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Merle Poodles: Everything You Need to Know - PawSafe

Merle Poodles: Everything You Need to Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

merle Poodles

The Merle Poodle is a color variation of the standard poodle and is known for its striking coat pattern. These rare Poodles have a lighter base color with darker patches of gray, black, or brown that create a marbled or speckled effect.

With its captivating coat and charming personality, the Poodle with the rare merle coat pattern has become increasingly famous among dog enthusiasts. They still have the Standard Poodle’s smarts, so it’s good to keep their brains busy with puzzle toys before they find ways of their own to do it.

It is important to note that these dogs can be prone to certain health issues, such as deafness and eye problems, due to their coat pattern. We’ve enlisted the help of studies and Poodle expert sources for a complete dog breed overview.

If you are interested in getting a Poodle puppy with merle coloring, it is essential to do your research and find a reputable breeder. Due to the rarity of the Merle coloration, some breeders may try to charge exorbitant prices or breed unhealthy dogs. Make sure to ask for health clearances and pedigrees before making a purchase.

Note that the Merle gene in this breed and others like merle Cocker Spaniels, Goldendoodles, English Bulldogs, and Great Danes can be associated with deafness and eye problems. A responsible breeder will test their dogs for these issues and only breed healthy animals.

Overall, while Poodles of any color and coat pattern can make wonderful pets for the right owner, it is crucial to find a responsible breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs. They can make excellent companions for individuals and families with proper care and attention.

Merle Coloration In Poodles Overview

Merle is a unique and distinctive coat pattern that is extremely rare in Poodles, you can also find merle in various sizes, including Toy, Miniature, and Standard. Let’s look at the finer details of this stunning breed.

History & Origin of the Poodle

The Poodle, known for its elegance and intelligence, has a rich history dating back to the 15th century in Germany. Originally bred for water retrieving, Poodles excelled in aquatic tasks due to their curly, waterproof coat. 

The Merle Poodle Controversy

The Merle gene is a dominant gene found in many different dog breeds, including the Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, and Catahoula Leopard Dog. The controversy surrounding rare coat color and pattern in the Poodle involves the question, “is the Merle gene naturally occurring in Poodles?”

Merle Poodles supporters claim that the genetic mutation always existed in the breed. But, prioritizing solid Poodle breeding caused it to go unnoticed. Conversely, opposers hold that Poodles with merle coats were outcrossed with a merle-carrying breed 4 or 5 generations prior for the gene. Some people feel so strongly that Poodles with a merle coat are not purebred, they’ve started a petition to force the American Poodle Club to issue a statement on it.

However, there are numerous owners who’ve DNA tested their dogs, and the results proved their purebred status. However, remember that outcrossing is different from crossbreeding since the other breed may not show in the test if enough generations pass. 

One thing is certain: Merle is not  recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) or any other major kennel club in the Poodle breed, and many argue that they are a mixed breed.

However, the Poodles born merle are often still registered with the AKC as purebreds. Their coat pattern just means they cannot enter the show ring. 

Genetics of The Merle Coat In Poodles

The Merle gene (M) is a dominant gene that affects the color and pattern of a dog’s coat. It causes a mottled or blotchy appearance, with patches of darker color on a solid background. In poodles, the merle gene can be combined with other genes to create a variety of colors and patterns, including blue merle, red merle, and chocolate merle.

However, the merle gene can also cause health problems when two merle dogs are bred together. This can result in a condition known as double merle, which can cause deafness, blindness, and other health issues. Therefore, it is essential for breeders to carefully select their breeding pairs and avoid breeding two merle dogs together.

What Does A Poodle With A Merle Coat Look Like?

Merle-coated Poodles have a distinct coat pattern with a mottled or blotchy appearance. The coat can be a combination of colors such as black, gray, white, and brown. The Merle gene can also affect the eye color of the dog, resulting in blue or partially blue eyes.

They have long, droopy ears that hang close to their head and a long, straight muzzle. When undocked, their tail is carried high and often curls over their back. Poodles have a curly or wavy coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting. 

Size

Regardless of color, Poodles come in different sizes, ranging from Teacup to Standard. Teacup Merle Poodles are the smallest and can weigh between 2 to 4 pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kg). 

Merle Toy Poodles are no more than 10 inches and can weigh between 4 to 6 pounds (1.8 to 2.7 kg) and stand at, while merle Miniature Poodles are 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 cm)  can weigh between 10 to 15 pounds (4 to 6 kg). Merle Standard  Poodles are the largest and can weigh between 45 to 70 pounds (20 to 32 kg) and have a height of above 15 inches.

You also get Moyen Poodle for dogs that fall between the miniature and standard sizes.

Kinds of Merle in Poodles

Merle is a coat pattern come in various colors, each with unique characteristics. This section will explore the different kinds of merle in poodles.

Double Merle

Double merle is a term used to describe a poodle that has inherited two copies of the merle gene. This genetic condition can result in various health problems, including hearing and vision loss, and is often associated with white fur. Double merle poodles should not be bred, as it can lead to further health problems in their offspring.

Red Merle

Red merle poodles have a red base coat with darker markings. The merle pattern can vary in intensity, from light to dark, and can be found on various parts of the body. 

Blue Merle

Blue merle poodles have a black base coat with merle markings. Blue merle is one of the most well-known merle colorations.

Tricolor Merle

Tricolor merle poodles have a base coat of white with merle markings, as well as tan or brown markings on the face, legs, and ears. 

Cryptic Merle

Cryptic merle poodles have a solid base coat with very slight, almost hidden, merle markings. The merle pattern is not immediately visible but can be seen when the fur is shaved or when the poodle is wet. Cryptic merle is a rare color in poodles and can be difficult to identify.

Chocolate Merle

Chocolate merle poodles have a brown base coat with dark chocolate markings. The merle pattern can range from light to dark, and the color can be found on various parts of the body. 

Harlequin Merle

Harlequin merle is characterized by large, irregularly shaped patches of merle color on a white background. Harlequins are often really double merles and may have hearing or eyesight problems.

Blue and Tan Merle

In this variation, the dog has a blue merle coat with tan points, typically found on the eyebrows, cheeks, legs, and chest.

Poodle Temperament

Poodles, regardless of color, are known for their friendly, insanely intelligent, and loyal temperament. They are highly social dogs and enjoy being around people and other pets. They are also very energetic and playful, making them great companions for active families.

As the second smartest breed, Poodles are generally very easy to train. They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods and can learn a variety of commands and tricks. Avoid punishment since these sensitive dogs may develop emotional issues like fear, depression, and unusual behaviors like chewing nails and paws

Despite their high energy levels, Poodles (with or without a merle coat color) can also be calm and affectionate when not playing or exercising. They love to cuddle with their owners and are often known for their gentle and patient nature, especially around children.

It is important to note that, like all dogs, Poodles can have their own unique personalities and temperaments. Some may be more laid back and relaxed, while others may be more high-strung and energetic. Proper socialization and training from an early age can help ensure that your merle dog develops into a well-behaved and well-adjusted adult pup.

Health Concerns

Poodles are generally healthy but may be prone to health issues related both to their breed genetics, according to Dr. Alex Gough, and the coat color gene mutation. This section will discuss some of the health concerns related to the breed and coat pattern..

  • Eye issues: these dogs may be prone to eye problems, including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and glaucoma. The merle gene increases their susceptibility to deafness, especially for double merles.
  • Deafness: Merle coat patterns are linked to an increased risk of congenital deafness. Studies show that even single merles have a 3.5% likelihood of deafness.
  • Skin issues: Poodles are susceptible to skin issues like Color Dilution Alopecia and allergies. Their lighter-pigmented areas may be more prone to skin problems.
  • Neurological Issues: There have been reports of Poodles experiencing neurological issues, such as tremors or seizures, with 80% of 41 test Poodles experiencing generalized seizures in one study
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD), which causes issues with blood clotting
  • Immune problems like Addison’s Disease, where the body doesn’t make enough of certain hormones
  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a common orthopedic condition in Poodles. It occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to limping, lameness, and pain, 
  • Bloat (Gastric Torsion): Poodles are among the breeds at higher risk of bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. 
  • Moderate issues like obesity, dental issues, allergies, and ear infections

Lifespan

The lifespan of a Merle Poodle, like other Poodle variations, typically ranges from 12 to 15 years or even longer with proper care and a healthy lifestyle. Smaller Poodles tend to live longer than bigger dogs.

Best Names For A Poodle With A Merle Coat

Choosing the perfect name for your poodle that comes with a merle coat can be a fun and exciting process, but it can also be challenging. Here are some of the best names for a merle-patterned Poodles to help you get started.

Merle refers to a mottled coat color pattern in dogs, and poodles with this pattern can be especially stunning. Names might reflect their unique coat, their poodle breed characteristics, or any other whimsical or traditional pet names. Here’s a table with 40 names that might suit a merle poodle:

No.NameNo.NameNo.NameNo.Name
1Misty11Mosaic21Bubbles31Tinsel
2Ziggy12Cosmos22Merlin32Asher
3Oreo13Sky23Marble33Pippin
4Sable14Luna24Fizzle34Belle
5Speckles15Patches25Nimbus35Cobalt
6Muffin16Nimbus26Star36Orion
7Opal17Stormy27Twix37Zara
8Smudge18Aurora28Dotty38Olive
9Twister19Cloud29Jester39Freckles
10Blaze20Eclipse30Rumble40Noodle

Other popular naming strategies include choosing names that reflect your dog’s breed or heritage, such as French names like Pierre or Sophie, or names that reflect your dog’s personality, such as Happy or Sparky.

General Care

Caring for Poodles requires a commitment to providing them with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper grooming.

Diet

Poodles’  diet should consist of high-quality dog food that meets their nutritional needs. It is important to feed them a balanced diet that includes protein (25 to 30%), carbohydrates, and fats. 

Owners should avoid feeding their dog table scraps or human and spiced food, as it can lead to tummy issues and other health problems. Splitting their meals into two is crucial to reduce bloat risk.

Exercise

Poodles with merle coats require intense exercise to maintain their overall health and well-being. Owners should provide them with daily walks and playtime for about one hour per day to keep them active and engaged.  Toy poodles need far less exercise than the bigger Standard Poodle. They also enjoy activities such as swimming, hiking, and playing fetch. Exercise can help prevent obesity, a common health issue in poodles.

Grooming

All Poodles have a unique coat that requires regular grooming to keep them healthy and free from tangles and mats. 

  • Owners should brush their poodle’s coat at least once a week and trim their nails regularly.
  •  It is also essential to clean their teeth with a mouth solution twice a week to prevent infections and dental issues. 
  • Monthly baths with a mild shampoo remove dirt and grime.
  • Keep their long ears clean at least weekly with canine ear wipes. 
  • Monthly Nail trimming with a quality pet clipper prevents overgrowth and discomfort.
  • Professional grooming may be necessary every few months to keep their coat in top condition.

Training a Poodle

Training a Poodle whether or not they have a rare coat like merle, is quite easy due to their intelligence levels, but it still requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. These dogs are intelligent and eager to please, making them highly trainable. However, they can be sensitive and may not respond well to harsh training methods.

One of the most important aspects of training a Poodle is socialization. Exposing them to various people, animals, and environments from an early age is essential. This will help them develop into well-adjusted and confident adults. Puppy classes and socialization events can be a great way to accomplish this.

Basic obedience training is also essential for a well-behaved Poodle. This includes commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. Training should be done in short sessions and reinforced with positive rewards such as treats and praise.

Generally, most Poodles are also highly trainable in advanced obedience like play dead and stand and agility. These activities can provide mental and physical stimulation for the dog and strengthen the bond between the dog and the owner.

It is essential to keep training sessions fun and engaging for the dog. Merle-colored Poodles are sensitive and may become bored or frustrated with repetitive training. Incorporating games and activities into training sessions can help keep the dog interested and motivated.

Check out Bunny the “taking” dog as proof of a Poodle mixe’s intelligence.

Merle Poodle Breeding

Breeding Poodles with a merle coat is a controversial topic that requires careful consideration and planning. Many people will argue that anybody breeding poodles for this color is engaging in unethical breeding practices that put breeding fancy colors over the health and wellbeing of the puppies. The Merle gene is a dominant gene that can cause a range of coat colors and patterns, but it can also cause health issues if not bred responsibly.

When breeding merle dogs, it is important to ensure that both parents are healthy and do not carry any genetic disorders that can pass to their offspring. This can be achieved through genetic testing and careful selection of breeding pairs. However, even so, a breeder who has a large amount of rare colored dogs and is selling puppies for higher prices because of these rare colors is a major red flag.

Of course, there are breeds where merle is common, but the Poodle is not one of them so anybody breeding specifically for this coat pattern should be subject to heavy scrutiny before you buy any puppies.

It is also important to avoid breeding two merle dogs together, as this can result in a higher risk of health issues, such as deafness and blindness. 

Adoption Options

If you’re considering adopting a Merle Poodle, you should know a few things. First, merle dogs are not a separate breed but a color variation of toy, miniature, or standard Poodles. Merle is a pattern that appears in the coat and can come in various colors, including blue, silver, and apricot.

When adopting a Poodle, finding a reputable breeder or rescue organization is essential. These organizations can provide valuable resources and support to help you find the perfect Poodle for your family. However, merle is rare, and you may not find it in a shelter easily. In general, Poodles are quite rare in local shelters. The boom in Poodle mix dogs makes finding Doodle dogs in shelters more common at the moment.

It’s also important to consider the unique needs of Poodles, like the high-maintenance  grooming, and specific health issues, such as deafness and eye problems. It’s important to discuss these potential health issues with your veterinarian and to ensure that your dog receives regular check-ups and preventative care.

Poodle rescues include:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Merle Poodles recognized by AKC?

No, Poodles with a merle coat are not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a standard Poodle color. However, many claim that owners can register their Merles under the “multicolor category.”

What is a double merle Poodle?

A double merle is a Poodle that inherits the merle gene from both parents. This can result in health problems, such as blindness, deafness, and other birth defects.

Can purebred Poodles have a merle coat?

Yes, purebred Poodles can have a merle coat. However, even if ancestry results come out as purebred, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these Poodles didn’t have another breed introduced in prior generations. 

Do merle color Poodles naturally occur?

It’s debated whether Poodles with merle coats occur naturally and are not the result of genetic modification. Studies show that merle is certain in breeds like Australian Shepherds, Catahoula Leopard dogs, and Dachshunds. However, its occurrence isn’t as straightforward in Poodles. 

Does the merle pattern fade over time in Poodles?

No, the merle pattern does not fade over time in Poodles. However, the intensity of the color may change as the dog ages.

What are some common merle coat colors for Poodles?

Common coat colors for Poodles that come with a merle coat include blue merle, red merle, and chocolate merle.

Conclusion

The Merle Poodle is a unique and beautiful dog breed that has recently gained popularity. While there is still much debate about whether Merle Poodles should be bred, there is no denying that they are highly sought after by dog lovers worldwide.

It is important to note that Merle Poodles can be prone to specific health issues, such as deafness, blindness, and skin problems. Therefore, purchasing a Merle Poodle from a reputable breeder who conducts health screenings and takes steps to minimize the risk of these issues is crucial.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.