A brindle dog has brown fur with distinctive dark flecks. Brindle dogs are usually short haired, but you can get long haired breeds too. The brindling pattern can be all over their bodies, or just on certain parts, such as their heads. Today we’ll look at what causes brindle coat colors and whether there are any health issues associated with brindle dogs.
Brindle patterns are caused by the interaction of the Agouti gene with various other genes.
What is a Brindle Dog?
The term ‘brindle’ refers to a coat pattern. It appears as darker irregular stripes or spots over the base color of your dog. Interestingly, this pattern can affect lots of different animals! Dogs, cattle, guinea pigs, and even horses! This pattern also goes by the name ‘tiger striping’.
Although the top is usually darker, the base color is generally not much lighter than the stripes. For example, brown stripes could appear on a lighter brown coat. It can be a subtle but interesting pattern.
Brindle Dog Genetics
Dog coat color is based on a number of different genes that control two pigments: pheomelanin (red-yellow) and eumelanin (black-brown).
Dog coat color genes don’t just switch specific colors or patterns on and off individually. They also switch other pattern and color genes on and off too! So to be brindle requires a brindle gene, and a specific type of Agouti gene.
But, even with this combination present, the brindle will be switched off if another gene known as ‘dominant black’ is present!
The Agouti Gene
The Agouti gene is one of the most important genes involved in coloration.
It switches on and off the red and black pigments in dogs. A particular combination of Agouti genes can even give rise to tricolor dogs! And different Agouti combinations determine how the brindle shows up in dogs.
Difference in Gene Expression
Genes can act differently in different dog breeds. So, it can be hard to predict what dogs with brindle coats will look like until they grow into their fur. There is still a lot of research to do. We don’t yet know how to genetically test for the brindle coloring. And it’s still unclear what controls the various aspects of brindle, such as stripe width.
We do know some things, though. Researchers have discovered which gene determines color intensity. Plus, we know that all brindle dogs can still have white markings on their coat. Sometimes called a trindle or tricolored coats.
Not all brindle patterning is exactly the same. It can come in different shades and tones, and the pattern shapes vary. Some dogs are light brindle in color — mostly red with darker stripes.
Whereas others are heavy brindle. At a quick glance, these dogs appear black or dark brown. You may also use the term reverse brindle. This is the same as black brindle.
Reverse Brindle Dog Breeds
The terms ‘reverse brindle’ and ‘black brindle’ are used to describe a brindle dog coat with a high concentration of darker stripes. This causes the brindle to look reversed. With reverse brindle dogs, light stripes appear to sit on a dark background.
You sometimes see reverse brindling in Boxer dogs that look black. Since Boxers cannot be black, most dark-colored boxers actually have dark brindle fur. In some dog breeds, the brindle pattern is encouraged in purebred show dogs. In others, brindle coloration is less desirable.
Brindle patterning can also appear on different animals, such as horses, cats, rodents, and even lizards. This doesn’t mean those animals have similar genetics, however. They are just visually similar.
Can Pattern Impact Health?
Brindle coloring itself is not an issue in terms of your dog’s health. But, it can be mixed with other color coat genes that do lead to health problems. For example, the merle gene is known to cause ear and eye problems in dogs.
Merle coloring mixed with brindle coloring often results in an interesting combination of dark stripes mixed with shorter stripes and spots. This is quite a subtle effect that can look pretty. But there are health implications for any dog breed with the merle and brindle genes. And the health of our dogs is more important than the way their fur looks.
Testing and Double Merles
Dogs suspected of having the merle gene should be tested for it, to prevent the merle gene from being passed to another generation.
Double merle dogs have two merle alleles, one from each parent. Unfortunately, these dogs often suffer from more severe problems. So, it’s wise to pay attention to any genetic health issues brindle breeds might be susceptible to.
Large Brindle Dog Breeds
Dogs with brindle coats can vary a lot. So, to make it easier for you to find one you love, we’ve split them into different categories. Let’s start by taking a closer look at some of the more popular large breeds with beautiful, brindle coats!
The handsome, big-boned Akita is the largest ofJapan’s native breeds. It comes in many colors, including brindle. They are loyal, noble, and affectionate with their close family. Akita might not suit homes with small animals or very young children, due to their chase instinct. But, they will do very well in active homes with families who have plenty of time to dedicate to their dogs!
Boxers actually come in just one main coat color – fawn. But, this color comes in various shades. They can also be brindle with a fawn color base. The brindle pattern is extremely common on boxers. In fact, dark-colored Boxers most likely have dark—even black—stripes on a fawn coat. Reverse brindling makes them look black.
Boxers are loyal, devoted, and all-round enthusiastic dogs. They need plenty of exercise and consistent training and socialization as puppies. Thanks to their very high intelligence levels, these pups need a busy, varied schedule to stay entertained and happy.
The main coat colors of the Mastiff are fawn, apricot, and brindle. Brindling on this breed usually consists of a fawn or apricot color in the background and dark stripes on top. The muzzle, ears and nose are typically dark, as well.
Mastiffs are powerful, protective, and devoted. They can make wonderful loyal dogs, but this can be problematic if your dog is overprotective. Socialize and train Mastiffs well to ensure that they are safe around strangers who visit your home.
In Great Danes, an intense base color and distinct, even brindle pattern is preferred. Variances like too little or too much brindle, large white areas, and “dirty” brindles are considered faults. This breed are gentle, affectionate, and brave. They are known for being great with children and other animals, but will need plenty of training and socialization because they’re so large.
Small Brindle Dog Breeds
If you have less space in your home, or simply prefer little dogs, you might want to learn about small brindle dog breeds!
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigan Welsh Corgi lists all shades of red, sable, and brindle as allowable. They can also have brindle points. There is no color preference for purebreds and all listed colors and shades are desirable.
Corgis are intelligent, alert, and energetic. So, they will need exercise, and plenty of mental stimulation. As a herding breed, they may nip at children or other animals in an attempt to herd them. They require moderate levels of training. But, they are prone to intervertebral disc disease because of their long backs and short legs.
Dachshunds come in three different types of coat: long-haired, wire-haired, and smooth. Brindle is considered a standard pattern in smooth dachshunds. These small dogs are loyal, protective, and vocal. It’s possible that your Dachshund will have strong chase instincts. So, you will need to socialize and train this breed well.
While brindle is not a particularly common coloration for this breed, brindle Chihuahuas do exist. The official breed standard states blue brindled fawn, chocolate brindled fawn, and fawn brindled black as possible coat colors.
Chihuahuas are loyal, affectionate, but also feisty. They are popular because they need less space and less exercise than larger breeds. But, they are intelligent, so need plenty of mental stimulation, and lots of time spent with family members.
Brindle is a common pattern on the small but heavy-looking Bulldogs. Often you’ll see fawn or red as a base color. Red brindle is often considered desirable in this breed. They are calm, brave, and friendly. However, this breed has flat faces, which can cause a huge variety of health problems.
Brindle Terrier Breeds
Another type of dog breed that can experience this wonderful fur pattern is terriers. These dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s something everyone will love. Here are some terrier breeds that can show the brindle gene.
American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier can come in many different colors, including solid, parti, and patched colors. They should not be more than 80 percent white. This terrier breed is loving, intelligent, and people-oriented. They need plenty of exercise and won’t do well with families who spend lots of time away from their dogs.
As strong dogs, it’s important to socialize and train Amstaffs well, especially around other animals and strangers. Luckily, grooming isn’t a huge task with these dogs either, as they have short, firm coats.
Bull Terriers come in white and colored varieties. White Bull Terriers may have some colored markings. Brindle is actually a preferred color for colored Bull terriers.
These dogs are known for being active, strong-willed, and intelligent. They were originally used as fighting dogs, so need plenty of training and socialization as puppies. There are also some concerns about the health of their egg-shaped head, which you should read up on before choosing this breed.
One of the cutest things about the Boston Terrier is their so-called tuxedo—a colored area accompanied by a white area. This tuxedo jacket can come in seal or black brindle. It’s clearly visible on the colored area of a Boston Terrier’s fur.
Boston Terriers are active, friendly, and social. They need plenty of social interaction every day, and don’t need too much space to exercise in. However, this terrier breed can suffer from problems associated with brachycephaly. This means they can overheat easily, and experience dental, respiratory, and ocular issues.
It’s not just the terrier breeds that can experience the beautiful brindle pattern! Hounds are another type of dog that can commonly appear as brindle. Here are a few brindle hound breeds.
These lanky dogs come in many different colors, including several shades of brindle. This includes black brindle, blue brindle, and red brindle. Any of these brindle patterns can be combined with white areas in different combinations. The red brindle pattern is preferred. Especially if the colors are fine and evenly distributed.
Greyhounds are sweet, inquisitive, and mischievous. They love lying on the couch with their owners just as much as they love chasing after things at full speed!
These lightning-fast sprinters are available in blue brindle, fawn brindle, and red brindle. But, these combinations can come with white markings as well. Whippets are friendly, lively, but can also be relaxed little dogs. They are a quiet breed, so you should have few problems with barking.
They have a strong chase instinct, so need to be socialized well, and should only be let off the leash in safe, enclosed areas. This breed does well in families that spend plenty of time together.
The streamlined Plott Hound comes in black brindle, blue brindle, chocolate brindle, gray brindle, liver brindle, orange brindle, red brindle, tan brindle, and yellow brindle! You can even get buckskin, tan, malt, and dilute black factors in Plott brindle colors. In these dogs, the AKC breed standard says that any shade of brindle is preferred over solid.
Plott Hounds are intelligent, energetic, and independent. This breed was originally bred to hunt big game, so they need to be socialized well as puppies. They need families that can provide them with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Treeing Tennessee Brindle
Yes, this dog breed has Brindle in the name! Standard colors for the Treeing Tennessee Brindle are black and brindle. They can also have a brindle trim as a marking. This coonhound breed is in the AKC Foundation Stock Service. So it’s not yet a full registered member but under development.