Merle Great Dane: Facts, Genetics, Health, Puppy Prices & FAQs

Merle Great Dane out on hike with its owner

If you know who Scooby-Doo, Marmaduke, and Astro Jetson are, then you’re already familiar with the Great Dane!

This German breed is undoubtedly one of the largest canines in the world, and the merle Great Dane is no exception.

The merle coat color pattern is one of the seven recognized Great Dane colors by the American Kennel Club. The rest are the black, fawn, mantle, blue, harlequin, and brindle patterns.

If you want to know more about merle Great Danes, we have a lot of vital information to share here, including the most common merle Great Dane health facts, their typical temperament, and much more. So read on to find out!

What Is a Merle Great Dane?

Merle Great Dane puppy outdoors

A merle Great Dane has a grayish coat with mottled darker patches throughout. They exhibit the same features as other Great Dane colors, but they are frowned upon in the canine community because of their susceptibility to a number of canine diseases. 

A merle Dane pup does not necessarily have to be bred from two merle parents. As long as either parent has the merle genetic pattern, there is a chance that one of their pups would exhibit this coloration.

Are Merle Great Danes Rare?

While each merle Great Dane has its own unique color pattern, it is not altogether a rare breed variation. 

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that there was a time when breeders tried to eliminate the merle gene due to the health risks it brings about.

Keep in mind that some breeders continue to claim that merles are rarer than they are, primarily because they wish to charge more for them. 

In reality, you do not necessarily need to shell out extra cash simply because of the pup’s color pattern.

Likewise, those interested in having their merle compete in shows should familiarize themselves with the standards of the Great Dane Club of America Breeder’s Code of Ethics before choosing their breeder. 

What Is the Difference Between a Harlequin and a Merle Great Dane?

Those new to the concept of choosing a Great Dane for their coat color and patterns might find it hard at first to distinguish a harlequin from a merle Great Dane. However, their differences in features are actually easy to recognize.

Basically, a harlequin Great Dane is identified primarily for its pure white coat with very few patches of black in certain areas. 

There are also some harlequins who have merle patches. These are completely normal but could also be the reason behind the confusion.

Refer to the photo below for a harlequin Great Dane:

Harlequin Great Dane potrait

According to the Great Dane Club of America, a pedigree harlequin may also have black patches in the chest and legs while its neck remains white. 

Notwithstanding, if the edges of the spots are clear (instead of torn), then the Dane is not considered a pure harlequin.

On the other hand, a merle Great Dane would clearly have a gray coat with black blotches all over. And while there are varieties of merle patterns and markings as well, the distinct pattern is hard to miss.

Here is a photo of a merle Great Dane for your reference:

Merle Great Dane out in the fields

If you are interested to know more about the merle color patterns approved by The American Kennel Club or AKC, you can also take a look at The Great Dane Club of America’s “The Illustrated Standard of the Great Dane.”

RELATED: An In-Depth Look Into the Beauty of a Harlequin Great Dane

Merle Great Dane Appearance and Variations: What Does a Merle Great Dane Look Like?

Like most of the other Great Danes, the merle’s coat is smooth, glossy, short, and thick. But what makes the merle striking is the uniqueness of each merle pattern due to the unstable nature of the merle gene (which will be discussed in detail later on).

As a result, there are numerous variations of the merle pattern. Yet one can safely say that a Great Dane is a merle when it has a pale gray to dark gray merle base color with black mottled patches all over.

Here are some of the most common merle Great Dane variations:

Solid Merle Great Dane

Solid merle Great Dane

A solid merle pattern is either light or dark gray with distinctive black blotches all over. Some solid merles have white on their toes and chest, which is normal and within the standard for shows and competitions.

Blue Merle Great Dane

Blue merle Great Dane

Widely popular on Instagram, the blue merle Great Dane has a gorgeous coat that is hard to ignore. This is not an elusive color pattern, so you’ll often see Great Danes sporting this coat.

Mantle Merle Great Dane

It won’t take long for you to tell that it’s a merle and mantle pattern with its large patches of white fur, usually on the muzzle, chest, and legs, against a predominantly merle coat pattern.

Yet, regardless of your Dane’s merle pattern, you would be glad to know that caring for a merle’s coat will not take much of your time and energy. 

They barely shed throughout the year and do not require a regular bath unless absolutely necessary.

Now, enough talking about coats. Let’s shift gears and focus on merle Great Dane’s general appearance.

The height of a male merle Great Dane is between 30 and 32 inches, whereas a female can stand up to 30 inches at the shoulder. Generally, male Great Danes are also observably more muscular than their female counterparts.

Male merle Great Danes can weigh 120 to 200 pounds while females are 100 to 130 pounds in weight.

Both male and female merle Great Danes share the same rectangular, often finely chiseled head shape. The jaw is usually square with a broad muzzle. 

Their eyes are typically medium and deep-set, and they can be almond, rounded with a hawk, or slant Mongolian shaped.

A merle Great Dane’s ears would naturally be high set and medium in size, folded and lying close to the cheek. 

Some owners would have their merle’s ears cropped, but it must be noted that ear cropping is illegal in most European countries as well as in Australia and Canada.

READ NEXT: American vs. European Great Dane: What’s the Difference?

Merle Great Dane Color Genetics

When two dogs carry the incompletely dominant merle gene and are made to breed, 25 percent of their litter would, on average, become a merle Great Dane.

Apart from influencing a Great Dane’s coat, the merle gene would also be likely to affect their eye color as well as their nose and paw pads. 

However, the genetic modifications are random, so a merle Great Dane would not always have inherited odd-colored eyes.

What Makes a Great Dane Merle?

For a Great Dane to exhibit the merle color pattern, either one of its parents should be carrying the merle gene, which is primarily responsible for the mottled patterns against a solid or piebald coat. 

Breeders can expect to see at least one merle Great Dane puppy when two harlequin parents breed. Likewise, mantle Great Danes and harlequins can potentially produce a merle.

What Is a Double Merle Great Dane?

If you’re no stranger to the Great Dane breed, then you may have heard of the term double merle dogs. 

Double merle Great Danes carry the double merle gene, two copies of the dominant “M” allele, or the version of the gene that is responsible for the merle coat color.

Often referred to as “M/M,” the double merle is a cause for concern because it often produces sick puppies who are inherently deaf or blind. 

Sadly, they can also pass this on to their offspring, so it is not recommended to breed two merle Great Dane dogs.

It goes without saying that the likelihood of getting a merle dog is significantly higher when two merles breed. On top of that, a copy of the double merle mutation can always be passed on to the pup.

However, since double merles have a higher risk of developing health defects, the concern about a pup being the offspring of two merles is a subject of deep interest among Great Dane owners.

How Do I Know If My Great Dane Is a Double Merle?

It is difficult, if not altogether impossible, to tell whether your Dane is a double merle simply by looking at their physical traits. 

That is because a puppy can still inherit the merle pattern even when the dominant merle gene is present in only one of the parents. 

Therefore, the proper way to determine whether your beloved dog is a double merle Great Dane is by mailing a sample of their DNA to Animal Genetics. 

Animal Genetics is an organization that specializes in genetic testing, and their team would be able to identify the type of merle gene your Great Dane has.

How to Get Your Merle Great Dane Tested for the Merle Gene

Most genetic tests require one of three collection types for identifying the merle gene: buccal swab, blood, and dewclaw samples. 

If your dog is not weaned or is under six weeks old, then they recommend that you choose the blood sample, a cotton swab, or the dewclaw collection method.

All the information you need, as well as the instructions, can be found on your chosen facility’s website, including their forms and how to order their free sample collection kits. 

If you choose to have your merle Great Dane’s genetics tested, then you would be able to tell if they are double merle when results come back indicating “M/M,” it can affirm that your dog carries two copies of the dominant “M” allele or merle gene.

Can You Breed Two Merle Great Danes Together?

While this is technically possible, it is highly discouraged to breed two merle Danes. As discussed, it is because it dramatically increases the likelihood of their offspring becoming double merle and inheriting the health issues that come with this gene.

Can a Harlequin Great Dane Produce Merle Puppies?

When you breed harlequin Great Danes, it is certainly possible for some puppies in a harlequin litter to come out merle, provided that they have inherited the merle gene. 

Some would refer to a merle and harlequin offspring as merlequin Great Danes.

This is not a rare case since merle is a dominant gene. That is to say, only one copy of an M allele is needed for the Dane to acquire some form of the merle pattern. 

As such, most harlequin breeders are confident that they would at least get a dilute merle or merlequin Great Dane pup.

Overall, the influence of the merle gene on a harlequin and its pups is caused by the size of each M allele that they inherited from their parents.

RELATED: An In-Depth Look Into the Beauty of a Harlequin Great Dane

Merle Great Dane Kennel Club Recognition: Can Merle Great Danes Be AKC-Registered?

Yes, the merle can now be registered to the American Kennel Club or AKC. Before 2019, they were not qualified due to their reputation of having a higher risk of developing eye defects, skin cancer, or hearing problems.

However, after the recent development of the aforementioned gene testing system that can distinguish the homozygous merles (MM) from the relatively healthier heterozygous (Mm) merles, the AKC finally allowed them to join the shows and competitions.

This is certainly great news if you already have a gorgeous merle Dane that is just waiting to be shown off to the world!

Merle Great Dane Temperament: Do Merle Great Danes Make Good Family Dogs?

Great Danes, regardless of their color pattern, would make excellent family dogs. Thus, merle Great Danes are also gentle, sweet, and brave and exhibit a desire to play with children. 

They are also mostly quiet — unless you hear them bark to defend a family member.

Another great thing about the merle Dane is that they are not hard to housetrain. They are also quite intelligent and thus adapt well to almost any household. 

Of course, due to their size, you must make sure to have a spacious enough home to accommodate a Dane. 

As a giant breed, they will need enough room to freely move about without knocking down lamps or bumping into family members.

To get a better idea of how much fun it is to have a Great Dane as a family member, watch this YouTube video by AFV Pets: 

Funny Great Danes | Try Not to Laugh Challenge | That Pet Life

If you are planning to adopt a merle Dane and make it a part of your family, it is advisable that you enroll it in a number of obedience training classes at a young age. This would make it easier for your family to control it when it grows to its full adult size.

READ NEXT: Male vs. Female Great Dane: What Are the Differences?

Merle Great Dane Lifespan and Health Issues: Do Merle Great Danes Have More Health Problems?

In terms of their average life expectancy, a merle Great Dane can live up to the age of 10 years. 

Still and all, it is not unusual for them to pass away at the age of seven. For, like most other large breeds, they are more prone to deadly diseases than smaller dogs. 

With all that said, the merle gene, in particular, is known for increasing the likelihood of a Great Dane inheriting certain health conditions. These include eye problems, deafness, and skin diseases.

In particular, the following list provides a rundown of some of the most common merle Great Dane health issues:

  • Deafness: According to a published study in 2009, a merle dog is more susceptible to deafness than dog breeds that are homozygous for the piebald gene. If you suspect that your merle is deaf, your veterinarian can do an evaluation and create a treatment or care plan.
  • Blindness or Other Eye Defects: Double merle or homozygous Great Danes are also much more likely to inherit eye defects such as abnormally small eyes (microphthalmia), displaced pupils (corectopia), and malformed iris (iris coloboma).
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or GDV: Often referred to as “bloat,” this life-threatening condition is said to be the primary cause of death in most Great Danes. Becoming aware of its earliest symptoms can help save your Dane’s life.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This happens when the dog’s hip ball and socket are either underdeveloped or do not fit properly. It is a painful inborn condition common among merle Danes and other giant dog breeds.
  • Heart Disease: Great Danes are vulnerable to several types of cardiovascular ailments. So much so that they are sometimes referred to as the “heartbreak breed.” Periodic evaluations by your veterinarian can help you minimize this risk in your Great Dane.

It is highly advisable to have your Dane undergo periodic eye, cardiac, thyroid, and hip evaluations. That way, you and your vet can devise preventive care or detect and address early symptoms to avoid more expensive and invasive treatments.

How Much Does a Merle Great Dane Cost? Puppy Prices and Expenses

Merle Great Dane puppy for sale and adoption

Most breeders specializing in breeding merle Great Danes will charge anywhere between $600 and $4,500 for a puppy. 

Naturally, Great Dane breeders who are able to provide the pup’s pedigree, or the merle Dane’s lineage and other records, will charge more.

Keep in mind that certain kennels specialize in breeding different Great Danes for specific purposes. Generally speaking, merle pups bred to become pets would cost approximately half the price of those bred for competitions.

You can expect purebred merle Great Dane puppies of award-winning parents to cost between $3,000 and $4,500

A reputable breeder of these pedigree dogs should provide you with an AKC certification on top of other records to be able to charge such prices.

Naturally, if you have no plans to enter your merle Dane in any competitions or shows, you can adopt one from a rescue shelter. 

Adoption fees are typically between $100 and $500, depending on factors such as their age and heritage.

As for the cost of caring for your merle Great Dane pup within the first week or two, here are some figures for you to consider:

Type of ExpenseEstimated Cost
Health Exam and Vaccination$125 – $150
Spaying or Neutering$250 – $300
Healthy Puppy Food$70 – $80
Water Bowl and Food Bowl$15 – $20
Collar and Leash$25 – $30
Dog Crate$150 – $200
Toys$20 – $30
Toiletries$40 – $50
Supplements$30 – $40
Total Initial Cost$725 – $870

Of course, there is a wide range of dog accessories, food products, and supplements at varying price points. Therefore, you can always customize your budget in caring for your new merle.

Places to Find Merle Great Dane Puppies for Sale and Adoption

It must be exciting to finally go looking for your merle Great Dane. But if you’re not sure where to begin, this section will hopefully lead you to the right place. 

Here are some reputable breeders where you can find merle Great Danes for sale:

  • Old Mission Danes – Based in Michigan, they specialize in show dogs and are known for breeding merles and other Great Dane coat colors. As an awardee of the AKC Breeder of Merit and holder Breeder & Rescue Certification, they can provide you with a truly pedigree pup.
  • The Dane Haven – Located in Central Florida, they are known for breeding merle Great Danes that are 100% European. Once you purchase your pup, they will give you a one-year health guarantee, along with a health certificate and AKC registration papers.
  • Rose Danes – They have been in the business for over 26 years and register all their pups with the AKC. As one of the leading experts in breeding harlequin Great Danes and merles, it would be best to reach out to their team fast.

Aside from the ones I listed above, you can also check out our list of the best Great Dane breeders in the United States. I wrote an in-depth review of each breeder, so go ahead and give it a read.

RELATED: 10 Best Great Dane Breeders (2023): Our Top 10 Picks!

Meanwhile, here are some rescue shelters where you can find merle Great Danes for adoption:

  • Great Dane Rescue – They are a non-profit group established in 1993 that helps neglected Great Danes find loving homes. They cater mostly to adopters in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, parts of Ohio, and Ontario, Canada.
  • Great Dane Friends of Ruff Love – Founded in Charlotte, North Carolina, this non-profit focuses on rescuing Great Danes as well as mixed breeds, including the ones that have special needs or health problems. They provide tremendous support to adopters to help ensure that the dogs go to the right homes.
  • The Great Dane Rescue – This organization provides Great Danes with foster homes, medical treatment, and behavioral assessments. At present, they are able to honor adoption applications from the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.

If, after reaching out to any of these recommendations, you still haven’t found the merle you want, then you can try checking out our list of the best Great Dane rescues.

Other than that, it is also a great idea to get recommendations from your local vet. After all, there must be a wonderful merle Great Dane who is simply out there patiently waiting for you!

RELATED: 10 Best Great Dane Rescues for Adoption (2023): Our Top 10 Picks!

Frequently Asked Questions

A young merle Great Dane dog relaxing in the autumn leaves

What Color Eyes Do Merle Great Danes Have?

Eye color among merle Great Danes would vary. Although most of them would have blue eyes as pups, the hue would eventually turn brown as they grow older.

However, Danes whose color patterns are more diluted, as in the case of merles, are also more likely to maintain the blueness of their eye color. 

This is even more likely if they are born from harlequin Great Danes, whose eyes would typically remain blue throughout their life.

What Is the Rarest Color of Great Danes?

A primarily white Great Dane is arguably the rarest color to be found. However, it is also the most likely to inherit genetic health problems. As such, breeders would often sell them at a lower cost than the rest of the litter.

Some would say that Great Danes with a silver coat are just as rare. This color may be likened to the blue or blue fawn Great Dane, but what makes it different is that this dog’s coat has a beautiful shiny hue.

Is Merle Natural in Great Danes?

Because of the dominant merle gene, it is natural for many Great Danes to inherit it. 

In fact, the merle coat color gene in and of itself is not exclusive to the Great Dane, but other dog breeds as well, including the Australian Shepherd, Dachshund, and Chihuahua.

Final Thoughts: Should You Get a Merle Great Dane?

To be perfectly honest, raising a merle Great Dane can be just as challenging as it is rewarding. 

However, the key to having a truly fulfilling relationship with one is to ensure that they are as healthy, safe, and comfortable as possible throughout their lives.

So, to answer your question: Yes, it may very well be worth it for you to get a merle Great Dane. They are a loyal, graceful, and vigilant breed whose companionship you will find incredibly meaningful and memorable.

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