Merle Poodles: All You Need to Know About This Rare Breed


Black labradoodles
Black labradoodles
A Merle Poodle

The Einsteins of the canine world, Poodles, come in various colors. The most common colors are brown, cream, black, and white. Less common are blue, gray, apricot, and silver. And above it all, the merle.

The merle gene is what gives some dogs the speckled, mottled pattern on their coats, regardless of color. It refers to the pattern rather than an actual color. Not many dogs can have the merle gene, which is commonly found in Great Danes, Australian Shepherds, and Catahoula Leopard Dogs. 

About The Poodle

While uncommon, the merle gene can be present in Poodles. Poodles are one of the most popular breeds of dogs, and it’s easy to see why. Poodles are intelligent, energetic, and devoted companions. 

They come in three size varieties – Toy, Miniature, and Standard – so there’s a Poodle to suit every lifestyle. Poodles are also relatively low-maintenance dogs regarding grooming, as their coat only needs to be brushed weekly. 

However, it is important to note that Poodles do require regular exercise, so they’re not the best breed for someone who is a couch potato. Overall, Poodles make lovely pets for active families who are looking for a loving, furry friend.

History Of The Poodle

Fancy haircuts and snooty dog shows aside; the Poodle has a surprising history. The Poodle originates in Germany, not France, as many believe. The word “poodle” comes from the German word “pudel,” which means “to splash in water.” 

This is fitting, as the Poodle is an excellent swimmer. The breed was initially developed to help hunters retrieve waterfowl from rivers and lakes.

Over time, the Poodle became a popular companion animal in Europe and eventually made its way to France. It was here that the breed gained its reputation as a fancy dog for the wealthy. Poodles were commonly seen in paintings of 18th-century French nobility, often alongside their owners in fashionable clothing. 

Today, the Poodle remains a popular choice for people who want a stylish and sophisticated companion. 

What Are Merle Poodles?

Merle Poodles are a variation of the well-known, famous Poodle. Merle dogs have a distinctive coat that features a base solid color with splashes of different colors on top of this base coat in a mottled pattern. A merle Poodle bred from a single merle parent is no different health-wise than a Standard Poodle. 

However, two merle dogs should never be bred. A double merle dog can have significant health problems and risk being born completely blind, deaf, or both. 

They are also at increased risk for skin cancer and other diseases. However, many people find the merle coat pattern gorgeous, so the demand for merle dogs remains high. 

Some unethical breeders have even begun to purposefully create dogs with this coat pattern, despite the health risks. 

The merle gene is a coat pattern found in many different dog breeds. This gene is responsible for the “patchy” appearance of the coat, as well as the blue eyes that are often seen in merle-colored dogs. Some merle dogs have heterochromatic eyes, e.g., one blue and one brown. 

The merle coat pattern is caused by a mutation in the melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor gene. It is a dominant gene, which means it can override recessive genes. 

The merle Poodle’s physique and coat texture are precisely the same as a non-merle dog. The only thing different would be the coloring of the coat. 

How Much Do Merle Poodles Cost?

The cost of a Poodle will be about $800 to $2000 if you buy from an ethical breeder. However, the merle coat is a very desired, rare color, and prices will skyrocket, sometimes even doubling, if you want a merle dog. 

A few factors will significantly impact the price of a merle Poodle, like the breeder location. If you are in a state with five Poodle breeders, chances are, puppies will cost less than, say, a state with only one breeder for several hundred miles.

The coat color and type of the Poodle also matter. Generally, Toy and Miniature Poodles can cost more than Standard Poodles. Certain coat colors that are rare but more popular, like apricot and red, can also cost more. 

If you intend to buy a merle dog, make sure your breeder knows what they are doing, and under no circumstances should two merle dogs be bred. Verify that neither parent has a genetic health condition by examining their medical history.

Are Merle Poodles Rare?

Yes, merle Poodles are exceedingly rare. Breeding merle dogs is tricky, and few breeders want to partake in this undertaking. The merle gene is present in many dogs, more commonly in herding breeds like the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie, but also can be present in Poodles, no matter how uncommon.

A litter carrying the merle gene of one of the parents is likely to be 25% to 50% born merle dogs. 

Here’s a video that provide a better idea of what Merle Poodles look like:

Are Merle Dogs Unhealthy?

Merle Poodles have the same probability of living healthy lives as other Poodles without the merle gene as long as they are not double merles. However, a merle Poodle with two merle parents is more likely to face serious health issues. 

The allele that denotes a variant gene is an “m.” Mm characterizes a single merle dog, double merles are MM, and a non-merle is mm. 

The problem happens when it is a double merle dog or MM. Double merles are dogs with a merle coat color phenotype and are homozygous for the merle allele. They are often stunning but can also face serious health problems. 

One of the most common health problems seen in double merles is deafness. This is caused by the merle gene causing a loss of pigment in the inner ear, which can lead to hearing loss. Double merles are also at an increased risk for blindness, obesity, and joint problems. 

Some of these health problems can be alleviated by proper care and nutrition, but others may be more difficult to manage. For example, deafness cannot be cured, but blind dogs can often learn to navigate their surroundings with the help of their human companions.

In addition to the dangers of being born double merle, merle Poodles also share the potential health problems of Standard non-merle Poodles. 

Common health conditions in Merle Poodles are:

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) – Bloat or GDV is a medical disorder in which the stomach of the Merle Poodle rapidly fills up with food, gas, or fluid. Consequently, the dog’s blood pressure falls dramatically.

Hip Dysplasia – Merle Poodles frequently have hip dysplasia due to the hip socket’s imperfect development, which causes the thigh bone to slide out of its normal place on top of the hip socket.

Addison’s Disease – Also known as hypoadrenocorticism, Addison’s is a severe medical disorder resulting from the Merle Poodle’s adrenal gland producing insufficient amounts of the adrenal hormone.

Cushing’s Disease – In contrast to Addison’s, Cushing’s disease is brought on by an excess of the hormone cortisol in Merle Poodles.

Is Merle A Defect?

Merle is not a genetic flaw; in fact, merle is a recognized color and is included in several breed standards. A merle dog that is the offspring of only one merle parent has no more genetic flaws than its solid-colored littermates. However, for a litter of puppies to contain potential merle offspring, careful genetic testing and breeding are required. 

This is because two merle dogs being bred, whether accidental or not, often has disastrous consequences. In such circumstances, the pup will bear significant health issues, including hearing or vision loss. The main deterrent for some Poodle breeders not to produce merle puppies is undoubtedly this.

Which Is The Rarest Color Of A Poodle?

Poodles come in all colors, the most common being white, black, cream, red, apricot, and brown. Some of the rarest colors of Poodles include blue and silver, while the rarest types of coats with markings are sable and phantom. Add the merle gene to that, and you have one rare Poodle! 

Blue Merle Poodle 

This merle Poodle is arguably the most well-known, and some dogs can cost upwards of $10,000! Like most merle dogs, the eyes of the blue merle Poodle can be blue rather than the more common black or dark brown. Various hues of this color are possible. They may also have eyes that are heterochromatic, which means one eye may be a different color than the other.

Black Merle Poodle

These pups have a coat that is primarily black with hints of blue and grey. The black remains black if the merle gene does not manifest dominantly on most of the Poodle’s body. 

Silver Merle Poodle

In terms of overall appearance, silver is comparable to blue merle. Dark grey, which is the darkest shade on their coat, occasionally fades to silver and white.

Chocolate Merle Poodle

One of the more common solid colors, chocolate merles can range from a deep brown to almost white in a speckled pattern. 

Phantom Merle Poodle

Phantom dogs have two colors; a solid base that can be any of the standard colors and a secondary color that presents itself around the muzzle, throat, chest, paws, legs, and tail. Some of these markings resemble the black and tan markings most characteristic of Dobermans and Rottweilers. 

Red Merle Poodle

Red is another common color in Poodles. 

Sable Merle Poodle

The Poodle has an interesting coat color known as “sable,” which features light-colored hair with dark hair tips. 

How Do You Get A Merle Poodle?

First, check with your rescue groups and shelters. You never know; you might get lucky! Many breeders today are irresponsible, particularly when cross-breeding popular dog breeds. Merle Poodles are a well-liked and in-demand breed. If you choose to purchase from a breeder, be sure to select one who is trustworthy and get your information from a reliable source.

Check with animal groups, veterinarians, and other dog professionals on where to find responsible breeders. You won’t have to look for a breeder that specializes in merle dogs, but if there is a merle Poodle dam or stud around, chances are that breeder might have merle pups at some point. 

Merle breeding is a tricky business, and some highly unscrupulous breeders go all out to get merle puppies, even going as far as breeding two merle dogs and destroying the puppies that are born with genetic faults, which is up to half the litter. 

Be careful! 

Do Merle Poodles Shed? Are They Hypoallergenic?

Like their solid-colored counterparts, Merle Poodles are hypoallergenic dogs that shed very little, making them excellent for people with allergies. 

While no dog is guaranteed to be 100% hypoallergenic, Poodles shed minimal amounts of fur and dander and are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

However, they still need a brush every once in a while to rid their coats of fur and dander and an occasional bath to keep that curly coat looking its best. Use a high-quality, soft-tipped bristle brush and brush your Poodle every few days. 

Are Merle Poodles AKC Registered

Merle is not listed in the American Kennel Club’s list of approved Poodle colors. Merle Poodles have been a subject of heated debate. Many think the merle gene was unnaturally added to the Poodle bloodline, and Poodles did not develop the merle trait naturally.

The AKC does not register merle Poodles because the merle gene means another dog breed with the gene was added to the bloodline somewhere earlier in the ancestry.

Final Thoughts 

Merle Poodles are just as loving, affectionate, and intelligent as their solid counterparts, but be sure that your merle dog is not a double merle.

While merle dogs are beautiful and rare, with their speckled, mottled patterns, they are also tricky to breed and potentially unethical, so be sure to do plenty of homework, and you’ll get a gorgeous, healthy merle Poodle! 

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Adeline Ee

Adeline Ee graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Marketing. Originally from Singapore, she now lives on the road after leaving a 15-year career in travel and hospitality. A fanatic dog-lover, scuba diver, rock climber, and outdoor person, she has a keen interest in environmental and marine conservation and continually strives to be friendlier to the planet.

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