The tri color Australian Shepherd has a patchwork coat with three different shades. They can be black white and copper, or red white and copper. They tend to have pale brown eyebrows and cheeks, thick black eyeliner, and a coat with splashes of black or red and white. They share all the intelligent, active and loyal temperament traits of any other Aussie, but are likely to be more healthy than their merle brothers and sisters.
Tri Color Australian Shepherd Appearance
Tri color Aussies will have coats that are mostly black and white, or red and white. The cooper patches will take up the smallest surface area on their fur.
The white markings will usually appear on the front of the dog and/or the legs. The tail may also be white. As for the copper markings, they tend to appear around the face, legs and tail.
Tri Color Australian Shepherds do not have any other physical differences compared to Australian Shepherds of different coat colors and patterns. Their coat is of medium length and can be straight to wavy like all other Aussies.
There are two common tri color combinations seen in Australian Shepherds; Black/White/Copper and Red/White/Copper. These coats are usually formed by having a gene expressed for either black or red coloring, plus another gene expressed that allows the copper patches to appear.
Whether any given Aussie is black or red is rather simple. The black coat color gene is known as dominant, whereas the red coat color gene (also known as liver) is known as a recessive coat gene.
When a puppy is born, it receives one coat color gene from each parent, giving them two total. How these genes interact with each other determines which one will be expressed to be the actual coat color seen in the dog.
Recessive vs Dominant Genes
A dominant gene will always be expressed over a recessive gene. Therefore, if one of the genes given to the puppy is the dominant black gene, their coat will always be black, even if there is a red gene present.
The only way for a red coat to appear is if the puppy has two copies of the recessive red gene; as there is no dominant gene blocking it, this color is now the one expressed.
It is also important to note that a black Australian Shepherd can carry both a black dominant gene and a red recessive gene. Due to this, they could potentially pass on the red gene to their offspring, possibly creating red-coated Aussies. Despite the fact the parent is black-coated!
As for the copper patches, they may or may not appear due to another gene. If they do appear, you have yourself a tri color Aussie! If not, you have a bi color Aussie.
Copper patches stem from a gene called agouti. The dominant version of this gene carries the copper patches, whilst the recessive version of this gene leads to no copper markings. So just as simple as before right?
Sadly, there is a bit more to this one! If there is a dominant gene known as K present, this will completely override tan markings appearing at all, regardless which version of the agouti gene is present.
If you are intrigued about the genetic makeup of the parent dogs of any given puppy, a good breeder should be able to describe with confidence the coat color possibilities of their offspring. Knowing this info will make that conversation go a lot smoother!
Does Pattern Change Temperament?
There are no notable differences between Tri Color Australian Shepherds and Aussies of other coats. There are some who may believe that there is a difference, but there is no scientific evidence on the matter. Be wary of breeders who advertise Tri Color Australian Shepherds as having a certain temperament.
There are many factors that make up any given dog’s temperament, such as their upbringing. The amount and quality of training and socialization they have received, and their current situation, also play a role.
It is impossible for a breeder to state with confidence what temperament a dog will gain. Such breeders are likely to be falsely advertising.
However, there are some common traits that do appear provided the Aussie has been raised well. These include cheerfulness, loyalty, herding instincts and a loving nature.
Tri Color Australian Shepherd Health
The other common coat variation found within the Australian Shepherd is known as Merle. This refers to Aussies with mottled coats. For example, they may have a predominately red coat that is spotted with white markings across the body. Other characteristics of Merle dogs include blue eyes and variations in skin pigment.
Unfortunately, the Merle coat carries with it higher risks of congenital deafness and ocular disorders such as microphthalmia.
Congenital Deafness is caused by a lack of pigment in the ears. Dogs who have white fur around and inside the ear are likely to be afflicted by this condition, and it can cause deafness in one or both ears. Merle dogs are particularly at risk of this condition due to the fact that their coats have the potential to have a lot more white fur than other coat variations.
Microphthalmia is a condition characterized by smaller than usual eyes. Dogs with the condition appear to have third eyelids and recessed eyes. Depending on the severity of the condition, this condition could cause blindness.
The risks for these conditions can be increased even further if a Merle dog is bred with another Merle dog. This leads to serious risks for severe forms of the conditions above.