We recently adopted a 7-yr-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix with a dark coat, and after about 2 weeks, my wife and I swear the fur is getting lighter, especially around his ears and neck. He eats well and seems pretty laid back, and although he sheds a lot and we've been brushing him regularly, he isn't developing any bald spots (e.g., from anxiety issues or malnourishment).

Is it normal for a dog's coat to change color, for example, with the seasons? Or is it possible for the coat to get sun bleached from only a few hours outdoors each week? It also occurred to us that maybe he was just a bit dirty before, but we gave him a bath when we first brought him home and his coat only started to seem lighter as of a few days ago.

Update: we have now had him for more than a year, and his coat has stayed about the same since that first color change a few weeks after we got him. We've fed him everything from the cheap $20 for 50 lbs food, to the fancy $70 for 24 lbs food (but we buy it when it is on a clearance super-sale), and his coat stays the same. I think in those first 2 weeks we had him, we were feeding him the same food that the shelter had been feeding him. So, strangely, his drastic coat color change doesn't seem to have been related to the seasons, and it seems unlikely it was related to diet or age since it was so fast.

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    How old is he? Puppy coats are often a different shade from their adult coats. Could he be transitioning?
    – jalynn2
    Aug 11, 2015 at 17:21
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    The shelter estimated his age at around 7 years, so his puppy years are well behind him. It's hard to describe the new color. Originally it seemed like he had dark gray fur with mottled flecks of dark brown; from several feet away he looked black. Now it seems like the dark gray is lightening up and/or there's some gold blended in.
    – rob
    Aug 11, 2015 at 18:17
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    Can't say for sure, but our adult husky's fur color changes slightly between summer and winter (black vs gray).
    – Mario
    Aug 12, 2015 at 5:37
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    One other thought: some dogs have an undercoat that is a different color than the top coat that is normally visible. When they shed, that undercoat becomes more visibly prominent. Try giving him a good brushing in the areas that are changing color. A furminator does a great job on Labs.
    – jalynn2
    Aug 12, 2015 at 16:28
  • He has been shedding quite a bit, so the two of you may be onto something. We brushed him a lot the first week, and he's continued to shed quite a bit since then. We have a Furminator for the cats but bought a bigger brush with retractable bristles for our previous dog, Buddy, who had long hair. I'll have to try out the Furminator on Bruno.
    – rob
    Aug 12, 2015 at 17:19

8 Answers 8


First of all, most puppies are born with a very soft coat that is replaced with an adult coat as they mature. The adult coat is often a slightly different color. This could explain color change in an adolescent dog.

Many breeds have an undercoat that is not normally visible as it is covered by a top coat. This undercoat is often a different shade than the top coat. During heavy shedding periods, the undercoat is shed and becomes more visibly prominent, and this might appear to change the color. I had a Blue Heeler mix whose coat was normally a bluish gray, but would take on a brownish tint when she was shedding. I found that a Furminator grooming tool was effective in removing the dead fur on a short coated breed. I think this is most likely in OP's seven year old Lab mix.

Finally, some breeds do change color over their lifetimes. For example, Bearded Collies have a dominant graying gene. My dog was born jet black, and her coat had turned to light silver by her first birthday. It is has gradually gotten darker, and is now a medium-dark gray four years later. Beardie's coats often continue to darken over their entire lifetimes, but rarely get back to their birth color. Old English Sheepdogs also have this gene.


Yes, dogs can change colour as their coats 'blow'. Blowing means that hair strands get old and start to shed, often lighter in shade, e.g. gingerish on a brown dog, but the new coat would be usually darker and shinier. Coats vary in how liable they are to sun-bleaching, and it depends on sun intensity and perhaps predisposing factors like being in water a lot.

Coat colour can be affected by foods with pigment in them, e.g. sugar beet, food dyes and seaweed can darken light fur. For example, my palomino horse was ruined for a season's showing by winter sugarbeet feed, as it's coat went reddish, and another Spring after adlib seaweed powder, his hindquarters grew dark brown fur, which gradually disappeared by end of June, thank Goodness! I think it dissolved out by rain, as it was not groomed a lot. He's normally bright gold in summer, pale gold in winter.

Sugarbeet is often in dog foods (perhaps more as a 'filler or fibre in cheap foods?) and a rescue place might likely be using cheaper foods, which may also (I guess!) have food dye added by manufacturers to make the feed look better to human carers (like some dog treats seem to be). The effect of this would wear off as time passes, according to when it was last fed the color factor. If you knew the exact history of the dog, it may shed light on the feed situation - e.g. if it was starving somewhere, it may have scavenged dark coloured food-sources

Some species can change colour temporarily for camouflage, and maybe under stress in rescue situations there may be a trigger in some dogs to darken the colour, as that may lower its risk profile, as it might in wild species?

Shelter /rescue people are often wrong (in my long experience as trainer /rescue /dog breed info /behaviour work) in guessing breed mixes, and tend to stick to info given by the previous owner, and even first-time owners are given incorrect info, (pups in one litter can have more than one father and not be pedigree as supposed) so the dog may be carrying colour genes /alleles which are not expected. Google dog color genetics for lots of inforamtion. Dogs with sable genes change colour and pattern dramatically while growing up. Merles tend to grow more and more dark hairs, and roan spotting increases with age too.

Good breeders /websites to do with Chesapeakes and Pyreneans may be able to advise on likelihood of colour change through age /feed etc. Please google 'Chesapeake retriever coat color' etc. for more information.

Hope some of this is helpful. Glad he's got a loving home now!

  • I'm curious - what do you mean by "as their coats 'blow'"?
    – user6796
    Aug 10, 2017 at 15:01
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    @YvetteColomb in the US, the term "coats blow" often is used to mean Moulting Aug 10, 2017 at 17:50

Sometimes dog's coats do change color for various reasons:

  • Growing up from young to adult:Puppies sometimes completely change color as they mature. For instance, Dalmatians and Australian cattle dogs start off life pale and get their markings as they age

  • Old age: Many dogs go a little gray, especially around the face, as they age.

  • Sun damage or other environmental factors like shampoo or diet: Trace minerals in water cause dogs to have tears that will stain their fur by their eyes dark over time.

  • Diseases: Diseases such as vitiligo or a hormone problem may also be the cause.

Since you have obtained the dog in the last two weeks, I would suggest you to take him to the vet for a checkup and ask about it. It's generally a good idea to bring new pets to the vet anyways, so the vet can see the animal while it's theoretically healthy as a baseline.

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    Thanks for the answer. His face is still very dark; it's mostly the area around his neck where we've noticed the most change. We actually did take the dog to the vet within a few days of adopting him; it's required by the shelter. The vet gave him a perfect bill of health. But I might still go ahead and call the vet to see if he has any additional insight.
    – rob
    Aug 12, 2015 at 16:25

I think it's pretty commonly accepted that color changes can happen with age. Perhaps not huge color changes, but as an example: One of my dogs came from a litter which were born virtually all white. As the years pass(they are now 4), all of the white dogs have started to get more pronounced black ticking, which was only slightly visible as babies. My vet says this isn't uncommon at all, and that it's even seen in brindle's sometimes. One of my dogs is a black brindle and as time passes her coat has appeared to lighten a bit, and now most people would place her in the red brindle category! I've talked to a few of my friends who have dogs and several of them have seen color changes in their dogs over time. I guess it is more common than I knew!


I adopted a dog about 6 months ago. She had lots of colors in her coat but her first 2 groomings made her quite dark. Then the next grooming returned her blonde! And as she grows out, she is still blonde. Strangely, she now matches my other dog who is definitely blonde (as am I.) People who didn't see my new adoptee for several months don't even recognize her. Now I know this is anecdotal and my new dog was severely severely stressed at the shelter - but can a dog change their coat to fit their new family? I seem to be experiencing this. I can't explain it - I am just reporting it.


BETA CAROTENE - I just found the answer. Apparently, it gives nuts, etc. their colour. If a dog is deficient, apparently it fades away their coat's colour. You must look it up and triple check for yourself the dose and best way of getting it for your dog though. No suing me please.

  • You should try to add a little more to your post to help the OP out, if possible. For instance, you recommend that they don't overdose the dog. It would be great if you could link to a resource that describes proper dosing. It would also be nice if there was a supporting article about how beta carotene or lack thereof can affect a dogs coat color.
    – Dalton
    Jan 26, 2017 at 18:54

If your puppy has brindle in his/her genes and at the moment his coat does not look brindle, there is a small possibility his coat might change. We mixed our blue nose pit bull with a brindle pit bull and kept one of the pups. She had a litter of 10 and 4 of them changed coats once they reached 8 months of age. The one we kept was one of them. He is black and white with brown stripes. At first I never thought that would have happened because he was just black, but their coat changes. So if your puppy has that gene in them, there is a possibility his/her color will change.


I breed cats and had the same problem - it turned out to be the food didn't include a mineral in high enough quantity - now I have a cavapoo who was quite red as a puppy who now is almost white - I was looking to find if the same might be true for dogs. Food for thought

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