Merle poodles are just like regular poodles, but they have coats with distinctive multicolor markings, often resembling dashes and spots. Poodles with merle markings are a bit controversial. There’s a debate over the provenance of the merle gene in these dogs, with some arguing it was a spontaneous mutation and others swearing it must have been introduced through deliberate cross-breeding.
15 – 24 inches
40 – 70 pounds
12 – 15 years
Apricot, brown, white, gray, black, cream, fawn
New dog owners, families with older kids, people with allergies
Intelligent, active, friendly, mischievous
The American Kennel Club (AKC) refuses to recognize merle poodles. But for the casual dog lover, there’s really nothing to talk about; these dogs act and look like poodles except for their vibrant, multi-colored coats.
The Earliest Records of Merle Poodles in the World
Although they’re commonly associated with France, poodles were initially bred in Germany to work as water retrievers during waterfowl hunts. The breed has been around for over 400 years, as indicated by the representations of poodles in 17th-century artwork. Before the turn of the century, they were also popular performers in French circuses.
Miniature poodles developed because the traveling circuses began breeding smaller dogs, as they’re easier to transport and cost less money to maintain. No one’s definitively established where merle the trait comes from in poodles. Some say the gene had to have been introduced from another breed and others swear their poodles are 100% purebred and have the DNA tests to prove it.
How Merle Poodles Gained Popularity
Poodles weren’t popular in the United States until one was named the AKC’s Best in Show in 1935. After that, poodles hit the big time, becoming the most popular dog breed in the United States in 1960 and staying there for 22 years, until 1982.
They’re still the fifth most popular dogs in the country. While some people adore the merle look on poodles, others find breeding dogs with the trait problematic due to the health risks involved. Merle dogs are often born with severe physical issues—many are blind or deaf.
Breeding these dogs is seen by many as a high-risk affair. And then there’s the controversy over the provenance of the poodle’s mere gene. As a result, merle poodles have never been extremely popular as a color option within the overall breed.
Formal Recognition of Merle Poodles
Standard, miniature, and toy poodles were recognized by the AKC in 1886, and the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom recognized them in 1874. The AKC recognizes poodles of any solid color, including white, black, blue, cream, gray, and others. It acknowledges the existence of multi-colored dogs with coats featuring two distinct colors, but it classifies them as not adhering to the breed standard.
When it comes to merle poodles, the AKC takes a different tact; it doesn’t acknowledge merle as an accepted breed standard or alternate color. The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom explicitly excludes merle dogs of all breeds from registration.
Top 3 Unique Facts About Poodles
1. Poodles Once Competed in the Iditarod
Poodles were bred to be water retrievers and, as such, are serious athletes. They’ve had success competing in dog show agility competitions. In 1988, John Sutter competed in the Iditarod with a team of poodles. The rules were changed, and the competition is now only open to cold-tolerant breeds.
2. Poodles Are Incredibly Smart
A study determined that poodles are the second smartest dog breed. Border Collies have the top spot. Poodles are so sharp that most can learn a new command with five or fewer repetitions. This trait is also responsible for the famous poodle’s tendency to ignore owners’ commands.
3. All Sizes Follow the Same Breed Standard
Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. Standard dogs are at least 15 inches tall at the shoulder, and most weigh anywhere from 40–70 pounds. Toys must be under 15-inches tall. All three sizes are judged in competition using the same breed standard.
Do Merle Poodles Make Good Pets?
Merle poodles make fantastic pets for the right owners. Poodles are whip-smart and have a ton of energy. They’re also incredibly sensitive. These active dogs require tons of physical activity and human attention, or they risk becoming neurotic and exhibiting unwanted behaviors such as excessive barking and hyperactivity.
Standard and miniature poodles need at least 1 hour of exercise daily to get rid of all that anxious energy. Toys can usually get by with a 45-minute outing. Training is critical for poodles as they’re incredibly intelligent and inclined to ignore their owners. Friction between household members often causes anxiety in the dogs. Poodles that aren’t ignored or don’t receive sufficient attention often become anxious and depressed.
Merle poodles are just like other poodles: active, energetic, and intelligent. They have stunning multi-colored coats featuring dots, dashes, and flecks that create a magical, multi-hued effect. Quite a bit of controversy surrounds these dogs.
No one can agree on where the merle trait comes from in poodles, leading many to suggest the dogs aren’t purebreds. They’re considered problematic in breeding due to the risk of merle poodle puppies being born blind or deaf. They also have heightened chances of developing severe eye and ear problems later in life.
Featured Image Credit: Dayvison de Oliveira Silva, Pexels