Labradoodle colors can be very confusing, which makes it very difficult to explain to a breeder what color you are looking for. These color names and terms like “Parti” are like a language of their own that no one has ever fully explained, so it sometimes feels like only members of a secret club have access to the “Labradoodle Dictionary”. Well, this article is designed to shed light on all the mysterious Labradoodle color terms so you can discuss with confidence what you are actually looking for in your new family member!
Let’s start with the basic solid colors. One of the most confusing things is that two dogs with the same color fur can actually be two different colors! Surprisingly enough, it’s all about the nose! Labradoodles are grouped into two color categories based on the color of their nose. Dogs with a black nose are given one set of color names, while dogs with a brown-pigmented nose are given an entirely different set of color names.
Black nose colors start with “Chalk,” which is white, moving into “Cream,” then “Apricot,” and finally “Red.” I guess it’s obvious that Black is still called “Black,” isn’t it?
To add to the confusion, brown pigmented noses themselves have different names; they can be called Liver, chocolate, or Rose (which is the lighter, pinkish version). As long as it’s not Black, it falls under the heading of “Brown” for our purposes.
Brown nose colors use the term “Caramel” to differentiate them from the “Black” colors. They begin with “Caramel Ice,” which is white, transitioning into “Caramel Cream,” then just “Caramel,” and lastly “Caramel Red.” If you hear the word “Caramel,” you can be sure they have a nose with brown pigment! These are the dogs you see with lighter eyes. The lighter pigment in the nose corresponds with the lighter eyes. So, if you want light eyes, you should ask for a “Caramel” colored puppy!
Then there is the much-loved “Chocolate.” Chocolate is a complicated color, because although puppies are born chocolate, they may or may not stay chocolate throughout their lives. This color can do some interesting things! It can fade into (at least) three distinct, official Labradoodle colors! Go figure!! If it fades some, but not completely, it is considered “Café.” If it fades all the way and has silvery undertones, it is called “Lavender,” but if it fades all the way with creamy undertones, it is referred to as “Parchment.” This fading process can take as long as three years to complete. I have had one of my chocolate girls turn completely Lavender on her body but not the head, then within a year, go completely back to dark chocolate. So, like a good Boy Scout, when you purchase a chocolate Labradoodle, be prepared for anything! All are lovely, but they are almost impossible to predict with any significant degree of accuracy. If you would not be happy with a dog that winds up Café, Lavender, or Parchment, then you probably should not get a Chocolate puppy, because there is no guarantee that their coat will remain a dark chocolate color.
Black can also fade, which introduces another official color; “Silver.” I do not see as much fading in the Black colors, but my experience may be unique because Black is not nearly as widespread a color as Chocolate. Once again, be prepared for anything!
Now we get to the fun part; the color combinations! This is where things get interesting. Let’s start with the term “Parti.” That is short for “Partial,” meaning the dog is only partially colored, with most of it’s body being white. Partis can come in any color, with either color nose. They are at least 50% white with spots of (any) color. Some are mostly white, while some have lots of color and less white. The ones that are mostly white are called "Extreme" Partis. The variations are endless and unique, like a snowflake. Parents who have white markings frequently “carry” for Parti, and therefore, produce Parti puppies. For whatever reason, the spots of color on cream/apricot/red/caramel parti puppies usually darken during the first 6 weeks or so after birth. The colors, such as chocolate, on a parti can change in the same ways that they would on a solid dog.
Often confused with "Parti" is a dog with heavy white mismarks or a Tuxedo. White mismarks can be very small or very heavy, or anywhere in-between. The moderate to heavy white markings on chest and face are referred to as “Irish Spotting.” I am including pictures of some examples below. A dog with very heavy white on the chest, paws, and face, where the white goes all the way around the back of the neck, is called a “Tuxedo.” These are very rare and difficult to produce, as well as extremely sought after, so if you would like one, please be aware that you will very likely need to wait quite a bit longer to get what you are looking for, especially if you are particular about which color you prefer as well.
One of the fun patterns Labradoodles are available in is called “Phantom.” They only come in Chocolate and Black, but they have the tan points like a Rottweiler. They can also have white markings (usually on the chest), which gives them three colors, so we call that dog a “Tri.” Phantom can also be expressed on a Parti, so you may only be able to see parts of the Phantom pattern where colors are visible.
Last, but not least, is the “Sable.” This only expresses itself on Black and Chocolate as well. The puppy is born either Black or Chocolate and immediately begins to lose the dark color, revealing anything from a cream to a red underneath! The tips of the fur may retain their dark cast, but the dog will present as somewhere on the cream-red spectrum. I have a girl, Wrigley, who was born as a Black Phantom with a white chest, so she was a “Tri.” However, she also carries the the Sable gene, so she is losing the black and looks primarily Cream now. I have included her picture below showing her in the middle of the changing process. The genetics of color are absolutely fascinating!