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Intense Red
The Misnomer

The fact: The I locus is not indicative of how red a dog is or will be and is, certainly, not a reason to pay an exorbitant amount to purchase one.

The research: When looking on any of the sites that offer dog genetic testing, the common theme is that the I locus is not as definitive as many other loci. Example, a dog with a B locus of  Bb will present black and carry brown, there are no deviations of this although it can be modified by fading genes but the base is black carrying brown.

All we can expect of the I locus is to provide insight into how diluted the red/yellow will be. This simply means that the red/yellow could dilute to cream/white. It is, in no way, indicative of how RED the dog or their points will be. Most of the genetic testing sites are very honest about their test’s inability to make any determinations regarding the red shade.

PawPrint Genetics says, “Dogs with I/I and I/i genotypes typically have an unmodified (yellow to red) phaeomelanin pigment. Dogs with an i/i genotype typically have a less intense, cream or white phaeomelanin pigment. However, there are other, unknown genes that influence the final shade of phaeomelanin; genes responsible for the red shade of phaeomelanin are still unknown.”

Embark Vet states, “The Intensity results that we report impact pheomelanin (red pigment) and not eumelanin (black or brown pigment). Because the genetic basis of red pigment intensity is still not fully understood, our phenotype predictions may not always be correct – we can only provide the best prediction we can make using what is currently known.”

In fact, every site that we can find that offers an I locus test cites the same source for their information (reference is included below) which corroborates the above quotes from PPG and Embark.

So why are breeders charging so much for higher-intensity poodles when all it means is that the points won’t be white or cream? Because they can and others will pay for it.






Additionally, unlike red poodles who tend to get darker as they mature until, possibly fading at an advanced age, phantom and phantom parti poodles' points tend to start off darker and then fade. This is another “trick” we see used quite a bit. In our experience, the points on phantoms tend to fade between 18 and 24 months old. The pictures of the parents on many breeder’s sites are of their dogs before most of the fading takes place. Then, when the puppies are born, they advertise them as having intense red points, neglecting to share that the point are incredibly unlikely to maintain their initial intensity, and offer them at higher fees than the “less intense” ones. (We will never charge more for puppies with 8-10/10 intensity, in case that was not already abundantly clear).

Please note, this is not to say that there are no phantom poodle lines with true deep red points. But, because the genes responsible for the deep red are unknown, it is impossible to pinpoint them with genetic tests. Therefore, purchasing a phantom or phantom parti simply because it has an intensity of 8-10/10 for Embark Vet or I/I at PPG or any of the other "intense" ratings with other companies in no way guarantees "intense red" points as the name suggests or some breeders would have you believe.


The best way we have found thus far is to only purchase from pairings where both parents are over 24 months old and request a video chat with both of them if you cannot see them in person. We have, unfortunately, seen photos with color enhancements so we no longer suggest recent pictures as sufficient evidence. Video chat or visits (if the breeder allows) offer a fantastic means to best conceptualize what you are spending your money on.


Image Courtesy of


Here are a few of pictures of our Caer to highlight the point. And, while she is a 7/10 intensity (the high end of intermediate intensity) via Embark Vet,  it shows how much the points can fade from puppy to adulthood. The first pic is when she was six weeks old, the second is right around eighteen months, and the third is two days after her second birthday.

If it is assumed the below diagram is accurate, which we would argue it isn't, the puppy picture has her within the mid to high range of the intermediate red pigmentation section with her adult picture being firmly in the low to mid dilute red pigmentation section.  She is out of non-fading lines and is DD so she does not carry the diluting gene.

She is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING, but her points have, very obviously, changed drastically the 2 year timeframe.

omg caer2_edited.jpg
Caer 4.23.23 b.jpg
Caer 5.27.24.jpg
Embark Vet I Locus Image.png

As promised, here is the reference article mentioned above.

 Hedan B, Cadieu E, Botherel N, Dufaure de Citres C, Letko A, Rimbault M, Drogmuller C, Jagannathan V, Derriern T, Schmutz S, Leeb T, and Andre C. Identification of a Missense Variant in MFSD12 Involved in Dilution of Phaeomelanin Leading to White or Cream Coat Color in Dogs. 2019 May 21; 10(5), 386.

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