Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Whether your dog has black spots on the roof of his mouth, a black tongue, or black gums, you may be wondering where those black colors are coming from. You may have heard that dogs with black on the roof of their mouths are much smarter and easier to train. Some hunters also used to think that dogs with a lot of black on the roof of their mouths made the best hunting dogs, and the more black there was, the better. Some others believe that black spots in a dog's mouth (or any black areas in the mouth) are suggestive of a dog that is purebred. How true are these statements?
There are several dog breeds across the globe who have black in their mouths, but it turns out that a dark mouth isn't necessarily a sign of a purebred dog or of a genius dog with superior cognitive abilities. Nor does it necessarily signal a dog with premium hunting abilities. While it's perfectly normal for some dogs to have black pigment in their mouths, it's important to recognize that, in some cases, those black spots may not be normal at all, and they may warrant a visit to the vet. In the next paragraphs we will take a look at some dog breeds known for having black in their mouths and some causes of black spots in the mouth—and while we're at it, we will also debunk some common myths surrounding those black spots on a dog's mouth, tongue, gums, and roof of the mouth.
What Causes Black Spots in a Dog's Mouth?
If you're wondering what causes black spots in a dog's mouth, it's likely the result of heavy pigmentation. These darker spots are the result of microscopic melanin granules and present as flat, pigmented areas found on your dog’s tongue, gums and inside the lips and mouth. As long as these areas are flat and not raised above the surrounding tissues, thy are normal and nothing to worry about, explains Karen Becker, author and veterinarian at Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Illinois. For the sake of comparison, consider that those areas of extra pigmentation are sort of like freckles or birthmarks in people. These random spots can be actually found on the tongues of many other breeds. There are actually more than 30 dog breeds known for sporting spotted tongues; however, consider that even mixed breeds can have black spots in their mouths.
When Should I Seek Veterinary Attention?
However, in some cases, those black area may need veterinary attention. Even if your dog belongs to a breed for which it's normal to have a pigmented mouth, it's good practice to keep an eye out for any abnormalities. Dogs with heavily pigmented skin and mouths have an increased predisposition for developing oral melanoma, explains Robyn Elmslie, a veterinarian specializing in oncology practicing for Veterinary Cancer Specialists in Englewood, Colorado. See your vet if you notice any dark, pigmented areas inside your dog's mouth that look raised instead of flat.
What if the Gums Turn Bluish?
Also, consider that the sudden onset of bluish gums or a purple-tinged tongue in a dog whose gums and tongue are normally pink, warrants an immediate vet visit as this could signal a problem with the heart, circulatory system or some other serious disorder.
Dog Breeds With Blue/Black Tongues
Unlike certain dogs displaying random black spots in their mouths, two dog breeds in particular were specifically bred to have a black tongue and black mouth: the chow chow and the Chinese Shar-Pei. In the American Kennel Club chow chow breed standard, the top surface and edges of the tongue must be solid blue-black, the darker the better. The black tongue feature is so important in this breed that the presence of red or pink spots on the tongue's top surface or edges are considered disqualifying faults.
The American Kennel Club Shar-Pei breed standard instead calls for a preferably solid bluish-black tongue with the roof of the mouth, gums and flews of the same pigment. A solid lavender tongue is only allowed in diluted coats. A spotted pink tongue is considered a major fault, while a solid pink tongue is grounds for disqualification.
Contrary to popular belief, dogs with black spots in their mouth or black tongues don't necessarily have chow chow or Shar-Pei blood running through their veins. These random spots can be found on the tongues of many other breeds or mixed breeds. There are actually more than 30 dog breeds known for sporting spotted tongues and several of them are listed in the table below.
Some Breeds With Black Spots in Their Mouths
- Australian shepherds
- German shepherd
- Golden retrievers
- Irish setters
- Labrador retriever
The Myths About Dogs With Black in the Roof of Their Mouths
You may have heard many interesting facts about dogs with black on the roofs of their mouths. Some say that they are smarter, easier to train and make wonderful hunting dogs. Others say that dogs with black in the roof of their mouths instead are more aggressive. How true are all these beliefs? Turns out there's actually no scientific evidence indicating this relationship.
There's belief these old wives tales may have started by some breeder who obtained a batch of pups with black in their mouths who proved to be smarter than the average dog with a pink mouth, and then when these smart dogs were bred, more batches of smart puppies were born and soon the voice spread that dogs with black mouth must have been smarter compared to other dogs. Something similar must have happened with the myths surrounding blondes, red hair and people with freckles.
For Further Reading
- Causes of Lumps and Masses in the Mouth in Dogs
What causes unusual growths in the dogs dog's mouth? There are several causes for growths, lumps and masses in the dog's mouth and all of them should be investigated by your vet.
- Dog Breeds: The Different Types of Rottweilers
American, German or Roman? What type of Rottweiler do you own? Learn the differences between an American and German Rottweiler and how to avoid falling victim of a scam set by unscrupulous breeders trying to make fast money.
- Dog Breed Groups: Understanding The Terriers
Terrier dogs are not your average dogs. They need specific training methods, special toys, and most of all, special owners!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli
Have a dog with spots in his mouth or a blue tongue? Let us know!
Christina Hernandez on September 07, 2020:
I have a shihtzu with black in his mouth. The smallest of the litter.house broke at 3 months.
Deanna Fowler on August 04, 2020:
I have a 6 months old brindle pit with black on his tongue and top off his roof of his mouth. He was the smallest pup and the 1st to be potty trained and he is amazing family member.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 15, 2020:
Kelly Stott, the big question is, has it always been that way or is this something new?
Kelly Stott on June 01, 2020:
The inside of my dog's mouth is black why is that
Mara More on January 10, 2020:
My chihuahua's roof of mouth and some of her gums are black.
Shar pei cross husky on October 09, 2019:
Is this normal for a shar pie cross husky to have a black mouth and half pink and black tongue.
Arlene Baker on September 21, 2019:
I have a little Yorkie who is mostly black , she will be 2 in Dec and the roof of her mouth is very black
James French on November 15, 2018:
I had a chow Boxer mixed with the smartest dog ever seen and he had solid black tongue supposed to be nice. Never aggressive never did lose a fight always did what he was told never complain that was Joe Boxer mix you had to cross the street to crosswalks my friend training and he never seen such a dog in my entire life
Trisha on August 30, 2018:
My dogs mouth just turned black..shes been vomiting about once a day. It also feels like theres a softball in her stomach..whats wrong
Jim Madden on February 22, 2018:
I was following and agreeing with all your comments until you got to the “bred for killing Bulls in a Pit”..... actually the pit had 100 rats in it and the winning dog killed all 100 rats in the fastest time. Bets were placed on each animal... The Bull part of the name is because they are a cross between a bulldog and a terrier...
Pamela Parker-Antibus on October 25, 2017:
I recently adopted a rescue dog that is supposedly Havanese and he has a black spot on the roof of his mouth. That makes me think he's not purebred, which makes no difference to me. Just curious if that's ok though. It isn't raised or look unusual but had thought maybe it was a trait of Havanese dogs. Guess not though.
michelle on June 24, 2017:
i laughed at the first part of the article where it said purebred,lol, i knew that wasn't true cuz i have pups with black on the roof of their mouth but the momma does not, she is a husky mix, and the dad was a pitbull, the most likely reason,but they most certainly aren't purebreds lol
DeeGoodhand on June 21, 2017:
I found a puppy in a ditch. I fell in love with her and now she is part of the family. One of the reason we love her is that she is so intelligent....maybe even a genius for a dog. I noticed that she had black in her mouth and we had already determined that she is part black lab. Reading you article I read your wives tail. It seems to be true of my little dog.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 03, 2016:
Hello Rebecca, If this is totally new for her, you should have her mouth checked out by the vet.
Rebecca on December 03, 2016:
I noticed my dog has black around the gums and teeth and the inside of the roof of her mouth is back too. Should I be worried? She is a Shiba Inu breed.
Suzanne Wilcox on October 13, 2016:
I adopted a mix breed that has a black mouth with a solid blue tongue. He has a bit of shepherd with whatever else. lol Smart, cute and loves all dogs, people and working on cats. I don't think it means a thing what color their tongue or inside their mouth is.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 17, 2016:
Always best to have any new lumps, bumps or spots checked by a vet to play it safe.
REL on June 13, 2016:
Our two year old Border Collie mix recently developed two flat black spots on the bottom of her mouth, is this normal?
Nina Y. on May 17, 2016:
My 8 months old pup is part Catahoula and lab mix. He's a character. I've also noticed he has 2 spots on his tongue.
Amy on April 03, 2016:
my pup is mix of pitbull and suposley roty, he has long fur hmmm, but he is 5 months, house broke for 1 1/2 months, shakes, high fyes, sites. Learning to stay and does pretty good on when I say easy taking a treats, plays fetch really good, just about the smartest dog I have ever had.
Kelly A Rightmire on October 03, 2015:
My dogs have pink tongues and the 2 pedigree Dachshunds are just black inside their mouths. Our Chiweenie and Dachshund mixes have spots and so does our Chiweenie.
Clive Williams from Jamaica on July 31, 2015:
Great article, learned alot about my dogs tongue
stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on July 31, 2015:
My dalmatian had black spots on the roof of his mouth. Another useful hub. I love all my dogs they all have unique characteristics.