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Merle Dogs [Beyond The Dappled Coats]

A genetic characteristic that is expressed through a dog’s eyes, coat, and paw color, merle coloring doesn’t make a dog any different from a typically colored dog. It just makes them more beautiful. And also prone to certain health issues like blindness and deafness. 

A coat of mottled white, black, or tan is the defining characteristic of a merle-colored dog. They are dogs breeds with blue eyes or odd-colored eyes. With merle dogs, you will usually see either blue merle or red merle coats.  

What is a Merle Coat?

Dog with merle coat. | The Pampered Pup

A merle coat [1] is typically characterized by the colors black, tan, and white. The gene that causes a dog to have a merle coat can also affect a dog’s eye color and the skin pigment of a dog. The most common dog to have the merle gene is an Australian Shepherd, but there are several other breeds that can also have the merle gene as well as the beautiful merle coat. Here are a few of the most common dog breeds that can have a merle coat pattern.

Merle Dog Breeds

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd. | The Pampered Pup

The most common dog to have the merle gene, the Australian Shepherd has icy blue eyes and comes in one of two merle variations, either blue or red. It’s important to be careful when you purchase a puppy in case it’s an Australian Shepherd mix by two merle-coated parents that will then produce more puppies with the merle-coating in a litter. When you cross two male genes, you will get one merle-coated puppy for every four puppies born that will develop deafness or blindness. 

Border Collie

Border Collie. | The Pampered Pup

A well-known working dog breed, a Border Collie is the rarest of all the breeds to be bred for his merle coat. Featuring either a rough or smooth coat, a Border Collie with the merle gene will have a white and black splotched coat and weigh between 30 and 55 pounds. Standing up to 20 inches high, the Border Collie is highly intelligent and can also have health issues if the breeder has practiced unsafe breeding.  

Smooth Collie

Smooth Collie. | The Pampered Pup

In comparison, the Smooth Collies has a shorter coat, which also requires less grooming. This is a playful breed that has tons of energy, so he will need a lot of exercises, or he may become destructive. Smooth Collies with the merle gene will often have brown or blue eyes or just one brown and one blue eye.  


Dachshund. | The Pampered Pup

Dachshunds are those adorable German dogs that look like sausages walking around. They are smart, brave, and great guard dogs, and people love them for their large personalities. These popular dogs can also exhibit the merle gene and feature either a blue or red merle color pattern. 

The merle coloring is not particularly common in Dachshunds, but it’s an acceptable color for breed registries. A Merle Dachshund can have either long or short hair. Typically, merle genes are dominant over the other coat color genes, so when you breed a non-merle Dachshund with a merle Dachshund, statistically you should get one puppy in a litter of four puppies to have a merle-colored coat.

Great Dane

Great Dane. | The Pampered Pup

Known for its dependability, courage, and friendliness, the Great Dane is a graceful giant. Capable of being protective and aggressive when needed, the Great Dane can be a powerful protector against an unwelcome guest. Perfect for families, this kid-friendly pup is guaranteed to make everyone in the family happy. 

This purebred giant can be found in several different color patterns that include cryptic merle, dilute, harlequin, and merle. A Merle Great Dane can be an extremely beautiful dog and is a rare pattern that is sought by many Great Dane lovers.  

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Cardigan Welsh Corgi. | The Pampered Pup

A Merle Cardigan Welsh Corgi is very high in demand, so they tend to be pretty expensive. This very loyal dog has traditionally been used as a shepherd dog. The average Cardigan Welsh Corgi weighs between 11 and 15 kg and stands up to 13 inches. 

An excellent companion, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi lives on average for 14 years. It’s a beautiful breed that features a white and tan coat, but the Corgi is capable of carrying the merle gene, which can result in a beautiful merle coat.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog. | The Pampered Pup

A Shetland Sheepdog is sometimes also considered a tri-color Sheltie that has had its color altered. The Shetland Sheepdog has a long coat that has a blue-grey appearance thanks to the black hairs he has. The color modification genes also give these gorgeous dogs an occasional blue eye or two as well as their characteristic coat appearance. Remember, that a breeder shouldn’t cross two blue Shetland merles as they can have puppies that are born dumb, deaf or both. 


Chihuahua. | The Pampered Pup

An irresistible pup to many breeders, the merle Chihuahua is sought after for its rare color pattern. The Merle Chihuahua typically has a mottled coat that features black or blue spots. They are also born as chocolate patterned Chihuahuas. Charming, loving, and bold, Chihuahuas are a popular breed that is also very energetic and spirited.

Australian Koolie

Australian Koolie. | The Pampered Pup

Descendants of the Koolie dogs that were brought to Australia from Great Britain hundreds of years ago, the Australian Koolies are hard-working and scrappy. This Merle breed can be found in two color variations, either the blue or red merle. It’s also possible for Australian Koolie Merles to have a nose and eye color that resembles their coat. A great service dog, the Australian Koolie Merle is very intelligent and energetic, but if you don’t make sure he gets enough exercise, he can be destructive.

Pit Bull. | The Pampered Pup

Pit Bull Merle

The Merle Pit Bull looks like a regular Pit Bull except for their light coat that includes dark splotches. They can also be found with odd or blue-colored eyes, and it’s not uncommon for this breed to have one brown and one blue eye. The Pit Bull Merle features a flat head with perky ears, a short tail, and a beautiful muzzle.

Beauceron Merle

Beauceron. | The Pampered Pup

A natural working dog, the Beauceron Merle is a French dog that is often used in police work. They need to be trained and socialized early if you want them to not be aggressive in a social situation. This Merle breed is a great protector that can end up controlling you if you aren’t careful. 

Merle Pomeranian

Merle Pomeranian. | The Pampered Pup

A Merle Pomeranian is known for his diluted blue fur. This small dog features a coat color that can alter the dog’s eye rim color, pads, nose, and eyes. These dogs are a perky bunch that is generally pretty sweet. 

Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dog. | The Pampered Pup

Featuring a leopard-like coat, the Catahoula Leopard Dog features the merle gene, so you can get them in a range of colors. Plus, their short coat makes grooming super easy. This medium-sized dog is very protective of their family, and they are great jogging partners.

Pyrenean Shepherd

Pyrenean Shepherd. | The Pampered Pup

Known for its smooth or rough face, the Pyrenean Shepherd also features eyes with an almond shape and a well-supported, but long body. This medium-sized dog has a triangular-shaped head and slightly rounded ribs. Affectionate and energetic, the Pyrenean Shepherd is enthusiastic and expressive.  

Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog. | The Pampered Pup

Another herding dog on our list, the Old English Sheepdog dates back to 19th century England. Capable of producing a merle coat, this intelligent, big-hearted, and playful breed is super gentle and affectionate, which makes him a great dog for a family with children.

Hungarian Mudi

Hungarian Mudi. | The Pampered Pup

A great herder, the Hungarian Mudi is a medium-sized dog from Eastern Europe. It sports a dark coat with blue splotches. Although it’s not recognized officially by the AKC, this is a pure breed with the merle gene that allows it to be a great Miscellaneous Class participant.


Cockapoo. | The Pampered Pup

An adorable crossbreed of a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle, the Cockapoo is really everything a dog owner wants in a dog. This hybrid also carries the merle gene, but it isn’t recognized officially by the AKC. Otherwise, this hybrid breed loves kids and is very affectionate and playful. 


Are merle dogs unhealthy?

Having the merle gene doesn’t always mean that the dog is going to have health issues. However, there is a higher amount of health issues in merle dogs like blindness and deafness than typical dogs, but not every merle dog has these issues. Actually, most of them don’t. Studies have found that the risk of deafness in a merle dog is less than those found in certain breeds like Dalmatians and white Bull Terriers. Most of the issues actually seem to come from dogs that are a result of double merle breeding.

A double merle dog has a higher chance of having health issues since the double merle pattern has a direct association with auditory defects, ocular defects, and an increased possibility of sunburn from skin exposure. This does not mean that all double merle dogs will suffer from these issues. Some double merle dogs don’t and are able to live happy and healthy lives. But it is still a big risk, and a responsible breeder will avoid breeding double merle puppies for this reason.

What does merle mean in dogs?

In a dog, a merle coat will have beautiful and interesting variations due to breeding that is a result of having one parent that has the merle gene. This type of patterning in some breeds is a distinguishing trait and is found in Dachshunds, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, and Great Danes. In fact, it’s the merle gene that plays a vital role when you see the harlequin coat in a Great Dane.

Why are merle dogs expensive?

Basically, because they are very rare, especially for certain breeds, merle dogs are harder to find and therefore more valuable. For example, the Merle French Bulldog is a high-demand breed that is difficult to find, which is due to the difficulty in breeding them. 

These expensive puppies require two Merle French bulldog parents to create a Merle French Bulldog puppy or at least a merle dog that is from a different breed to produce a new merle Frenchie. A Merle French Bulldog exhibits a rare pattern that gives them a different look from the other French bulldogs that makes them stand out. They are also desirable since they retain the same cuteness and small size that other Frenchies have. They are also super easy to groom and don’t need a lot of exercises. 

Other reasons that Merle French Bulldogs have such a high price will depend on the breeder. If you are dealing with a good and reputable breeder, you’ll end up paying a reasonable and fair price. In comparison, a bad breeder will charge a higher price, so it’s important to research the breeders in your area and find a good one to prevent getting taken advantage of. 

The price can also depend on the dog’s coloring. A Merle French bulldog comes in different colors like blue, black, and lilac, but it’s the lilac coloring that is the rarest and will cost you the most. Otherwise, you can get the blue or black Merle French Bulldog at a lower price.

How do I know if my dog is merle?

The merle coloring on a dog is not always apparent, and you can’t always rely on a dog’s color to determine if he is displaying the merle gene or not. This is due to some dogs just having darker coloring than others. The best way to tell if your dog has the Merle gene is to consult with your veterinarian, plus there are also dog DNA test kits that can make a definite determination. 

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