Merle Poodle: Everything You Need to Know (With Pictures)

Merle Poodle sitting on the patio
Image credit: truffle_the_moyen_poodle / Instagram

Poodles are iconic dogs with their high intelligence and their elegant appearance. This well-known canine breed comes in a variety of sizes, coat colors, and patterns like the merle Poodle.

Though Poodles are loved by pet enthusiasts worldwide, the rare merle Poodle still comes off as a pretty controversial dog despite being a Poodle through and through.

While a merle coat is natural in many recognized breeds, its appearance on a Poodle’s coat is uncommon and often catches the attention of many.

If you want to know more about this controversial Poodle type, read this guide to learn about what they are as well as the surrounding facts and myths about their merle coat color.

What Is a Merle Poodle?

Merle Poodle tongue out sitting outdoors
Image credit: truffle_the_moyen_poodle / Instagram

A merle Poodle is a Poodle variation that has a patched pattern on its coat. This dog may also come in Standard, Toy, Miniature, and Moyen Poodle sizes. Unfortunately, merle Poodles are often criticized due to the controversies surrounding them despite their head-turning appearances.

“Merle” is a coat pattern with irregularly shaped spots or patches in dogs. These patches can have a variety of colors.

The canine community is still divided on whether the merle coat was a product of crossbreeding or a natural Poodle trait that remained hidden in the breed’s history.

Though there are a lot of ongoing debates over this specific Poodle, a well-bred merle Poodle could become a great family pet and companion.

Are Merle Poodles Purebred?

Many Poodle breeders and experts still have no specific answer to this question. With many controversies surrounding this Poodle breed, it is still undecided if a merle Poodle is a purebred dog or not.

Some argue that the merle gene was introduced in the Poodle gene pool by breeding them with Australian Shepherds, which possess a natural merle coat.

If Australian Shepherd Poodle mix offspring are bred with another purebred Poodle, their litter will have more dominant Poodle genes than their non-purebred parent.

The DNA tests for merle Poodles produced from this breeding pattern will detect them as purebred dogs since the Poodle genes are stronger than the Australian Shepherd breed.

On the contrary, some breeders believe that the merle gene is natural to the Poodle breed. They argue that the merle pattern was hidden due to the demand for solid-colored Poodles and only emerged again recently.

Although some dog breeds indeed have a natural merle gene, it’s unclear whether the merle gene in the Poodle breed is an inherent trait.

Are Merle Poodles Rare?

Merle Poodle with harness tongue out
Image credit: pudel.trueffe / Instagram

Merle Poodles are definitely rare. Their rarity, however, is not due to their unique coat and unusual appearance. Breeding merle Poodles has a lot of potential risks, which causes them to be very rarely produced.

Another reason why merle Poodles are rare is due to controversies surrounding them. Many breeders see merle Poodle breeding as unethical due to the high risk of severe health issues for merle Poodle puppies.

Due to the uniqueness of the merle Poodle coat, they are commonly sold for a much higher price than solid-color canines.

Aside from that, the low number of reputable breeders and the low chance of healthy merle offspring make the merle Poodle one of the rarest breeds out there.

Merle Poodle Appearance 

Merle Poodle sitting in a bricked patio
Image credit: truffle_the_moyen_poodle / Instagram

Besides their coat, merle Poodles also have all the physical appearances of other Poodle variants. These pups have the same body type and thick curly fur as any of the Poodles.

Merle Poodle puppies’ full-grown size may vary depending on the Poodle type. Usually, merle Standard Poodle puppies can grow up to 15 to 22 inches tall and weigh around 45 to 70 pounds.

Furthermore, merle Poodles have distinct light blue eyes. Your merle Poodle pup could have completely blue or partially blue eyes. They will also have pink and black pigments on their paw pads and noses.

The merle Poodles’ coat comes in various combinations and they are the following:

Blue Merle Poodle

A merle Poodle with a black and silver coat is also often referred to as a blue merle Poodle. The black and silver combination tends to look blue due to the pattern of patches on its merle coat.

Blue merle Poodles may also have lighter black and silver coats that appear like a bluish-gray color. They are also referred to as grey merle Poodles.

Chocolate Merle Poodle

Merle coats with a brown and tan shade are also called chocolate merle Poodles. They carry the dilution gene so aside from their coat, their lips, nose, and paw pads are also brown. It doesn’t matter whether tan or brown dominates the coat as long as the body parts mentioned above are brown.

Red Merle Poodle

The coat of a red merle Poodle is a vibrant red. Its eye rims, nose, lips, and paw pads are usually brown. The red merle Poodle is rarer than other varieties so it fetches a higher price tag.

Black Merle Poodle

Black merle Poodles have a dominant black coat with gray or blue coloration. In most cases, the merle gene is not that dominant so most of the hair shafts of the dog remain black. But it is not unusual for a black Merle Poodle to have blue eyes.

Silver Merle Poodle

The silver merle Poodle is almost similar to the blue merle, however, their dark gray coat dilutes to white or silver in some parts of their body.

Sable Merle Poodle

Sable in dogs means that the hair has dark tips and a lighter base. When the merle gene is present, the dark tips on a Poodle’s coat look randomly faded, hence the sable merle.

Brown Merle Poodle

The brown merle Poodle combines light brown, dark brown, white, and cream colors on their fur. Their coat looks pretty similar to the black merle Poodle, only in a different hue.

Cryptic or Phantom Merle Poodle

Cryptic merle Poodles, also called phantom merle Poodles, are merle Poodles that do not have the distinct merle patterned coat but look like regular solid-color Poodles instead.

These merle Poodles have no markings, dots, or odd discolorations and appear to be normal Poodle dogs. They are only classified as merles through their genetics.

Some Poodles that are known to have hidden merle genes are red, apricot, white, and multi-colored Poodles.

A cryptic merle Poodle could only be completely identified through DNA testing. It is important to detect if you have a cryptic merle Poodle to avoid accidentally breeding double merles.

Merle Poodle Color Genetics

Merle breeding is very risky and requires careful selective breeding for the litter’s parents in order to avoid severe health issues for the merle puppies.

A merle Poodle puppy only needs a single merle gene for it to exhibit the merle trait. This means that only one Poodle parent needs to carry the merle gene.

Because of how it works, the merle gene is not considered a dominant or recessive gene. It is called an incomplete dominant gene.

But what happens when two merle Poodles breed to produce merle puppies? The litter will be considered as double merle Poodles.

Producing a double merle could be tragic because double merle Poodle puppies have a higher chance of blindness and deafness. They can also inherit other severe health problems.

This is also another reason why phantom merle genes should be detected among Poodle parents. An unidentified cryptic merle could produce a deaf and blind puppy when bred with another merle.

Do Merle Poodle Puppies Change Color as They Grow?

Merle Poodle close up look while sitting on the grass
Image credit: truffle_the_moyen_poodle / Instagram

Although Poodles have color-changing coats that fade to a lighter shade as they grow, a merle Poodle puppy retains its merle coat pattern until it matures.

Merle Poodles fade partially, but the pattern will remain obvious and could stay for the rest of their lives.

Some Poodles with fading coats are often born with black coats that turn into red, silver, or blue shades when the black coat starts fading into their permanent colors. This usually happens when the pup turns three years old.

A merle puppy may be born with black and white patches and grow up with a lighter shade of gray patches for its merle pattern.

Does AKC Recognize Merle Poodles?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) doesn’t recognize merle Poodles because merle is not found in the list of Poodle standard colors. However, they can be registered under multi-colored Poodles.

Since the merle-patterned coat is not a naturally occurring trait in Poodles, the American Kennel Club does not register Poodles under a merle category.

AKC-registered Poodles are usually solid-colored Poodles. The club only allows owners to register multi-colored Poodles under recognized colors such as black and white.

Just like parti Poodles, phantom Poodles, and sable Poodles, merle Poodles can only be registered under colors that are closest to the combination of colors that the AKC accepts.

Merle poodles are often registered as black and silver or brown and tan.

This recognition also depends on the lineage that the Poodle comes from. Merle Poodle owners need to have AKC papers that verify the pup’s parents as AKC-registered dogs.

Although registering merle Poodles is possible, they cannot join AKC dog shows because the organization reserves these events for Poodles with solid colors.

Merle Poodle Temperament and Personality

Merle Poodle indoors playing with a toy
Image credit: pudel.trueffe / Instagram

Merle Poodles are generally peaceful, gentle, and obedient dogs. These furballs are people-oriented, often good at showing affection to their owners and make great family companions.

These dogs have quickly gotten a reputation for being among the calmest and most quiet Poodles, even though they have only grown in numbers recently.

Some experts and Poodle breeders have observed that Poodle’s temperament relates to their coat colors.

Though this pattern has been observed, your merle Poodle’s temperament may still highly depend on its upbringing and genetics.

It is also observed that, compared to female merle Poodles who tend to cling to one person, male merle Poodles are more fit for families as they are easier to train and seen to be more affectionate and playful pups.

Watch this video to see how merle pups interact with other puppies:

Merle Female Standard Poodle Puppies 7/30

Merle Poodle Lifespan and Health Issues

Merle Poodle dogs are susceptible to some health issues common to the breed. Despite this, a healthy merle Poodle can live between 10 and 18 years.

Meanwhile, intentionally breeding double merle pups will most probably produce puppies with congenital disabilities and serious health problems.

Breeding merle dogs with one another will lead to what is called a double merle pup. Double merle puppies have a very high likelihood of being blind and/or deaf.

Aside from birth disorders, double merle Poodles have a higher risk of developing immunological problems and severe allergies or sensitivity.

Below are some of the other health concerns a merle Poodle might have:

  • Addison’s Disease: Poodles are known for their peaceful temperament, but when their adrenal glands are unable to produce normal levels of cortisol, this extremely calm attitude can be a sign of Addison’s disease. Symptoms may include vomiting and canine diarrhea, lethargy, depression, lack of appetite, dehydration or excessive thirst, shaking, and a slow heart rate.
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism can be caused by a tumor or when the thyroid is attacked by the immune system. Your dog’s behavior will gradually change as the thyroid starts to fail. Their behavior may change, and their physical activity level will decline.
  • Epilepsy: Canine epileptic episodes are just as frightening as human epileptic seizures. Dogs will often show symptoms through muscle twitching, stiffening, loss of consciousness, drooling, tongue chewing, or foaming in the mouth, and seizures. When this happens, stay calm and concentrate on assisting your dog. Make sure to bring your pup to the nearest vet available.

With this information, you see the serious risk a Poodle breeder takes when intentionally trying to breed a merle puppy. Breeding and raising a healthy merle puppy is definitely not a light matter.

If you do find a healthy merle dog, make sure to maintain consistent vet visits to keep your pooch from getting any of these severe illnesses.

Merle Poodle Grooming: How to Groom Your Merle Poodle

Merle Poodle with harness sitting on the grass
Image credit: pudel.trueffe / Instagram

Grooming a Poodle with a merle pattern is the same as grooming a purebred Poodle.

Despite having long hair, the merle Poodle is a low-shedding dog breed. However, you should be prepared to spend extra effort on its grooming as raising purebred Poodles could be high-maintenance.

Your merle Poodle needs professional grooming every 3 to 6 weeks, with daily brushing to keep the coat looking glossy.

Brushing your merle Poodle’s coat with a high-quality brushing tool will get rid of loose undercoat hair as well as protect the coat from becoming matted.

Bathing your merle Poodle every two to three weeks is also encouraged. If your pooch’s coat is soiled before the next scheduled bath, you might need to bathe it sooner.

Merle Poodles also have sensitive skin, so you should only use dog-friendly shampoo products when bathing them.

Aside from these grooming needs, you should also occasionally wipe your Poodle’s face to avoid tear formations, check their ears for dirt and infections, trim their nails, and brush their teeth.

How Much Does a Merle Poodle Cost? Puppy Prices & Expenses

A common solid-colored Poodle may cost you from $500 to $5,000. On the other hand, a merle Poodle puppy is commonly sold from $3,500 to $25,000, whether it be a Toy, Miniature, or Standard merle Poodle.

If you intend to buy a merle Poodle from a healthy lineage and AKC registration, expect the price range to be on the higher end.

Aside from the puppy’s price, you may also need to prepare a budget for your merle Poodle’s other expenses and needs.

Type of ExpenseCost
Food and Treats$30 – $150
Bowls$10 – $40
Toys$20 – $100
Beds$30 – $300
Collars and Leashes$15 – $50
Crates and Carriers$30 – $500
Grooming Essentials$50 – $250
Initial Vet Visits$100 – $500
Initial Vaccine Shots$50 – $300
Deworming, Flea, and Tick Medications$40 – $300
Neutering or Spaying$50 – $500
Microchipping$40 – $60
Dog License$10 – $20
Other Essentials$20 – $80
Total Initial Cost$495 – $3,150

Maintaining a merle pup could indeed cost you, but you could still try saving money by checking if your local pet store offers discounts and other offers for your pet’s supplies and needs.

Places to Find Merle Poodle Puppies for Sale and Adoption

Merle Poodle basking in the sun
Image credit: truffle_the_moyen_poodle / Instagram

Since merle Poodles are as rare and controversial as they could get, you may need to be extra careful when picking an adoption place for your merle pup.

To help you, here are a few reputable Poodle dog breeders where you may find your merle Poodle:

  • Valaurah Farms – This home breeder located in the North-Eastern Washington state focuses on purebred and mixed breed Poodles. They also offer merle Poodles that have undergone DNA and coat color testing. Their puppies are family raised and are for sale by application only.
  • Hidden Meadows – Hidden Meadows is a Poodle breeder operating in Southern California. Their variety of Poodles ranges from standard solid-colored purebred Poodles to different-colored Poodles such as merles. A $500 non-refundable deposit is needed to reserve a puppy from them.
  • Lauren Hills Moyen Poodles – Although this breeder in Arlington, Washington specializes in Moyen Poodles, they also breed other Poodle breeds, including merle Poodles. Their puppies are all raised at home with their family.

You also need to remember that if the puppy has a merle parent and a non-merle Poodle parent such as white, apricot, red, or parti Poodle, you need to ask the breeder for the color coat testing done on the parent dogs.

This is done to confirm that the puppies are not double merles. You should also do your best to avoid buying a deaf or blind merle puppy.

Although many double merle puppies need to be adopted, you should not show support to those who breed double merles. Encouraging such breeders can increase the chances of passing on the double merle gene.

On the other hand, here are some rescues where you could try your luck in finding a merle Poodle:

  • NorCal Poodle Rescue – This shelter in California has been rehoming Poodles and Poodle mixes since 1985. Poodles that are up for adoption have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and groomed. They also have a return policy in place to ensure that the Poodles find their perfect forever homes.
  • IDOG Rescue – Established in 2006, this rescue in Houston, Texas, focuses on rehoming Poodle mixes. Before giving a puppy up for adoption, possible owners go through a comprehensive screening process and are asked for an adoption fee that ranges from $100 to $750.
  • Doodle Dandy Rescue (DDR) – Doodle Dany Rescue is a shelter in Dallas, Texas, that is also focused on rehoming Poodles and Poodle mixes. Their puppies are also put in foster care before being put up for adoption. This rescue, however, only serves areas within a 5-hour radius around Dallas.

Take note that you are more likely to find double merle Poodles with birth defects in shelters. These pups are usually rescued after being abandoned due to irresponsible breeding.

Double merle Poodles could still be as affectionate and intelligent as a healthy merle Poodle. With extra effort and love, these unfortunate pups could still make great companions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Merle Poodle sitting outdoors
Image credit: truffle_the_moyen_poodle / Instagram

Do Merle Poodles Have Blue Eyes?

Merle Poodles are known for their distinct light blue eyes. This is due to the merle color they inherit from two merle parents.

Some cryptic merles or phantom merle Poodles are also known to display discoloration of their eyes despite not having the same merle coloring on their coats.

Do Merle Poodles Shed?

Merle Poodles, just like all other Poodles, are low-shedding dogs. Despite their long hair and high maintenance needs, Poodles are among the few breeds known to be well-fit for those with canine allergies.

Are Merle Poodles Hypoallergenic?

Merle Poodles inherit the hypoallergenic trait of the Poodle breed. These fur babies shed and drool less, making them perfect pets for people who react negatively to dog allergens.

However, keep in mind that although they are low-shedding dogs, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic. This is the same for merle Poodles.

Final Thoughts

Merle Poodles are controversial for a reason. Before getting one for yourself, make sure that you know the risks and sacrifices you might take in raising or breeding a merle pup.

As pups who are more vulnerable to genetic health issues, you should remember that merle Poodles need a little extra care compared to other dog breeds.

If you do find yourself up for the challenge of raising a merle Poodle, you might end up with one of the rarest, highly intelligent, and most affectionate canine companions you can find.

So, what do you think about the rare colored merle Poodle? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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