an original script by
Sandra J. Russell
(Not to be reproduced in books, magazine articles, handouts, or on web sites without permission of the author, however, feel free to link to this site from your website.  All statements are my opinions on the subject and are not the reflection of any dog organization.)

Check out the color controversy in the Dachshund world  HERE.

Dachshunds in all three coats, longhair, smooth, and wirehair, come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.  The official AKC standard of the dachshund is rather vague about some colors and patterns and only tries to describe the most "predominant" ones.  This does not mean that other colors and patterns are not allowed, there's just no room to describe all of them and there is no disqualification for color.  This synopsis will not bore or confuse you with the genetics of color; there are plenty of books on the subject of dog genetics.  Rather, this is an attempt to merely describe the colors, patterns, and color terminology which can be so confusing to those just starting out in our wonderful breed.

Please remember one thing when looking at the bewildering array of colors and patterns available in dachshunds - NO color or pattern, or combination of patterns, is "rare" or "exotic" anymore.  Commercial puppy producers, puppy mills, and backyard breeders have been producing dachshund pups of every known color and pattern, and have been mixing coats, such as smooth and longhair, and patterns, such as dapple and piebald, for over 15 years now.  These poor-quality animals, often of questionable ancestry, are offered to the public at ridiculous prices - please do not show your ignorance by purchasing one of these pups.  Any dachshund with a double pattern like dapple piebald or brindle dapple, or which is labelled with some "cute" name like "cinnamon" or "American cream"  (pale red or cream with a liver, pink, or blue nose) has obviously come from a commercial puppy producer, puppy miller, or backyard breeder and is NOT a quality dachshund.  These puppy producers like to give weird names to these dilute colors like "cinnamon" or "blond" and charge exorbitant prices for them - don't be fooled into thinking you are purchasing something really rare or special - you're not.

A reputable breeder who is a member of the Dachshund Club of America will always provide puppy buyers with a sales contract which shows the puppy's color and/or pattern, among other things.  If you were not provided with this color/pattern information at the time of sale, or if the breeder has no clue, then you did NOT purchase a quality puppy from a reputable breeder.

Let's start with what the AKC dachshund standard calls ‘base' colors.  This term is rather misleading and should be more appropriately called ‘self' color.  The self colors in dachshunds are red, cream, black and tan, black and cream, chocolate and tan, blue and tan, Isabella (fawn) and tan, and wild boar.

1.  Red can refer to anything from a deep mahogany red, to a pale golden or yellow color, and all shades of brownish red in between.  Red dogs may be clear red, or may have many black hairs interspersed in their coats, particularly when they are puppies.  This is often quite prevalent on longhair dachshunds, leading many breeders to refer to these puppies as ‘sable'.  These are not sables - true sables are very rare and are discussed under "patterns".  The black overlay on red dogs may be quite heavy on the ears and along the top of the back. - this often fades as the dog grows up.  These dogs with heavy black overlays should be registered as ‘red'.
In wirehair dachshunds, the color referred to as ‘wheaten', is actually just a light red.

All true red dogs, no matter what their shade of coloring, always have brown eyes (the darker the better) and black noses and nails.  Occasionally, a brown dilution gene will creep in and cause the eyes to be hazel (greenish-brown), and the noses and nails to be brown or liver-colored.  These dogs do not have tan markings and are not chocolate dogs (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CHOCOLATE RED!!!) - they are red dilutes who may or may not carry the chocolate/tan gene.  They are not desirable in any breeding program because they will weaken the depth of pigment in all self colors and may carry some coat/skin health problems, depending on which dilution factors they carry.

It is not true that breeding true red dogs to true red dogs over many generations will cause diluted coloring and turn bright reds into yellows.

2.  True cream dogs do not have any reddish tint to their coats whatsoever.  They are a pure, pale, creamy buff color with dark brown eyes, and black noses and eye rims (nails may be black or brown).  They, too, may have varying amounts of black hairs interspersed in their coats.  Pale, cream-looking dogs with reddish tints to their coats (with or without brownish or pink noses and nails) that are advertised as creams by so many puppy mills and ignorant backyard breeders these days are really just red dilutes, not true creams, and there are no such colors as cinnamon or blond in correct dachshund color terminology.  These are color names made up by irresponsible breeders who want to make a profit on their poorly pigmented dogs.

True creams are usually born grayish black and gradually lighten to cream as they mature.  A puppy who is born cream-colored is normally nothing more than either a very dilute red (with greenish eyes and brown nails), or an e-red which will darken to clear orange red with dark eyes, brown nails and a putty gray nose.  So far, true creams only exist in the miniature longhair variety in the U.S., and they all have extensive English/British lines in their pedigrees.  If a dog advertised as a cream does not have a lot of British (UK) dogs in the first 3 or 4 generations of its pedigree, it can't be a true cream, as all of the true cream dogs in this country have come from England in the last decade.  However, even a dog with a lot of British dogs in its background may not be a true cream if it's nose and eye rims are not black or if it has any red shading in its coat.  Be aware that a lot of commercial puppy producers/backyard breeders in the U.S. have been importing poor quality creams from British puppy producers/backyard breeders for several years now and are advertising them as "English creams" and are asking astronomical prices for them.  Just because a dog has British/English creams in its background does not guarantee that it is a quality dog or that it is worth a lot of money.  There are no such things as "English" creams or "American" creams.   Cream is cream, period.   If the U.S. breeder does not show his/her breeding stock in AKC conformation shows, then the dogs cannot possibly be of top quality for either show or pet or worth a lot of money.

3.  A black and tan dachshund is shiny black with rich reddish-brown markings on his face, chest, all four feet, and under the tail.  Noses and nails are black, and the eyes should be dark brown.  Tan markings which are very predominant and/or pale red in color are not desirable, nor are smudgy markings with a lot of black in them which makes the dog appear solid black from a distance.

Black and cream dachshunds are identical to black and tan dachshunds except that the markings on the face, chest, feet, and under the tail are pure, pale cream instead of reddish-brown or tan.

It is not true that breeding black and tan dogs with correct reddish-tan markings together over many generations will result in the loss of the tan markings.  When dogs with smudgy tan markings are bred together over many generations, it might be possible to reduce the tan markings to the point where the resulting offspring appear to be solid black.  Genetically, these are not true solid black dogs, although they are often advertised as such by unscrupulous breeders.  These dogs are not desirable for show or breeding purposes because they will muddy any other colors they are bred to, and from an aesthetic point of view, the typical lively dachshund expression does not show up in a solid black face.

Occasionally, true solid black dachshunds (with no tan markings) do show up in the litters of commercial puppy producers and backyard breeders.  These may or may not be purebred dachshunds but they are not "rare" or "exotic" at all - simply incorrect according to the AKC standard.

4.  Blue and tan is the dilute version of black and tan.  The dog's main body color is an even steel bluish-gray, and he has tan markings in the same areas as a black and tan dog.  Often the tan markings are muted or have a bluish overcast due to the diluting factors.  Eye color is usually grayish as are the nose and nails.  Blue and tan dogs very often have coat problems known as Color Dilution Alopecia (or CDA) such as very thin coats (this hair loss, or alopecia, often does not show up until the dog is 2-7 years old), and skin that is subject to allergies and infections.

It is hard to breed a truly handsome blue and tan dog with a good coat, so very few of them are seen in the show ring, although a lot of them show up on commercial puppy producer web sites as it seems to be the latest "designer" color (heaven knows why).  Most blue/tan dogs will have a very sparse hair coat by the time they are 7 years old.  There is abundant anecdotal evidence from long-time breeders of blue/tans and Isabella/tans that these dogs are very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and cannot live outside at all.  They tend to sunburn easily, are very prone to developing skin cancers, and they also seem to have compromised immune systems.  Vaccine failures are common with dilues and few dilutes live to old age.  

5.  Chocolate and tan dogs have the same tan markings as black and tan dogs, but their main body color should be a rich Hershey chocolate-brown color.  Dark eye color is preferred, but hazel eyes are often seen with this color and are acceptable, and noses and nails are usually liver-colored.  Pinkish-brown noses and pale green eyes are not desirable as they may indicate the presence of excessive dilution factors.  Chocolate and tan dogs often "sunburn" in the summer after spending many hours outdoors, and the tips of the hairs along the neck and back turn an unattractive, dull reddish color.  This will go away when the dog sheds and a new coat comes in.

Occasionally, solid chocolate dachshunds show up in the litters of puppy millers, backyard breeders and commercial puppy producers.  Again, such a dog is very incorrect and unattractive, and it's ancestry is questionable.

6.  Isabella and tan is the dilute version of chocolate and tan.  The dog's main body color is a silvery-fawn color, similar to a fawn Doberman Pinscher or a Weimaraner, and he has tan markings in the same areas as black and tan dogs.  These tan markings may be very pale and hard to see due to the dilution factors.  Eye color in Isabella and tan dachshunds is usually a pale grayish-green, and nose and nails are pale pinkish-chocolate.  These dogs almost invariably have coat and skin problems as adults (see CDA in #4), which is probably why you never see this color in the show ring.  This color is quite popular with puppy mills and commercial puppy producers/backyard breeders, however, even though the new owners will often be condemned to a lifetime of misery with such pups.  Life span WILL be shorter in this color.

7.  It is debatable as to whether wild boar (or "agouti") is a color or pattern.  Most body hairs on a wild boar appear to be banded with three or more colors or shades.  Wild boar is most common in wirehair dachshunds, but can occur in smooths as well.  Red wild boars are the most common.  Dilution factors or the chinchilla gene may produce some of the silvery fawn-looking wild boars which are seen occasionally.  Wild boar may actually be the same as the sable pattern in a longhaired dachshund - this is currently a topic of discussion among dachshund breeders.

Now, let's address Dachshund patterns - dapple, double dapple, brindle, piebald, and sable.  Any pattern may be superimposed over any of the self colors described above.  It is also possible to have more than one pattern on a dog, but no reputable breeder combines patterns Any dapple piebald dachshund puppy has clearly come from a puppy mill/commercial puppy producer or backyard breeder.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) will not register more than one pattern, so it is impossible to track color ancestry correctly with multiple-patterned dogs.  It must be remembered that conformation and temperament are much more important than how many patterns a dog has.  It is highly irresponsible for any person calling himself/herself a ‘breeder' to just breed for ‘exotic' colors or pattern combinations.

1.  Single dapple dachshunds exhibit patches of lighter color intermingled with patches of the self color, sometimes with a patch of white hair on the chests.  The dapple gene in dachshunds is the same as the "merle" gene which is seen in Australian Shepherds and Collies.  Black and tan dapples, often incorrectly called silver dapples, have patches of silvery colored hair mixed in with areas of black hair, giving the dog an overall mottled appearance.  Sometimes the areas of black hairs may be greatly reduced in highly patterned dogs, but if even one black hair is present, the dog should be registered as a black and tan dapple.  If the dapple pattern should occur across the face, one or both eyes may have blue speckles or may be entirely blue.  In chocolate and tan dapples, areas of yellowish hair occur along with patches of chocolate hair.  Red dapples are very often hard to distinguish, because the pattern of lighter red patches is often not very distinct, and fades with age.

The dapple gene is a semi-dominant gene, which means that one parent must have the dapple pattern in order to produce a dapple puppy.  Two solid, self-colored dogs cannot produce a dapple.  A dachshund is considered to be a dapple if it has even one tiny dappled patch on it.  Sometimes this dappled patch is only noticeable when it is a puppy, usually on the ears or belly, and often fades away with age.  This dog should still be registered as a dapple, because it will produce some dapple puppies when bred to a dog with no pattern present.

2.  Double dapple dachshunds usually have large areas of white on their bodies in addition to the self colored and dappled patches.   A black/tan double dapple will have patches of mixed steel blue, black, and silver on a white background.  Double dapples' eyes may be completely blue, and they may have white blazes on their heads, white tail tips, and extensive white on their feet, bellies, and sides.  Ticking (small dots of color on the white areas) may be present, too.  Only experienced breeders should attempt double dapple breeding, as deaf and partially deaf puppies may result from this breeding.  Reduced eye size and missing eyes are not that uncommon, either, in double dapples.  Double dapples are produced when two single dapple dogs are bred together, although the entire litter will usually not be double dapple.

3.  Brindle is not a common pattern in dachshunds, unlike in other breeds such as Boxers and Whippets, although they are seen in the show ring from time to time.  In brindle dachshunds, dark stripes, like a zebra, are superimposed over the dog's self color.  A red brindle will have blackish stripes all over its body, while a black and tan brindle may only show the brindle pattern in its tan markings, because the dark stripes would not be visible against the dog's black coat.  A chocolate and tan dog cannot produce black pigment, so the stripes on a chocolate and tan brindle will be chocolate, and will only show up in the tan markings as well.  One parent must be a brindle in order to produce a brindle puppy.

4.  True sable is probably the rarest pattern of all and perhaps the most difficult pattern to describe. Many people mistakenly call a red dog with a heavy black overlay a sable.  This is incorrect; the dog should be registered as red with no pattern.  A true red sable is so dark it almost looks like a black and tan from a distance.  All body hairs, except on the face and feet, are banded with two colors, the self color occurs closest to the dog's body while the darker color occurs near the hair tip.  The face and feet are usually just the dog's self color.  Therefore, a red sable will have body hairs which are red near the base and black near the tips, and a red face and red feet.   One parent must be a sable to produce a sable pup.  As mentioned earlier, wild boar may be the expression of the sable pattern in a wirehaired dachshund.

5.  Contrary to the advertisements by many slick puppy mill/commercial puppy producer web sites, the piebald (or spotting) pattern is not rare anymore.  Piebalds have been bred extensively by puppy mills across the country for over 15 years.  Do not be led into paying exorbitant prices for a pattern which is just not that uncommon.  However, GOOD piebalds that truly look like Dachshunds ARE rare.  Piebald is not a pattern which is described by the AKC Official Standard of the Dachshund, but it is an old pattern which has existed from the breed's early origins.

Piebald is simply a white-spotting pattern superimposed over any self color; there is no variation in the color of the solid spots or patches as there is in dapple Dachshunds.   True piebalds never have blue eyes,  always have white tail tips, and never have shading within their body spots.  The amount of white on a piebald is variable, ranging from a full or partial white collar, white chest, belly, and feet, and a white tail tip (often incorrectly referred to as "Irish spotting"), to an almost pure white dog with a patch of color on the head and at the base of the tail (often called "extreme piebalds").  This wide range in the amount of white on a piebald is simply part of the piebald pattern and all variations are acceptable, although from a health standpoint, dogs with a lot of white on the head, and particularly, the ears, are not desirable as there is the possibility of deafness due to lack of pigmentation in the inner ear canal.  However, a dog with a solid colored head and ears, but with a nearly all-white body, can hear just fine.

Be aware that dapple piebalds bred by irresponsible people can look very similar to true piebalds, although the dapple shading usually shows up in the spots.  Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to know the genetic background of the parents.  Watch out for hearing defects in such puppies, especially if they have a lot of white on the ears, head and body.

Black and tan piebalds have solid black body patches on a white background, but they may have tan markings, or spots, where tan markings would normally occur on a self-colored dog, such as the face, feet, and under the tail.  It is incorrect to refer to black and tan piebalds as tricolors.  Red piebalds have solid red spots, sometimes with intermingled black hairs, on a white background.  Occasionally, a red piebald may appear to have a black spot on its back when young.  It must be remembered that solid red dogs often have black stripes down their backs as pups which fade with age.  This so-called "black" spot on a red piebald will also fade and turn mostly red as the dog matures.  There simply is no such thing as a "tricolor"  in Dachshunds as there is in Beagles and Basset Hounds.

When ticking is present, tiny dots of color appear on the white areas, varying in amounts from a few single dots to an abundance of dots which run together to form a roaning effect, similar to that seen in English Setters and German Shorthair Pointers.  Ticking is just a part of the piebald pattern and any amounts, or none at all, are acceptable.

Piebald is a true recessive gene meaning that both parents must be piebald, and/or carry the piebald gene, to produce a piebald pup.  True piebald bred to true piebald always produces an entire litter of piebald pups.  Occasionally, a puppy will be born out of two self-colored parents (with no piebald background whatsoever) that will show white on its chest (most common), toes or feet (next most common), belly, throat, face, and/or tail tip.  This is NOT a piebald; it is a mismarked solid-colored dog exhibiting what are referred to as "minus" factors - little understood genetic factors which affect the amount of pigment in the coat.  These minus factors are independent of the piebald gene and can occur with any self color.  This pup should be registered as just plain red or black and tan, or whatever self color it may be, with NO pattern.

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