The sable gene is a bit mysterious, the color usually appears when a dog is carrying the BHT gene. But, not always! There is said to be sable dogs that are”pure for red” (ie not carrying a tri gene). Go to the Color Genetics page for discussion on inheritance of colors in the Pembroke. The pups below probably both got a black headed tricolor and a sabling gene from the same dog (sire of the left column ones and the great grandsire of the right hand column pups)
Sable at 2 weeks old, no difference in color from 1 week old.
Sable at about 2 weeks old, much darker than red littermate
Left Column Photos
These are a series of comparative photos from of littermates, one sable, the other red. This photo series shows that there's not always much to tell a young sable puppy from a red. Some sables can start very dark overall as pups, but others, like this one, are just about the same color as their red littermates. Intensity of darkness early on does not necessarily correlate with a darker sable either. This dog in older age has pretty much lost his sabling.
(courtesy and copyright Carrie Hale, Haley).
Right Column Photos
This is a series of photos of a sable that started off much darker from her littermates, lost the overall body darkness to be about the same color as littermates at 9 wks (except for dark head markings), then started showing typical body sabling patterns at ca 12 weeks old.
Littermates at 3 weeks, Sable (l), red (r). Not much difference!
Sable at about 3 weeks old, lighter now, but still much darker than red littermate in right background
Littermates at 10 weeks, Sable (l), red (r). Note muzzle of sable is darker. A dog that will have a smutty muzzle at an older age may also look similar to this but would probably not have darker areas on the bridge of the muzzle.
Sable at 11 wks, only indication of black is on top of head and swipes below eye
Sable at 11 weeks, no very obvious indications of sabling.
Sable at 12 weeks, now with sabling on shoulders, above tail, and some scattered dark hairs along topline and side loin area
Sable at 5 months of age, neck sabling obvious.
Sable at 6.5 months.
Mature sable at 2 yrs of age (photo reversed left to right).
Sable at 11 months