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The Colors of Yorkshire Terriers

The Coat Color of the Breed

This breed has interesting coloring....While some breeds can be just about any color and other breeds are known for just 1 solid...The colors of a Yorkshire Terriers are very distinct...and is one of the traits that allows a person to quickly identify a purebred. 

A puppy will have much different coloring than an adult... And this is an element that can help a person quickly identify age. There are only 4 colors that can combine on this breed: Black, Blue, Tan and Gold (excluding the few rare ones that pop up now and then, more ahead)

Yorkshire Terrier puppies are Black & Tan and adults are Blue and Gold.  This coloring is so expected that when a Yorkie was born with 3 distinct colors that differed from this 'norm' back in 1984, it began the offshoot of a completely different breed! -  the Biewer Terrier.

Normally blue on an adult will start at the back of the neck flow across the back and run up the tail... but sometimes a Yorkie will different color-fall. 

Let's discuss these colors, changes to expect and other elements that involve Yorkie colors. 
9 month old black and tan Yorkie
9 month old Black & Tan Yorkshire Terrier
Misty Rose
Photo courtesy of Paulette Newberry, Napa, California
Why This Breed is So Unique

All purebred Yorkies carry certain genes which cause the coat changeover from black to blue. These genes are unique to the Yorkshire Terrier breed. There is also a gene which creates the silky coat of this breed.

The Puppy

All Yorkie puppies are born black and tan. These 2 colors will be combined somewhat. The percentage of the black and tan will vary greatly from pup to pup. Many will have the tan on the points.

The points will be the small areas located right above each eye (referred to as the brows), on the under flap of the ears and sometimes on the underside of the tail.
Can a Puppy be all Black or all Tan?

No. Even if a Yorkie appears to be a solid black as a newborn, upon close inspection you should be able to see some tan coloring. This is present, even if it is just a very small patch or a few strands of hair on the dog. With most Yorkie puppies, there will be a fair amount of both black and tan and both colors will be very evident.

At What Age Does a Yorkie Change Colors?

This does vary from dog to dog, however in general a Yorkie's hair will begin its color change at the approximate age of 6 months. This is a gradual process. You will not wake up one day and see a different dog! By the age of 1 to 2 years, the adult coloring will be in place. For some, the process can take up to 3 years. Sometimes a senior will develop extra silver hairs...although he or she will never have a solid gray coat. 
black and tan Yorkie puppy
What Color Does a Yorkie Change to?

The Yorkie does not have a drastic color change, but the change is official and is an expected aspect to the adult Yorkshire Terrier. Once a Yorkshire Terrier is an adult, there will be more tan/gold coloring than black coloring. Therefore, an adult is much lighter than a puppy. The black will turn to a blue. Now of course, blue in the dog world does not literally mean blue. Blue will be a diluted black color. There are many shades of blue in dog breeds; however for the Yorkie this will be a dark steel blue color...or this can be a shiny silver. 

In very rare cases, a Yorkie may be a Red Legged Yorkshire Terrier, in which the tan/gold turns to a rich, shiny red. And in even rarer cases, tan may overtake the entire coat, producing a Yorkie with very little blue or none at all. 
blue and tan adult Yorkie
2 year old Blue and Gold Yorkshire Terrier
Jessie,Photo courtesy of Suzanne Reeves 
For 99.99% of Yorkies that have the typical changeover, it can bring about varying levels of intensity. It can range from light to dark...And dark will often be mistaken for black, as the tint will only be noticeable in bright sunlight.

The tan of the will slowly change to a tan/gold. Gold is simply a richer shade of the tan. The tan hair on the dog will be darker at the roots and lighten as it reaches the tips.

When a Yorkie is transitioning from puppy to adult, all four colors may be present as the black is being replaced with blue and the tan is being replaced with gold. The individual hairs do not change color; new hairs grow out. 

When people say that this breed does not shed, this is not entirely accurate since of course puppy hairs fall out as the adult coat grows in. If this natural process did not happen, a 4 year old Yorkshire Terrier would have the same coat of hairs as he did as a puppy... can you imagine how unhealthy that coat would be? The coat - much like your hair - is in a constant state of renewal: Growth, rest and fall. Since this happens slowly over a longer period of time in comparison to his heavy-shedding counterparts that have fur, generally you will not notice clumps of hair or anything to that effect. 
It will, however, be normal to see some hairs in the brush when you groom your Yorkie. Depending on how much tan or black your dog holds, those hairs will vary on how noticeable they are in your grooming tools. 

The Final Adult Color

As an adult with a full adult coat of hair, the tan or gold on the Yorkie will be of great importance in AKC conformation dog show events. Most importantly on the dog's head and legs. An adult Yorkie has a clear distinction of the black/blue and tan/gold coloring with no intermingling. Now, these are the guidelines for AKC conformation...There are lots of Yorkshire Terriers that do not meet the strict guidelines. 
Unique Hues and Combinations

While rare, some purebred Yorkies hold very little black or blue. It rarely goes the other way of the dog having mostly black or blue with little gold or tan, as the blue/black genome stays recessive.

This gives us some Yorkshire Terriers that are majorly or fully tan, cream or gold. Some will have a small amount of black or blue running down the back of the coat.

While these dogs are truly gorgeous, it is recommended not to breed them.  This is because if enough breeding were done with non-standard colors this would eventually eliminate the standard coloring of this breed (that has held for centuries). 

And if done enough, by enough breeders, the Yorkie breed as we know it today would eventually not hold true to the steadfast standards that exist. Some suggest that an off-color may hold certain genetic defects that would be passed down. This is in theory only and does not mean that a solid colored Yorkie has any health conditions at all. 
Solid tan Yorkshire Terrier
Bear | Owner: Alexandra Goldy
One element to note is that a solid colored Yorkshire Terrier can definitely be registered with the AKC, however the coat color is a disqualification in the show ring. 
Yorkies with White on the Coat - If you see a dog that looks exactly like a Yorkie but has white on the coat, you're most likely looking at a Biewer Terrier. 
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