Nose Pigment, Coat Color and Markings, and Eye Color
I have had people ask me about the pigment or lack thereof on the noses newborn or young Aussie puppies. It should be noted that on newborn Aussies, their noses are usually pink, especially in merles. The black (or brown pigment on reds) comes in as they grow. It will develop at different rates, but often tri pups get their pigment in faster than merles, and pups with less white on the face develop it sooner than ones with more white. That is not always the case however. Even similarly marked pups in the same litter may develop the pigment at different rates. In AKC, as long as 75% of the nose is filled in by a year of age, it's acceptable. In ASCA, all the nose must fill in by that age. I will also comment that I had one merle take several years to completely fill in, but he was not used for show or breeding. Once in a while the pigment never fills in, and this is a fault. It can leave the dog open to skin damage from exposure to the sun.
Toward the bottom of the page, I have included a couple photos of a merle pup at various ages, showing how the pigment fills in, and some more info.
It should be noted that pink on noses, the top of the muzzle, on eye rims and other exposed areas is subject to sunburn and has a potential to develop skin cancer. If your dog is to be out in the sun for any length of time, you can use a sunblock product to prevent that.
on the face tend to shrink with age. Collars don't change so much
though, so a pup with a big or small collar will have that as an adult.
In the photos below, it's the same Aussie on her birthday and at about 6
months of age. It shows how much the white blaze has changed.
Some Aussies also have "dilute" spots. These are areas on a blue merle
Aussie that are not affected by the merle gene, but are diluted from
black to steel blue or sometimes a rusty brown. On red merles, it may
be solid areas that are paler in color than the darkest brown areas.
These are faults, but since many merles have a small dilute spot or two,
it's not as big a deal as if there are large areas of dilution or many
Below is a normal blue merle and black tri, and a blue merle pup on the far right with a huge amount of dilute area. In a "normal" colored pup the steel grey would be dark black. There is no health risk associated with this color but it is a disqualification from the show ring and the pup shouldn't be bred. Most merles with some dilute spots are not this extreme.
I wanted to make a note about the white on that pup's ear. I have seen some people call this "pattern white" but it is just an extension of the Irish pattern that puts the white on faces, feet, chests and faces. There is also something called the "spotting gene" that creates random white spotting on the body of a dog, more like a pinto horse.. These are two different, and distinct genetic patterns. To my knowledge, my lines don't carry that as I've never seen in it any relatives or pups. This merle pup is marked correctly everywhere else and can hear fine. I have no reason to believe, if she was bred, she'd produce anything but an occasional pup with white on the ear, if any at all with that marking. Usually breeders will sell puppies with extra white as pets to be spayed or neutered.
Another trait I see is where there is white going too high up the hocks
and stifles on the back legs, or up from the underside into the
sides. You can read Shelly Hollen's site for good
examples of this. The link is below. These dogs would be disqualified
from conformation showing and should not be bred. Excessive white is a recessive trait.
I should also note that many red Aussies, tri or merle, may have a lighter shade of brown or amber eye color, if they are not blue eyed. It's similar to the difference one may see in a black Labrador Retriever, versus a chocolate one. Also, puppy eye color will change. There is a picture on this page of a darker faced black tri pup who has almost green eyes. As an adult he will have a lighter shade of brown eye, rather than very dark brown ones. Even blue eyes in pups will lighten somewhat from puppyhood to adulthood.
You can see many blue eyed tri Aussies on this site, as well as merles with various eye colors from blue, to marbled or brown. There are also bi-eyed (one of each color) or brown eyed tri Aussies pictured on this site. There is a great page on the ASHGI site showing a wide variety of marled or other eye colors, so I won't attempted to duplicate that here.
One thing I should note is there are no more health problems associated with any particular eye color. Uneducated people may try to claim blue eyed dogs are blind, but that is not true, at least not due to eye color. I CAER test all my dogs and as many others, have never seen a correlation between eye color and eye defects. One thing I have seen is that a specific eye defect called an "iris coloboma" seems to be more common in merle pups than tri pups, but is still not a really common problem.
I will show some of the variation in eye color in a few pictures below.
Sometimes this site doesn't load properly and if that happens to you, try reloading it. It's a GREAT site!
Another really good site is the Illustrated Standard website by breeder
judge Shelly Hollen.
It has great information on various aspects of the standard, not just structure and type but also markings and more. I highly recommend visiting this one, especially if you are breeding Aussies. It will help you learn to assess the quality of your dogs and understand structure. Shelly also has put together a book called "The Australian Shepherd Structure and Gait" that will also teach you how to assess those aspects of the breed. You can access order information from her website at:
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."