Tremendous progress has been made in identifying genes involved in pigmentation in dogs in the past few years. Comparative genomics has both aided and benefited from these findings. Seven genes that cause specific coat colours and/or patterns in dogs have been identified: melanocortin 1 receptor, tyrosinase related protein 1, agouti signal peptide, melanophilin, SILV (formerly PMEL17), microphthalmia-associated transcription factor and beta-defensin 103. Although not all alleles have been yet identified at each locus, DNA tests are available for many. The identification of these alleles has provided information on interactions in this complex set of genes involved in both pigmentation and neurological development. The review also discusses pleiotropic effects of some coat colour genes as they relate to disease. The alleles found in various breeds have shed light on some potential breed development histories and phylogenetic relationships. The information is of value to dog breeders who have selected for and against specific colours since breed standards and dog showing began in the late 1800s. Because coat colour is such a visible trait, this information will also be a valuable teaching resource.