When you think of the Doberman dog, you probably think of a tall, strong, powerful, and proud dog. You visualize those upward-pointing ears, the erect posture, and the distinctive black and rust coat color.
But the truth is, many more coat colors are present to some degree in the Doberman genome, or genetic pool. While breeders who want to show their Dobermans tend to favor the black and rust coat, other coat colors are bred and can be lovely.
In this article, we will dig in to take a close look at all the different Doberman colors and patterns. You will discover which ones produce the strongest, healthiest dogs and which colors to research more closely before committing.
Doberman breeders worldwide have different opinions about how many Doberman coat colors exist.
As the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) highlights, there are differences of opinion about how many Doberman coat colors exist. But only four are show rings permitted.
Learn About Doberman Dog Colors
This comprehensive YouTube video walks you through all the different colors of Dobermans that are being bred today.
There is much to think about when choosing your Doberman – far beyond just coat color. While it is normal to prefer one coat color to all the rest, remember that your dog’s health is the best predictor of your quality of life together.
Why Can’t Doberman Breeders Agree On How Many Colors Exist?
The difficulty with settling on the exact number of Doberman colors comes down to word choice.
For example, some Doberman breeders call the lighter coat color rust. Others call it brown. Still, others call it tan. And others call it fawn.
Only a detailed genetic study could potentially work out whether shade variations in the brown spectrum (rust, tan, brown, fawn) are true representations of these shades.
This is also why some students of canine genetics argue that there are nine possible Doberman colors, although some are extremely rare and/or not desirable.
Experienced Doberman breeders who are exceptionally familiar with the genetic history of their breeding dogs (parent dogs) have the best chances of accurately naming the Doberman coat colors of their puppies.
Happily, these also tend to be the same Doberman breeders who know the most about Doberman health and do the most to make sure they breed healthy puppies for you.
What Are the Nine Possible Doberman Dog Colors
When making this list, we will start by listing the four allowable American Kennel Club Doberman colors named in the official Doberman dog breed standard.
You will notice that the four colors aren’t colors but color patterns. Show quality Doberman dogs are supposed to be bi-color, which means they have a primary color and then a secondary color that creates a recognizable pattern.
The four AKC Doberman color patterns are as follows
- Black and rust.
- Blue and rust.
- Red and rust.
- Isabella (fawn) and rust.
You will also notice that AKC-registered Doberman breeders use the word “rust” to describe the secondary color – not brown, fawn, or tan.
So what are the other five Doberman colors that didn’t make it into the official AKC breed standard?
The AKC Doberman breed standard lumps these other colors under a separate category called “dogs not of an allowed color.”
These five Doberman colors are as follows
- All black.
- All blue.
- All red.
- All Isabella (fawn).
In the next sections, we will examine how canine color genetics creates all nine of these Doberman colors.
We will also look more closely at serious health issues that can come about when Doberman breeders focus too closely on breeding solely for coat color.
Understanding Doberman Colors By Studying Canine Genetics
Dog Genetics explains that all canine coat color is produced by pigment or melanin.
Canines have two types of melanin, eumelanin and phaeomelanin.
VCA Animal Hospital gives a great overview of canine coat color genetics by focusing on these two color pigments and how they interact to create different Doberman colors.
Eumelanin is the main coat color pigment for all dogs. Eumelanin controls coat color, eye rims color, gums color, skin color, and nose color.
When eumelanin does not interact with other canine genes, it shows as basic black.
But when eumelanin encounters one of the two sets of genes that can alter it, black might show up as blue (gray), fawn (Isabella), or brown (liver). When this happens, breeders often say the coat color is “dilute” or “diluted.”
Even learning this much; hopefully, you are already starting to understand how Doberman color genetics can get complicated quickly.
So if eumelanin is the pigment that produces basic black and a range of diluted colors, what does phaeomelanin do?
Phaeomelanin only controls coat color in canines. It is the color red. In its pure form, phaeomelanin will appear yellow or deep golden.
When phaeomelanin interacts with other genes capable of altering it, the coat may range from deep red to the lightest cream.
For this reason, phaeomelanin that interacts with other genes is not said to be “dilute,” as is eumelanin. Rather, the color is simply given a different name.
For example, yellow or gold is the default color. But red, tan, orange, cream, gold, and other shades of the red spectrum are also used to describe phaeomelanin in a dog’s coat.
As you are now starting to see, canine coat color genetics can be a lifetime study. And as this recent Science Daily article demonstrates, canine geneticists are still learning new things about the canine genome yearly.
How Coat Color Genes Affect Doberman Health
What is driving canine genome research today? Is it just dog breeders who want to know how to breed Dobermans with unique coat colors?
While this may be valid in some circles, dog health is the primary reason for the sudden interest in canine genetics.
More and more, purebred dog breeds like the Doberman are affected by serious genetic health issues. Many of these health issues can be passed from parent dogs to puppies. Some of these issues are life-limiting or fatal. All can be expensive to treat.
Canine researchers want to learn more about what genes cause these serious health issues and, most importantly, how to neutralize or eliminate the problem genes from the canine genome.
But what does this have to do with Doberman colors?
Some of the same genes that cause the Doberman coat color to change have other functions.
When dogs are allowed to breed naturally, without attention to coat color or to amplify desirable traits, the genes tend to work things out to produce a healthy dog.
But when a dog breeder wants to produce something specific in their Dobermans, such as a certain ear shape, leg length, or coat color, they choose their breeding dogs based on these traits.
This can cause some genes to be given more importance than is healthy for the dog.
Let’s take a closer look at this issue now.
What Heritable Health Issues Do Dobermans Have
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has partnered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) to share information about genetic health issues and tests to detect them.
This database is called the Canine Health Information Center, or CHIC.
The AKC has a program called Bred with H.E.A.R.T. that requires its registered dog breeders to pre-screen breeding dogs and register test results with CHIC.
This helps canine researchers know where to focus their research and helps dog owners find breeders who care about puppy health above all else.
The CHIC database includes genetic health data about the purebred Doberman dog. You should ask any Doberman breeder from whom you want to buy your puppy to show you test results.
This proves that the puppy’s parents were cleared of these significant health issues.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Eye issues.
- Von Willebrand’s disease.
- Cardiac issues.
- Autoimmune thyroiditis.
- Working aptitude.
The CHIC database also includes information about what kinds of pre-screening tests the breeder needs to do to clear their parent dogs of these health issues that can be passed to the puppies.
Now, let’s dive deeper and learn how genetic and other health issues can be linked to Doberman colors.
Problem Doberman Colors and the Link to Health Issues
If you recall, the five non-approved Doberman colors are all blue, all red, all black, all Isabella (fawn), and white.
What health problems could occur if you purchase a Doberman with one of these coat colors? Let’s find out.
All blue Doberman
An all-blue Doberman arises when the eumelanin is diluted by action from another gene.
Blue Dobermans may be gorgeous to look at, but they tend to have some serious co-occurring genetic health issues. These issues are likely linked to breeding deliberately for diluted solid coat color.
All blue Dobermans can suffer from color dilution, alopecia (skin problems that lead to hair loss and other skin issues), and von Willebrand’s disease (blood clotting disorder).
All red Doberman
The all-red Doberman may be a red and rust Doberman, or they may be called an all-brown Doberman. It depends on the exact shade of phaeomelanin based on how the genes interact.
All red solid-coated Doberman dogs can have the same health issues as the equally rare all-blue Dobermans.
All black Doberman
An all-black Doberman is yet another example of what canine geneticists call a “melanistic” Doberman – a dog with coat color genes other than the official AKC breed standard.
There is disagreement about whether an all-black Doberman has the same degree of concern about health issues as this dog is simply missing the secondary markings.
What is never desirable, however, is a Doberman breeder who deliberately breeds for an all-black Doberman dog coat.
All Isabella (fawn) Doberman
All Isabella, or fawn, Dobermans are almost as rare as all blue and all red Dobermans and tend to have very similar health projections.
While an all-fawn Doberman may be a beautiful sight to behold, this will fade once your dog shows signs of genetic health issues and/or temperament-related genetic mutations.
The all-white Doberman is the one Doberman coat color you should steer clear of. There is a sad genetic reason for this statement.
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America explains that all white Dobermans are either albino or partially albino.
And all white Dobermans are likely to have health issues strongly associated with albino or partial albino animals.
What types of health issues could your white Doberman be facing?
- Poor depth perception.
- Severe near-sightedness.
- Malformation of the retina.
- Abnormal ocular nerve formation.
- Photophobia (fear of or sensitivity to light).
- Immune system malfunction.
- Blood clotting problems.
- Thymus, liver, or kidney defects.
- Inner ear problems.
- Several forms of skin cancer.
There is never a case where albinism in dogs is desirable. Albinism in nature is extremely rare and is always caused by a random genetic mutation.
But in dog breeding, Doberman breeders that practice in-breeding, or breeding closely related dogs together, can produce albino or white Dobermans deliberately.
This is the main reason to avoid committing to a white Doberman puppy. Your dog may have a lovely personality, but you are likely facing a future of expense and heartache for yourself, your family, and your dog.