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Why Do Australian Shepherds Have Blue Eyes?

Close up of an Australian Shepherd with blue eyes

Australian Shepherd dogs with blue eyes are undeniably captivating. Their eye color truly makes these lively canines even more attractive. And as dog lovers, many of us wonder what causes their eyes to be blue.

There are many reasons why Australian Shepherd dogs have blue eyes. Usually, the blue eyes of Australian Shepherds are caused by the merle gene. However, it can also be linked to albinism, coat color, or heterochromia. 

If you are interested in learning about the Australian Shepherd’s blue eyes, read until the end. This guide will discuss the genetics behind this characteristic, associated health risks, and more. Let’s begin!

The Genetics of Blue Eyes in Australian Shepherds

Adorable Aussie dog with blue eyes at beach

In reality, the eyes of a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd appear to be blue not because of a blue pigment but rather due to the absence of melanin in the front layer of its iris called the stroma.

The lack of pigment causes light to reflect in blue wavelengths, thus making the eyes of the Aussie look blue. 

With that, an Australian Shepherd can have blue eyes if it inherits the specific color genes that inhibit or alter the production of melanin in its body. 

Because melanin is usually found in the dog’s skin, hair follicles, nose, and eyes, it is one of the main culprits affecting a dog’s color.

The succeeding sections will discuss the various ways that enable the Australian Shepherd’s eye color to be blue.

Due to Having a Merle Gene

The most common pigmentation gene linked to having blue eyes is the merle gene. This gene dilutes the base coat color of the Australian Shepherd resulting in a mottled coat color. The merle gene is what we see in a blue and red merle Australian Shepherd.

Likewise, the merle gene also causes the Aussie Shepherd’s nose to be pink and its eyes to be blue.

Instances of heterochromia, a condition where one eye is blue and the other is a different color, are also linked to merle genes.

If you want to see a stunning blue-eyed merle Australian Shepherd with heterochromia, watch the video below:

The incredible Australian Shepherd | One of my favourite clients

Having a Predominantly White-Colored Head

When an Australian Shepherd has a head that is mostly white-colored, there is a high chance of it having blue eyes. 

This is because the white coat color means that the Australian Shepherd does not produce any melanin in most parts of its head due to the interaction of certain color genes, like the white spotting and dilution genes. 

As such, its eye color is also affected, especially when the white areas are concentrated around the eyes. The pigment loss then results in a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd.

Interestingly, a similar instance is observed in the feline world. If you want to learn more, you can read our guide on white cats with blue eyes.

Due to Albinism

Albinism can also cause an Australian Shepherd to have blue eyes. 

As opposed to Australian Shepherds with predominantly white-colored heads, albino Australian Shepherds are unable to produce any pigment due to a genetic mutation.

This genetic mutation results in the lack of tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for producing melanin. As a result, albino Aussies will not only have pale skin, white coats, and pink noses but will also exhibit blue eyes.

Due to a Distinct Blue Eye Color Gene

Some Australian Shepherds have blue eyes not because of their coat coloration but because of a mutation in the ALX4 gene

This distinct blue eye gene is considered rare and is known to be usually carried by Siberian Huskies and tri-color Australian Shepherds.

Aussies that carry this gene can have eyes that may partially be blue. It is also possible for them to have one or both eyes be blue-colored.

All things considered, the specific genes that the parents will pass on to their litter determine if a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd puppy is produced.

Can Non-Merle Australian Shepherds Have Blue Eyes?

Non merle Australian Shepherd having blue eyes close up

Yes, a non-merle Australian Shepherd can have blue eyes. As previously discussed, this trait is not exclusive to merle Australian Shepherds.

Aussies that have white spotting and dilution genes can have blue eyes. Moreover, albino Aussies and those that carry a variant of the ALX4 gene can sport mesmerizing blue eyes.

That said, you don’t always have to look for a merle Aussie pup if you want to own an Australian Shepherd puppy with blue eyes.

Do Australian Shepherd Puppies With Blue Eyes Stay Blue?

An Australian Shepherd puppy born with blue eyes may still change its eye color until it is 9 to 16 weeks old. 

For starters, all puppies, including Australian Shepherd puppies, are born with blue eyes. At around three or four weeks, their true eye color starts to develop. 

During this stage, the Aussie puppies’ eyes can change from blue to brown, amber, or green. Once the transition is complete, the Australian Shepherd will keep its mature eye color permanently.

With that, if your Australian Shepherd puppy’s blue eyes retain their color after 16 weeks, then it is safe to assume that blue is its permanent eye color.

Do Australian Shepherds With Blue Eyes Have Problems?

Blue merle Australian Shepherd with blue eyes running

Blue-eyed Australian Shepherds that are not albinos or merles do not have any health problems linked to their eye colors. However, these blue-eyed dogs may experience light sensitivity

Light sensitivity occurs in blue-eyed dogs due to the lack of melanin that acts as protection from harsh light. As such, blue-eyed Aussies may experience discomfort when exposed to bright sources of light.

But apart from that, they are considered to be physically sound and bear the same temperament as Aussies with other eye colors, regardless of their gender.

On the other hand, blue-eyed albino Aussies and merle Aussies are at risk for more health issues. 

Aside from being light-sensitive, albino Aussies are more prone to other eye abnormalities, such as deformed sclera and iris, resulting in vision impairment and even blindness.

They are likewise more prone to skin cancer due to their inability to produce melanin not only in their eyes but also in their skin.

Meanwhile, blue-eyed merle Aussies, especially double merles, are more likely to have congenital deafness and blindness. They are also at a higher risk of having microphthalmia

Are Blue-Eyed Australian Shepherds Better Than Those With Other Eye Colors?

Blue-eyed Australian Shepherds are not necessarily superior to Aussies with other eye colors. 

In truth, all Aussies bear the same intelligence, exceptional running skills, and wonderful temperament, no matter their eye color.

They are all loyal, affectionate, and capable of protecting their families, whether their eyes are blue, brown, or amber.

With that, the differences in their eye colors do not make one Aussie better than the other. It just simply affects how they appeal to people.

Blue-eyed Aussies may be fascinating to some, while others may find Australian Shepherds with other eye colors to be more attractive.

What Other Dog Breeds Can Have Blue Eyes?

Border Collie with blue eyes in the winter

Australian Shepherds are one of the breeds that are famous for having blue eyes. They share this lovely trait with some other breeds that look just as alluring as they are with their blue eyes.

Aside from Australian Shepherds, below are other dog breeds that can naturally have blue eyes:

  • Alaskan Klee Kai
  • Border Collie
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Catahoula Leopard Dog
  • Great Dane
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Siberian Husky
  • Weimaraner

Other dog breeds that can have blue eyes in rare instances are the Australian Cattle Dog, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, English Setter, and German Shepherd Dog.

Places to Find Blue-Eyed Australian Shepherd Puppies for Sale and Adoption

If you are planning to own a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd puppy, you need to look for trustworthy breeders who offer blue-eyed Aussie pups with sound temperaments and good health.

That said, blue-eyed Australian Shepherd puppies from reputable breeders usually come in the $500 to $3,500 price range.

Some reputable breeders of blue-eyed Australian Shepherd puppies are listed below:

  • AKC Marketplace – AKC Marketplace is an online advertising platform of the American Kennel Club (AKC) wherein the most trusted breeders of puppies, like the blue-eyed Aussie, are able to list their available litters for sale.
  • Riverlook Australian Shepherds – This show hobby breeder is a recognized AKC Breeder of Merit that aims to produce puppies like the blue-eyed Australian Shepherd that not only conform to the breed standard but also have sound health and temperament.
  • Gold Ring Australian Shepherds – Gold Ring Australian Shepherds has been producing quality Aussies, including the Aussie with blue eyes, since 1991. Puppies are socialized, undergo basic obedience training, and are microchipped.

If you prefer to adopt, below are some rescues you can contact to find a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd:

  • Australian Shepherds Furever – Australian Shepherds Furever is a non-profit rescue dedicated to saving homeless Aussies, including the blue-eyed Aussie. Rescued dogs are rehabilitated, trained, and placed in foster homes until they are adopted.
  • Aussie Rescue SoCal – As a non-profit rescue, Aussie Rescue SoCal partners with other rescues to rehabilitate unwanted Aussies, which may include blue-eyed ones. Before they get adopted, rescued dogs are housed in temporary foster homes.
  • Western Australian Shepherd Rescue – Western Australian Shepherd Rescue is a small non-profit rescue established in 1998. This rescue works with local shelters and other rescues to save and rehome abandoned Aussies like the blue-eyed Aussie.

You can also check out our recommended Australian Shepherd breeders for additional options. And to find tips on how to safely purchase your puppy online, read our puppy buying guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Blue eyed Australian Shepherd in towel

Do Blue Eyes Mean Merle in Australian Shepherds?

No, blue eyes do not automatically mean an Australian Shepherd is a merle dog. Non-merle Aussies can also have blue eyes. This trait can also be found in white and albino Australian Shepherds.

Likewise, Aussies that carry the ALX4 gene can also have blue eyes. This said gene is common among tri-color Aussies.

Are Australian Shepherds With Blue Eyes Deaf?

Australian Shepherds with blue eyes are not necessarily deaf. Deaf blue-eyed Aussies are often the outcome of breeding a merle Aussie with another merle Aussie.

That said, Aussies with blue eyes that are not double merles or albinos are generally healthy and do not suffer from other health issues besides light sensitivity.

Do Australian Shepherds With Blue Eyes Need Sunglasses?

It is not absolutely crucial for Australian Shepherds with blue eyes to wear sunglasses unless they are suffering from eye problems such as cataracts and injuries.

While blue-eyed Aussies can be light-sensitive, they do not live long enough to experience the long-term effects of UV radiation

That said, you can still give your pooch sunglasses for added comfort and protection from the sun and other harsh elements like wind and dirt.

What’s the Rarest Eye Color for Australian Shepherds?

While no particular eye color is extremely rare for Australian Shepherds, blue and heterochromia are less occurring in this breed. 

This makes these eye colors more fascinating and appealing to people as the chances of having a blue-eyed or different-color-eyed Aussie pup in a litter is less common.

Final Thoughts

Australian Shepherd dogs with blue eyes are uniquely captivating. Their blue eyes are arguably one of their appealing traits, along with their superb herding skills, intelligence, and friendly temperament.

Owning one is sure to bring absolute joy to aspiring pet parents. As long as you can provide for an Australian Shepherd dog’s diet, grooming, and financial needs, you will have no problems owning this pooch.

Meanwhile, if you are having trouble finding blue-eyed Aussie Shepherds, you may also look at some Aussie Shepherd mixes. These hybrid dogs are as excellent and as adorable. In fact, many of them also sport blue eyes!

So, do you think blue-eyed Aussies are the most attractive shepherd dogs? Share your thoughts about Australian Shepherd dogs with blue eyes in the comments below!