Merle Chihuahua: The Truth Behind This Unusually Colored Dog

Two merle Chihuahua puppies

A merle Chihuahua is a very appealing breed to dog enthusiasts as well as breeders. Merle may not be the rarest coat pattern for a Chihuahua, but they are also not that easy to find in the market.

It is not surprising that they are quite popular, knowing that this smallest dog already has a charming and bold personality. They are undeniably cute and very loving with the people they trust, but they can be very sassy.

A purebred Chihuahua even ranks 33 out of 196 breeds in popularity on the American Kennel Club survey.

Owning or adopting a merle Chihuahua is something to be happy about; however, it comes with consequential responsibility and controversies.

With this in mind, we will take a more in-depth look at merle Chihuahua and the story of why they are not widely accepted. So, if you are still interested more about them, here are the things that you need to know.

What Is a Merle Chihuahua?

So, what is a merle Chihuahua, and what is the controversy regarding this breed? 

Merle Chihuahua is a Chihuahua that displays a unique and beautiful pattern in their coat known as Merle. It means the Chihuahua has the merle gene, which is known to cause several health problems.

According to the American Kennel Club, a Merle is one of the standard markings or coat pattern for a Chihuahua. It may be a conventional marking, but it is one of the hardest to achieve through breeding. 

A merle Chihuahua has a spotted or mottled coat pattern, usually with blue or black splashes, over its base color. This type of coat color is also known as “Dapple” in other breeds. 

There are also known variations of merle Chihuahua on the market. They are Blue Merle Chihuahua, Dapple Chihuahua, Merle Longhair Chihuahua, and Chocolate Merle Chihuahua.

The merle pattern is said to be best in a blue or chocolate merle, and blue is subjectively more in demand.

If you intend to join in dog shows, it might be a little bit tricky. For a dog to enter a dog show, their owner must register their dog with a kennel club and fulfill all of the criteria.

However, you can only register your merle Chihuahua with the American Kennel Club, depending on a few factors.

That is because of the few health concerns regarding the coat pattern. And because of that, it will not be easy for the owner to register with the AKC. 

Even the Chihuahua Club of America issued a statement regarding merle breeds. They said that merle Chihuahuas should only be allowed to be registered but under certain circumstances.

They also think that there are more ethical breeds that people can own, breed, or adopt.

What Does the Merle Chihuahua Look Like?

Merle Chihuahua puppy with white background

Merle Chihuahua is not that much different from any Chihuahua breed. Chihuahua is known for its small size but with an appealing personality. It has a terrier-like demeanor, and its body is slightly longer than heights at the withers.

According to AKC’s breed standard, Chihuahua should have a well rounded “apple dome” skull, with or without a Molera. In addition to that, it should also have large round eyes and erect ears. 

A Chihuahua usually stands 5 to 8 inches tall, and weight is not exceeding 6 pounds. However, in merle Chihuahua’s case, they could be smaller or larger than a purebred Chihuahua due to crossbreeding.

There are two varieties of this breed: the smooth coat (smooth-haired) and the long coat (long-haired), and they are both recognized by the AKC.

The term “smooth coat” does not automatically mean that their hair is smooth because sometimes it has a whiskery feel. Whereas, a long hair coat has a much smoother fine guard hairs and a downy undercoat. 

Speaking of long coats, if the puppy has a long coat, it can be hard to distinguish if it has a merle coat.

This is a video I found on YouTube explaining some of the important facts about merle Chihuahuas. There are also cute merle Chihuahua puppies with blue eyes in the video!

Now that we’ve learned quite a few things about a merle Chihuahua and the breed standards, we can now discuss its controversies.

What Is Controversy About Merle Pattern?

The merle coat pattern is considered part of the breed standard until in the year 2007. It all started when The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom has decided not to register any puppies with a merle gene due to the health risks associated with it. 

In December of the same year, they formally amended their breed standard to disqualify any dogs with merle genes.

The other countries, especially the Fédération Cynologique Internationale representing the major kennel clubs in 84 countries, have supported the initiative and disqualify it. 

However, in the year 2008, the Chihuahua Club of America has voted and allowed merle owners to register and compete in AKC events under few conditions. 

According to the Chihuahua Club of America, merle should never be bred to another merle to avoid double merle puppies. That is because double merle dogsOpens in a new tab. usually suffer from hearing and vision impairments due to their genes’ implications.

There are also other various health issues such as skin cancer, follicular dysplasia, and many more. That is why they strictly do not recommend breeding two merle dogs and have considered it unethical.

They also warn breeders that purposefully bred merle dogs with specific color patterns as it might create hidden merle puppies. Hidden merles or cryptic merle typically have small patches of merle or do not exhibit the merle pattern at all.

If you suspect your dog may be hidden or cryptic merle, your dog must undergo genetic testing to make sure it is present.

You can check their site hereOpens in a new tab. to see more of their guidelines for the merle dogs.

What Makes a Merle Chihuahua Different From Other Chihuahuas?

Merle Chihuahua with a black and white Chihuahua

One of the reasons why some breeders and dog owners are interested in getting a merle Chihuahua is because they can have blue eyes among its other traits.

Sometimes it even only has one blue eye. This phenomenon is all because of their merle gene. So aside from having a beautiful coat, they can also have crystal blue eyes, making them extremely unique.

Many of Chihuahua’s eyes are blue when they are born, but the coloration does not stay long or last forever. It starts to change after about 9-16 weeks into a permanent color.

They have luminous dark or ruby eyes or light eyes (hazel). However, for merle dogs, their blue eyes could stay throughout their entire life. 

It is also much more expensive than other breeds because of their gene, as it holds many genes from other colored families.

And the fact that it is hard to breed a perfect merle Chihuahua with the right markings and patterns makes it very appealing for many dog breeders.

Despite being discouraged by several kennel clubs, it is still one of the in-demand breeds.

RECOMMENDED READING: Teacup Chihuahua: 15 Things You Need to Know About

Do Kennel Clubs Like AKC Recognize the Merle Coloring?

Merle is not a color that is naturally or historically present within the Chihuahua dog breed. Unfortunately, there is no specific proof where and when it started.

But many believe that it results from outcrossing specific Chihuahua breed to other dog breeds that carry the merle gene.

Since it does not occur naturally in the Chihuahua dog breed line, many kennel clubs did not recognize Chihuahua’s merle color, unlike in other breeds.

However, it is recognized as standard marking for Chihuahuas by the American Kennel ClubOpens in a new tab. and the Chihuahua Club of America.

You can register your merle Chihuahua and join formal breed-specific dog shows as long as you follow their guidelines. There are informal or fun dog shows that are not under any Kennel Club’s umbrella where you can participate.

Just make sure always to include if they have the merle markings even if they are only slightly present or hidden when registering your puppy. 

But suppose you plan to sell merle Chihuahuas to people in other countries, it still has no real weight. It will remain as unregistered to countries that don’t allow registration even though you have all the necessary AKC paperwork.

Now, let’s go more in-depth and talk about its genetics.

Merle Chihuahua Genetics

Merle is a gene modifier that affects how other genes express themselves. It means that the merle affects not only the coat color but also the dog’s skin pigment, hair, and even eye color.

According to a veterinarian Lynn BuzhardtOpens in a new tab., two colors are responsible for the dog’s color. These are black (eumelanin) and red (phaeomelanin).

As I have mentioned earlier, merle is a gene modifier. It could change eumelanin or the black pigment to create other colors, affecting the dog’s eye and nose color.

It can affect the hair and coat’s color by controlling the phaeomelanin’s intensity or the red pigment by making the color stronger or weaker.

So, in short, the color of a dog’s coat will always depend on the inherited genes. Ultimately, the gene will modify the two essential pigments and be responsible for the dog’s appearance. It is also responsible for causing undesirable health issues.

Merle Chihuahuas are most likely to develop hearing impairments and sensory problems. Apart from that, double merles could also have a shorter lifespan than an ordinary Chihuahua.

You have to take note that the merle gene is dominant and will show up roughly half of the time.

So, for the sake of ethical breeding practices, two merle dogs should not be bred together so that there will be less chance of getting a double merle puppy.

Effects of Merle Coloring on Health & Behavior

Few studies suggest that the merle gene causes a higher rate of sensory or auditory problems to dogs. 

According to a study made for the Journal of Veterinary Internal MedicineOpens in a new tab. in 2009, deafness prevalence in merle dogs was more significant than many dog breeds.

While according to another studyOpens in a new tab., dogs that have merle and double merle, which typically have blue eyes, often have auditory and ophthalmologic abnormalities.

Double merles can have eye problems that range from vision loss or poorly formed eyes to complete blindness.

As for their temperament, there is no proof that merle also affects the dog’s behavior. However, they could suffer from social instability and inadequacy.

Since they suffer from sensory or hearing deficiencies, they will often be unable to interact with other dogs and their surroundings with great success. And because of that, they will fail to adapt and adjust to their environment.

Other than that, there is not much difference with their temperament to an ordinary Chihuahua. So, if you are still interested, I’ll talk about their character in the next section.

Merle Chihuahua Temperament: Do They Make Good Family Dogs?

Merle Chihuahua is an entertaining, expressive, and loyal dog. But depending on how much they inherited from their parents, they could be friendly or antisocial.

So if your dog inherited the unpleasant temperament, socialization and training are extremely important unless you’re prepared to live with their behavior.

Keeping a Chihuahua with children under the age of about ten is not recommended as they don’t tolerate noise and quick movements. They can also be easily frightened or provoked so they could end up biting the kids. 

This breed tends to be loyal and overprotective to one particular person. Many Chihuahuas are very suspicious and easily agitated when other people get near to their owners.

But as long as they get trained early and adequately, this dog can be notably intelligent. However, this behavior makes them an excellent watchdog.

Chihuahuas are peaceful to other Chihuahuas or other pets in the family but not to other dogs, especially a larger dog. They tend to have clannish nature, so this behavior should be discouraged at an early stage.

Despite being small, they’re not scared, and they’re willing to protect their safe space.

The cute thing about the Chihuahua is that they tend to love their dens and cover themselves with pillows or blankets as they quickly get cold.

They also enjoy time in sunlight; however, it might differ in merle Chihuahua’s case since they are more susceptible to sunburns and ultraviolet radiation.

Merle Chihuahua Health Problems

Generally, Chihuahua is robust and healthy despite their tiny size, but they’re not immune to diseases. As they grow older, they also suffer from common health issues. 

When it comes to Chihuahua with merle coloring, they are likely to inherit specific health issues and life-threatening diseases because of their inherited genes. Some even don’t survive at birth due to having a double merle gene. 

While all of these sounds scary, there is still a possibility to own a healthy merle Chihuahua. There are a lot of breeders out there who strictly follow the breed standard that you can trust.

Just be aware of the possible health issues that they could inherit from their parents. Some of the things you should be aware of are:

  • Hearing Impairment: Either full or partial deafness.
  • Sensory Problems: Either partial or total blindness.
  • Microphthalmia: A hereditary eye disease in which one or both eyes are abnormally small or poorly formed.
  • Skin Cancer: Due to being more susceptible to sunburns and ultraviolet radiation.
  • Follicular Dysplasia: A genetic condition that could cause hair loss to dogs.

If you still intend to own a merle Chihuahua, the best thing to do is consult your vet on properly taking care of them. But if you tend to breed one, best to consult registered breeders regarding more acceptable approaches with far less risk.

Merle Chihuahua Price: Do They Cost More Than Other Chihuahuas?

Merle Chihuahuas are often described as being rare and use this as the unique selling point by breeders.

As you might expect, if they promote the merle Chihuahuas as something rare or unusual, it will often be sold at a much higher price than other Chihuahuas. 

The average cost of owning a Chihuahuas varies depending on different factors such as gender, age, health, and coat color. But, Chihuahuas usually cost around $300 to $800, while “rare” Chihuahuas such as merle and blue Chihuahuas can be as high as $10,000.

Moreover, show quality dogs can be more expensive. The reason behind this is that they might inherit the good genes from their parents that are considered quality dogs or champion-line breed. 

The location and the breeder’s certification could also affect the price. If the breeder has registered the dog to an official club like the AKC, they must follow the breeding standard. Meaning, they have to pay and do more to keep up with it.

But if you were to adopt it from a shelter adoption, it will cost you way less. So, I highly recommend adopting from respectable rescue centers.

Also, some breeders won’t even let the buyers know and understand why these dogs are rare, unlike for rescue centers, where they are open to answer your questions.

They’ll at least let you know the downsides of owning and breeding them.

Where to Find Merle Chihuahua Puppies for Sale?

The best place to check first if you don’t have any idea where to find a merle Chihuahua puppies that are up for sale is by checking the AKC’s listing via marketplace.akc.orgOpens in a new tab..

On their website, they’ve included the breeder’s distinction and few things about the puppies. This site feature can give the buyers the idea of which breeder they could trust and how much they will have to pay.

You can also check the website of the Chihuahua Club Of America under their breeder directoryOpens in a new tab.. You can filter their listing and select the state to see if there’s one near your area.

However, the website lacks essential features such as breeder’s distinction, pictures, and dog’s profile. Luckily, some breeders have included their website so that you can check that one instead. 

If you are looking over the internet, do some diligent research first and avoid puppy mills and backyard breeders.

Once you identify a possible breeder, ask the breeder if you can meet the dogs and see their medical records and their breeder certificate if they have one.

If the breeder does not allow you to visit their place, you should start looking for an alternative.

Where to Find Merle Chihuahua for Adoption From Rescues and Shelters?

Adopting is a great choice. It is a more affordable choice, and will also help the community as it helps break the cycle of pet overpopulation.

However, the adoption process might be long and requires a few consultations before you can adopt from the rescue center. Nevertheless, I can still assure you that it is all worth it.

There are several rescue organizations such as the Chihuahua Club of AmericaOpens in a new tab. that might help you. They have a list of independent Chihuahua rescue organizations on its websiteOpens in a new tab. and how to contact them.

They are working together with the following organizations:

Chihuahua Rescue and Transport (CRT) is a foster-based rescue group that places injured Chihuahuas, infirm and elderly Chihuahuas, and Chihuahua mixes in approved homes since 1996. They currently service the following states:

  • Midwest Region: Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan
  • Southeast Region: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, and West Virginia
  • Southwest Region: Texas and Oklahoma

You can also check their websiteOpens in a new tab. for more information.

Male vs. Female Merle Chihuahua: What’s the Difference?

Many people think that females are not difficult to house train while the males are more aggressive and destructive.

But in fact, it depends on their inherited temperament and their training. Nevertheless, let’s talk about the general comparison between the two.

Male merle Chihuahuas have a dominant personality and tend to be more aggressive. They like to mark (urinating) to claim areas of the house or just about anything he comes across to signal to other dogs that is his territory. 

Males are usually calm, quiet, and easy-going, but females tend to bark more. That is either because of their overprotectiveness or mood swings.

Due to their hormone levels rapidly rising and falling, the females may become more anxious or have less tolerance than usual.

Males are generally more loyal and affectionate than their female counterparts, making it easier to train them.

They learn the command very quickly and respond to it well. Females are also a loving companion; however, they require less attention, unlike the males.

Final Thoughts

Whether you want them as a pet to love and enjoy or you want to join a dog show, take the time to do your research first.

It is best to talk to a vet, reliable breeders, and other Chihuahua owners before buying or adopting a merle Chihuahua.

Nevertheless, adding a merle Chihuahua to your family is still a great choice. With proper care and love, your dog will indeed have the best time of their life and will love you throughout their entire life.

So, educate yourself and have a wonderful time along with your new dog.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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