color as they mature.

The merle gene causes mottled patches of color and can dilute to gray-blue.

Breeding two merles risks double merle puppies with health issues from lack of pigment development.

The merle mutation randomly inserts in litters.

Its variegated expression depends on other interacting genes inherited from parents.

Cryptic merles silently carry the gene.

Through selective breeding, ethical breeders try to avoid its harmful effects.

Color Dilution Gene in Blue Merle Shelties

Your Sheltie’s diluted gray-blue coat with merle mottling comes from a special color modifier gene that lightens the base color.

  • Color variation in the coat
  • The merle coat pattern
  • Changes in eye color

The merle gene produces the desirable dilute coloration but can also lead to health risks if two merle dogs are bred.

Blue Merle Shelties Can Have Different Color Eyes

Blue Merle Shelties Can Have Different Color Eyes
These Shelties often have at least one blue eye, while your other peeper is typically brown. Blue merle Shelties inherit a special color modifier gene that results in diluted gray-blue coats with merle spots.

Eye Color Frequency Health Impact
Blue Common None
Brown Common None
Partial blue Uncommon Vision deficits

The merle gene causes random deactivation of pigment cells in the iris during development, leaving some areas blue. Most blue merle Shelties have normal vision, but partially blue eyes may indicate underlying issues.

Responsible breeders screen pairings to avoid exaggerating health problems. Loving families welcome blue-eyed beauties of all colors.

Bi-Blue Shelties Also Have the Merle Gene

Bi-Blue Shelties Also Have the Merle Gene
You’re looking at a bi-blue Sheltie when you see a dog with the merle gene from both parents.

  • Bi-blue Shelties have a dilute coat color caused by inheriting two copies of the merle gene, one from each parent.
  • Their coat is pale, with patching of gray, white, or very light tan.
  • Bi-blue Shelties often have vision and hearing problems due to issues with eye and ear development.
  • Grooming bi-blue Shelties requires diligence to prevent skin problems that may result from their incomplete color pigmentation.
  • With thoughtful breeding practices and good care, bi-blue Shelties can still live happy 12-15 year lifespans.

Breeding Two Merles Creates Double Merle Shelties

Breeding Two Merles Creates Double Merle Shelties
When two merle Shelties are bred together, the result is the creation of double merle Shelties. However, breeding two merles can lead to serious health problems in these puppies.

Double Merle Shelties often suffer from incomplete development of the eyes and inner ear nerve endings while growing in the womb. As a result, they’ve an all-white coat and frequently experience severe health consequences.

The prevalence of double merles is relatively low due to responsible breeders avoiding this type of breeding combination. It’s important for potential owners to be aware of these risks before considering getting a double merle Shetland Sheepdog as a pet.

Alternatives include adopting or purchasing single-merled or non-merled sheltie puppies that don’t carry the same risk for genetic disorders associated with being born from two parents with a dominant color modifier gene like blue merle.

Blue Merle Shelties Can Be Cryptic

Blue Merle Shelties Can Be Cryptic
If you’re considering getting a blue merle Sheltie, it’s important to be aware that these dogs can sometimes exhibit cryptic coat colors.

Here are three key things to know about the cryptic nature of blue merle Shelties:

  1. Merle Gene: Blue merle Shelties carry the merle gene, which is responsible for their unique coat color pattern. This gene causes irregular patches of diluted gray-blue on a base color.
  2. Coat Color Expression: Sometimes, the expression of this gene in blue merles can be subtle or barely visible, leading to a more cryptic appearance where the typical patchy pattern may not be as apparent.
  3. DNA Test: To determine if your blue merle Sheltie carries the hidden potential for other coat colors or patterns associated with the presence of additional genes, such as bi-black or bi-blue coats, consider conducting a DNA test specific to identifying these variations.

Understanding how genetics play into coat color expression and using appropriate genetic testing methods can help breeders and owners make informed decisions regarding breeding practices and ensure healthy outcomes for their beloved pets.

Blue Merle Shelties Compete in Conformation

Blue Merle Shelties Compete in Conformation
Transitioning from the previous subtopic of Blue Merle Shelties being cryptic, let’s now delve into the world of Blue Merle Shelties competing in conformation.

In dog shows, these stunningly colored Shetland Sheepdogs showcase their elegance and grace through showmanship. With their unique coat coloration diluted to gray-blue with merle mottling, Blue Merles attract attention and admiration from judges and spectators alike.

While participating in obedience trials or agility courses, they display their intelligence and athleticism by following commands with precision and navigating obstacles with agility.

Rally competitions test their versatility as they demonstrate obedience while performing various exercises based on signs placed throughout a course.

Additionally, tracking events allow these remarkable dogs to showcase their exceptional scenting abilities as they follow tracks laid out for them to find hidden objects or individuals.

Through these competitive endeavors, Blue Merle Shelties captivate audiences with both beauty and talent.

Where to Find Blue Merle Sheltie Puppies?

Where to Find Blue Merle Sheltie Puppies
To find Blue Merle Sheltie puppies, you can start by:

  • Checking with reputable breeders.
  • Contacting local Shetland Sheepdog clubs.

Reputable breeders are a good source because they have experience and knowledge about the breed, ensuring that the puppies come from healthy bloodlines. They’ll also be able to provide information on health concerns specific to blue merle shelties and help you understand their temperament.

When looking for a breeder, make sure to:

  • Ask about the price range of their puppies.
  • Inquire about any grooming needs these dogs may have due to their luxurious double coats.

Additionally, it’s important to consider exercise needs when bringing home a blue merle sheltie puppy as they’re an active breed that requires regular physical activity for optimal health and happiness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

At what age do sheltie puppies get their adult coats?

Most sheltie puppies begin growing their adult coats around 3-5 months of age.

The puppy coat sheds out and is replaced by the longer, fuller adult coat over several months.

This coat change involves a transition period where old and new hairs mix.

Full adult coats are usually present by 1 year old.

The changes happen gradually, so be patient during this messy but normal process.

How often should you bathe or groom a sheltie?

You’ll want to bathe your Sheltie every 2-3 months.

Brush them 1-2 times per week to prevent mats and keep their coat clean.

Check their skin while grooming to spot any issues early.

Frequent brushing keeps their fur healthy.

Are shelties good with children?

Yes, shelties are typically very good with children.

They tend to be gentle, energetic, and eager to please.

Their herding instincts make them attentive playmates who enjoy running around.

However, supervision is still important, as shelties may sometimes nip while playing.

Set clear boundaries, and they’ll likely become a child’s best friend.

What health issues are common in the sheltie breed?

Common health issues in Shelties include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye problems like progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Epilepsy
  • Allergies

They’re also prone to dental issues and weight gain.

Have a vet monitor your Sheltie for these conditions to catch problems early.

How much exercise does a sheltie need per day?

You need to provide your Sheltie with 30-60 minutes of exercise per day.

  • Take them on at least one brisk walk,
  • Plus periods of active play.
  • Mix up activities to keep their mind engaged too.

Satisfying their exercise needs will help avoid problem behaviors arising from pent up energy.


As you gaze upon a captivating Sheltie, this dazzling display of rare coats leaves you spellbound. Their lustrous hues—from the elusive double merles to the mesmerizing blue merles—result from distinctive color genes.

Through understanding the genetics behind these shades in your remarkable Shelties, you’ll only deepen your admiration for their beauty as their fluffy coats entrance you.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.