Merle Poodles Explained. Important Things You Should Know

A blue merle poodle

Last updated on October 29th, 2021 at 06:04 pm


What is a Merle Poodle?

A merle poodle is a poodle that has a patterned coat with patches. Merle poodles have a solid base colored coat with a pattern on top of this solid color coat, something a little bit like the pattern that your see on a leopard`s coat.

Merle poodles come in all poodle varieties. There are standard, toy, and miniature poodles that are merle.

The term `merle` in merle poodle refers more to the pattern a poodle`s coat that to the color of the poodle.

Merle poodles have become more popular in recent years, but they are still among the rarest of poodle patterns/colors.

The merle coat color pattern is not peculiar to poodles. In fact, the merle coat pattern is found naturally in several dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC recognizes Merle Australian Shepherd, Merle Cardigan Welsh Corgi, and Merle Dachshund.

However, there is a LOT of controversy around merle coat patterns in poodles. Many people ask if Merle Poodles are purebred. Many people also ask if a merle poodle can be registered with the AKC. We will discuss all of these later on in this article. The purpose of this article is to answer questions on merle poodles that have clear-cut answers and to expose you to both sides of the merle poodle arguments.

Certain genes in a dog are responsible for a dog`s coat color and coat pattern. There is still so much that remains unknown about the merle color pattern. Color genetics experts still are not sure whether the merle gene is something entirely different from the piebald gene, which is a gene that is found in Great Danes and other breeds. It is the piebald gene that makes dogs like the Great Dane have spotted coats. The merle gene could be a variation of the piebald gene, or something entirely different.  

is the piebald gene same as merle
Is the piebald gene in Great Danes same as the merle gene in Poodles?

The merle gene occurs naturally in some dog breeds without question. However, there is an argument over whether or not the merle gene occurs naturally in the poodle breed.

Moreover, there is a certain ethical dilemma that comes with breeding the merle color. Unlike breeding regular poodles, merle poodle breeding can easily go wrong if not done properly.

A poodle can have the merle poodle pattern if it inherits a single merle gene from its parents. Emphasis on “single”. This requires careful selection of a puppy`s parent to make sure that a puppy will inherit just a single merle gene.

When merle breeding goes wrong, a poodle puppy may end up inheriting a double merle gene. When this happens, the resulting merle poodle puppy is usually born blind and deaf, and with severe health problems. This is one of the factors that makes the merle poodle rare, expensive, controversial.

merle Australian shepherd
An Australian Shepherd. Legally Merle

What Does a Merle Poodle Look Like? Is Merle a Poodle Color?

A merle poodle has the physical appearance of a regular poodle with the exception of its color. For example, a blue merle poodle refers to a black poodle with white and gray coat patterns. These white and gray patterns make the black poodle appear bluish.

Moreover, the merle poodles sometimes (but not always) have blue eyes or part of their eyes colored blue. Also, merle poodles can have eyes that are of different colors. Also, the color on the paw pads and nose of a merle poodle may be mottled pink and black.

a merle poodle

Are Merle Poodles Purebred Poodles?

There is a lot of controversy on whether merles are purebred. Some breeders believe that merle poodles are not purebred, that the Merle gene got introduced into the poodle gene poodle by unscrupulous breeders that dishonestly bred poodles with dogs like the Australian Shepherd. Dogs like the Australian Shepherd can be naturally merle. There are claims that breeders that breed merle poodles are motivated by the high price that they can charge for fancy-color poodles like merle poodles, that these breeders do not about raising purebred poodles.

They argue that if, for example, an Australian Sheperd-Poodle mix is bred with a poodle over and over again, that the final poodle will practically look like a poodle but with an “abominable” merle coat, and that DNA tests, such as Embark, will inaccurately classify the resulting “mixed” merle poodle as a purebred poodle.

Some breeders, on the other hand, believe that the merle gene has always been in the poodle breed and that this gene has been lying hidden in the poodle gene pool throughout the course of the poodle history. They argue that the merle pattern was hidden in the past because breeders used to favor breeding practices that led to the manifestation of solid color coats. Yes, many breeders favor breeding solid-colored poodles because multi-colored poodles cannot contest in AKC-approved conformation dog shows.

What is a Blue Merle Poodle?

The blue merle is the kind of merle that can be seen in poodles. Blue merle poodles have a grayish-blue coat with a pattern of faded spotting throughout the coat. A blue merle is sometimes referred to as a grey merle.

What is a Cryptic Merle Poodle?

Some breeders and color genetic experts believe that the merle gene was naturally occurring in the poodle breed and that it was hidden throughout generations by the “cryptic” merle poodle. The cryptic merle poodle is a poodle that has a merle gene, but it either does not present itself or it presents itself so slightly that it hardly alters the appearance of the poodle at all.

If the merle gene truly is naturally occurring in the poodle breed, it would have remained hidden in cryptic merles for virtually all of poodle breeding history with the exception of the last decade. This is possible because it was not until recently that breeders began to produce multi-colored poodles purposely.

If the merle gene was naturally occurring and hidden in cryptic merles, it would have allowed the gene to continue to be passed on without any noticeable merle markings for generations of poodles. Recent developments in genetic testing have allowed this merle gene to be detected even when the merle pattern is not visible.

If cryptic merle poodles are bred with another solid-coat poodle, a merle offspring with a patterned coat could result.

The merle genetic test website can help you in testing if your poodle has a merle gene in it.

How Much Is a Merle Poodle?

We found 7 merle poodles for sale in our merle poodle price survey. From this survey, the price for blue merle toy poodles is between $4 500 and $ 5 000. The price for a cream toy merle poodle is $4 500. While the price for a cream standard merle poodle is $ 2 000. We also found two AKC-registerable miniature merle poodles that were for sale for $22 000 EACH!

Generally, the average price of poodles (standard poodle price, toy poodle price, and miniature poodle price) is between $1 500 and $ 2 000. Therefore, merle poodles are relatively expensive.

Some prospective poodle parents find the unique color markings on merle poodles very adorable, therefore these prospective poodle parents are willing to pay more for merle poodles.

How to Buy a Merle Poodle

Most people agree that a good breeder will never pair two merle parents together for breeding. Although new research shows that there are varying degrees of the merle gene, which means two merles might be safely paired together. However, the knowledge of this is still too rudimentary to allow the ethical practice of breeding two merle poodles.

Breeding a merle dog to another merle dog will lead to what is called a double merle puppy. Double merle puppies have a very a high likelihood of being blind and/or deaf. If you are looking to purchase a merle poodle puppy, you will want to make sure that you see your puppy’s parents and that only one of them is merle. If both are merle, find another breeder. Do not buy a puppy that might be deaf or blind. While it is true that those puppies will need to find homes, you do not want to support a breeder who practices breeding double merles. Supporting such a breeder will only encourage this unethical practice of breeding double merles.

Poodles of other recessive colors can also carry recessive merle genes, making it possible for them to produce double merle puppies when paired with a merle poodle. White, Apricot, Red, and multi-colored poodles can all hide the merle gene. If the puppy you are looking at has one merle parent, and one parent that is white, apricot, red, or parti, you will want to ask the breeder to see the color coat testing that was done on the parent dogs to ensure that there is no chance of the offspring being double merle.

Are Merle Poodles Hypoallergenic?

Yes, merle poodles are hypoallergenic. While some would argue that no dog is truly hypoallergenic, poodles are among the most tolerable dogs for people with allergies, and the merle poodle is no different from poodles of other colors when it comes to causing allergies in humans.

Merle poodles have the hypoallergenic properties of regular poodles.

What is a Merle Poodle’s Temperament?

Merle poodles have a reputation for being calm, docile, and affectionate. They love to be near their humans, and they are very compliant and eager to please.

Some owners and breeders alike have noticed that temperaments seem to correspond with color. Black poodles have been noted as being intelligent and aloof while creams and apricots have been noticed for their uniquely affectionate and calm personalities.

Of course, there will always be exceptions to the stereotypes that relate poodle color to poodle temperament, but many breeders and owners have noticed patterns. The exception is probably because the color is often passed down from one generation to the next and while temperament is partially due to nurture (the puppy’s upbringing and environment) it is also partially a result of nature (the puppy’s genetics).

Merle poodles, though they have not been around in large numbers for very long, have quickly earned a reputation for being some of the most docile and calm poodles.

To learn more about the personality and temperament of poodles, read our article on poodle personality and temperament.

Merle poodle in a pink dress

Do Merle Poodles Fade?

No, merle poodles do not fade. Merle poodles keep their coloring for life. Sometimes, you may see gray hairs sparsely growing in the black patches when a merle poodle is getting older. However, for the most part, a merle poodle will stay the same color from birth throughout their lives.

Poodles that change color over the course of their lives are usually reds, silvers, and blues. These all start out looking black but fade over time until they reach their permanent color around age three. This is because they have a dilute gene that takes time to be apparent. The merle poodle coat, however, is already diluted in certain places at birth.

To learn more about poodle colors, read our article on the different poodle colors.

Differences Between a Merle Poodle and a Parti Poodle?

A parti poodle has a pattern of two colors throughout his coat. A merle poodle also has a pattern of colors but also has a variety of dilution throughout the coat. A parti poodle will have two solid colors that appear in patches.

Parti poodles are usually seen in black and white, red and white, or brown and white. White is usually the base color and the spots are the other color. In a merle poodle, the base color is blueish gray, and the spotting is black, blue, or gray appearing in different shades throughout the coat.

a parti poodle
A parti poodle

Ethics of Breeding Merle Poodles

To breed merle poodles or not to breed them? That is quite possibly the most controversial question in poodle breeding today.

While the merle color is unique, majestic, and some might even say mesmerizing, many have no idea all that goes into producing a poodle puppy that is of merle coloring.

Merle-colored poodle puppies are selling for upwards of $3000 in the United States. This is way higher than the average price of a standard poodle puppy, or the average price of a miniature poodle puppy, or the average price of a toy poodle puppy. The reason why merle poodles are so expensive is that it is very difficult to breed and produce merle poodles. Some poodle breeders would argue that breeding merle poodles is unethical in itself, while others would argue that there is an ethical way to produce merle poodles.

Producing merle colored poodle puppies takes immense research, careful pairing, and considerable risk. We will talk about each one of these aspects as we talk about the ethical dilemma of breeding merle poodles.

Do Merle Poodles Have Health Problems?

As long as a merle poodle is not a double merle, he should have the same chance of a healthy life as any other poodle. If, however, a merle poodle comes from two merle parents or received two copies of the merle gene, he will have a high likelihood of being unhealthy.

According to research, when two normal merle poodles are bred together, their offsprings tend to have serious developmental health problems. These offsprings are called “Double Merle” poodles. Double Merle poodles also tend to have eye problems and hearing problems that are not typical of poodles with regular colors.

If a merle poodle is not a double merle, all other health concerns of the merle poodle depend on the health of the parents.

No matter what color poodle you are looking to get, always ask the breeder for the health and genetic testing done on the parents. This will help you make sure you get a poodle that will be able to live a long and happy life with you.

However, some merle owners have reported that merle poodles have a higher sensitivity to sunlight and that there is a possibility that merle poodles might be more prone to skin cancer than poodles of other colors. We do not have the scientific evidence to back up this claim.

Can Merle Poodles Be AKC-Registered?

Yes, merle poodles are recognized by AKC, and merle poodles can be registered with the AKC. But this recognition is conditional on the lineage that the merle poodle comes from. Although the AKC does not have the “Merle” color category when registering poodles, you can still register a merle poodle with the AKC. To do this, you need to have the AKC papers that show that the parents of your merle poodle are AKC registered before the AKC can register your merle poodle.

One fact is that it is quite difficult to find a merle poodle with AKC registration. This could be seen as circumstantial evidence that merle poodles are not full poodle that can be registered with the AKC. Because if they were purebred, then why are so many of them unregistered?

A merle poodle can be registered with AKC as a multi-colored poodle. There is no registration specific to the merle pattern.

The reason why you can register a merle poodle is that there are no special AKC requirements to register other non-solid color poodles such as parti poodles, phantom poodles, or sable poodles, but the AKC allows people to register these poodles under approximate colors such as Black and White, etc. Therefore, you can register a Merle poodle under the colors that are closest to the combination of its colors that the AKC accepts. Merle poodles are often registered as Black and Silver or Brown and Tan. Note that you need to provide proof that the parents of your merle poodle are AKC registered poodles before you can register your merle poodle with the AKC.

However, merle poodles cannot participate in AKC conformation dog shows because AKC dog shows are for mostly solid-colored poodles.

If you want to show your poodle in AKC conformation dog shows, you may not want to get a merle poodle. But if you want a pet poodle as most people have, without the intention to show your poodle in dog shows, then you may consider getting a merle poodle.

Note that merle poodles cannot participate in the United Kennel Club (UKC) dog shows because the UKC does not recognize the merle coat pattern in poodles.

Also, The Kennel Club (KC), the official dog club of the United Kingdom which is also the oldest running dog club in the world, recently released a memo explicitly stating that merle poodles cannot be registered with the KC.

Again, if all you want is a pet poodle without the intention of exhibiting your poodle in dog shows, then you may get a poodle with the merle coat pattern. Dog clubs rules and regulations evolve over time. In fact, red poodles were not AKC-registerable until the 1980s.

blue merle poodle

Merle Genetics

The merle gene is very unique. It is neither recessive nor dominant. Rather, it is called an incomplete dominant gene. When a gene is dominant, it usually overpowers other genes. When a gene is recessive, it must be paired with the same recessive gene to present itself in the offspring.

Incomplete dominant genes work a bit differently. Only one incomplete dominant gene is necessary to present itself in the offspring. However, if two merle genes are paired together, the offspring will be a double merle. Double merle puppies are at a high risk of being born deaf and/or blind. This is another reason some poodle breeders deem merle breeding unethical. Proponents of merle breeding claim that with genetic testing, they can breed this color without any risk of producing blind and deaf puppies.

The genetic testing for the merle gene is different from other types of genetic testing. There are different levels of merle, and some color genetics experts say that there is a way to safely breed merle parent dogs to one another based on the type of merle gene each parent carries. This practice is not widespread, and the technology and science surrounding this theory are fairly new, so most ethical breeders simply choose to pair a merle with a non-merle poodle that does not carry the merle gene. This is certainly the safest way to breed a merle poodle, although it does not guarantee merle offspring.

The merle gene, when present, is a gene that dilutes the other color or colors of the dog. The gene is different from the normal dilute gene, however, because it does not dilute the colors evenly across the dog. Instead, it leaves patches of dark, undiluted colors while diluting the color in patches across the coat of the dog. This is what gives the merle poodle such a uniquely colored coat.

If you pair one merle to another dog that is not a merle and does not contain a copy of the merle gene, the pair may or may not produce merle puppies. This is why the merle color is so rare. In order to ensure that a litter would contain merle puppies, a breeder would have to breed merle to merle, or merle to a dog that carries the merle gene. Both of these options carry a risk of producing a double merle. However, if a breeder pairs a merle poodle with a poodle who does not carry a copy of the merle gene, there is a chance that none of the puppies in that litter will be merle.

Breeding merle poodles is such an ethical dilemma. To ensure a merle colored poodle litter, there would be a risk of breeding a double merle puppy. To eliminate the risk of producing a double merle puppy would also be to risk producing no merle offspring at all. This is why the merle is such a difficult poodle color to produce ethically. It is also why merle poodles are so expensive. Merle poodls are rare and they are not easy to reproduce ethically.

Final Thoughts

It seems that knowledge of the merle gene is still elusive to scientists and color genetics experts. And yet, they have made significant progress in understanding the gene in the last few years. We know that breeding merles to merles involve some risk, although new research suggests that genetic testing might someday be able to guide breeders in which merles can be bred to one another.

For now, however, to avoid the possibility of blind and deaf puppies, breeders avoid pairing two merle poodles together for breeding. The downside of this is that this makes it difficult to ever guarantee the production of a merle puppy. The upside is that the chances of producing a double merle poodle with health problems is greatly reduce.

Breeders and owners have an ongoing debate regarding whether the merle gene was introduced to the poodle breed from an outside breed or whether it is naturally occurring in poodles and simply remained hidden for most of poodle history.

If you can find a well-bred merle poodle, it will likely cost a lot of money as they are few and far between. If you find one, however, they are likely to have a sweet and calm temperament. A well-bred merle poodle can make a fantastic family pet and companion.

The merle controversy is still very hot in the poodle community. The purpose of this article is to present you with different viewpoints on the Merle poodles. The viewpoints in this article are contradictory, as it should be.

We advise you to do your own research to make your decision on Merle poodles. We hope that the resources in the reference below will further help guide and educate you on the controversial issue of Merle poodles.

References

https://www.poodleforum.com/threads/merle.252346/

https://www.windsweptpoodle.com/about-the-merle-poodle.html

https://www.facebook.com/Merle-is-NOT-a-naturally-occurring-color-in-the-poodle-565475556886552/

http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/merle.html

Dr. George M. Strain`s notes on “Deafness and the Merle Gene”

https://merleminiatureschnauzers.weebly.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merle_%28dog_coat%29

http://glimpse.clemson.edu/genetics-and-the-coat-of-many-colors/

https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Truth-About-Blue-or-Red-Merle-Cockapoos-What-you-Need-to-Know-Before-Buying-One

https://rufflyspeaking.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/merle-gene-test-is-invalidated/