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Color Change

Shih Tzu Color Changes


It is very common and just about expected for Shih Tzu to change colors as they mature. This can take first time owners off guard and it often results in some Shih Tzu appearing to be a different color than what is listed on their registration papers. 

Let's take a look at some fun facts about how Shih Tzu puppies and dogs change colors and then we'll go over some great examples.

Color Change Facts

1) Color is predetermined genetically. However, what you see when a Shih Tzu is a newborn and then a young puppy is not his final genetic color. 

2) Most of the time, final color can be seen at about the 1 year mark; though smaller less dramatic changes may still take place over the years. In some rare cases, surprise changes can take place much later, well into the adult years.

4) Not every Shih Tzu will have a color change, but most will. It can range from very slight such as a patch of color darkening or be very dramatic such as completely new colors coming in or a certain color fading away to be replaced by another.

5) Color changes can take place during the newborn phase and for this reason the AKC allows a breeder to make changes to a dog's color listing on his/her AKC registration up to 3 times. 

6) Just about any color change can take place. Colors can lighten, darken, just a few hairs can turn into much larger patches, a certain color on a double color coat or a tri color coat can completely fade away, etc. The only limits on what cannot occur would be colors genetically ruled out (not in the dog's bloodline). 

7) There is nothing that can be done to stop a color change, so do know this if you fall in love with a certain color on a Shih Tzu puppy; most likely he or she will indeed look different as they mature. The good news is that all Shih Tzu look just as beautiful as before or even more so!

8) Aside from natural color changes with this breed, there are also other elements that can cause the coat to become tinted differently. The most common cause is excessive sunshine; too much sun exposure can cause a 'sun burning' most often seen with darker colors; they can take on a red tint. In some cases, tones will change seasonally, with slight differences seen from winter to summer and back again. This may be minor and only noticed when looking back at photos.

To prevent tinting changes due to sunlight, use a quality leave-in spritz. A good leave-in product will also help prevent tangles, static and contact friction which can lead to split ends.

Examples of Color Changes

Now that we've gone over some color changing facts, let's take a look at some adorable examples of how a Shih Tzu's coat can change over time:
New patches of color can come in: Here we see an amazing example of how another color can come in, completely changing the coat. This is Sophie; as a newborn she had a mostly white body, with chocolate brown on her head. Then jump ahead one year and this Shih Tzu now has that gorgeous brown spread over her saddle and down her flanks. 
Photo courtesy of Donna Kirkpatrick
The entire coat can change: This is a great example of how drastically the coat can change; in this case to a much lighter color. Kierks is a liver (the nose is brown) and livers have coat colors that are in the tan to brown range; this can either be solid or parti such as tan/brown and white. 

As a young pup of 8 weeks old, this Shih Tzu was a rich chocolate brown; though there were some highlights in his coat, you'd never suspect that he would have such a transition (unless, of course, you were the breeder and expected this coat change based on the sire and dam). 

In the second photo, Kierks is a new dog! The coat is now a lovely light gold and even his liver (brown) nose has lightened. 
example 3- brown shih tzu puppy
example 5 brown shih tzu adult
Photo courtesy of Katie 
Changes can be dramatic and then take a huge turn at a later age: You'll love this amazing color transformation (on mobile, see photos below). This is Molly over the course of 6 years. As you can see, at 6 months old she was a dark brindle. At 9 months and then 1 year old the brindle lightened up quite a bit and she still had her black mask.

At 3 years old, though the sun is shining on her in this photo, her coat had indeed lightened even more. In most cases, this would be the end of the color change. 

But, what happened? You may wonder if this really is the same dog and we can assure you that it is. At 6 years old, Molly is now a dark brown. Most of the brindling has grown off. The lighter hues are gone. 

Magician? Quick change artist? Nope; it's just the awesome color changes that can happen with the Shih Tzu breed. 
6 months
Shih Tzu coloring at 6 months old
9 months
shih tzu coloring at 1 year
3 years
6 years
Photos courtesy of Rickey Ward
Brindle can change from brown to gray - While the previous Shih Tzu showed amazing coat changes, here's another great example of how brindle can change; in this case from browns to grays.
Riley as a young pup, snuggling with his mother.
Photos courtesy of Christine Wyman
Riley now at 16 month old. Isn't this amazing?
Colors lightening can run in the family. Here we see sisters Laizy (left) and Gorda (right).
Shih tzu coloring before pic-01
This is a wonderful example of how color is predetermined and genetic. These siblings have dark bands of color as newborns. 

Jump ahead 5 months and both of these Shih Tzu have had similar changes, with those dark colors transitioning to a lighter color. The mask has stayed in place (it usually does), the legs and chest are white, and ears are just about the same. However, dark colors are now a softer hue. 
Photos courtesy of Ruth Quinones
Shih tzu coloring after pic-01
More Information

Oh, what would we do without the lovable personality of the Tzu! However, as all Tzu owners know, this breed can be a bit challenging with particular behavioral issues, training, grooming and health care. Take a moment to see what's inside the most comprehensive Shih Tzu book that exists. Now in both hard copy & eBook.
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