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Shih Tzu Colors


Many Shih Tzu owners question the official color of their dog. A reason being that breeders may refer to a dog as having a certain coat, when in fact that dog will be recognized by the AKC or other major dog club as technically, a different color. 

Sometimes terms are made up (mostly to make it appear as if the pup is unique) but this does not help owners who want to know what color and markings their Tzu actually has. 

For example, a dog dubbed "Exotic Beige, white swirl" may sound appealing, but if one looked at the registration papers, White & Tan with black mask, may be what was marked off officially.
shih tzu colors-tri-colo
 Porter, first day home, Photo courtesy of Laura

AKC Recognized Colors of the Shih Tzu Breed

There are 8 solid colors:

1) Black - Solid black Shih Tzu are rare, however full black coloring does exist. For most, black will exist within a bi such as the lovely black and white, or tri color coat. Because liver colored dogs lack all black pigmentation, you will not see a true black dog with a liver colored nose.
2) White - While you see it every now and then, white Shih Tzu without a secondary color are rare. Most are white with one or two more of the accepted colors. 
3) Liver - A Shih Tzu is liver based on skin pigmentation. The coat may be any color at all. The dog has brown pigmentation on the nose, paws and eye rims.
4) Blue - Blue is a color given due to skin pigmentation. Only if the nose is blue, will this be the official color. Blue may also be on the eye rims and paw pads. 
5) Brindle - This is a combination actually, of a base coat with streaking
6) Gold - A tan - yellow, found commonly among Labrador Retrievers
7) Red - A very deep and dark orange
8) Silver - Gray/white but with a deep shine

There are also quite a few mixtures of 2 colors:
  • White and Black
  • White and Blue
  • White and Brindle
  • White and Gold
  • White and Liver
  • White and Red
  • White and Silver
white and gold Shih Tzu
This Shih Tzu has a white and gold coat. But notice the nose; it is liver. So, this dog is a liver with white and gold coat. BaRock, at 3 years old
Photo courtesy of Theresa Owens
With double colors, any color other than white may change as the Shih Tzu matures, and what started off as a small marking may spread into a secondary color. 
There are color codes for 3 colors (tri-color coat) though just about any 3 colors can show in the coat.
  • Silver, Gold and White
  • Black, Silver and White
  • Black, Gold and White
  • Black, Silver and Gold
Until a future time when more colors may become officially recognized and an owner is able to register their Shih Tzu with the color that they believe their dog is, one must choose from the above list. 

Do keep in mind that with all colors, there will be shading and deepness levels; thus any dog can be placed into one of these categories. 

It is very common for puppies to be one color, registered as that color and then have a color change as the puppy matures into adult dog. This is completely normal. A coat may lighten, darken, colors may come in or they may fade. Markings such as brindling may deepen or dull as the pup grows.
liver brown shih tzu
CoCo at 11 weeks old, Photo courtesy of Colleen
white and gold shih tzu
White and Gold
Emma, at 1 year, 10 months
Photo courtesy of Leevon Pilster
shih tzu dogs - one black-one-white.
Min Su (black ) Je Ju (white brindle )
Photo courtesy of Ron Hamilton
shih tzu white and silver.
White and Silver
Domino, at 5 years old
Photo courtesy of Adriana Verissimo
Niko, Photo courtesy The Mulcahey Family
chocolate Shih Tzu
Photo courtesy of Shih Tzu Milieu 

Explaining Chocolates

There has been some confusion among breeders, buyers and other regarding the chocolate colored Shih Tzu. The most recognized and largest dog club, the American Kennel Club, does not list chocolate as a standard or alternate coat.

A dog may be referred to as this color for reason of having a brownish coat. However, if the nose is brown (and most Tzu with brown coats do indeed have the brown nose), the dog will official be listed as liver colored both on registration papers and when shown at dog clubs.  If hypothetically, the nose were black, the dog would most likely be listed as a dark gold.

Understanding the Key of Pigmentation

When a dog is registered as liver or blue, this refers to the dog's pigmentation and not the color of the dog's coat.

Let's discuss:
  • The different colors of the Shih Tzu
  • What Liver and Blue really means
What Qualifies a Blue or Liver

A dog may be registered as blue or liver (which some call chocolate) because of the pigmentation of the dog's skin; not the coat color. Blue and liver dogs lack black pigmentation.

The pigmentation will be on what are called the points: the eye rims, nose, paw pads and lips.

A dog will be registered with the AKC as a "liver" or "blue" because of the pigmentation of the skin, however the coat can be solid white, a cream color, red, dark chocolate brown or any other color that exists within the breed.

Blue is a very rare color. Quite often this hue is misunderstood and for good reason. Blues will be so based on skin pigmentation, and this is a very dark steely navy that can look very much like black. Sometimes, it is only outside in bright sunlight that you will notice the blue tint. While many blue Shih Tzu will have some diluted black on the coat, the coat colors can be any combination. 
liver Shih Tzu with cream coat
Photo courtesy of Shih Tzu by Sharon
This Shih Tzu is a liver color - based on his liver nose- and has a beautiful gold coat.
Liver shih tzu with white coat
Photo courtesy of Shih Tzu by Sharon
This Shih Tzu is also a liver - based on the color of his nose - and has a gorgeous white coat.


One of our favorite colors to talk about is brindle. Though it is officially a 'color' it is actually a pattern.  Brindle refers to the striped mixture of light and dark hairs.  The amount of brindling on a Shih Tzu will vary. This little puppy has brindle on the ruff, front legs and a lesser amount going down the back.  

As this pup grows, this color pattern may come in stronger or fade away. That is what is so fun about this breed; you just never know which colors the adult Tzu will hold until the pup matures.
brindle colored Shih Tzu
Photo courtesy of Shady Elm’s Shih Tzu 
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