There are more spotted dog breeds than you might think, if you know where to look.
Our 18 favorite dog breeds that come with spots are:
- Great Danes
- Fox Terriers
- Russell and Jack Russell Terriers
- Border Collies
- Australian Shepherds
- Catahoula Leopard Dogs
- American Pitbull Terriers
- Australian Cattle Dogs
- Cocker Spaniels
- English Springer Spaniels
- German Shorthaired Pointers
- Bluetick Coonhounds
- Lagotto Romagnoli
- Shetland Sheepdogs
If some of those names surprised you, read on to find out how they earned their place on our list!
The Spotted Dog Breeds
Dalmatians are instantly recognizable. But many people are surprised to discover that this dotty dog’s spots can be black or brown.
And no one has quite unravelled the unique genetic recipe behind their spots yet either, which we think makes them even more special.
But we do know that one of the genes which plays a crucial role – the Extreme Piebald gene – is also linked with an increased risk of deafness.
In fact nearly 12% of Dalmatians experience hearing loss. They are also vulnerable to dental problems, hip dysplasia, bladder and kidney stones, and thyroid disorders.
But this medium large breed is also playful, receptive to training, and devoted to their family.
2. Great Danes
Great Danes come in lots of colors and patterns, but there’s one very special coat which is exclusive to them, and the closest any other breed comes to a Dalmatian’s perfect spots.
And that’s the harlequin Great Dane.
Harlequin Great Danes have white coats with a random pattern of high contrast black spots.
The spots are a lot less uniform in size than those of a Dalmatian, but they have a similar genetic foundation, which means Harlequin Great Danes are also prone to hearing loss.
Due to their giant size they’re also prone to hip, shoulder and elbow dysplasia, and their average lifespan is all too short.
Despite their size, they’re wonderful family pets: calm, gentle, laid back and patient.
Splodged Dogs – Piebald and Parti Colored Coats
Whilst no other breed quite matches the Dalmatian or harlequin Great Dane for spottiness, there are lots of other breeds which can sport splodged, splashed, speckled and freckled coats.
Beagles have been among the top 10 favourite dog breeds on both sides of the Atlantic for decades.
And it’s no surprise, because these exuberant little dogs radiate happiness and conviviality all day long.
You might not immediately think of them as being spotty, but these hounds regularly come in patches of white and one or two other colors.
Sometimes the patches of color are so big that a dog looks almost uniform in color, but they can also be much smaller – like large spots.
That said, the looks of the parents aren’t much of a predictor for the looks of their litter, so finding a spotty Beagle puppy to bring home might be more luck than judgment.
4. Fox Terriers
Just like Beagles, short coated terriers with bi- or tri-color patches (also known as particolored coats) can look distinctly spotted.
Fox Terriers, either smooth or wire coated, are a great example of this.
These little dogs might not strike you as flamboyant showdogs on first sight, but their bold, self possessed nature has earned them numerous best in show titles at the AKC’s Westminster Dog Show.
And like many terriers bred for fitness and functionality, they tend to enjoy good health and long lifespans.
5. Russell and Jack Russell Terriers
Jack Russell Terriers in the U.K., and Russell Terriers (their U.S. based descendents) are another great example of little dogs prone to patches and blots which look like spots.
In fact it’s hard to find another breed which gets markings more like Spot the Dog from the famous children’s books!
Both of these scrappy canine breeds are energetic, confident, and plucky.
If tiny dogs are your thing, of perhaps you’re looking for a long haired dog that still has well-defined spots, then a Chihuahua could be the answer.
These toy-sized pups have a long history as the ultimate companion dog and status symbol.
Seemingly unaware of their own size, these feisty little dogs have outsize personalities.
But their scale isn’t without drawbacks: these dogs are vulnerable to dental problems, slipped kneecaps, and accidental injuries.
Chihuahuas can have particolor markings in a spectrum of colors which look like large spots, but they can also have speckled and splashy coats known as merle patterning.
And we’ll look at more dogs like that next.
Dogs With Splashes And Speckles – The Merle Coat
Merle is a dog coat pattern caused by a single gene.
If you think of a dog’s coloring being created in layers, merle dogs have a base color, such as blue, red or brown, which has been overlaid by large areas of white.
The merle gene then pokes holes in the white, so that spots of color show through it again.
7. Border Collies
Border Collies are widely regarded as the cleverest of all dog breeds.
In fact, since their ability to work is top priority on the breed standard, there are no restrictions on what color they can be – quite unusual!
Blue and red merle Border Collies have splashed of solid color, and large areas of white speckled with blue or red spots.
Border Collies are famous for picking up new commands in as few as five repetitions, and routinely dominate agility competitions.
It sounds like a puppy trainer’s dream, but it can also be a double-edged sword – this breed can resort to destructive behaviors and escape artistry if they don’t get enough mental and physical exercise.
8. Australian Shepherds
Their medium length coat is either straight or wavy and comes in four colors only, of which two are blue merle and red merle.
In fact this breed is probably the most closely associated with the mottles and spots of the merle pattern.
Like Border Collies, Aussies suit very active, outdoorsy households with lots of time for training and exercise.
9. Catahoula Leopard Dogs
The Catahoula Leopard dog is the state dog of Louisana.
And it’s no surprise from their name that these dogs are famous for their spots!
In fact, Catahoulas come in red, blue, black and grey ‘leopard’ colors, which are all achieved by different colors and degrees of merle patterning.
These intelligent dogs have endless stamina, and they have excelled in many types of work.
But they are prone to aggression towards strangers and other dogs, which means many people still rule them out as pets.
At the moment as many as 1 in 5 Catahoulas succumb to hip dysplasia, which breeders need to address to protect future generations.
10. American Pitbull Terriers
Pitties are our second spotted dog breed not presently recognized by the AKC.
In fact, merle Pitbulls aren’t recognized by any dog registry, since this spotty pattern has only been introduced to the breed quite recently by outcrossing with none other than the Catahoula Leopard dog.
Nonetheless red merle and blue merle version of the all-American Pitbull are rapidly gaining popularity.
If you’re considering a spotted Pitbull as your next dog, ask your breeder for detailed information about their family tree, and make sure you’re happy with the temperament of both parents.
The last entry in our merle category of spots are dapple Dachshunds.
Whilst Doxie breeders use the special (and very pretty!) word dapple to describe their spotty pups, the genetics behind a dapple coat is exactly the same as the genetics behind a merle coat in any other breed.
Dachshunds are prone to diseases of the retina at the back of the eye, slipping kneecaps, and painful disorders of the spine, caused by their extremely exaggerated body shape.
Large scale behavioral studies have also identified them as one of the breeds most likely to exhibit owner-directed aggression.
But they can also be sweet and amusing, with a curious outlook on life and a determined attitude that belies their stature.
Speckled Pups – Ticked And Roan Pattern Dogs
Next we come to dog breeds with little spots.
These patterns are usually caused by some combination of merle, ticking, roan and flecking genes.
Whilst breeders and genetic researchers have identified some of the locations on doggy DNA where these genes reside, and some of the genetic alternatives possible, they’re far from understanding exactly how they interact.
12. Australian Cattle Dogs
Australian Cattle Dogs, also known as Blue Heelers, are the quintessential speckled dog.
Their breed standard recognises blue, blue mottled, blue speckled and red speckled coats.
Life with a Blue Heeler isn’t for the faint of heart or short of time, since they have enormous physical stamina and need a lot of exercise.
But they’re ideal for keeping up with anyone who spends most of their time outdoors.
Like all other dogs from the herding breed, they sometimes have a tendency to ‘round up’ small children and other pets by nipping at their heels.
13. Cocker Spaniels
Where their coat is long, the pattern can get blurred out, but on the short hair around their face and paws it looks like sweet freckles.
Cocker Spaniels are enduringly popular small dogs. English Cockers are more likely to come from working lines and be highly energetic.
American Cocker Spaniels are more likely to come from several generations of pets, and are more docile.typically
14. English Springer Spaniels
English Springer Spaniels traditionally have a beautiful and unmistakable pattern of big brown splodges and small brown speckles on a white background.
This friendly breed has long been popular for their combination of skill as a working dog, and sweetness as a family pet.
15. German Shorthaired Pointers
Next up, a medium-large breed with a short coat which perfectly shows off a neat pattern of brown spots on a white background.
Other AKC-accepted colors include an inverse version of that pattern, where small pale brown flecks show up against a dark brown (‘liver’) background.
Like Labradors and many spaniels, GSPs were bred to be equally suited to work and family life.
But they have a strong hunting instinct, which means they might pose a risk to smaller pets like cats and rabbits.
German Shorthaired Pointers tend to enjoy better joint health than most dogs their size, but it’s still prudent to check potential sires and dams for hip dysplasia before mating.
16. Bluetick Coonhounds
The black and blue ticked pattern of the Bluetick Coonhound is so prevalent it’s even included in their name!
These hounds are rather uncommon as pets, because they have an extremely high prey drive which is too much for most people to handle.
For handlers who employ them as working dogs, they’re also deeply loyal and affectionate companions around the home.
Since they’ve never been subjected to selective breeding for anything other than ability to do their job, they’re generally very healthy, although they are vulnerable to hip dysplasia and eye disease.
Long Haired Dogs With Spots
Last but not least, let’s take a look at spotted dog breeds with long coats.
In most long haired dogs, spotted patterns which look clear and distinct on the surface of the skin get a bit blurred by a long coat.
17. Lagotto Romagnoli
Lagotto Romagnoli (singular: Lagotto Romagnolo) are Italian truffle hunting dogs.
They’re unusual, but they’re growing in popularity. Possibly because they offer a purebred alternative to the proliferation of “doodle dogs”.
They have friendly, easy going nature, and they’re easy to train. Their cuddly, curly coat can be solid, or it can have splodges and spots of white or tan.
Some Lagotto Romagnoli carry a fading gene which slowly imparts a flecked roan appearance.
18. Shetland Sheepdogs
Shetland Sheepdogs, or Shelties, are probably more typically associated with a tan and white coat, but they’re also accepted into the show ring with a blue merle coat.
Since their long hair is straight, the spots in the merle pattern remain nearly as distinct at the tips as at the roots.
Shelties look small and graceful, but they’re tough, energetic little dogs underneath. And they need a lot of grooming!
They’re prone to tooth decay, thyroid disease, and hip dysplasia.
Spotted Dog Breeds
I hope you’ve enjoyed our run down of our favourite spotted dog breeds.
It’s far from exhaustive, so if you own a spotty dog from another breed, why not sing their praises in the comments box down below?
References And Further Resources
Cargill et al, The color of a Dalmatian’s spots: Linkage evidence to support the TYRP1 gene, BMC Veterinary Research, 2005.
Cavanagh & Bell, Veterinary Medical Guide To Cat And Dog Breeds, CRC Press, 2012.
Duffy et al, Breed Differences In Canine Aggression, Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2008.