Australian Shepherds come in a variety of coat colorations and patterns; however, there is one combination that absolutely stands out among the rest: the tri-color Australian Shepherd.
Tri-colored Australian Shepherds are not just adorable and fun to look at — they’re also an excellent choice for many families. In fact, they exhibit what a regular Aussie tends to have: trainability, loyalty, and a love of people.
Still, do note that there are some differences between tri-color Aussies and their differently-colored cousins. Luckily, this article will shed light on the most important information about this eye-catching trichrome variety.
What Is a Tri-Color Australian Shepherd?
The tri-color Australian Shepherd is a variety of purebred Aussie born with three colors in its coat — which can either be a combination of red, white, and copper or black, white, and copper. Note that it also comes in four types: red merle tri, blue merle tri, red tri, and black tri.
Fortunately, all these tricolor Australian Shepherd types are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). This means you do not just get to enjoy a unique-looking Aussie; you also get all the benefits of a well-bred dog.
Generally, the tri-color Aussie is much like their other counterparts when it comes to a number of things, including being short or long-haired, blue-eyed or brown-eyed, with triangular ears and an overall friendly look.
The same goes for temperament. While genetics do not determine personality traits entirely, many tricolored Australian Shepherd owners say that their fur babies are just as smart and active as any other Aussie.
Ultimately, you can never go wrong with an Australian Shepherd, especially one with three shades on its fur. It won’t just be the cleverest pupper on the block — it’ll likely be the most stylish one too.
Are Tri-Color Australian Shepherds Rare?
Since tri-color Australian Shepherds are divided into four varieties, it is easy to think they are all uncommon. In reality, however, only red tri and red merle tri Aussies are considered truly rare.
The reason behind this is simple: the gene responsible for the red coloration is recessive, meaning that in order for an Australian Shepherd puppy to be born with it, both parents must carry and pass the gene into their DNA.
On the other hand, black tri and blue merle tri-color Australian Shepherd variations have no such restriction, as they are the product of the dominant K or black gene. Hence, they are more common than one might think.
Different Types of Tri-Color Australian Shepherd
As established, the tri-color Australian Shepherd has four types. These types include the black tri-colored Aussie, red tri-colored Aussie, red merle tri-colored Aussie, and the blue merle tri-colored Aussie.
In this section, you will learn about each type of tri-color Australian Shepherd in detail. This way, you will be able to identify which one suits your preference and lifestyle.
Black Tri-Colored Australian Shepherd
Probably the most common among all tri-color Australian Shepherds, the black tri-color Aussie has a mostly black body, accompanied by a large white patch on its chest and copper-streaked eyebrows, legs, and cheeks.
In most instances, black tri Aussies will retain dark-pigmented eyes as well. Yet, it is not uncommon for these dogs to have blue or hazel ones instead.
Here is a video of a black tri-color Aussie in action:
Red Merle Tri-Colored Australian Shepherd
If an Aussie puppy’s mom or dad carries the gene for merle, there is a high chance that it will have an irregularly-patched coat. In the case of red merle tri-colored Aussies, their patches will be red or brownish in color.
Copper highlights and white markings are also trademarks of the red merle tri-colored Australian Shepherd, as with other tri-color Aussie varieties.
However, rather than a predominantly black coat common in black tris, this variation has a base color that ranges from mahogany to deep red.
Blue Merle Tri-Colored Australian Shepherd
Like the red merle tri-color variety, the blue merle tri-colored Australian Shepherd will possess a coat with patchwork-like markings. That said, this dog has fur that is predominantly blue or gray rather than red.
What’s more, alongside copper streaks and white-colored chests, blue merle tri-color Aussies will sometimes exhibit black spots. These spots may show up on their heads, legs, bellies, or backs in varying sizes and shapes.
Red Tri-Colored Australian Shepherd
Finally, meet the red tri-colored Australian Shepherd. This pup boasts a largely reddish-brown coat with copper highlights and light-pigmented chest, muzzle, neck, and limb areas.
While it is typical to mistake them for red merle tri-colored Australian Shepherds, note that this pooch will display clearly defined markings. Hence, the difference between them can be spotted easily.
In terms of eye color, the red tri-color Aussie should have brown eyes. Still, some may develop heterochromia, a condition in which one iris is a different color than the other.
Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Appearance
Starting with height and weight, a fully grown tri-colored Australian Shepherd averages between 10 and 23 inches tall at the shoulder, with a weight range of approximately 15 to 65 pounds.
You will notice that the ranges provided above have a wide gap, but this is because Aussies are known for having “miniature” sizes.
When it comes to general appearance, expect that all tri-colored Aussies will sport tan or copper highlights. Such a trait will appear on their cheeks, eyebrows, ears, and forelegs.
These areas will then be accompanied by a white-colored blaze that runs from their forehead down to their bellies. Some may even have small patches of white on their feet as well.
The only difference is that blue merle and red merle tri-color Australian Shepherds will have irregularly shaped patches. Meanwhile, red and black tri-colored ones will be more uniform in coloration.
However, apart from all these physical traits, tri-color Aussies are not that different from other Aussie coat colors. Their ears, snouts, tails, and eyes are pretty much identical to other dogs of the said breed.
Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Color Genetics
The hue of a tri-color Australian Shepherd puppy is determined by genetics, as with other breeds. This means the exact coloration of a certain pup can vary depending on the parents’ color genes and how they are expressed.
Beginning with the base coat, if either one or both parents carry the dominant black or K locus, there is an increased chance that most of their pups will also maintain a mainly black coat.
Yet, for a red base coat, the only way to create a true red Aussie is through a red-to-red cross — which indicates both parents must pass down at least one copy of the recessive red gene for it to be expressed in their litter.
Meanwhile, the big white blaze, which appears from the forehead down to the legs of tri-colored Aussies, is due to the white spotting or S gene.
However, it is worth noting that what makes these pooches tri-color are the copper highlights found on their limbs, ears, eyebrows, and cheeks. Such highlights are caused by the A locus or agouti gene.
A note of caution, though, if you plan on producing a blue merle or red merle tri-colored Aussie pup, never cross two merle parents together. This pairing usually results in deafness in all offspring.
Do Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Puppies Change Color as They Grow?
Yes, tri-color Australian Shepherd puppies can change coat color as they reach adulthood. As a matter of fact, they may appear lighter or darker than the pigment they were when they were born.
However, keep in mind that not all color change is due to aging. Sometimes, extreme sunlight exposure, diet, medications, and particular skin diseases can cause discoloration of the coat.
Do Kennel Clubs Recognize Tri-Color Australian Shepherds?
According to the breed standard set by the AKC for the Aussie breed, those black, red, red merle, and blue merle canines with white markings and, most importantly, copper highlights are considered purebreds.
The same rule is followed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), The Kennel Club (TKC), the United States Australian Shepherd Association (USASA), and the United Kennel Club (UKC).
That said, it should be noted that all these kennel clubs have a strict policy regarding the white color in Aussies: it must not predominate their base coat color.
Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Temperament and Personality
Unlike coat colors and appearances, the temperament and personality of a tri-color Australian Shepherd are not as straightforwardly predictable. Remember that they are mostly determined by upbringing and training.
The good news is there is no shortage of resources out there to help you prepare for tri-color Aussie puppy ownership. You can learn how to socialize and train your dog using positive reinforcement techniques.
Still, you can rest assured that most tri-color Australian Shepherds, according to many fur parents, are friendly and easygoing. They’re well-known for being great with kids and other pets, too.
Further, these canines are often trainable and have sharp minds, adding to their appeal as ideal family dogs.
Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Lifespan and Health Issues
You can anticipate that the tri-color Australian Shepherd can live for roughly 12 to 15 years. It is a generally healthy canine that can have a long and happy life if it is properly cared for.
However, bear in mind that some diseases are more common in this breed than others. Below are health issues that may affect the tri-colored Aussie:
- Hemangiosarcoma (HSA): Hemangiosarcoma is the most common cancerous tumor among tri-colored Australian Shepherds. It can occur anywhere in the body but is most likely to develop in the spleen, liver, or heart.
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: If your tri-colored Aussie is bought from a puppy mill, it’s more likely to have elbow and hip dysplasia. These are hereditary conditions that can lead to arthritis and lameness later on in life.
- Collie Eye Defect (CED): Collie eye defect is a common condition that affects herding dogs like the tri-color Australian Shepherd. It can cause blindness or partial vision loss, and it is genetic.
Overall, no one can really guarantee the health of your tri-color Aussie. Yet, by purchasing it from a reputable breeder and keeping it up-to-date on all its vaccinations, you’ll give your dog the best chance at a joyful life.
How Much Does a Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Cost? Puppy Prices & Expenses
A tri-color Australian Shepherd puppy is priced between $1,000 and $2,500. This price range is vast, as it already covers everything from the most basic purebred puppies to those born from champion lines.
However, if you do not mind adopting an adult dog or an older puppy, then you can save money by going this route. Adult tri-colored Australian Shepherds typically cost around $120 to $670.
Regardless of whether you decide to buy or adopt, though, there are expenses associated with owning any animal — and they add up fast.
The following table should give you an idea of the initial expenses involved in caring for a tri-color Aussie:
|Type of Expense||Cost|
|Food and Treats||$70 – $110|
|Bowls||$10 – $30|
|Toys||$30 – $60|
|Beds||$40 – $200|
|Collars and Leashes||$15 – $50|
|Crates and Carriers||$50 – $370|
|Grooming Essentials||$50 – $160|
|Initial Vet Visits||$100 – $500|
|Initial Vaccine Shots||$50 – $300|
|Deworming, Flea, and Tick Medications||$40 – $300|
|Neutering or Spaying||$50 – $500|
|Microchipping||$40 – $60|
|Dog License||$10 – $20|
|Other Essentials||$20 – $50|
|Total Initial Cost||$505 – $2,710|
It is crucial to remember that these expenses are just estimates. Note that you will always have control over how much you spend on your new furry friend.
Luckily, there are ways that you can reduce them, including buying food and treats in bulk, grooming your tri-color Aussie yourself, and investing in pet insurance.
Places to Find Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Puppies for Sale and Adoption
Generally speaking, locating tri-color Australian Shepherd puppies for sale isn’t all that difficult. A quick search on your favorite search engine can yield hundreds of results.
Having said that, it is worth noting that finding a reputable tri-colored Aussie breeder is an entirely different matter. Sadly, puppy mills and backyard breeders abound, whose only goal is to sell you a sick canine.
For your reference, here’s a list of places where you can find tri-colored Australian Shepherd puppies for sale:
- AKC Marketplace – The AKC Marketplace serves as a place for breeders to connect with each other and potential buyers. Since it is associated with the American Kennel Club, it is one of the most trusted sites offering quality tri-color Aussie puppies.
- USASA Breeder Directory – The USASA provides a list of reliable tri-colored Aussie breeders who are members of the organization. You can browse through their directory and then contact the breeders directly to inquire about available puppies.
- Narita Farms Aussies (NFA) – Located in Arizona, Narita Farms Aussies is a breeding facility that offers tri-colored Australian Shepherd puppies for sale. They are also a proud member of the Arizona Herding Club (AHC) and the Paso Del Norte Australian Shepherd Association (PDNASA).
Meanwhile, you can adopt a tri-colored Aussie from a shelter or rescue group instead. Below are a few Australian Shepherd organizations that you can check out:
- Aussie Rescue & Placement Helpline (ARPH) – Established in 1992, ARPH is a national organization dedicated to placing Aussies in homes and rescue facilities across the country. Their adoption fee for a tri-color Australian Shepherd starts at $300.
- Lone Star Aussie Rescue (LSAR) – Nestled in Texas, LSAR is a non-profit organization that offers vet-checked, vaccinated, and spayed/neutered tri-colored Aussies for adoption. These dogs can be adopted by paying a fee of around $150 to $325.
- Western Australian Shepherd Rescue (WASR) – If you live in the Western United States and are looking for a tri-colored Australian Shepherd, WASR is an excellent resource. They have dogs that range from $350 to $650, so it is easy to find one that fits your budget.
In addition to the sources above, searching for online forums dedicated to tri-colored Australian Shepherds is another way to find a reputable breeder.
You can also try asking your friends, relatives, and family members if they know anyone selling these unique-looking pooches.
Best Dog Names for Your Tri-Color Australian Shepherd Puppy
Whether you’re looking for a moniker for your tri-color Australian Shepherd puppy or are just curious about what kinds of names people have given their dogs in the past, this section has got you covered.
The following are some of the best names for male tri-colored Aussie puppies:
On the flip side, here are some suggested names for a female tri-color Australian Shepherd puppy:
In the end, no one can stop you from giving your new furry pal whatever appellation you want. After all, the names above are just suggestions. If none of them strike your fancy, you can come up with something else.
You can even name your tri-color Australian Shepherd puppy after your favorite musician, movie character, or food — so long as it is not too long, not too hard to pronounce, and not offensive or embarrassing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the Difference Between Merle and Tricolor Australian Shepherds?
The main difference between merle and tricolor Australian Shepherds is that merles exhibit a unique pattern of splotchy pigmentation. Further, you will notice that tricolor Aussies have clearly defined markings.
Still, it should be noted that a tri-color Aussie may also display merle patterning, as they are sometimes bred from parents carrying the gene for such a trait.
How Big Do Tricolor Australian Shepherds Get?
As with other purebred Aussies, tricolor Australian Shepherds can be either miniature or standard size.
To be specific, a miniature tri-colored Aussie can stand between 10 and 18 inches and weigh up to 35 pounds. Meanwhile, standard-sized ones grow from 18 to 23 inches tall, with a maximum weight of about 65 pounds.
How Many Australian Shepherd Colors Are There?
If you add the non-standard fur shades to the list, over 15 Australian Shepherd colors are available today. So if the tri-color Aussie isn’t your cup of tea, don’t fret — there are plenty of other options for you to choose from.
What Is the Rarest Australian Shepherd Color?
Genetically speaking, an Australian Shepherd flaunting a solid red coat color is the rarest. The red gene is recessive, implying that it takes two copies of the same locus to create such a unique pigmentation in a pup.
This means that red merle, red merle tri, and red tri-colored Australian Shepherds are also very uncommon since they all require similar genetic mutations.
If you are searching for a pupper that’s as loyal as it is striking, the tri-color Australian Shepherd is the one for you. It has got all that you expect from a typical Aussie but with the added bonus of being multi-colored.
Specifically, its tan or copper highlights add to its charm and make it look even more unique than it already is. Also, the fact that four variations are available under this type means there’s something for everyone.
So whether you want one with merle patterning, saddleback markings, or a combination of two, there’s bound to be an option that meets your preferences.
However, one should note that tri-colored Aussies need the same upkeep and attention as their counterparts do. Thus, ensure you take good care of them so they can return the favor fully.
Drop your thoughts about the tri-color Australian Shepherd in the comments!