An Introduction to ...

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Pictures of Ticking in Dogs

Ticking and merle are not the same! We've included it under the merle heading because they are so often confused.

What is Ticking?

Ticking is a pattern of small spots found only in the white parts of the dog's coat. Think of the white as putting a cloth over the dog. Ticking is like cutting holes in the cloth to let the base color (whatever that may be) show through.

Solid color dogs (with no white) can carry ticking. However, you won't be able to see it, since ticking is only visible in white trim areas.

So, what breeds typically carry ticking?

Ticking is found in many, many breeds, but is best known in Dalmatians, Australian Cattle Dogs (Queensland Heelers), and English Setters, as well as many spaniels and hounds. Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, and Corgis are some of the herding breeds which can carry ticking.

How to tell the difference between Merling and Ticking?

Although you will find descriptions of blue merle as "mixed black and white hairs," looking closely at a merled dog's coat will show that statement to be inaccurate. Blue merle dogs will have areas of solid black, and other areas of gray (although the gray may be made of several shades, it is gray, not a mixture of black and white). Ticked dogs will have white and black hairs intermingled, with no intermediate color. (This applies to dogs of other colors as well.)

Ticked dogs with patches can resemble merles, but generally their patches have smoother edges than the solid areas in a merle dog (always have very irregular "torn" edges). Australian Cattle Dogs are a good example of ticked dogs that are often mistaken for merles.

If the only mottled areas of a dog's coat seem to be in trim areas (legs, feet, collar, muzzle), the dog is more likely to be ticked than merled. Remember, it's highly unusual to see merling limited to areas where there would normally be white markings (legs, face, collar area).

The biggest clue is to look at the dog as a newborn. Ticking is not present at birth, and develops gradually, as the pups grow (which is why Dalmatian pups are born white). Color appearing in the white of a pup's coat is more likely to be ticking than merling (visit Pecoso's page to see how his ticking developed as he grew). Merle should be visible when the pup is born, even though it usually darkens as the dog matures (see Turlough's page for a dramatic example of this). In Aussies, the ticking is typically more prevalent on the legs (although it can also appear on their face and in their collar).

Compare these dogs with ticking to any of the merle pages to see the differences.

(Remember, all pictures with blue borders are links.)


Red Tri Aussie with copper and white, heavy ticking

Emily Kate

Blue Roan English Cocker Spaniel


Black Tri Aussie with ticking

To see more pictures of ticking, visit Inheritance of Color in the Australian Shepherd - Aussie Ticking.