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One of the most unique aspects of Chihuahuas as a dog breed is the wild variation between different pups. Some Chihuahuas are short-haired, some are long-haired, some may have different head shapes, and some may even be blue!
Many potential chi-owners seek rare color and marking combinations when looking for a new Chihuahua, and Merle Chihuahuas are among the most distinct and sought-after coat patterns.
Check out our main post that showcases all our Chihuahua fact articles!
Merle, known sometimes as “ dapple ” in other breeds, refers to a spotted or mottled coat pattern. The pattern extends to the dog’s base coat and skin. However, there is far more to Merle Chihuahuas than meets the eye.
In this article, we will break down everything that you never knew about Merle Chihuahuas, from the trait’s spotty history to the current controversy surrounding the pattern. Let’s count down seven facts that you never knew about Merle Chihuahuas.
1. MERLE IS A GENE MODIFIER
When it comes to the Chihuahua breed, Merle is not just a beautiful and unique coat pattern. Merle is actually a gene modifier. In layman’s terms, a gene modifier is a gene that affects how other genes express themselves.
This means that the Merle gene affects more than just coat color. Often, the Merle gene affects the dog’s skin pigment, resulting in light and dark spots beneath the coat. Likewise, the gene can even affect eye color.
2. MERLE CHIHUAHUAS CAN HAVE BLUE EYES… AMONG OTHER TRAITS
Yes, you read that correctly. Some Merle Chihuahuas have blue eyes, and some have one blue eye only.
This phenomenon is called heterochromia. A Chihuahua with one or more blue eyes will have an increased sensitivity to sunlight.
Unfortunately, the Merle gene modifier also causes some undesired health issues.
Merle Chihuahuas are more likely to develop hearing and vision problems. These issues will be present when the pup is born and will not improve as he or she ages.
The light pigmentation of a Merle Chihuahua’s skin makes them more susceptible to sunburns and ultraviolet radiation.
Because of this, it is easier for a Merle Chihuahua to contract skin cancer than a standard Chihuahua.
3. NO ONE IS SURE HOW OLD MERLE CHIHUAHUAS ARE
There is a debate in the Merle Chihuahua community over how long the gene has existed in Chihuahuas.
Some parties trace the gene back 70 years to the 1940s, but others conclude that the Merle color gene has only been present in Chihuahuas for the past 15 years.
The trouble with this debate is the lack of literature on Merle Chihuahuas. There are little to no scientific articles dating the emergence of the pattern.
However, the general consensus is that Merles have been present for the last 70 years.
4. MERLE IS PRESENT IN OTHER BREEDS
It appears that sometime in the 1940s, the Merle gene was bred into a line of Chihuahuas.
The Merle color gene appears in many breeds naturally, such as dachshunds, Australian Shepherds, and Great Danes.
Many believe that because there are no records of Merle Chihuahuas before the 1940s, the Merle gene was bred into the line by crossbreeding a Chihuahua with a breed known for the trait.
5. MERLE CHIHUAHUAS CANNOT BE REGISTERED WITH SOME GROUPS
Up until 2010, the Merle Chihuahua was considered purebred and was eligible for show.
However, in June 2010, the Canadian Kennel Club and the UK Kennel Club stopped recognizing Merle Chihuahuas as purebred. As a result, Merle Chihuahuas can no longer be registered with these groups.
The American Kennel Club still allows Merle Chihuahua dogs to be registered with them, depending on a few factors.
The Chihuahua Club of America issued this statement on Merle Chihuahuas.
They still allow the registering of Merles, but “due to the number of colors and patterns occurring in the Chihuahua breed, the ethical breeding of the Merle pattern can be much more difficult than in other breeds who limit the allowed colors and patterns.”
In other words, they will still register Merle Chihuahuas, but they think there are more ethical breeds that a potential Chihuahua owner could adopt instead.
6. MERLE CHIHUAHUAS SHOULD NEVER BE BRED TOGETHER
For the sake of ethical breeding practices, two Merle Chihuahuas should never be bred together to produce Merle puppies. Breeding two Merle Chihuahuas together result in a litter of “double Merles.” Double Merles will always suffer from eye and ear issues, and some will have shorter lifespans than a normal Chihuahua.
If you would like to breed your Merle Chihuahua, do so with a standard Chihuahua.
The Merle gene is dominant, meaning that roughly half of the puppies per litter will be Merle. The Merle gene shows up the best on black-and-tan, solid black, chocolate, and blue coats.
7. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS GHOST MERLES
When a Merle Chihuahua is bred with a cream or sable-colored Chihuahua, their litter may contain ghost Merles. Ghost Merles, otherwise known as hidden or cryptic Merles, carry the Merle gene but don’t display the Merle coat pattern.
Pet owners cannot tell that their ghost Merle is a Merle Chihuahua at all. If the ghost Merle is bred with another Merle accidentally, the double Merle litter will be stuck with nasty health issues.
Therefore, if you suspect your Chihuahua may be a ghost Merle, you should have him or she genetically tested.
If you can register your ghost Merle Chihuahua, you should indicate that the Chihuahua is Merle, even if he or she has barely visible or no markings.
Doing so ensures that you are being an ethical Chihuahua owner and that you are taking responsibility for your Chihuahua’s unique trait.
Do Merle Chihuahuas Have Health Problems?
A Chihuahua with blue eyes will undoubtedly have an increased sensitivity to sunlight. The Merle gene modifier also results in other undesired health issues for this breed of Chihuahua as well. For example, these Chihuahuas are far more likely than other breeds and types to develop hearing and vision problems.
Do Merle Chihuahuas Require More Attention?
Chihuahuas, in general, are considered needy dogs, so the same applies to Merle Chihuahuas as well. They enjoy attention, being pet, and being played with. This has a lot to do with their hyperactive personalities.
What Is a Blue Chihuahua?
A blue Chihuahua is simply a Chihuahua that is just another color. Breeding a Blue Chihuahua is very difficult because the gene with the color is recessive. So, the dominant genes take over. So, it is very rare to have a Chihuahua puppy that has a full blue coat.
Why Is a Merle Chihuahua Controversial?
The Merle Chihuahua is so controversial not because of its beautiful color pattern but because of how the Chihuahua is bred to achieve that pattern. The Chihuahua does not have M (merle), and all Chihuahuas should have MM (non-merle). The president of the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute says, “the merle gene is not one that mutates spontaneously from the normal, non-merle version with any frequency.”
How is Merle Inherited in the Chihuahua Dog Breed?
Merle is simply a genetic pattern that is in a dog’s coat. The Merle gene is responsible for creating mottled patches of color in a solid coat along with blue eyes or odd-colored eyes. The gene can also affect the dog’s skin pigment as well.
What Does the Kennel Club Say About Merle Chihuahuas?
The Kennel Club definitely has a position when it comes to the Merle Chihuahua. Merle is sometimes considered an undesirable color within the Chihuahua dog breed. For this reason, the Kennel Club will no longer allow a dog owner to register a Merle Chihuahua if there is no documented evidence of the color being well-established over a sustained period of time. There are only certain breeds that they will accept Merle registrations for. As we stated above, the American Kennel Club does believe that there are Merle breeds that are more ethical.
The history and dialogue surrounding Merle Chihuahuas are just as compelling as their stunning coat patterns.
If your furry best friend happens to be Merle, consider yourself blessed! At the end of the day, all that matters is the adorable little Chihuahua curled up next to you.
9 Things You Should Know Before Buying/Adopting A Merle Chihuahuas
The epitome of a dog whose bark is worse than its bite, the Chihuahua is best known for its tiny size and laughably aggressive attitude. Hardly ever a real danger, they fill the homes and hearts of many people. Some types exist outside the stereotypically tan-bodied Chihuahua seen on T.V. “Merle” is the term for a dappled coat pattern, typically made up of a range of 5 to 6 colors that can appear as small specks or large, heathered markings. Despite their diminutive size, Chihuahuas can be born with a merle coat and look stunningly unique.
1. Merle Chihuahuas are most often gray or white with black dapple, though they can come in red hues as well.
The merle coat coloring is the cause of a genetic mutation and can come in a range of colors: from black to tan and every shade in between. The merle mutation also causes a discoloring of the eyes and skin, often resulting in blue eyes and light brown to pink noses, lips, and toe pads – all of which is contrary to the classic Chihuahua’s usually dark eyes and noses. The merle mutation is one of the rarest coat colorings among Chihuahuas, along with brindle, lavender, and pure white.
Despite this mutation, Merles are still 100% Chihuahua. Aside from their notable coloring, they don’t differ from classic Chihuahuas in any way. Just like the main breed, Merles can have short or long hair, leaving their grooming routine dependent on the length of their coat. They’ll require brushing as often as any other Chi of the same hair-length and shed just as frequently. Obviously, dogs with longer fur will call for more attention. Luckily, there isn’t a lot of them to groom. All Chihuahuas – of any color combination – stand merely 8” tall at most and weigh an average of 6 lbs. These little dogs can live a long time, though. Their lifespan is the same as any other coat color, pushing 14 sometimes even 18 years! Merles also have the same personality as other Chihuahuas, touting a Napoleon complex as big as they are small.
2. Socializing your Merle Chihuahua is no different from socializing a classic Chihuahua.
The distinctive coloring doesn’t affect their well-known, Terrier-like temperament, so don’t think it dampens their confident and outgoing nature. Their feistiness is what make Chihuahuas so lovable, although it’s not compatible with all households. Your Merle will do best in a home without young children or big dogs. Sometimes it works out if they’ve grown up together, but Chis typically exert themselves as the alpha – no matter how big the other dog is.
3. In regards to training, care should be taken from an early age to prevent your Merle Chihuahua from domineering you or other dogs it may live or play with.
Typical supervision, as expected with all breeds, should be given to make sure they don’t become aggressive. Chis may be small, but they could seriously impact other dogs or even provoke an attack on themselves if you’re not careful. Excessive barking may seem like a cute attempt at protecting you, but too much or at the wrong time can negatively impact your Chi. This is all part and parcel to good dog training in general.
There’s no reason why a Merle Chihuahua can’t have a variety of friends at the dog park. Maintaining a well-trained temperament will let you socialize your Chi just like any other breed. They’ve got a lot of energy for a little pup, so exercise is important for the lapdog who’s anything but docile. Regularly tiring them out with a reasonable walk or some quality time playing fetch can help keep their overactive personality at a manageable level. The only time they should be carefully monitored is in breeding.
4. Breeding Merles is a risky business because the seemingly benign coat coloring can cause some very serious health issues.
Breeding a confirmed Merle Chihuahua with another Merle Chihuahua is avoided at all costs. It would result in the production of double-merle offspring which can produce puppies with skin sensitivities, hearing issues, and eye issues. These issues can be as severe as to cause deafness, blurred vision, abnormally small eyes, or coloboma (missing eye tissue which can affect vision). Along with eye abnormalities, defects can occur in the Merle’s cardiac, reproductive, or skeletal systems. These defects are specific to Merles, who are also susceptible to all possible health complications that Chihuahuas in general face. That’s why intentional breeding of double-Merles is highly discouraged.
The merle mutation comes from an incompletely dominant trait. This means that a Chihuahua showing no hints of being merle can carry it and pass it on to their offspring, producing merle babies. Merle babies aren’t guaranteed, however. A parent can carry the gene and not produce merle babies in that litter, but pass the gene through another generation of Chihuahuas before presenting itself as merle.
5. Ghost Merles are Chihuahuas who show no hints of being Merle, often light-colored, but carry the gene.
This means that there is no visible proof of Merle (no discoloration of the skin or fur). The only way to tell is to have your dog genetically tested. This is especially important if you plan to breed them. A licensed veterinarian can do the DNA testing for you through the IDEXX service. The results can take up to a week, but a simple blood sample or cheek swab will get results and can protect future Chi generations.
6. The question of ethics lies solely in the intentional breeding of Merles
Lazy or greedy breeders seeking out a specific color combination put the future litter at risk. The most responsible course of action is to test for Ghost Merles before breeding any Chihuahua with a confirmed Merle.
The full Breed Standard pdf on the AKC’s website has not been updated since 2008 when they listed “Any color – Solid, marked or splashed” as acceptable, presumably including merle coats. The current website (copyrighted for 2020) checks merle markings as standard, ergo acceptable. Their recognition of the Merle subcategory of Chihuahua comes with an understandable caution against irresponsible breeding.
7. The average price for a Merle Chihuahua is around $1,500
Breeders’ experience and the dog’s genealogy can run that price up, especially if there was a champion in the family. Since Merles are rare but controversial dogs, however, they don’t tend to be much more expensive than any other color Chihuahua.
The best place to look for breeders to adopt from is the AKC Marketplace. You can rest easy knowing that they’re breeders who follow careful breeding practices. If there are no Merle Chihuahua puppies (or even adult dogs!) available, you can look elsewhere. To be certain that they’re responsible, it helps to see if the breeder is in some way affiliated with a trustworthy society. In this case, connections with the Chihuahua Club of America are a good sign.
A dog isn’t a click-and-collect purchase, though. Start a dialogue and ask the breeder questions before handing over a deposit or taking the Merle home. No reputable breeder will question providing a health or genealogical history of their dogs. They’ll also be the first people to know about any existing merle genes in their Chis, since they’re actively breeding them.
8. Once you’ve brought a Merle Chihuahua home, you can follow the same care advice as classic Chihuahua owners do.
Stick to food that matches the dog’s age (puppy, adult, senior) that’s of a high quality so that your Merle gets all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Watch their intake, though, as it’s common for Chis to overindulge. This is especially important if you’re training with treats. They may learn to be a very good boy, but an overweight one at that!
Like any responsible dog owner, you should make sure you know what you’re signing up for before adopting a Merle Chihuahua. Don’t be fooled by their small size. Just because they can fit in a tote bag doesn’t mean they’ll be content there. As mentioned, Chihuahuas in general require just as much training and exercise as bigger dogs. They’ve got a lot of energy, so keeping them stimulated will help keep easy downtimes and maintain calmer interactions with others.
9. Chihuahuas are known to be a one-person dog, easily becoming over-protective or territorial with their owner.
The AKC describes Chis as having a “saucy expression.” No matter how true or cute this may be, they shouldn’t be indulged. Try to share the load and take turns giving even amounts of praise and reinforcement. Alternate who takes the dog out for walks. You don’t want your Merle turning aggressive towards other members of the household because of one strong attachment. This doesn’t make Chihuahuas bad dogs. If you adopt a Merle it is sure to love you, but everything is better in moderation.
The bottom line is that a Merle Chihuahua should be treated no differently than any other Chihuahua, nor any differently than any other dog. The right amount of care and attention can guarantee you a devoted pet.
Filed Under: Chihuahua, DogsSours: https://nedhardy.com/2020/11/04/merle-chihuahuas/
What is a Merle chihuahua?
When bringing up types of chihuahuas, a Merle chihuahua isn’t an official “type” recognized by the AKC for chihuahuas, but rather a special coating type for dogs. The Merle is a gene modifier that affects the pigmentations in dogs that changes the color of their coating. The gene also affects the color of their eyes which normally results in blue eyes or more unusual colors.
Chihuahuas and other dogs with the Merle gene have an appearance of fascinating colors with blotches or spots all over their coating. Popularity of this coating in chihuahuas has recently had a huge spike in the last 20 years. research suggests that this type of coating in chihuahuas has been around for about half a century and has been fabricated as a purebred chihuahua, although untrue.
The Merle gene is not a natural occurrence in chihuahuas which is evidence of cross breeding somewhere down the lineage. Around a decade ago the Kennel Club has taken a stance against the Merle chihuahua by ending registration of chihuahuas with the Merle gene. The stand against this is applaudable considering the health issues involved.
Merle chihuahua health risks
The controversy involving this coating is the major health risks involved with the type. Merle dogs of all breeds have a very high risk of being born blind or deaf. Some may not be born this way, but later may develop the health conditions. The chihuahua may suffer from full deafness or partial deafness, skeletal problems, heart problems, and reproductive issues.
Breeding two Merle parents together should never be done, as the risks for the pups being born with these conditions are extremely high. So high that the kennel club has banned the registration of Merle chihuahuas. We highly dissuade the breeding of these types of chi’s together so as not to punish any dogs life in such a way.
Some suggest that breeding a solid colored Chihuahua’s with a merle have safe outcomes. Contrary to these suggestions, studies have shown that even when doing this, there are still a significant amount of pups born with these health problems. Some Merle chihuahuas however are lucky and live their entire life without suffering from any of these symptoms.
However some dog owners do love to own and care for disabled dogs. My faith in humanity is always restored when I see people posting pictures or videos of themselves loving their blind dogs.
Phantom Merle Chihuahua
Or also known as a cryptic merle, is a chihuahua that contains the merle gene but doesn’t show any signs of being a merle. The identifiable coating colorations and blue eyes may not occur in the chihuahua. Scientifically named an “atypical merle” the phantom merle is still able to produce merle pups.
We recommend if you’re a breeder to have your chihuahua tested to make sure that your chihuahua doesn’t have the hidden phantom Merle gene.
Buying a merle chihuahua
Regardless of the controversy and pitfalls involved with this style of chihuahua coating, buying one will set you back quite a pretty penny. Anywhere from $2,000-$10,000 everywhere you look. Not to mention the hidden health cost fees involved with owning one. If you do happen to find one for a few hundred dollars, you are either lucky or there may be something very wrong with the dog.
The coating on these chihuahuas are remarkably beautiful and the price tag is a direct relation to that. You may wish to inquire on the parents of the puppy to make sure both parents aren’t Merle, as the puppy runs a higher risk of health conditions.
Please be aware that these dogs suffer from many health conditions and if you do decide to purchase one, please take care of the health of the Chihuahua as responsibly as you can.
Merle chihuahua quick information
- Merle chihuahuas are not purebred and therefore may have a slightly different temperament.
- May suffer from ocular and auditory health problems.
- Price tag ranging from $2,000-$10,000.
- May be smaller or larger than a purebred due to cross breeding.
- The pigment modifier may chang the color of the coat (normally white or lighter colorations) and eyes (normally blue).
- The Merle gene is a dominant gene and not recessive.
- A chihuahua can have the Merle gene with no signs of being a merle also known as a “Phantom Merle”
- Many other breeds have the Merle gene including Dachshunds, Collies, Great Danes, American Pit Bull Terriers, and quite a number more.
- Unable to register a chihuahua with the Merle gene.
- Other specialty coatings that may be mixed with Merle are blue merle chihuahuas and brindle chihuahuas.
You may have heard the terms blue Chihuahua and/or merle Chihuahua, but have you wondered exactly what they mean. Chihuahuas come in virtually any color combination and a wide variety of patterns. Common colors are fawn, red, cream, chocolate, brown white and black.
What is a blue Chihuahua?
A blue Chihuahua is simply another color. Breeding one is difficult because you have to mix different colors including fawn and brown in hopes of getting one. The gene involved with the color is recessive, (a gene that gets trumped by a more dominant gene) so the chances are very low that a puppy may have the gene and chances are even lower than the puppy may have the full blue coat.
For these reasons the blue Chihuahua is rare and much sought after. They are known to have the same temperament and traits as any other Chihuahua.
The Merle Chihuahua
Although many describe “merle” as only a pattern, DNA testing identifies the “merle” gene but not the variety of colors and patterns seen in the coats of dogs with the gene. But unless you are talking to a geneticist, when people describe a dog as a merle they are referring to their coat pattern.
It is very common and popular in the Australian Shepherd breed and relatively common among Collies and Shelties. But there is some controversy among Chihuahua owners and breeders as to whether it is a risk for Chihuahuas.
At first glance the “merle” gene is dominant however, it is incompletely dominant. A dog that carries the double merle gene is not a pure-breed. The “double-merle” dog is mostly white with a few merle-colored spots. The only way you can produce a “double-merle” is by breeding together two merles. This statistically will produce a litter that is ¼ solid-colored, half will be simple merles and ¼ will be double-merles.
The merle gene not only alters the base coat color, but it also modifies eye color and coloring on the nose and paw pads. The merle gene occasionally changes the dark eyes to blue.
Health issues can occur when there are two copies of the merle gene. They have a higher risk of being deaf. Recent research indicates that the majority of health issues occur in dogs carrying both piebald (spotted with two colors, usually black & white) and the merle gene.
Dogs who are “double-merle” may be deaf or blind or both and can carry ocular defects in blue or colored eyes, causing blindness. Don’t shy away from getting a merle Chihuahua. Just be sure that if you get one from a breed that that breeder is a responsible one. A good breeder knows how to produce healthy merle Chihuahuas.
Deaf, blind, and deaf and blind dogs can have good lives when cared for properly. There are a variety of internet groups that are dedicated to supporting caregivers of such dogs.
Meet Remedy Jane
Meet my Remedy Jane, a blue merle Short-haired Chihuahua.
Mix merle chihuahua
Health Problems Associated with the Merle Allele
Both heterozygous merle (Mm) and homozygous double merle (MM) dogs may exhibit auditory and ophthalmic abnormalities including mild to severe deafness, increased intra ocular pressure, ametropia, microphthalmia and colobomas. The double merle genotype may also be associated with abnormalities of skeletal, cardiac and reproductive systems.
Due to the amount of colors and patterns occurring in the Chihuahua breed the ethical breeding of the merle pattern can be much more difficult than in other breeds who limit the allowed colors and patterns. The purpose of these guidelines is to give beginning tools to avoid or limit the production of hidden merles.
- Merle should never be bred to another merle. The purposeful production of double merle puppies is never ethical.
- If you suspect a dog MAY be a hidden or cryptic merle, it is essential that you have the genetic testing performed to be certain if the pattern is present. A hidden merle is a merle dog who does not exhibit the merle pattern because their coat color does not show the pattern. Merling is not normally shown in red, gold, fawn, or coat colors. Cryptic merles are dogs that are the appropriate coat color, but do not show any or very slight merling which causes them to appear as non merles. Breeding a dog to test whether or not he/she is a hidden or cryptic merle is not sufficient, as Chihuahuas often have small litters and may carry colors that would hide the merle in their offspring.
- Merle should not be purposefully crossed with colors or patterns that will create hidden merle puppies. This includes sable, cream, ee/recessive red, or brindle. It is important to note that not all adult “hidden merles” will have visual merling as puppies. Intentional breeding of merles to colors and patterns which produce merling greatly increases the risk of unintentional future merle to merle breedings, which is unethical.
- Many merle breeds limit the amount of white markings merles exhibit; at this time CCA recommends that we follow this tradition. In with tradition a merle should not be bred into lines that carry piebald (white dogs with spots) or extreme white spotting patterns (dogs that are mostly white with minimal spotting). Merles should be bred to dogs that have up to 33% (1/3) white coats, such as a typical irish markings pattern (typically a white collar, legs and tail tip). This arises from the recognition that the incidence of vision and hearing problems increase when white markings cover the eyes and/or ears. Scientific research has not been completed regarding merle pattern and white spotting present in a single although these patterns have been extensively studied separately. This area of the guidelines may be revised when research has been completed.
- The Merle pattern is best shown on a solid black or black and tan pointed dog. Chocolate or blue, with or without tan points, are another option to use in a breeding program.
- When registering puppy colors/patterns be sure to always include the merle markings even if they are just slightly present or are no longer visible. If genetic testing that a Chihuahua is a hidden merle, its registration should indicate “with merle markings”, although the markings may have never been visible or have faded/muted at the time of registration. The identification of the gene’s presence is the very purpose of testing.
- All merle should be CERF and BAER tested before being bred.
The guidelines above provide very basic information. To achieve a greater understanding of “color inheritance” genetics,the Chihuahua Club of America strongly recommends that breeders do further, in-depth research.
Who knew a dog could be blue? Have you ever seen a blue merle long hair Chihuahua? Or did you even know it existed?
Blue is one of the coat colors of a chi, but it can be challenging to breed. It can be hit and miss. To get a blue merle Chihuahua, different colors need to be mixed, and at best, you can hope the outcome is blue. The color of a dog’s coat is determined by a recessive gene making it difficult to predict the outcome.
What is a Merle Chihuahua?
Among dog enthusiasts, merle refers to the coat pattern of a dog. If a Chihuahua carries one merle gene, it is acceptable. But, a double merle Chihuahua indicates that the dog is not purebred. The merle gene alters the base coat color of a dog, and it also modifies eye color, nose coloring, and the coloring of paw pads.
The Health of Merle Chihuahuas
Though the merle coat is highly sought after, any variations such as red merle Chihuahuas and lavender merle Chihuahuas may have more health issues.
Merle is a gene modifier and, while producing a pretty coat, can be the culprit when it comes to some health issues. For that reason, two merles should never be bred.
The merle gene can cause deafness and blindness in dogs.
Is Merle a Natural Color?
Historically, merle Chihuahuas did not exist in the breed even though other dogs had merle coats. There is a debate about how the color was introduced in Chihuahuas. Some people say that the merle coat was a result of a genetic mutation that occurred naturally.
The alternate theory is that merle coats were introduced by breeding the Chihuahua with another dog breed, which already carried a merle gene.
The merle pattern happens because the gene causes a dilution of color. That means that darker spots will appear in some places, and it will be lighter in others. The color splotches will appear in different shapes and sizes. They can also occur in different colors, as in a silver merle Chihuahua or a chocolate merle Chihuahua.
Merle Chihuahuas did not appear until around 15 years ago, so it is a pretty new color, and they are sold as rare. But remember, even though these dogs are popular, they are not the breed standard, and they may have health problems.
More to Know about Merles
The merle gene comes from larger breeds. If you get a merle Chihuahua, he is likely to be larger than the breed standard.
Chocolate merle Chihuahuas and other merles may look pretty, but they are rare because they are not natural. Many reputable breeders will not sell merle coated Chihuahuas because of the controversy surrounding them.
When the merle gene lightens the coat, it also affects other things. The inside of the ears and the eyes may also lighten, causing the dog to be deaf and blind.
Caring for a Merle Chihuahua
If your Chi is in good health, there is not much more to caring for a Chi with a merle coat than any other Chihuahua.
Chihuahuas are confident and resilient dogs, but they can be temperamental if not correctly trained. Chihuahuas are small dogs, so they will be quite cautious, so they do not get hurt. They are protective of their bodies, so quick movements around them may scare them.
If you start training and socializing your Chi early, this will benefit them. Start training them when they are puppies, so that you can teach them to be calm. People must also act calmly around the Chihuahua, so that the dog also learns to be calm.
Take your pup on social outings early on, so he learns how to behave around various people and in various situations.
Love and Attention
Chihuahuas are affectionate and need to be shown love and affection in return. They love to be held and snuggled regularly. Everyone in the family needs to show affection, so that he is comfortable with everyone and not just one person.
Chis are great with older children who are calm and loving, but they may be afraid and become aggressive with younger children if they get scared.
Chihuahuas like to burrow when they snuggle. If you have blankets available, your merle Chihuahua may burrow under the blanket and snuggle in for a long winter’s nap.
Feeding Your Merle
The metabolism of a Chihuahua puppy is relatively high. You should always make sure there is food available, so your dog does not become hypoglycemic. You can feed your adult chi twice a day.
Sometimes, Chihuahuas will play with their food. They may also take food and hide it in the furniture or some other little nook.
Chihuahuas will work off their food when they exercise. They have a lot of energy, but they can get enough exercise in small spaces because of their size. Even if you do not take long family walks, the Chihuahua will typically be able to burn off calories.
Is a Merle Chihuahua for you?
Because there is a lot of controversy surrounding the merle coated Chihuahua, you need to make your own informed choice when it comes to getting a Chihuahua in a standard color or looking for one with a merle coat.
Ensure you understand that merles are not purebred (even if the breeder tells you it is) and that breeding two merles can mean trouble for the puppies.
The merle Chihuahua is beautiful, but you need to be aware of the greater possibility of health issues that can come along with the merle coat.
If you are undecided, a brindle Chihuahua also makes an excellent choice. This coat pattern is also rare and can be difficult to find, but it has been around for a long time. Both parents must carry the recessive brindle gene to get a brindle coat (striped like a tiger).
Whatever coat you choose, you are sure to end up with a loving and affectionate companion.
Stephanie was born and raised in Saskatchewan and currently lives in Alberta, Canada. She started her career as a school teacher twenty years ago and has taught English Language Arts to students in grades three through twelve. She is currently exploring her love of writing and exploring topics she is interested in while also learning more in her field of expertise. She is passionate about lifelong learning.
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The Merle Chihuahua. Why the controversy?
We have had some lovely photos of merle chihuahuas sent into the blog. They are such an unusual colour combination that we thought it would be good to look at the history of this pattern. Goodness me what a hotbed of intrigue we uncovered. Who knew that there was so much controversy over the merle chihuahua!
What does ‘merle’ mean?
Merle refers to the unusual colouring of the dog’s coat. Sometimes referred to as dappling. It is the result of a gene modifier that changes the pigmentation at the base of the coat. The result of this gene is the unusual light and dark patches. The chihuahua may also have blue eyes.
Why is a merle chihuahua controversial?
It has been suggested that the merle gene is not naturally present in a chihuahua so to produce this colour pattern there must have been some cross breeding back in the chihuahua’s blood line. The merle gene is naturally present in other dogs, like Great Danes and Collies.
The Kennel Club no longer allows the registration of the merle chihuahua although it has done in the past. Some argue that the merle pattern has been present in chihuahuas since the 1940s and the kennel club has been Ok with it for 70 years so to suddenly decide they are cross breeds now is a bit harsh.
Completely contrary to the above view others state that the merle chihuahua has only been around for 15 years and has been specifically bred to produce an unusual colour combination to appeal to buyers. They suggest that merle chihuahuas can be prone to specific health problems that are directly related to the merle gene.
Do merle chihuahuas have health problems?
There is some debate and opinions differ on this. Some suggest that the merle chihuahua will have health issues such as sight problems, hearing issues and possibly sperm deficiencies. Similar suggestions of ill health are associated with blue chihuahuas as well and it is suggested that you do not breed from two blues. Although the Kennel club does allow the registration of blues.
It is for reasons of health issues that the kennel club state that they do not allow the registration of merles. (Taken from their website)
‘’With effect 01 March 2009, the Kennel Club will no longer register puppies whelped from a merle parent, mated on or after this date. This is because the merle gene in this breed carries an increased risk of impaired hearing and sight problems.’’
Others suggest that there is no more risk in breeding merle chihuahuas than any other breed if it is done responsibly. That problems only start to occur when two merles are bred together (known as MM.) The feeling is that if the parent is healthy and only one parent is a merle (Mm) then you have no more risks than any other merle dog breeds.
Do you have a ghost merle?
It is possible to have a merle chihuahua and not know. If your chihuahua is light in colouring the light pigmentation that occurs with the merle gene will not show. These are called ghost or phantom merles.
Does my merle chihuahua need more attention?
If your puppy is healthy then no. If she has blue eyes there might be a sensitivity to bright sunlight. Some suggest that your merle chihuahua could be slightly larger than average.
Are merle chihuahuas rare?
Not especially, but there is always going to be breeders who jump on the popularity bandwagon and charge over the odds for this type of colour marking. If you are buying a merle do check the parents are not both merle and be aware that you won’t’ be able to register your dog. Similarly, some breeders go out of their way to suggest they are more responsible by not having merles in the bloodline.
However, the clampdown on this coat colour seems to continue and you are not allowed to show him at formal dog shows.
So, there you have it. You pay your money and take your choice.
We would love to have your opinions about merles, do you breed them or do you own one? Have they had health issues? Please leave your comments below.