Merle Sheepadoodle: All About This Rare Colored Hybrid Dog


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The Sheepadoodle is a designer dog resulting from crossbreeding between Old English Sheepdog and Poodle. This crossbreed dog was an experimental dog for the US army in the 1960s. Despite their cute appearance and being far from looking fierce, they are much desired because they have inherited the two main characteristics of their parent breeds.

They are athletic and intelligent dogs like the Poodle but also inherit the sturdiness of the Old English Sheepdog. In addition, they are also known for their loyal and brave nature. In the 2007s, they started to become popular pets, and throughout the last decade, their popularity has continued to increase.

They are usually born with a coat color of a mixture of black and white, or it can be with a gray or solid black coat color. Genes from both parents will determine the texture and color of the Sheepadoodle coat. However, the Genes of the Old English Sheepdog are more dominant and will be inherited by the Sheepadoodle. 

What are Merle Sheepadoodles?

Merle is often mistakenly categorized as a color. However, it isn’t! It refers to the pigmentation that lightens part of the coat, giving the coat a mottling or speckled pattern and giving the dog an incomplete dominant coat color pattern. 

Its characteristics are patches between dilute pigments and solid colors that are irregularly shaped. The speckled patches differ in shape, size, and color. For some dog breeds where the merle gene is expected, like Australian Shepherds, merle is one of the standard coat colors. 

However, Sheepadoodles with the merle gene are pretty rare. Old English Sheepdogs are rarely merle, and Poodles may be merle, but that is pretty rare. Some may consider it non-existent due to its rarity, but they are real and exist if the Sheepadoodle takes after the merle Poodle gene. 

Sheepadoodles can have a Merle coat color if they inherit it from a Poodle with a merle coat color. But this will only happen if he is born to a Poodle, a merle-dominant carrier.

In general, Old English Sheepdogs do not carry the merle gene.

Here is a list of commonly available colors in Sheepadoodle.

Blue Merle – even though it’s called blue merle, it is a coloring pattern that does not contain blue elements but rather lightened black hues. The blue merle Sheepadoodle is coated in various shades of white and gray. Blue merle is a black dog with a light solid color due to genetic processes. 

So even though the black coat color is still there, the other parts are lightened to a bluish-gray shade. Like the Merle pattern character in dogs in general, the formed solid color spots are irregular and are all over the dog’s body.

However, blue merle can still appear in various other coloring patterns. The most common is a 50-50 ratio between black and gray-blue patches. There is also a coat pattern with a predominance of gray and blue and only has a few small black patches.

Blue: It’s not a solid blue color. The blue color is usually found on the face, ears, and back. Meanwhile, other body parts are dominated by white.

Cream: The cream Sheepadoodle usually comes from a cream Poodle, crossed with the Old English Sheepdog. The color of the cream is similar to the color of apricot, like light brown.

Red Merle: Cream and liver patches, and possibly additional white or copper patches.

Chocolate Merle: a mixture of light brown and white, sometimes has a black patch on one eye and a soft brown patch on the other eye.

Black and White: This is the original color of Sheepadoodle. The white color usually dominates the face, part of the back, and the two front paws. Some other body colors are typically black or gray.

Tri-Color Sheepadoodle: consists of brown, black, and white coats. However, brown and black blend together at times, giving the appearance of solid black color from a distance.

Gray: The gray color is usually inherited from Old English Sheepdogs. However, even though the name is gray, the coat color is a mixture of black, blue, and white.

Which Is the Rarest Color of a Sheepadoodle?

The rarest Sheepadoodle colors are:

Black: As the name suggests, the black Sheepadoodle has an entirely black coat color. Old English Sheepdogs themselves rarely have a solid black coat. So to produce a black Sheepadoodle, the breeder must cross Old English Sheepdog with a Poodle with a full black coat, and if the Sheepadoodle takes after the Poodle parent, the coat might be black. 

Merle: Merle coat patterns on dogs are stunning and varied. The genes carried by both parents determine the color. Old English Sheepdogs are generally not carriers of the merle gene, so getting a merle puppy is not easy for breeders.

Red: Old English Sheepdogs have a red coat color, so to produce a red Sheepadoodle puppy, the Poodle pair in crossbreeding must have a red coat. Keep in mind this red color usually lasts only at puppy age. As the Sheepadoodle grows, the red color often fades and changes to a lighter cream or fawn color.

Sable: They have a solid base color with black tips on their hairs. Generally, sable Sheepadoodles have darker ears when they grow up.

How Much Do Merle Sheepadoodles Cost?

Sheepadoodles are rare enough, and merle Sheepadoodles are akin to a unicorn! As a famous designer breed and in high demand, it’s no surprise that Sheepadoodles are pretty expensive. The standard price for the puppies is around $1,000-$5,000, and this amount still does not include other costs such as grooming, visits to the vet, etc

Even though the price is relatively high, you will likely still be on a long waiting list to get a Sheepadoodle, especially with one of the rarest coat patterns.

Are Merle Sheepadoodles Rare?

Yes. Many believe that the Merle Sheepadoodle does not exist. They exist but are very rare because the breeding process is not easy. Merle is a genetic pattern that causes specific colored patches in dogs. 

A Poodle must be a dominant carrier of the merle gene to have a litter with a few merle puppies. Meanwhile, on the other hand, Old English Sheepdogs do not usually carry the merle gene.

Are Merle Dogs Unhealthy?

No. Litters bred to a single merle parent can be as healthy as their solid-colored counterparts. However, the problem begins when you breed two merle dogs, which is highly unlikely with Sheepadoodles considering that Old English Sheepdogs are never merle.

With double merle dogs, hearing issues, ophthalmologic systems, and immune system disorder might be prevalent in genetic diseases. 

Coloration and color patterning in dogs start during embryonic development. The pigment-producing cells are derived totally from the location of the embryo called neuronal crest. 

While the cells of the nervous system also come from the same location. This explains the link between color genetics and nervous system disorders, as both are derived from the same neural crest. 

The merle gene can prevent pigment cells in the iris and inner ear from developing normally; this occurs when the merle gene suppresses coat pigment cells in dogs. This causes merle dogs to be more susceptible to eye and hearing diseases.

Here are some diseases that Merle dogs are prone to:

  • Microphthalmia: a disease related to development; it occurs when a dog is born with eyes that are smaller than usual.
  • Microcoria: In this disease, the dilator muscles that regulate pupil size are underdeveloped. As a result, the pupil size becomes small and does not dilate like the standard size in general.
  • Coloboma: a congenital condition characterized by the loss of tissue in or around the eye.

However, not all double merle dogs will have health issues; they can also be born healthy and normal. It is SO not worth the risk, though, and double merles have such a strong possibility of being born deaf, blind, or both, that no ethical breeder should be breeding double merles. 

Is Merle a Defect?

No. In some dog breeds, merle is a naturally occurring gene. However, designer dog breeds usually require one partner to have the merle gene to produce a puppy with a merle coat pattern. In conclusion, dogs with the Merle gene were paired with dogs with solid colors. In this kind of responsible breeding, a puppy born will usually have a 50/50 chance of a merle coat and a solid-colored coat.

However, problems start when an irresponsible breeder pairs two merle dogs intending to give birth to more merle dogs. Two merle dogs crossed irresponsibly usually produce a puppy with a white coat. But unfortunately, the potential for health problems, double merle dogs come with a host of issues, including the high possibility of being born blind, deaf, or both

Due to the numerous health problems linked with double merle, they are often called “lethal white.” In addition to having a significant risk of hearing and vision impairments, double merle dogs also have a high risk of skin cancer. Sun sensitivity, lack of pigmentation, and lack of protection against UV rays cause a high rate of skin cancer in double merle dogs.

How Do You Get a Merle Sheepadoodle?

Today many breeders are not responsible, especially in interbreeding popular dog breeds. Sheepadoodles are a popular breed and are in high demand. If you decide to buy from a breeder, make sure you find a responsible one and seek information from a credible source

Irresponsible breeders usually only have business goals without regard to animal welfare. They typically don’t carry out proper medical tests, so many dogs under their care have various unseen health problems. In addition, if you buy from a breeder, visit the breeder’s location.

That way, you can see the condition of all the dogs there, starting from cleanliness, the environment, and the care they give to their dogs. In addition, also pay attention to the interaction between the breeder and the dogs.

You can also choose to adopt rather than buy Sheepadoodle. There are now several organizations that have Sheepadoodles for you to adopt. Each organization charges a different adoption donation rate, but it’s still cheaper than buying from a breeder. 

In addition, all animals cared for by these organizations usually receive appropriate medical care, have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered

Do Merle Sheepadoodles Shed? Are They Hypoallergenic?

How much a Sheepadoodle sheds depends on which parent breed the pup takes after. Old English Sheepdogs shed, a LOT! While Poodles have a hypoallergenic coat that can shed very little. 

Doodle breeds are bred to get hypoallergenic puppies. However, whether mixed or purebred, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic. With little shedding, they are suitable for those who have mild allergies and want a companion dog. 

The coat type inherited from both Sheepadoodle parents determines their level of shedding. Sheepadoodles can inherit a combination of coat types from both parents or the dominant coat type from one parent.

Curly coats, often known as wool coats, are a Poodle legacy. This coat’s shedding level is usually very low, but Sheepadoodles with curly coats still need daily care to prevent their coats from tangling.

The second is a type of wavy coat or what is commonly called a fleece coat. This type of coat is inherited from both Sheepadoodle’s parents. This type of coat usually has undercoats that may shed. However, compared to a curly coat, it is easier to maintain, sheds less, and is not prone to tangles.

The last one is a straight coat type. They are generally double coats, and they have the highest shedding level compared to the wavy and curly coat types.

Apart from inherited coat types, various things cause Sheepadoodle shedding, including:

  • Diet
  • Food allergies
  • Food intolerance 
  • Skin allergies
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Fleas, ticks, and parasites

There are several things you can do to prevent shedding, or at least minimize it, including:

  • Brush the Sheepadoodle coat every day; brushing can help to remove dead and loose hair and dander
  • Give proper nutrition with high-quality kibble
  • Eliminate stress
  • Routine bathing and grooming

Final Thoughts

Sheepadoodles are a fun, fantastic breed that often have loyal, intelligent personalities. While merle Sheepadoodles are rare, finding some can still be possible. Be prepared to pay top dollar! 

Thanks for reading, and all the best to you and your beloved pooch! 

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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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