The following Russian Toy breed standard names for the colors of the breed are as follows: black and tan, brown and tan, blue and tan, lilac and tan, red and black, red and blue, red, fawn, red and brown, red and lilac, and cream. Black, brown and red colors are the traditional for Russian Toys. Recessive red, blue and lilac are called diluted because of the color dilution gene dd in their genetic makeup.
All colors of dogs are made with only two pigments – eumelanin (black) and phaeomelanin (red, or also called yellow). If a dog doesn’t have black and red pigment, its hair will be white. The visual difference in colors is explained with the work of genes and gene modifiers. We can’t predict 100% of what color or quality puppy we will receive no matter how well we understand genetics. All we can do is to make the calculations as close as possible to get a desirable result.
The topic of color genetics is vast enough to create an entire book, but this article will help you understand the basics of genetics, learn how to read code and match dogs for breeding. Also provided are some examples of breeding that I believe will help you to understand how to read gene codes better.
First of all, genes are named with letters. Dominating genes will be capitalized and recessive (or weaker ones) will be written in lowercase. If one of two dogs you are breeding has most genes dominant (capitals), then all puppies will look like the dog that has the dominant genes.
Gene modifiers are still a mystery in genetics. It is still unknown if they play their own role or affect the work of genes. Even if you calculated everything perfectly as you believe, the offspring still might bring you surprises because of these gene modifiers.
Russian Toys carry next genes:
АyАy – dominating red
Аyаt – red and black or sable (although in my opinion sable and red and black are different)
аtаt – TAN (in black and tan, brown and tan, blue and tan, red and tan, lilac and tan)
ВВ, Вb – black pigment (in hair, skin and claws)
bb – brown pigment (in hair, skin and claws)
С – fact of presence of pigment
сd – pale-yellow (almost white looking) with black nose
DD, Dd – color amplifier
dd – color diluent
ЕЕ, Ее – black color spread evenly
ее – absolute absence of black pigment in hair
gg – absence of hair graying
HH – hanging ears
Hh – semi-erected ears
hh – erected ears
Int – mild red; intm – medium red; int – bright red
LL – smooth hair
Ll – short hair
ll – long hair
mm – absence of Merle gene
МаМа, Маmа – face mask presence (can be expressed in the form of a black chin)
mama – absence of mask
SS – solid color
Ssi – solid color with Irish blotchiness (white spots on toes, chest, throat, tip of tail
sisi – Irish blotchiness
tt – absence of spots in color (like dalmatians for example)
Here is how you can write down the code of your dog using these letters.
Example: Longhaired (L) red and black (Ay) with black nose (B) white spot on chest (sisi) with mask (MaMa) with erected ears (hh) – AyMaMaBsisihhL
atBE – black and tan
bed or beg – fawn dogs with brown nose
ABe – red dog with black nose
Abe – light red dog with brown nose
ABem – red dog with dark mask and black nose
Abem – red dog with dark mask and brown nose
ayBE – red dog with dark hair ends
AyB – red and black dog with black nose
Aybb – red and brown
batat – brown and tan
eeB – recessive red with black nose
Bddatat – blue and tan
bbddatat – lilac and tan
Int, intm, int – Red (or Yellow) Gene
The interesting fact about this gene is that the lighter color will dominate over the bright one – Int – mild red; intm – medium red; int – bright red. If you breed one bright red dog with light red, you will most probably receive light red puppies. The brightness of color is very difficult to return even if you breed the new puppy with another bright red dog. There is still much research to be conducted in the work of color modifiers and polygenes responsible for varieties of yellow color.
How to Breed Using Knowledge about Genetics
1. Let’s breed two dogs. One of them is Red and Black (AyAy) and the other one is any color with Tan (black and tan, blue and tan, brown and tan, lilac and tan) (atat)
AyAy + atat = Ayat (baby) Let’s call him Jack.
Ayat gene means that Jack will be red and black (since Ay is dominating over at) despite that in his genotype he will have information that one of his parents was black/brown/blue/lilac and tan. Later on, when we breed Jack, he will produce red/black puppies and puppies which will have the color of his other parent.
Now let’s breed Jack (Ayat) with black/brown/blue/lilac and tan dog (atat).
Ayat + atat = Ayat, atat
This breeding will result in some puppies being red and tan and some being (black/brown/blue/lilac and tan).
Now let’s breed Jack (Ayat) with another red and black dog (Ayat) which also had a black/brown/blue/lilac and tan (atat) parent.
Ayat + Ayat = Ayat, atat, AyAy
In this case, we will receive red and black (Ayat), black/brown/blue/lilac and tan (atat) and red and black puppies which will not have black/brown/blue/lilac and tan gene in their genotype (AyAy.)
Let’s breed Jack (Ayat) with a pure red and black (AyAy) dog whose both parents were red and black.
Ayat + AyAy = AyAy, Ayat
We will receive all red and black puppies. About 50% of them will carry black/brown/blue/lilac and tan gene and 50% will not. How to check which ones? When it’s time to breed these puppies, breed them with black/brown/blue/lilac and tan to see the results.
2. Now let’s breed a black/brown and tan dog (whose one parent is blue and tan or lilac and tan) (Dd) with exactly the same dog (Dd) who is black/brown and tan but one of his parents is blue and tan or lilac and tan.
Dd +Dd = DD (25%), Dd (50%), dd (25%)
This means that 25% of puppies will be black/brown and tan (not blue and tan or lilac and tan), 50% of puppies will be black/brown and tan but will have blue and tan or lilac and tan in their genes, and 25% will be born blue and tan or lilac and tan.
Now let’s breed black/brown (whose one parent was blue/lilac and tan) (Dd) with blue/lilac and tan dog (dd).
Dd + dd = Dd (50%), dd (50%)
Breeding dd with dd (the actual blue/lilac and tan dogs) will give dd puppies.
3. Breeding red and black with red dogs is one of the most unpredictable combinations. The problem is in the way gene A works with gene E. For example, if a red and black dog (Ay) has gene EE or Ee, then this dog will have some black hair on it. Even if it’s just a couple of them. If Ay dog has ee in its genes, then it will be just red because e dominates over A. Let’s see how this works.
AyAyEE (red and black) + AyAyEE (another red and black) = 100% AyAyEE puppy.
AyAyEeBB + AyAyEeBB = AyAyEEBB (red and black), AyAyEeBB (red and blac), AyAyeeBB (red)
Out of the last combination, we will receive AyAyeeBB puppy which is genetically red and black (AyAy) but at the same time it is genetically red because ee doesn’t allow black pigment to develop.
Here is another example:
atatEe (black and tan) + atatEe (black and tan) = atatee (red)
This is the only time when you can receive a red puppy from two black and tan dogs. Black and tan with black and tan will always give black and tan puppies. In this example you can see the work of gene e. Genetically this puppy is still black and tan although he will not have even one black hair on him. The problem is that both of his parents had recessive gene e, which they passed to their puppy. The correct name for this color would be recessive red.
In order to receive red puppies, you need to breed either both dogs with recessive ee genotype or both with dominating Ay (red and black) but with the fewest black hairs on them as possible. If using two Ay dogs, it will take a while until puppies will be red or have very few black hairs on them. Dogs with ee genotype are rare.
4. Let’s look at, Ssi and sisi genes. Often, a dog that has zero white hair, in fact has Ssi or sisi genes which are responsible for white color. Why won’t we find even a single white hair on the dog in this case? It is because gene modifiers do their work. They do not remove the white gene but manage the size of the white spot.
I will not talk much about breeding dogs with white because it is not allowed by Russian Toy breed standard. I only want to explain how it happens. When you buy a puppy without any white and whose parents didn’t have white spots too, and you start breeding him, you get some puppies with while on their paws or chest. Here is how it happens:
White gene is recessive. It means that if there are stronger genes present, they will dominate over the recessive one. Recessive genes can sleep in a dog’s genetics, but it doesn’t mean that if you don’t see white in your dog’s pedigree that he is completely free from it.
I will show you how the recessive gene can sleep for generations, using example of atat color (Tan). You can use the same formula with other recessive genes from the genes above. Recessive genes are always named with small letters (atat, sisi, ee, gg, etc.)
Let us breed brown and tan dog with a red and black one (or sable).
atatbb (brown and tan) + AyAyBB (red and black) = AyatBb (red and black Lucky)
Lucky is born red and black, yet he also has brown and tan in his genes since brown and tan is recessive.
Now, let’s breed Lucky with another red and black dog:
AyatBb + AyAyBB = AyatBb (Stella)
Stella looks just like her father and the same time has brown and tan gene. This atat gene can pass through several generations without expressing itself. One day new owners who have no idea about dogs not seen in 3 generation pedigree ancestors, decide to breed their AyatBb (red and black) dog with another AyatBb and they suddenly receive atatbb (brown and tan) puppy.
Almost the same phenomena happens with white colors which also sleep through generations and then one day express themselves in one of puppies. How to prevent it? It is in fact not always easy to do. Our pedigrees only show the last 3 generations, and it’s not enough for recessive genes. All you can do is not to use the puppy that has white spots in breeding.
5. Today different shades of recessive color are called, in one-word, lilac, in breed standard. However, there is a difference in the way each shade is revealed.
For instance, Isabella color (a shade of lilac) can be received through breeding red dog (ee) with a very strong blue and tan (Bddatat). Behind every lilac Russian Toy there is a red dog and the rest are blue and tan.
From bbatat (brown and tan) and Bddatat (blue and tan) you can receive lavender (another shade of lilac), cocoa and lilac puppies.
You need to remember, though, that besides beautiful coats, dogs with a diluent gene dd (blue and lilac have dd that dilutes color) can have health issues caused by the dd gene itself. They can have allergies and Blue Dobermann Syndrome (BDS). BDS is life threatening for dogs. If these puppies don’t die before 6 months of age, then any time before 3 years old they may become sick, lose hair, get bald spots (alopecia), or develop wounds on their skin. Breeding your dog with seemingly good quality blue and tan or lilac and tan dog does not guarantee the good health of puppies. Lilac is very difficult in breeding. This color can change with age and become darker or lighter, and dog’s face can become almost white. Lilac dogs also might have white hairs which are not easy to notice. Breeding them can bring puppies with white spots.
Through responsible and knowledgeable breeding, it is still possible to breed healthy lilac and blue Russian Toys. It includes removing the sick dogs from breeding no matter how good their body shape is or any other reason.
6. Red and brown dogs are different from red and black only in the color of the ends of hair. Red and black will have black ends and red and brown – brown. Genetically they are still red and black, although visually they look red and most of the time will have greyish-pink nose. We can blame gene dd in diluting black color into brown. Let’s try to breed such a dog in order to receive brown lilac color.
AyBbDd (red and brown) + AyBbDd (red and brown) = Aybbdd (red and brown with lilac ends of hair)
bb makes ends of hair brown, while dd dilutes brown color.
Mask is the darker color of the face or chin of a dog. They are easiest to see on red and black dogs but even black and tan, red or fawn ones can have masks. In black and tan dogs, masks will cover tan color on the face, and at times, will leave only a few red hairs. In this case, you will see a black and tan dog with a black face. The way masking genes pass to offspring has not been studied enough. At this time, this gene is simply named Ma. All red dogs with mask with have Ay gene. All red ones without mask might have Ay or ee, but most probably ee.