by Marjorie Shoemaker, Waterford Wheatens

Published in Terrier Type, Vol 16, (7) July, 1977

In the past four years, I have come to realize the importance of color in puppies. The variation in color is infinite. The difference of color variations in different strains of Wheatens is of great import to all concerned. The value of knowing about color in Wheaten pups is obvious. We all want to weed out the incorrect colors – reds, the grizzled or blues, the whites – and keep the desired clear Wheaten color. All of these points go into a general pool of knowledge that will help each breeder understand better what causes certain colors, as well, as what puppy colors mature into the good clear colors.

I could not attempt to solve these problems in one small article. This problem is being researched by another dedicated breeder. I am only attempting to identify (and thus clarify) the colors we have all seen or heard about, in order to minimize the struggle we all seem to have in describing puppy colors. I have spent much money and time trying to pinpoint color of pups my mail or by phone. I hope by putting this chart in print, we can use this as a guide to help us describe the color in a word or at the most in a phrase.

I have decided to start with the light colors, and go to the dark colors, as trying to indicate the “good” colors versus “bad” colors would be difficult, since what might be good in some strains would be bad in other strains. I might also point out that when I refer to puppy colors here, I speak of puppies at least one day old (and thoroughly dried) to approximately 8 weeks old. After that point, the darker colors will often lighten dramatically, while the lighter colors will tend to hold their colors. Another point of consideration is nose color which should fill in by the time a pup is one week old. If it is not the correct black by this time, I have found that the pigmentation is not strong enough to be a producer of good pigment. Nails and eye rims should also be checked for pigmentation as well, although I have found these will be a bit slower to darken in some lines.

WHITE or CRÈME – These pups are just as they indicate – white or very pale yellow, sometimes with a bit of darker champagne color highlighted on shoulders and hips (similar to the pale yellow Labrador Retrievers). Nose usually butterfly (spotted with flesh color) or Dudley (solid flesh color). Eye rims, lips, nails and even some of the footpads will be light – all of which by eight or nine weeks may darken. Breeders sell this as unbreedable pet stock.

BLOND or WHEATEN – This is a color running from deep champagne to deep honey, and if their pigment is good within the week, these may be fine, depending upon the particular line they come from. Some have black points on the coat, some do not, and it would seem that those with black points (mask, dark stripe down the back, sooty feet, dark ears) would be preferred, unless the pup was a deep enough honey.

RED – This is best described as the color of fruitwood or cherry. It is usually a very rich deep honey to the red of an Irish terrier. Again, check for pigmentation at one week, although this color with its richness and depth usually has good pigment. It is often a preferred color by some breeders, as it tends to hold color better at maturity.

VISZLA RED – This color is a tangerine red, as are eye rims, nose, lips. The pigment does not turn black as a rule, and the eyes are often light – like the Viszla. Not desirable for breeding or showing.

SANDY or BROWN – This color lacks the red-gold quality, often having a beige or brown tone. The color may vary from the color of a brown paper bag to the color of darkly stained oak, depending upon the amount of black tipping that may be found on the body coat. Often this color comes with the black points.

MAHOGANY – This is a deep, rich brown, with more red in it than the dark brown described above. Often comes with black tipping, always with black points. In some lines this color clears to a nice rich Wheaten color; in other lines, the black tipping comes back to haunt in the mature coat, giving the grizzled, dirty or blue cast that is to be avoided.

SEAL – This is a very deep, rich and dark version of the brown. The black tipping seems to be predominant on the coat, but brown is underneath, visible when you part the coat to the skin. In certain lines, this will mature into a nice color. In other lines it may tend to mature with a grizzled or blue cast. In yet other lines, I have been told this color tends to be very light at maturity, lacking enough color to suit most people.

BLACK – This is the color of the Kerry Blue Terrier puppy – black through and through. To be sold as pets by Wheaten exhibitors and breeders. This will do nothing but turn blue at maturity.

CHOCOLATE POINTS – These have cropped up in various lines. These are brown, red or mahogany pups with deep brown (chocolate or dark liver) mask, ears, feet, stripe, nose, lips and eye rims. This is caused by a double recessive for black, I am told, and will crop up occasionally – as will whites and blacks. Should be culled from the breedable / showable stock. On occasion you will have trouble locating a “chocolate point” if it doesn’t sport the usual mask, stripe, feet or ears. You will have to watch the nose and eye rims.

To sum this up, I think it important to say that, while the color may be somewhat categorized, the infinite variations and shading, make this difficult. I hope I have defined the colors enough to help pinpoint the general category a puppy would fall into.   I can go one step further and say that the colors ranging from dark honey through mahogany are the most frequently seen colors, and are the best bets for proper adult color – again depending upon the line.   The whites, blacks, chocolate points all seem to be recessives that will show themselves on occasion. I have seen both whites and blacks in the same litters; chocolate point and Viszla colored pups in the same litter. With this wide spectrum of color, we hope to narrow this spectrum to a smaller band from which we can consistently breed for the proper color.