What's your favorite dog color? Just take a second to think about it.
When thinking about a dog coat color, probably a white coat, black coat, brown coat, beige coat, and plane colors come to mind. It's often unlikely that the first type of coat that springs to your mind are different patterns.
However, it should be. Often, patterned dogs get overlooked, especially merle dog breeds.
What is wrong with merle dogs?
Merle dog breeds have a specific coat, a combination of a patchwork of colors such as white, tan, and black. There's no set appearance to these patches; they can vary greatly in their shape, size, and color.
Their unique coat is caused by a merle gene which can cause them to have icy blue eyes. Their pigment cells in their iris, known as melanocytes, are suppressed, and cells in their cochlea (inner ear) are also suppressed, causing deafness.
What colors can a merle coat be?
While the pattern of merle coats may vary, these dogs can often have the following types of coat color:
- Black and tan
- Chocolate merle
Do merle dogs have more health problems?
If you breed two merle dog breeds together, then it's more than likely the merle genes combined will cause more health problems. If two merle coated parents are bred, there's a higher risk that the breed could be blind or deaf.
Are merle puppies rare? Are they more expensive?
Compared to single colored dogs, the merle coat pattern is much costlier. Part of this is that it can be rarer to find than a nonmerle dog. While you can't predict how much a merle dog will cost as the pattern of the dog might vary, they can cost at minimum around $3000 and upwards.
But again, you should factor in other variables like the reputation of the breeder, parent breeds, and your location; this might also influence the cost.
How do you tell if a dog is a double merle?
To truly know how to identify a merle coat, you must look at the dog's biology. A dog with a double merle gene will have two copies of an M allele, also commonly referred to as double merle (MM). These alleles have white patches and are often called “lethal white,” also called the double genotype.
What is cryptic merle gene?
Sometimes this dog type can also be subject to having a cryptic merle gene. This is a unique gene that is also referred to as phantom merle. This occurs when dogs have an M genotype but don't show it. Often you can spot these dogs as they will have either black or live colors with little areas of merle on their coat. But it might also be that these dogs don't even typically look like a merle breed.
20 beautiful merle dog breeds
Now you know more about the merle gene, let's look at the dog breeds that have this stunning coat type.
Merle Australian Shepherds are arguably one of the most well-known merle breeds. Often Australian Shepherds have the typical coat that's a red or blue merle, one eye differently colored from the other or have icy blue eyes. Alongside their charming appearance, Australian Shepherds are known for their energetic nature, enthusiasm, and bounce in their step.
However, if you plan on owning Australian Shepherds, you might have to be careful as they may need regular exercise and mental training to stop them from engaging in self-destructive behavior.
The cool thing about the Australian Shepherd is that this dog actually came from America and was then bred selectively for European purposes. It got its name as it was a favorite dog breed of Australian sheepherders who later moved to the USA.
It's also important to know that out of many of the merle dog breeds, Australian Shepherds are often subject to irresponsible breeding practices. Sometimes the heavy demand for them has caused more breeders to breed two merle parents, so they can produce higher quantities of merle puppies in their litter, compromising their health. As a result, there may be higher chances of them being blind or even dying young.
If you're interested in a newer merle breed, you might want to get a merle American Bully. This is a dog that's come into existence from selective breeding so owners can own a dog that is shorter and has a muscular form.
The American Bully is also a very cheerful and confident dog to own in your life. They're an obedient breed that loves to please its owner at any given time. It's an extremely loyal dog to have in your life.
To own a Border Collie, you must dedicate a lot of time to its exercise. After all, the Border Collie is quite an agile breed that loves to take part in jumping and obedience tasks.
Similar to the Australian Shepherd, this dog breed can be subject to unregulated breeding patterns as there is quite a high demand.
The merle chihuahua is a stunning and cute little lap dog perfect if you like a good cuddle. This is a small dog breed that does not really weigh more than 6lbs. Don't be deceived by its size, as it's quite a feisty pooch and has a cheeky nature!
Generally, Chihuahua merle peps have black or blue spots on their coat. Sometimes you can find chocolate merle typed patterned Chihuahuas too.
Merle Great Danes are quite a rare type to own. Generally, the merle pattern for a Great Dane is either pale or dark gray, with dark splotches. On a really rare occasion, a double merle Great Dane is white, but it's extremely difficult to see.
Alongside its appearance, this dog is quite tall, growing up to 32 inches and weighing up to 80kg. The Great Dane is also a perfect family dog; it's friendly, confident, loving, and great to be around. If you own one, you must have a lot of time for it, as it's a dog that requires a lot of exercise to keep in shape and stop it from getting joint issues.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Another lovely small merle dog you might be interested in is the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. While many people love them for their white and brown tan coats, they love them equally for their merle gene.
Their merle coat can be either blue merle, blue merle with tan, or brindle. If you wish to get a Corgi, it's also important to know that this breed can be quite expensive, costing around $1500 for a standard puppy.
Besides their price, merle corgis are a great family dog to own; they're outgoing, playful, and friendly.
A designer dog that has a lovely merle color pattern is the Cockapoo. This Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix has lighter patches on top of a brown coat. Unfortunately, the American Kennel Club does not recognizes hybrids as an official breed. Otherwise, this dog is very playful, easy to train and perfect if you own kids.
Catahoula Leopard dog
The Catahoula Leopard dog comes from Louisiana in the USA. One of the main reasons it's well known in the dog world is its interesting appearance. This dog tends to have a good mix of coat colors, some being cream, black, and others merle.
Their coat is so attractive that some dog owners decide to buy this breed just based on their coat alone. In addition to their appearance, they're a sweet breed, which is loyal and incredibly affectionate. They do have an adventurous side too, which needs to be met through at least one hour of vigorous exercise each day.
If you want to have a fearless dog that's not really scared of anything that comes in its way, you might want to get a Dachshund.
This german dog used to be bred to hunt badgers. Today they're domesticated and do not have any hunting tendencies. However, they still show some characteristics, such as being smart, brave, and fantastic watchdogs.
When you look at a Dachshund, you can easily spot them due to their common merle coat, which is often called dapple. Their most common coat color is black and tan.
With a long history dating back to the 1800s, the Pitbull is another cute merle dog breed. While they come in a range of colors, merle is one of the most common, with splotches of brown, red, or black on a base coat of tan, blue, or liver.
However, a merle Pitbull tends to be much rarer than other colors. If you're a first-time dog owner, this is a dog breed that we advise against owning. The reason for this is that this dog requires a lot of time and effort to exercise and train. They can be quite aggressive and chase other animals if they're not trained well.
One snappy small dog that's cute but full of character is the Pomeranian. While the Pomeranian usually comes in solid common coat colors like white, red, or cream, they have a merle coat. The merle patterns on a Pomeranian usually come when they have darker fur as a base.
In terms of its coat, this dog requires a lot of maintenance to keep it in shape as it's thick and needs to be brushed regularly. They're also quite noisy dogs to own; they love to bark at anything and are always alert.
While they're not that common, blue merle french bulldogs do exist. However, it may take some time to find this breed's coat color. This dog usually has a fawn, white, brindle, or tan-colored coat.
In addition to that, this is an incredibly affectionate dog breed, loves to play, and makes a great lapdog. The French Bulldog is a fantastic canine to own if you have a family and have never owned a dog.
The Shetland Sheepdog is a small dog that originates from Scotland. This cute little canine mainly has a sable colored coat, but it also comes in a blue merle pattern.
Sometimes it's known as a tricolored coat as they have a blue grey color with black hairs. However, this dog breed requires a lot of grooming, so you should consider your lifestyle before getting one.
Regarding their personality, they're a gentle breed incredibly loyal to their owner, and they're quite intelligent, too, making them easy to train.
The Smooth Collie is a playful dog slightly similar to a rough Collie; the main difference is that their coat is shorter. It comes in various merle coat colors such as blue, sable, and tri-color merle. Usually, this dog has either blue or brown eyes. However, when they have a merle coat, they can either have one blue or brown eye.
Old English Sheepdog
The Old English sheepdog is unique as its coat tends to be shaggy and comes in either gray or blue merle. While its name says otherwise, this is not an old breed; it first came into existence in the 19th century, and its original purpose was to herd.
This large breed is a great family dog; it's not aggressive and is very gentle. These characteristics have made them popular dogs among the upper class, with many celebrities like Paul McCartney and J.P Morgan owning them.
Koolies are herding dogs that come from Australia and Britain. They're a fun-loving dog breed that's easy to have around and can be trained easily; they're very smart!
Koolies come in two types of merle coat color: blue and red. Their coat is mainly short, and they have large and pointy ears. If you're after an athletic dog, you might want to get a Koolie; many owners love this breed as they love to play disc-type sports like frisbee.
This large dog can weigh up to 100lbs and is best suited to living in a home with a yard. Regarding its appearance, it mainly has a black and tan coat. However, it does come in merle colors such as blue and tri.
Poodles mainly come in different colors ranging from solid to particolor. Sometimes though, Poodles can come with a merle coat, but they tend to be more difficult to find; it's more common in Poodle mixes.
If you're looking beyond their coat, they make fantastic family dogs; they're friendly, intelligent, and very easy to train. Unlike some breeds, these dogs aren't aggressive and can easily bond with other animals or children in your home.
The Mudi is another small dog breed from Hungary that can have a merle coat, but it's not that popular. This is a herding breed that is very energetic and vocal. This dog that loves to make their presence known and are quite vocal most of the time; they have coat colors which are black, brown, or cream. They can, however, have a merle coat, either red or blue.
Alex Wrigley is a professional writer and blogger who loves travel, technology and dogs. She is originally from the UK but currently lives in Nepal with her three dogs: two pugs and a golden retriever.