Meet Troy, Penny and Molly!
My friend sent me lots of photographs so I could see all the markings from as many angles as possible.
The first thing I did was work out a general shape & from that formed a basic pattern. This would then need modifying to capture the unique appearance of each dog, so I sketched each dog showing their distinctive features as clearly as possible.
I spent some time working out the best way to show their markings. The problem with doing it by changing stitch colour (however neat and careful) is that unlike knitting crochet stitches aren't symmetrical and don't line up perfectly neatly above each other. After a few unsatisfactory attempts I decided to embroider the 'eyebrow' and shoulder pale patches rather then try to do them purely using colour changes.
Once I was happy with my plan I got on and made them. They took a few days each, but I think they came out pretty well :)
Troy is a very handsome boy with striking Rottweiler/Doberman-type colouring.
The white bib was made using basic colour change as part of the otherwise black body, with a little embroidery over the top to neaten the edges. The shoulder markings and "eyebrows" were embroidered on after the amigurumi was sewn together. Troy has flopped-over tops to his ears.
Troy also has a beautiful long tail with a brown stripe underneath running most of the length. I embroidered this on at the end as colour changes would not have resulted in a neat stripe.
Molly is mostly white, but has a little beige patch over her left eye which I carefully created using colour change, and perfect brown flopped over ears.
She is also a longer-haired dog, so to achieve this I used a wire pet grooming brush on the body, paying particular attention to her tail, chest, belly and cheeks. It needs to be one of the very fine brushes with bent wires, for stripping loose hairs, or it won't work properly.
This is always scary to do but the final result is worth it! I suggest practicing on a scrap piece of crochet if you haven't tried it before, and some yarns work better than others too. Experimentation is the key. Once you get the hang of it you can make some super fluffy things!
Penny was the hardest of the three to make. She has quite complex markings, including a lovely speckled/dappled coat and a near-perfect brown circle on her back. She also has huge upright ears.
As with Troy, I chose to use embroidery for her facial markings.
I made a brown crocheted circle which I sewed in place on her back (as using colour change would not have been neat enough) and I used a fine-point brown Sharpie permanent marker to create the dappled look.
I eagerly, if nervously, awaited news on Christmas Day to hear how they were received. I need not have worried - my friend's sister loved them, and even the dogs themselves seemed to like them. Molly apparently started holding 'conversations' with them on the shelf. Awwww. :)