Merle Poodles: A Helpful Explanation With Videos


Poodles have many coat variations and colors, but none more visually interesting than a merle. Merle poodles are a rarity, and the breeding of merle poodles themselves is a highly controversial subject. So what are merle poodles and what is the cause of the distinctive color patterns in their coats?

Merle poodles have distinct color patterns usually consisting of a solid base color with patches or splotches throughout their coats. These unique color patterns are a result of the merle gene inherited from one or both parents. Merle poodles are not considered purebred and are not recognized by the AKC.

The wide world of dog breeds is full of variety and complexity. Read on for more about the cost, health issues, and color patterns of these beautiful poodles.

Can Poodles Be Merle?

Poodles can be merle. These dogs can be bred to display a merle pattern, though this can be a complicated process. Merle is a beautiful, dappled pattern across the entire dog. Other commonly occurring merle breeds are Australian shepherds and great danes.

Types of Merle Patterns

The most common merle colors are a black or gray base coat with a white or light gray speckled pattern. This can appear to have a blue tint, also called blue merle.

Merle can also appear on a brown coat, with a dappled light red pattern, known as red merle. These names can be misleading, as the true coat colors are black/gray or brown, but they are commonly known as red and blue, nonetheless.

Due to the genetic nature of the merle pattern, which is (debatably) not naturally occurring in the breed, it is widely concluded that it is impossible to have a purebred merle poodle, as the genetic mutation that causes this pattern is not natural in the poodle breed.

Merle coloring in poodles exists in all varieties of poodles: 

  • Standard
  • Miniature
  • Toy

Does the American Kennel Club (AKC) Recognize Merle Poodles?

The AKC does not currently recognize merle poodles or the merle pattern as a specific color within their guidelines. Additionally, the AKC will not register a poodle with a merle coat as this is a sign another breed was introduced somewhere in the family line.

There is a heated debate around registering merle poodles. Many breeders and poodle-lovers agree that the merle gene was unnaturally added into the purebred poodle bloodline decades ago.

major kennel clubs do not recognize merle poodles as they are not technically purebred. 

Pro-merle advocates respond that there is always a chance that the merle gene was simply a mutation somewhere along the line, and merle poodles can be purebred.

There is also a chance that somewhere in their blood line, poodles were registered as a different color (i.e., black and gray), and then the merle gene was introduced so some breeders would have the ability to register their merle gene-carrying poodles with the AKC.

Below are examples of breed standard colors for poodles within both the American Kennel Club and the  United Kennel Club.

Breed color standards for poodles within the AKC and UKC include:

  • Blue
  • Gray
  • Silver
  • Brown
  • Café-au-lait
  • Apricot
  • Cream
  • Black
  • White
  • Red

According to the UKC, breed standard colors for the poodle include:

  • Blue
  • Gray
  • Silver
  • Silver-beige
  • All shades of brown
  • Apricot
  • Cream
  • Black
  • White
  • Red

Merle is a named disqualifier among UKC registered poodles, as is albinism.  Dogs with a multi-colored coat (two clearly different colors;  varying shades among the other colors are accepted) are disqualified from the AKC registry as well.

Are Merle Poodles Unhealthy?

There are two types of merle poodles: merle and double merle, based on their genetics. They each have differing health issues due to their genetic makeup, and the likelihood of inherited mutations and health issues differs between the two.

Health Issues With Merle Poodles 

Merle poodles, as with all dogs of any breed, are capable of inheriting:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Illness
  • Other unhealthy characteristics or predispositions 

The likelihood of a merle poodle developing these health issues is only slightly higher than a poodle without the merle gene.. Merle coats result when only one parent is a carrier of the merle gene.

Health Issues With Double Merle Poodles

Then we have double merle poodles. These poor pups have a considerably higher occurrence of health problems. Merle poodles are genetically predisposed for an increase likelihood of specific genetic mutations, including:

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Deformed or missing noses and ears

Double merle poodles are born from a pairing where each parent has one copy of the merle gene. This results in lack of pigment throughout their bodies, which is crucial in the ability to see and hear properly. Some double merles can even be born missing eyes or ears.

Most merle breeders vehemently deny the health risks associated with merle but recognize the dangers of breeding for double merle patterns.

In short: yes, merle poodles have an average to above-average chance of developing health problems or being born with mutations. This increases substantially with double merle offspring. 

Are Merle Poodles Rare?

The rarest coat color for a poodle surprisingly is not merle but apricot. That being said, merle is also at the top of the rarity list.

Merle poodles are more rare than the vast majority of poodle colors (black, brown, cream) due to the genetic nature of their coat. The merle gene, by most scientific counts, is not a naturally occurring pattern in the poodle breed (though breeders contest this). 

It takes specific breeding and genetic testing to create a litter of puppies that may result in merle offspring. If two merle poodles are bred, their offspring have a 25% chance of inheriting the merle coat. Genetics is a complicated subject and these breeders must approach breeding merle poodles in a very systematic way..

When breeding a merle poodle to a non-merle poodle, the merle gene can be passed on with faint, or no defining physical characteristics of merle appearing.

As a result, a solid brown puppy from a merle/non-merle breeding pair can pass down this gene to their offspring, without owners even being aware . This is known as phantom merle and can occur within any coat color.

Merle poodles are not the rarest coloring available for poodles, but they are rarer than most others.  Though contaversial, merle poodles are currently available for sale by many breeders around the world.

How Much Do Merle Poodles Cost?

The cost of a poodle, merle or not, will vary with several factors. 

  • Supplier/breeder
  • Type of poodle (standard, toy, miniature)
  • Color of poodle (with merle being highly sought-after and also more difficult to find)

Here’s a quick chart with the average cost range of standard, miniature, and toy merle poodles:

Registered BreedersPuppy MillsBackyard BreedersRescue
Merle Standard Poodle– $800 for older Adult
– Up to $4000 for a puppy
$500-$2000$2000-$2800$50-$250
Merle Minatare Poodle$800-$1500$500-$2000$1000-$2500$50-$250
Merle Toy Poodle$800-$1500$500-$2000$1000-$2500$50-$250

Registered breeders

Registered breeders are the most expensive but also the most thorough and often guarantee the health of their puppies.

  • Merle standard poodles will range from $800 for a retired adult to upwards of $4,000 for a registered puppy with breeding rights.
  • Merle Toy and miniature poodles run in the range of $800-$1500. 

Important to note: AKC registered breeders rarely breed specifically merle puppies due to the difficulty with registering them.

Puppy Mills

A puppy mill often imports dogs or overbreeds simply to make money. Puppies from this type of breeder often are cheaper than other suppliers

Merle puppies from puppy mills range from $500-$2000 but these animals are often plagued with health issues and rarely come with a health guarantee. Buying from these breeders is not recommended.

Backyard Breeders

Backyard breeders are common, and many breeders who ship merle puppies fall into this category. The prices charged for a merle puppy by backyard breeders very quite a bit.

For example, a standard merle puppy from one breeder is nearly the most expensive puppy to buy, at $2,800 with another $2,000 to include breeding rights. Teacup and miniature poodles are slightly more expensive, ranging from $1,000-$2,500.

Rescue

Merle Poodles can also be found at a rescue. Adult poodles, both merle and non-merle, are much more common than puppies found at your local rescue or animal shelter. Costs will vary depending on the fees determined by individual rescues, but often range from $50-$250.

Whether or not you are looking for a poodle, it is important to research the breeder and their practices before investing in a companion animal. Poodles are an investment, and buyers should support hygienic, meticulous, and honest breeders or rescues. 

In Conclusion

When looking for a merle poodle, it is important to research the breeder and their practices before investing. Poodles are an investment, and buyers should support breeders who are:

  • Hygienic
  • Meticulous
  • Honest breeders or rescues. 

Merle poodles have undoubtedly wonderful, unique patterns. But, the obtaining and registering of these poodles can be a tricky subject.

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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