Tri (meaning ‘Triple’) Colored dogs are simply that; dogs with three distinct colors on their coat.
White and Red are always present, while the third color (which is considered the base color) can be anything else – Blue, Black, Liver, etc…
When we describe a tri dog we state the base color first, then include the word “tri”.
This Australian Shepherd is a Black Tricolour, or Black Tri.
A Quick Lesson on Genetics
Some dogs carry a pair of recessive genes (atat) called the Tan Point gene (or “traditional tan points”).
As you might have guessed, dogs that express this gene show tan or red markings over top of their base color (black, blue, brown, etc…)
These markings appear above the eyes, muzzle, cheeks, feet, legs, or nose.
Furthermore, white markings or spotting will appear on the coat as well, completing the tri color.
Essentially a tricolor is a tan pointed dog with white spotting.
Herding breeds are the most common carriers, but we’ll see that many other breeds can express tan point as well.
Common Tricolored Dog Breeds
1. Australian Shepherd
Australian shepherds wrote the book on tricolor. It was their breed standard that essentially defined what tricolor means and how we view it today.
Their base color can range from black to a light rust red. But sometimes they carry the “Merle” gene, which fades their base color into blues or greys.
What you end up with is a beautiful and very colorful dog (not to mention, their personality is very colorful as well).
Aussie’s are party animals. They’re a working breed – but their motto is work hard, play hard. They’re incredibly intelligent and fantastic companions, if you can accommodate their energetic lifestyle.
2. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese are big, silly, and lovable dogs that want to spend all their time with your family.
Also, they’re a perfect example of a consistently black tricolored dog.
Notise the the black base, tan pointed legs, cheeks, and eyes, and a splash of white on the chest and face.
We rated the Berner as a one of our favorite low maintenance dogs. If you can accommodate their sheer size.
Sometimes they just don’t realize just how big they are and their silly behavior leads to accidents, but it’s all in good fun.
While still considered a working breed, the Berner is much more adaptable to a calm lifestyle, and eager to please their owners.
Their intelligence mixed with their desire to learn makes them very trainable, and they’ll fit into your family routine quickly.
3. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
As you might have already guessed – the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a cousin of the Bernese Mountain Dog.
And just like their cousins they put on a display of beautiful tricolored coats.
The “Swissy” is a working dog with plenty of energy. They excel when given a job of sorts, whether that’s herding, protecting, or pulling.
Because of their working nature (and incredible energy), we don’t recommend this dog for novice owners, or owners in small spaces for that matter. Simply put: the Swissy is a handful.
4. Australian Cattle Dog
Just add this to the list of working dogs here. The Australian Cattle dog is no exception. They’re a herding breed with seemingly endless amounts of energy.
Combine their super energy with their incredible intelligence and it’s no wonder why they excel at agility and dog sports.
If you can accommodate their burning desire to run and play constantly then you’ll find a wonderful and affectionate companion. An Australian Cattle will follow you closely wherever you go looking for their next adventure.
You may notice their base color is faded. Along with being a tricolored they are also merle, meaning their black color fades to a grey or blue shade.
The Beagle is a scent hound originally used to seek out foxes and vermin. Upon finding their prey they were to howl to inform their owners. Unfortunately for some owners of this generation, that eat-piercing bark-howl is still very prevalent.
Beagles are medium sized, friendly, and endlessly curious. They love to follow their nose looking for new discoveries.
However, their high energy and intelligence means they get bored quick. As a result they tend to get into destructive behavior (like digging, chewing, barking, etc..).
6. Basset Hound
Bassets are wonderful family companions with a lot of hilarious personality traits. While they’re gifted scent trackers, they are also gifted with stubbornness. Training is often only possible by presenting really yummy treats.
Similar to Beagles they can be quite noisy, especially during playtime or when another dog walks by the house. Where they differ is Bassets tend to be low to medium energy.
Despite their obstinacy towards training, they’re still a good dog for most families.
Boxers are the class clowns in the canine world, and have no shortage of energy and playfulness (which often leads to mischief). They love nothing more than to play with loved ones, kids, and other animals.
You’ll find they’re a natural protector and very alert to their surroundings, always inspecting to make sure the area is safe. Early socialization and training is a must to avoid aggressive behavior.
Training Boxers may prove to be difficult, but they’re sensitive to scolding, and need instructions to be light-hearted and fun.
8. Rough Collie
Rough Collie’s are loyal, intelligent, and always on the lookout for potential danger. They’re protective (but not aggressive) which makes them an excellent family watch dog.
What else would you expect from the same breed that famously portrayed Lassie?
Despite their guarding duty, Rough Collies are quite emotionally sensitive and sometimes shy. You’ll quickly find they’re attuned to your emotions, and respond according to how you’re feeling. Making them especially good therapy dogs.
Just remember, Collie’s are a very fluffy dog breed, and require a lot of brushing and maintenance.
9. Shetland Sheepdog
”Shelties” have a long history of herding and working with farmers, making them incredibly hard working and fiercely intelligent companions.
It’s no wonder these dogs can always be found in the agility and obedience rings. They also have endless love for their family, and want to please their owners at every turn.
Sheltie herding instincts are still prevalent today. They have a strong desire to bark and herd whenever the situation presents itself. A lot of exercise and mental stimulation is required to keep them happy and calm.
The Chihuahua comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and it’s not uncommon to catch a glimpse of the tricolored Chihuahua.
These dogs sometimes get a bad reputation. Indeed, they can be noisy, but they are also exceptional family pets and companions.
Because of their small size it makes Chihuahuas quite portable, and they are more than happy to accompany you on your daily tasks. In fact, leaving them alone is generally when they become noisy or destructive.
Even with those little legs Chihuahuas have a surprising amount of energy to burn. Just a 30 minute walk can help curb bad behavior (such as that excessive barking).
11. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The most common colors for a Cavalier King Charles spaniel is brown and white. Occasionally you’ll come across the Black Tri Cavalier
These dogs have a gentle and loving soul. They’re great with kids, families, and new owners.
In fact they have so much love that you may never be alone again. Cavaliers are best described as “Velcro” dogs, meaning they’ll be attached to you for life.
Cavalier Spaniels are incredibly intelligent and eager to please. Yet being so sensitive they do not respond well to scolding or negative training. Instead, use positive training and reinforcement, as this will help them learn and build a trusting relationship.
12. Pembroke Welsh / Cardigan Corgi
Both the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Cardigan Corgi may fall into Tricolor category.
We discussed the the Corgi in our list of Red and White Dogs – but here we are with a third color.
Don’t let their short stature fool you, this is a hard working dog that does not take breaks.
Corgis are a very active dog used to herd sheep, cattle, and even horses. While great with children and families, you may occasionally find them trying to herd your children as well.
The happiest Corgi is a tired one. Going for multiple long runs each day will help keep your Corgi out of trouble.
If you can accommodate their active lifestyle, this breed is a wonderful accomplice to any family.
When you think of a Pomeranian you may think of a fluffy red dog, but they come in a whole swath of colors.
They can be described as confident, curious, and enjoy being treated like a prince (or princess).
Poms are a perfect accomplice to go on adventures with, as they enjoy spending their days following you around and genuinely enjoy new experiences. Just keep in mind they’re sensitive to heat and need to cool off every so often.
The Papillon is an ecstatic ball of energy that’s enjoys being the center of attention. They’re alert, energetic, and always looking for a good time.
And not to mention; incredibly intelligent. A Papillon is eager to please which makes training an absolute joy. It’s not uncommon to see them staring in agility or training courses.
If your looking for fun dog that is a little comedian at heart, then a Papillon may just steal yours.
15. English Bulldog
The best way to describe the English Bulldog is a lazy comedian. They’re affectionate and love a good time; as long as it’s on the couch.
Bulldogs sometimes get a reputation as being fierce and aggressive. And while this is partly true due to their fighting past and powerful jaw, they’ve since retired and prefer naps and cuddles.
Their body and facial structure may pose health problems as they age. Keep in mind there may be extra veterinary costs to owning a bulldog.
16. English / American Cocker Spaniel
The slightly more uncommon triple colored Cocker Spaniel in all her glory.
Cockers are a sweet and gentle companion that love their owners so much that is makes it difficult to detach. These are often described as “Velcro” dogs – as they’ll be stuck to you for life.
Their big hearts and big brains means they’re very receptive to positive training, and always ready for a challenge. This is why Cocker Spaniels excel at training and obedience courses.
17. Fox Hound
Think of the Fox Hound as a Beagle with long legs.
Like the Beagle; Foxhounds were used to chase down Foxes and Hares. They naturally want to “bay” or howl to indicate they found something, which is incredibly loud. And they have seemingly endless amounts of energy.
If you can accommodate the loud barking and energetic lifestyle, you’ll find an excellent family companion. These are mild mannered dogs that are affectionate and always up for a good time.
Believe it or not, this is not a Beagle or Fox hound. And chances are you have never seen one – these dogs are incredibly rare.
Harriers were (again) once used to hunt foxes, hares, and other prey.
Their hunting drive and energy levels are off the charts. Making them difficult to handle for novice owners. But like the Beagle, they’re affectionate and love to put their athletics on display.
Rare Tri Color Breeds
Unfortunately, some of the breeds are so rare that we could not find certain pictures (that we can legally show here). But they do exist. Here’s a few:
A Dalmatian is actually black all over with splashes of white – most people mistake it as white with black spots.
But sometimes, in very rare cases, you’ll find a tan pointed Dalmatian – meaning they have tan markings.
That’s right, you can get a tricolor Dalmatian. It’s quite rare, so rare in fact that we couldn’t find a picture to share with you.
20. German Shepherd (Panda)
They are highly debated on their origin, and considered a fault by the AKC.
There is no shortage of controversy with the Panda Shepherd. However, new research confirms this was not the result of crossbreeding.
In any case, the very unique looking Panda pattern has white on at least 30% of their body, mixed with patches of black and brown features. Combined this gives them the distinctive “Panda” look.
Learn more about German Shepherd Colors
Most multi-colored Poodles are Bicolored or “Parti Poodle” – which is a white base color and a secondary black, brown, or red coloring on the face, chest, back, or legs.
A third color may appear as markings described by the poodle community as Phantom markings.
Essentially creating a tricolored Poodle.