The Color Conundrum
By Jessica Freni
FAD COLORS- seems they’ve crept into and affected every breed (nearly as much as “doodling” has seemingly reached even rare breeds). Are we as preservation breeders doing enough to combat the growing problem and educate the pet public?
What are fad colors? Essentially, they are non- standard colors, coat colors and patterns that are faults, undesirable or disqualifications according to breed standards. Some breed standards exclude certain colors to preserve type (such as the color changes eye color or pigmentation that results in drastic changes to characteristic breed expression) or due to health issues (ex. risk of color dilute alopecia or links to deafness) or others are DQ because they are not naturally occurring in the breed when purebred and are introduced to the breed via mixing in another breed (ex. “Merle French bulldog” or “silver labrador”).
Whatever the fad color, marketed as “rare” by less scrupulous breeders, the pet public cannot seem to get enough! Social media hashtags showcase poorly bred, but extremely popular fad colors with massive followings. Tiktok is plagued by “merle” French bulldogs and bulldogs with incredible size audiences fueling an unbelievable demand. These fad color dogs are not only absurdly popular with pet owners, but a cash cow for their “breeders”- “merle” French bulldogs are $7500- 20000, “pink” pugs are reportedly $20000 (https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/6852155/kerry-katona-skint-pink-pug-visits-mum-lily/) and “silver labs” or “chocolate” cavaliers can run twice that of well bred, to breed standard counterparts. “New” trendy colors are fast paced and extremely lucrative gimmicks for their breeders and the pet public is duped into feeling they have something novel, special and rare and simply cannot get enough. Preservation breeders are being inundated by requests for these fad color dogs.
Why does this matter? As preservation breeders, every breeder should be aware of and concerned about the impact non- standard colors will have on their breed. In several breeds, non- standard colors (including those introduced via other breeds) are not only gaining momentum, but surpassing in numbers/ registration dogs bred to standard. The popularity and profit- driven model of these fad colors brings a surge of breeders who have not read the breed standard or whose ego drives them to simply disregard it, in turn impacting health, structure, type and temperaments. When breeding solely for gimmicky colors another aspect is often sacrificed. Fad color breeders are spreading misinformation to the pet public largely unchecked and without countering. In too many breeds, the rare color is in fact flipped around to be the ones within standard!
The time has passed to dismiss fad colors as an isolated problem or “not my concern”. Provide clear education on the standard, amend standards where necessary, provide clear visuals to judge’s education AND to the pet public (yes fad/DQ colors have been shown and even awarded!). Encourage your breed clubs to devote space to the topic head on (both FBDCA and the Labrador Club have done a great job addressing these hot topics in a clear accesible way (https://www.thelabradorclub.com/breed-standard#color) Answer inquiries (yes even the ones looking for non- standard type puppies) and explain that breed standards are just that BREED Standards not just show standards and why they should support breed preservation instead of fad gimmicks in choosing a breeder for their family pet. Thoughtfully and carefully screen homes careful not to place dogs into programs breeding purposely against breed standards (in your own breed or other breeds). As preservation breeders, we must be proactive, even aggressive, in protecting breed standards.