If like me, you love the traits of the intelligent, non-shedding, and emotionally expressive Standard Poodle, you will understand my dismay and upset when my husband told me he hates them and that we would NEVER have one!
He grew up with an Old English Sheepdog and he was adamant that this robust, bouncy, and affectionate breed was the best dog ever. After doing some research, I came to realize that Old English Sheepdogs, although native to my home country, were a dying breed and it wasn’t very easy to get hold of a breeder with a list of fewer than 5 years.
I accidentally stumbled across the Sheepadoodle on a web search late one night with my son. He actually mistyped “Shepadoodle (Poodle x German Shepherd) and hey presto, a compromise! We now have two of these amazing crazy Sheepadoodles.
Now, unlike the Old English Sheepdog and the Poodle, there is no breed standard or standard color that they come in. It’s just a potluck and unfortunately, if you are on a waiting list for a puppy from a breeder, even the breeder will not know what color the puppies will be until they are born.
Table of Contents
Colors of Poodles
- Black or Gray
- Apricot or Red
Colors of Old English Sheepdogs
- Black / White / Gray
- White / Brown
Poodles are usually a solid block of color (they can also come in parti, phantom, mismark, Tuxedo, merle, or brindle), have tightly curled coats, and need regular coat maintenance. They have a fairly diverse gene pool thus resulting in some amazing colorings in the litters produced.
Old English Sheepdogs are gray and white, shaggy looking and again, they need regular coat maintenance. Their color does not vary much from the black/white/gray but there can sometimes be a creamy color in the coat.
Both breeds can fade and change color from pup to adulthood. Both breeds also have a double coat (fleecy undercoat and thick strong topcoat). This double coat can have a bearing on the amount of fading that occurs. Having said that, I know of Old English Sheepdogs that have stayed black and white as adults, and Poodles that have stayed the same rich color they were born with.
I got my first Doodle in 2010. He is a chocolate Labradoodle and his name is Bruno. This started my love affair with Doodles.
I got my second dog in 2018 and went for the Sheepadoodle. His name is Lennox. He was a rescue, and I had a pre-conceived idea that a Sheepadoodle should be black and white, with a wavy shaggy coat.
Lennox, disappointingly, was a tightly curled all black dog with a small white patch on his chest (sometimes referred to as a “tuxedo” coloring). He is only now starting to fade to a lovely smoke gray. I couldn’t be more in love with his ash gray soft snuggly fur. Also, having learned a lot about Poodles over the last three years, I realized that the Tuxedo color is a desirable trait in the poodle.
My third dog is another Sheepadoodle who was born in 2020, and his name is Cassius. He is more the traditional black/white – fading to gray. This seems to be the most popular color. I often refer to it as the “Google” Sheepadoodle as this is the coloring that always comes up first on a search.
He is an F1b reverse (Sheepadoodle x Old English Sheepdog) so he will naturally be more Old English Sheepdog in his color than Poodle. I found this strange to begin with, as personally, I don’t know of any F1b reverse (Labradoodle x Labrador) in the Labradoodle breed. Just the F1b (Labradoodle x Poodle). I can see now how this mix would create the more “saleable” color of black/gray/white in the resulting litters, rather than the more unpredictable nature of the Poodle colors.
Popular Colors of the Sheepadoodle
Another thing I have learned over the last 3 years, is that there really is no “standard” color. What I have found is that there is a more “common” coloring, which is similar to the Old English Sheepdog patterning with the black/gray/white color blocking, and the genetic fading.
The more common Sheepadoodles usually have long wavy hair that results from the mixture of the Poodle’s curls and the long shaggy Old English Sheepdog hair. This, personally, is my favorite color, pattern, and hair type.
Rarer Colors of the Sheepadoodle
Lesser known Sheepadoodle colors are:
- Parti (White base coat of more than 50% with a second or third color anywhere on the dog)
- Merle (Patches of irregular mottled shapes and shades)
- Brindle (Mottled and blended with 2-3 colors)
- Solid (No other colors, or very little of any other color)
All of these are highly sought after and are very hard to predict in a litter. These colors are all dictated by the Poodle gene. The black and white more traditional patterning comes from the Old English Sheepdog and doesn’t vary much.
How Genetics Determine the Sheepadoodle’s Look
The more unusual colors and patterns are rare, as this color or patterning will be a result of a mutation of a recessive Poodle gene.
Your Sheepadoodle is part Poodle and part Old English Sheepdog. He or she will carry a mix of both breed’s genes, which are responsible for your pup’s coloring, patterning, and shading.
It is very hard to predict how much of the Poodle and how much of the Old English Sheepdog the new litter will take on, therefore, when breeders plan a litter, they will carefully DNA test the sire and the dam to ensure that they have selected the two dogs that will give the breeder the best chance of producing not only a healthy pup but also a desirable one.
By looking at the DNA for dominant and recessive genes, for coat coloring, patterning and fading, a breeder can play a big part in the outcome of the looks of the litter.
Poodle’s coats are determined by inheriting either two dominant genes, a dominant and a recessive gene (color will be that of the dominant gene), or two recessive genes. Old English Sheepdogs also carry the same type of dominant and recessive genes, resulting in different color patterns and shades, although not nearly to the extent that the range of patterning that happens in some Poodles.
Breeding two dogs with the parti, brindle, and solid coloring and genetics will increase the chance of having a litter with the more desirable coloring, but, breeding two dogs with the merle gene, often results in health issues, such as deafness and blindness. Take a look at our article ‘is the merle gene bad’ to find out more.
Fading in Poodles is a result of a recessive color dilution gene. This mutated recessive gene will cause a dog to go from black to grey (or blue), brown may fade to cream (or café au lait) and yellow will fade to a creamy champagne color.
Fading in Old English Sheepdogs is a result of the same recessive dilution (or fading) gene, resulting in pups born black and fading to gray.
Eyes and Nose
All Sheepadoodles will have a black nose, due to both their parent breeds being genetically disposed to having black noses.
Eyes will be brown or blue. Depending on the amount of dilution gene present, dark chocolate eyes can fade to a paler brown. Sapphire blue eyes can fade to a pale sky blue. They can also have one of each.
Blue eyes tend to be more desirable in Sheepadoodles, and equally so whether the pup has one blue and one brown. This trait is passed from the Old English Sheepdog side and can also be seen in many working dogs, like Collies, Huskies, and Australian Shepherds.
The Sheepadoodle’s paw pads can be pink or black, or a mixture of both. This is a photo of Cassius’s paws. All 4 of his feet are a different mix of black and pink. This trait comes from the Old English Sheepdog side. Claws can be white or black, or even a mix of both.
Coat Color and Maintenance
Whilst the Sheepadoodle coat needs to be brushed every few days and regularly washed and clipped, there is another important factor in coat maintenance that is directly linked to coat color.
A Sheepadoodle that has a strong fading gene, will usually have a lot of undercoat. The fading is due to the thick undercoat merging with the top coat, making the color of the coat lighter and lighter as the adult coat comes through. This will result in uncomfortable matting if left unbrushed, which is not healthy for the dog at all.
Regular grooming will be needed, or keeping the coat clipped short will ensure the hair does not get into a matt.
The issue I have with Cassius’s coloring is that he has a white face, beard, private parts, and paws. While this looks so cute when it’s washed with a specialist whitening shampoo, after a couple of days, it turns yellow.
Yellow staining happens to the best of the best and often show dogs with long white hair will have it tied up away from the mouth and eyes so as to stop it staining.
This will mean, unless, like me, you are willing to just live with a slightly grotty looking dog with a brown mustache and beard, slightly yellow genitalia, and brown hair around their paws, you will be bathing and whitening weekly I’m afraid to get those high-traffic areas sparkling white!
This is a photo of Cassius after a rather energetic romp through the fields. It took two baths to get the fur back to white.