Red Merle Australian Shepherd: A Comprehensive Guide

Red merle Aussie in winter

The red merle Australian Shepherd is a looker with its beautiful coat pattern, so it’s no surprise that some say it stands out among the dogs within the breed.

With hints of red blending flawlessly with other colors, the red merle Australian Shepherd carries a coat pattern that looks beautifully unique. Genetics makes it less likely for two red merle Aussie dogs to look the same.

More than its color, it is also popular and loved by many for the signature energy and trainability the Australian Shepherd breed is known for.

Want to be a fur parent to this beautiful spotted breed? Look no further as I share with you a comprehensive guide on this breed. Read on to find everything you need to know about the red merle Australian Shepherd.

What Is a Red Merle Australian Shepherd?

A red merle Australian Shepherd is a coat variety of the popular Australian Shepherd breed. This medium-sized dog doesn’t differ much from its other Aussie cousins in terms of behavior and temperament, but they obviously stand out due to their stunning merle coat pattern.

According to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California Davis, merle is a coat color pattern that has distinguishing patches and splotches.

This may come in diluted pigments or solid colors. The merle gene also exists in other breeds such as the Shetland Sheepdog, Welsh Corgi, Pitbull, and even Chihuahua.

Even though it is unique in appearance, the red merle Aussie also carries the innate characteristics of its breed. Known for being working ranch dogs, Australian Shepherds have good speed and agility, can be trained well, and are smart.

What Does the Red Merle Australian Shepherd Look Like?

Red merle Australian Shepherd running at the beach

The red merle Australian Shepherd is long-haired with double coats that may either be straight or curly. If not considering the coat color, its appearance is similar to other herding breeds such as the Border Collie or English Shepherd.

It is quite easy to spot a red merle Aussie with its red markings or splotches on the chest, face, and tail.

Colors in this breed’s coat are usually more than one and can range from brownish shades such as buff to gray colors like silver. Bicolor or red tri Australian Shepherd dogs still fall into breed standards.

Their red spots are not the usual red we are used to. Rather, spots can go as light as champagne or nearing brown hues such as rust or copper.

This breed’s eyes are usually blue, but there are cases where each eye bears a different color. This characteristic known as heterochromia or having two different colored eyes is nothing new for Australian Shepherds. Your dog can have a blue eye on one side and hazel, amber, or green on the other.

When it comes to tails, the red merle Australian Shepherds usually have short tails which is the standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

To see how a red merle Aussie looks like as it grows, watch this video of a puppy as it grows into a year old.

Australian Shepherd Red Merle: From Puppy to 1 year old

Do Australian Shepherds Have Tails? Bobbed Tail vs. Normal Tail

What Is the Difference Between a Blue Merle Aussie and a Red Merle Aussie?

The breed standard set by the AKC recognizes four Australian Shepherd colors: solid black, solid red or sometimes referred to as liver, blue merle, and red merle.

Both the blue merle and red merle carry the merle genes, so what sets them apart from each other?

There is one key difference between the blue merle Australian Shepherd and the red merle Australian Shepherd and that is the color of the spots.

While the red merle Aussie has red markings on light main coats, the blue merle Aussie has “blue” spots on gray main coats.

Trivia: these markings are not really blue but rather black. The black-on-gray color combination gives off an effect that makes the dog look “blue.” The gray coat background may also come in different shades from light silver to dark smoke.

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd: Everything You Need to Know

Do Kennel Clubs Recognize Red Merle Australian Shepherds?

Kennel clubs exist to help breeders, owners, and dog enthusiasts manage different dog breeds’ affairs and set standards for breeding. Several kennel clubs and breed clubs recognize red merle Australian Shepherds and here are they:

  • Australian Shepherd Club of America: Established in 1957, the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) was the first club to come up with a breed standard for the Australian Shepherd, which also acknowledged red merle Aussies and its variants such as the red tri Aussies.
  • American Kennel Club: AKC, which handles the registry of purebred dogs, officially added the Australian Shepherd to their list in 1993, categorizing them under the Herding group. The red merle is one of its four recognized coat colors for Aussies.
  • United States Australian Shepherd Association: The United States Australian Shepherd Association (USASA) is a breed club with its own breed standards and a member of AKC since 1993. This club also recognizes the red merle Aussie.
  • Fédération Cynologique Internationale: The Berlin-based Fédération Cynologique Internationale or FCI-World Canine Organization is a federation of kennel clubs around the world. In 2007, this group allowed the Australian Shepherd and all its variants, including the red merle, to participate in international competitions. They labeled Aussies breed number 342 and grouped the breed with Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs.

Are Red Merle Australian Shepherds Rare?

When it comes to coat variations, solid coated Aussies outnumber red merle Australian Shepherds. Though they are only a small percentage, you can still easily find a breeder who has a red merle Aussie.

The coat pattern of the red merle Australian Shepherd is unique. However, this does not mean that it is rare to find, unlike other merle breeds such as Chow Chows.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Coat Color Genetics

Australian Shepherd with a beutiful red merle coat

Genetics in dogs is an interesting topic. It gets more interesting in the case of the red merle Australian Shepherd because of the merle gene that creates different markings in Aussie coats.

Though a complex topic, I will try to make genetics sound easier to understand.

Coat Color Gene and Pattern Gene

Australian Shepherd dogs inherit two coat characteristics from their parents: the coat color gene and pattern gene.

There are two possible coat color genes that purebred Australian Shepherds can get. Aussie pups, even from the same litter, may come out as having either black or red coats.

Now, the gene that dictates whether an Aussie is a red merle or not is the pattern gene. The pattern gene has two results: solid pattern or the merle pattern.

Aussies born with solid patterns or self-color only have a single coat color. On the other hand, Aussies with the merle pattern end up with beautiful markings all over their coat.

It is also the merle gene that tells the colors of the other parts of the body such as the eyes, nose, lips, and paw pads.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Genes

For an Aussie pup to be born with a red coat, the two parents must each have the recessive red coat color gene.

When it comes to the pattern gene, it only takes one parent with the merle gene to possibly create a patterned Aussie. Breeders and dog experts linked having two merle genes to potential health risks.

If you have plans of getting a red merle Australian Shepherd and have little to no knowledge about genetics, it is best to approach a breeder to help you.

Double Merle

Double merle is a term we call dogs with two merle genes. When two merle dogs are bred together, each of their pups has a 25% chance of getting the merle gene twice or being a double merle.

Breeders try to avoid mating merle dogs because they are aware that a lot of health problems may arise from having two merle genes. What are the complications of having double merle? Continue reading to find out what these are.

How Big Does a Red Merle Australian Shepherd Get When Fully Grown?

Beautiful red merle Australian Shepherd dog with its red merle Aussie puppy

The red merle Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized dog. You can expect it to grow up to 20-23 inches for males and 18-21 inches for females. This breed can also get a little heavy weighing 50-65 pounds for male Aussies and 40-55 pounds for females.

If you prefer having a smaller one, you should consider getting a miniature Australian Shepherd or toy Australian Shepherd.

Red Merle Miniature Australian Shepherd

Yes, a small version of the Australian Shepherd exists!

The miniature Australian Shepherd carries all the characteristics of the Australian Shepherd breed, only smaller with an AKC standard size of 14-18 inches for males and 13-17 inches for females.

Red merle mini Australian Shepherd dogs are tinier Aussies with red coats and merle patterns. If you were wondering, this new breed is recognized by the AKC and accepted in its Miscellaneous class of 2012.

Red Merle Toy Australian Shepherd

Aside from the red merle mini Aussie, there is also another breed that gives us a smaller alternative for the Australian Shepherd.

The red merle toy Australian Shepherd is a cross-bred Aussie that typically weighs 12-15 pounds for adult males. Dogs of this breed usually are under 14 inches in height at the withers or by their shoulders.

16 Things You Need to Know About the Toy Australian Shepherd

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Temperament: Are They Good Family Companions?

Belonging to the working breed, Aussies are known to have good energy and can be well-trained. The red merle Australian Shepherd is no exception.

If your family is searching for a dog that can put up with the physical needs of a dynamic bunch, the red merle Aussie is a great choice.

This dog breed has the energy to help adults with chores such as herding and at the same time play chase with the younger ones. Loyalty is a strong suit of Australian Shepherds so expect them to love you and your family.

You have to do your part, though, as the owner. You need to train your red merle Aussie to socialize as early as possible. Even as a pup, the red merle Australian Shepherd must be introduced to new environments and meet new people.

Consistency in socialization will help your red merle pup become a friendly dog and a great family companion.

On top of socialization, you must also be consistent in habits and routines. Red merle Aussies like it when things happen at certain times of the day. Daily routines you should be consistent with include walks, feeding, playtime, and even bedtime.

Though friendly and loving, red merle Aussies are protective of their loved ones. They are natural protectors so they may see strangers as threats. Their strong instincts as watchdogs will help you know that something is up.

Overall, this dog breed is perfect for families with its right mix of playfulness, loyalty, and protectiveness.

Watch this video of a furmom giving us a peek of her life with her blue and red merle Aussies.

Australian Shepherds | What it's like to have one!

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Lifespan and Health Issues

We all want our pets to live long and healthy lives so they can spend more time and even grow old with us. Just like humans, your red merle Australian Shepherd needs love and care for it to enjoy the 12-15 years of life expected of its breed.

A good diet, exercise, and regular trips to the vet are key to a healthy dog. You must also acquaint yourself with the possible health problems that your red merle Aussie may face. The most common ones are the following:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a common malformation in which a dog’s thigh bone does not fit its hip socket. Signs of this dislocation don’t always show right away so you might not notice it until pain and limping become evident. When left untreated, it may lead to arthritis in dogs.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this malformation is seen on the front legs of your dog.
  • Coloboma: Coloboma is one of the many eye diseases that Australian Shepherds are prone to getting. This occurs when a part of the iris does not develop properly and results in sensitivity to bright light.
  • Multiple Drug Sensitivity: Only a few breeds suffer from Multiple Drug Sensitivity and unfortunately, Australian Shepherds are part of this minority. This disease, also called MDS, makes dogs hypersensitive to common drugs and medication prescribed by vets. Dogs with this problem are unable to pump these medical substances out of the brain which leads to toxicity. Drugs to note are Ivermectin, Imodium A-D, and some anesthetics.

Being aware of these risks will help you understand your dog’s health and well-being better.

Double Merle Health Issues

As I mentioned before, the result of breeding to merle Aussies is a double merle offspring that bears many physical complications. Studies have shown that these double merles are more prone to certain health problems such as:

  • Eye Defects: Double merle Aussies are prone to getting eye defects such as abnormal eye development, blindness, and even missing eyes.
  • Deafness: There is a chance that double merle Aussies may be born deaf, especially if the head color is mostly white.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Cost: Are They More Expensive Than Other Australian Shepherd Colors?

The red merle Australian Shepherd is less common compared to the standard colored Aussies so expect its price to be slightly higher than the usual.

Different factors contribute to the price such as gender, bloodline, and the reputation of your breeder so there is no fixed price.

The cost of buying Australian Shepherd puppies differs among breeders but the usual price can go as low as $600 or as high as $1,800. The price may be steeper for the red merle variant.

Before finalizing your purchase, be sure to check the papers and all the important documents to avoid being scammed.

Do not settle for cheap finds which may sometimes come from puppy mills with poor living conditions. These “factories” don’t take good care of dogs and buying from them would support such awful acts.

How Much Does an Australian Shepherd Cost? (2023 Price Guide)

Places to Find Red Merle Aussie Puppies for Sale and Adoption

Red merle Australian Shepherd puppy for sale

There are a lot of good places to find red merle Aussie puppies and they are the following:

  • AKC Marketplace – You can never go wrong with this selling platform because it is run by AKC. Only breeders who are members of the organization can have postings so this assures you that pups are of healthy and of quality, some even from champion bloodlines.
  • USASA Breeder Directory – The United States Australian Shepherd Association is one of the breed clubs dedicated to Aussies that I mentioned previously. Their breeder directory links potential Australian Shepherd owners with trusted breeders.
  • ASCA Club List – Like USASA, the Australian Shepherd Club of America also provides a list of affiliate clubs to help expedite your search for trusted breeders in your area.

Always consider when transacting with a breeder the club that breeder is associated with. Good and legitimate breeders always have kennel or breed club affiliations.

If you are planning to adopt a red merle Aussie pup, there are also several organizations you can approach:

  • Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline – This organization is dedicated to the Australian Shepherd breed and has been rescuing and helping Aussies since 1992.
  • Adopt-a-Pet – Considered the largest pet adoption site in North America, Adopt-a-Pet helps pups, including Aussies, find a home and humans find a furry companion.
  • Australian Shepherd Rescue Group – A directory of Aussie rescue groups all over the country, the Australian Shepherd Rescue Group helps you find shelters in your area.

Commonly Asked Questions

Do Red Merle Aussie Puppies Change Color as They Grow?

There is the possibility that your red merle Australian Shepherd puppy’s coat may blow out and change when it matures into an adult. However, this does not apply to all red merle Aussies.

Possible coat changes that may happen in adulthood include but are not limited to:

  • White splotches shrinking.
  • Light coat becoming darker and richer.
  • Bicolor coat turning tricolor.
  • More evident markings and ticking.
  • Change in face mask color and markings.

What Eye Colors Do Red Merle Australian Shepherds Have?

Red merle Aussies may either have solid or marbled eyes in blue or brown. There is also the possibility of having one blue eye and one brown eye because merle Aussies are prone to heterochromia.

Do Red Merle Aussies Shed?

Australian Shepherds are double-coated which means they have a short undercoat that keeps their bodies warm and a longer coat outside.

Taking care of your red merle Aussie includes frequent coat brushing to get rid of extra hairs. Their coats serve as their body’s protection so shedding is something you should expect, especially when seasons change.

Here’s a glimpse of a grooming session between an owner and her Aussie.

GROOMING MY DOG | Australian Shepherd |

What Is the Rarest Australian Shepherd Color?

The red coat color is a recessive gene so many say that the rarest Australian Shepherd color would have to be solid red. Australian Shepherds usually have two colors or more so finding one that only has one color would be a gem.

Final Thoughts

Red merle Australian Shepherds are great companions because they are full of life, love, and loyalty. They are great for work and also for family life. Their beautiful red markings, which may come in different shades, make them look unique even within their breed.

Even though they are special with their merle gene and patterned coat, they are just as energetic, trainable, protective, and trustworthy as the other Australian Shepherd varieties.

If what you are looking for in a dog is someone who can be by your side for work, playtime, and rest, then the red merle Australian Shepherd is one you should definitely consider. This breed is a perfect choice for a playful, hardworking, and medium-sized breed.

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