What is merle?

Merle, also known as dapple in some breeds, is a distinctive pattern of colours used to describe the coat of some dogs. Merle dogs can come in a range of colours, but the pattern is usually a splash of darker shades, marbled against a lighter background. This type of coat is inherited, and the gene that causes this pattern can also affect the colour of a dog’s eyes and some parts of their skin, usually their nose or paw pads. Some merle dogs, specifically those that have two merle parents, have an increased risk of certain health issues.

Does The Kennel Club register merle dogs?

Yes, but we only register merle dogs in breeds where this type of coat is known to traditionally appear. In these breeds, merle is a long-standing and commonly-occurring colour, and there is a well-established tradition of careful breeding to avoid merle-to-merle matings.

We only accept for registration merle dogs in the following breeds:
If your puppy is of a breed not mentioned and is merle, we regret that it will not be possible to register it. You must not register it as another colour.

If it is later determined that the dog has been mis-registered, we reserve the right to cancel the registration, and any other associated registrations.

How is merle inherited?

This type of coat is caused by a variation of a particular gene. Each dog has two copies of every gene; one that they inherit from their mother and one they inherit from their father. The merle gene variant is dominant, which means that a dog only needs one copy, inherited from either of their parents, to have a merle coat.

Do merle dogs have health problems?

Dogs that have two copies of the merle gene variant, inherited from both of their parents, have an increased risk of problems with their eyes and ears, causing blindness and/or deafness.

Does The Kennel Club register puppies from merle-to-merle matings?

No. Mating two merle dogs together increases the risk of their puppies having health issues and could have a serious impact on their health and welfare. For this reason, we do not register dogs from merle-to-merle mating. Any mating that could produce affected puppies should never knowingly be carried out. If this mating accidentally occurs, it’s important to speak to your vet for advice on how to know if a puppy is affected and how to care for them as they grow up.