Sables range in color from golden through red to deep mahogany sable with an overlay of black. Sables may be Pure For Sable, or Tri- or Bi-Factored Sable.
The tricolor is basically black, with tan points over the eyes, on the cheeks, and sometimes on the legs. Tricolors also have varying amounts of the traditional white markings on the face, collar, and tail tip. Tricolors are NOT a sable with an overlay of black shading. The basic coat should be a rich black color with no rustiness.
The Bicolor (or Bi-Black) is black with white markings (no tan).
Merling is created by a dilution factor acting on the basic coat color to produce a mottled effect. Each hair is shaded differently, creating variations in the blue merle from silver to steel-blue with varying amounts of black patches. (Blue Merles are a Tricolor merled to blue).
As with the Bicolor, the Bi-Blue Merle displays only white markings, no tan. (Bi-Blue Merles are simply a Bicolor merled to blue.)
Sable Merles result from the merling gene acting on the Sable coat. Sable Merles are generally considered sables for purposes of showing and are accepted as such under the Standard. Sable Merles have a lighter Sable coat with patches of darker merling. However, as these puppies mature the merling often becomes so indistinct as to be barely recognizable, if you can see it at all. Sable Merles may have brown, merled (a mix of blue and brown), or blue eyes.
The white factor controls the amount of white on the body from the neck back, excluding the collar. The White factor is most commonly indicated by a white stifle running up the back leg. If the white on the stifle connects with the white on the belly, you can generally be sure that the dog is white factored. However, the lack of white on the stifle does not necessarily indicate that a dog is non-white factored. When breeding two white-factored dogs, the chances of getting Color-Headed Whites with varying amounts of body-spotting are one in four.
Color-Headed Whites are produced by mating two Shelties carrying the white factor. The CHW is basicly a sable, black, or merle dog on which the white factoring has created a white or spotted body coloration. When bred to a non-white-factored dog they will produce like any other white factored dog. CHW's are defined as those Shelties which have over fifty percent white. The head is always normally colored and marked. Bodies may be entirely white, solid colored with white spots, or white with colored spots.
Double Merles are the result of mating two Merled dogs, each parent giving its merling gene. Double Merles are not white dogs, but black or sable dogs merled (diluted) twice; merled once to blue in black coats or to champagne in the sable coats and merled again, to white. A large number of these individuals are defective in sight and/or hearing because of the double dose of the merling gene. When Double Merles are bred to Non-Merled dogs, the defects are not passed on. DOUBLE MERLES SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH COLOR-HEADED WHITES, WHICH ARE THE RESULT OF DOUBLING ON THE WHITE-FACTORING GENE.