There’s hardly anything cuter than a bouncing poodle puppy. But the adult poodle you end up with may look different from the adorable ball of curls you brought home. he’s changed colors. Or, as they say in dog breeding circles, he’s “faded” into his adult color. Does this happen across the breed, or just with a few colors?
Do all poodles fade in color? Yes, most poodles “fade” or “clear” into a different color as an adult. The final color, and how long it takes to achieve it, varies by color and by the heritage of the dog.
We’ll be taking a look at the various types of poodles, and explore more in-depth as to why their fur fades.
Poodle Color Fading Creates Variety
If poodles were sold on Amazon, the item order page would have a lot of boxes to check: Size, color, shape, hair curliness, etc., and there would have to be a disclaimer on the page that reads, “Note. The color of the dog upon arrival will differ from its adult color,” and you’d have to check “OK” to continue with the order.
But please be aware that poodles are not available on Amazon. . . Yet.
The poodle breed is one of the most diverse, in all of the dog kingdom, which leads to their immense popularity among owners and breeders alike. Their happy disposition and springy gait bring joy to the entire family, and many families have two or more poodles, as poodles seem to ramp up the excitement in the house when they have a buddy to play with.
But with most poodles, what you see is not what you get in the end. Puppies born with a dark coat tend to fade to a lighter color as time passes. But it can go the other way around. The biggest factor is the color they were born. A tan or light brown poodle puppy might fade to an apricot shade, a black poodle might fade to silver or blue, and a dark brown poodle might fade to a milk chocolate color.
Fading: A Poodle Puppy’s Two-Year Color Transformation
With most poodles, the color has completely faded by the time the dog reaches the age of two, and the lightening process ceases. In some circumstances and with some colors, there is a second phase that occurs between the age of two and three. In those cases, the dog’s color fades from its puppy color to something lighter (usually), and it stabilizes for a while. But then, the second season of fading begins, and over the course of a year or less, the dog achieves its final, adult color.
The color fading process sometimes gets ahead of itself, or it might fall behind. Some poodles maintain their original color in certain places while the hair lightens elsewhere. This is called “holding.”
The fading is not uniform. The dog “holds” its color in places. Hair around the ears or the poodle’s guard hair (hair that helps the dog maintain its body temperature) sometimes resists fading initially. It may be slow to catch up with the rest of the hair on the body, and in rare cases, it never does.
Fading Makes Poodles the Chameleons of the Dog World
Adult poodles come in a kaleidoscope of colors, and how they got there is a mysterious and amazing process. The fade to the final, adult color sometimes goes through stages. For example, a puppy born with a black or charcoal gray coat will fade to a medium gray in one phase and then go to a lovely silver at maturity. Reddish-colored poodle puppies sometimes fade to varying shades of peach before mellowing out to a color on the light end of the spectrum.
How Poodle Fading Affects Their Final Color
Solid color poodles are far more numerous than two-toned versions, and many of the two-toners are actually poodles whose fading process is ongoing or otherwise incomplete. Here are the common colors of poodles:
- Cafe Au lait (coffee with cream)
- Silver beige
There are in-between shades that defy categorization, but the vast majority of poodles fall into one of the above colors. Below are some poodle color groups and how fading affects each over time:
Apricot – Blue – Brown
Apricot – The color range of apricot poodles is fairly wide, from shades that are close to tan to shades that are close to cream. Apricot poodles tend to have small black spots on their skin.
Blue – Blue isn’t really blue, but a transformed shade of black. Blue poodles have hairs that are dark at the end but duo-toned near the root. There often is a second phase of fading around middle age that transforms the color to a yet lighter shade.
Brown – Brown poodles are dark to medium brown. They fade from a deep, rich brown to a slightly lighter shade, but the color doesn’t stray from the original very much.
Cafe Au lait – Black – Silver Beige
Cafe Au lait – How do you like your coffee? How do you like your poodle color? Cafe Au lait is coffee with cream, which gives you an indication of the color of the poodle. Unlike the brown poodle, which starts brown and only lightens to a lighter shade of brown, the Cafe Au lait poodle starts brown and fades to this in-between color.
Black – The one poodle color that doesn’t fade, black is black, all day long.
Silver Beige – Born with a medium to light brown coat, the silver beige poodle will begin to fade quickly, as early as two months in some cases. It starts with the face and spreads to the rest of the body over the next two years.
Red – Silver – White
Red – Newborn red poodles are often so bright red, you’ll wonder where the batteries and the off switch are. They fade to a more subdued, lighter color over time. Some red poodles then darken again as they enter their senior years.
Silver – This is the black that fades. In two years’ time, or slightly longer, the black will fade to a handsome silver color that is often not uniform, leaving a darker frame around the face and on the ears.
White – This color is almost fade-free. Puppies are born nearly pure white, with flecks of tan or apricot that disappear over time. Some imperfections in the genes may lead to a slightly dirty color late in life.
Gray – Cream
Gray – Some gray poodle puppies are born gray, and the color doesn’t change much, but some are born charcoal gray or black and fade to a medium gray over a long period of time, between four and five years.
Cream – Generally, these pups are born light to medium brown and fade to cream, which is very close to Cafe Au lait and silver beige. Black points and a black nose differentiate this color from the other two.
Oodles of Poodles
Poodles are so universally loved that breeders have cross-bred them with other breeds to give us new breeds and new words in the dictionary. Lovers of pure poodles generally detest this trend, and some of the mixes are prettier than others, but it is an inescapable reality in the dog realm.
Among the poodle mix-breeds are:
- Cockapoo – Poodle + Cocker Spaniel
- Maltipoo – Poodle + Maltese
- Labradoodle – Poodle + Labrador Retriever
- Goldendoodle – Poodle + Golden Retriever
- Peekapoo – Poodle + Pekingese
- Yorkipoo – Poodle + Yorkshire Terrier
- Shihpoo – Poodle + Shih Tzu
- Chipoo – Poodle + Chihuahua
- Poochon – Poodle + Bichon Frise
- Doxiepoo – Poodle + Dachshund
- Bassetoodle – Poodle + Basset Hound
- Cavapoo – Poodle + Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Lhasa Poo – Poodle + Lhasa Apso
- Jack-A-Poo – Poodle + Jack Russell Terrier
- Bossi-Poo – Poodle + Boston Terrier
- Bernedoodle – Poodle + Bernese Mountain Dog
- Pomapoo – Poodle + Pomeranian
- Boxerdoodle – Poodle + Boxer
- Eskapoo – Poodle + American Eskimo