Regardless of what the goldendoodle breeders may think or tell you, (and apparently, even GANA is clueless about this), there is no such thing as a purebred merle Poodle. Since the merle gene also does not appear in Goldens, it is impossible for a goldendoodle to have merle coloring unless there is another breed involved, most often an Australian Shepherd. I would hope that everyone here wants as much accurate information as possible about anything that involves their dog's genetics and health, and I also think it is important for prospective puppy buyers to know exactly what they are buying. The health and temperament of any puppy is going to be affected by the breeds whose genes he carries. With this in mind, I am posting the following article, which is copied with permission from the author, Barbara Hoopes, PhD who is an associate professor of biology at Colgate University and also a breeder of champion Poodles who have competed at Westminster in agility as well as conformation. 
 
Everyone keeps asking me about Merle poodles, so I am summarizing literature research I did below. I am making this post public so it can be shared. I am a professor of Molecular Biology at Colgate University, have a PhD in Biochemistry from Harvard University and do molecular genetics research in dog body size and some coat colors in dogs. In addition I am a breeder of toy poodles.
Merle poodles have only been observed for the last two decades. Merle poodles must have resulted from the introduction of the dominant Merle mutation from a Merle containing breed, probably a herding breed or breeds. Merle does not occur in purebed poodles naturally. The arguments for natural Merle in poodles don't hold up in the light of what we know about Merle and are discussed below.
 
False claim 1. "Merle has been present forever, but was hidden in white dogs." Yes, Merle can be “hidden” in white and cream dogs. However, extensive crossing of white and colored poodles since 1900 has occurred--this would have “unmasked” hidden Merle early in breed history, since it is a dominant mutation (see reference 1). This was not observed.
 
False claim 2. "The Merle mutation simply arose spontaneously in poodles recently." No. The Merle mutation is very unusual at the DNA level, and the Merle found in poodles is identical to that found in herding breeds. It is not possible that the exact same unusual mutation occurred more than once in different breeds of dogs (see reference 2).
 
False claim 3. "Merle poodles arose from 'cryptic Merles' present in the breed." No. Although “cryptic Merles” that do not show Merle coloring exists in Merle containing breeds, this cannot explain the sudden appearance of Merle Poodles. Active Merle can produce “cryptic Merle”, due to the unusual nature of the mutation, but the reverse has NEVER been observed (see reference 3). In addition this would predict a lot of cryptic Merles in non-Merle poodles, which are not observed.
 
Since these arguments are not supported scientifically, the most reasonable conclusion is that Merle must have been introduced from a different Merle containing breed, which means that Merle poodles have pedigrees that were falsified at some point.
 
Why is Merle "bad"? Well in addition to falsified pedigrees, Merle carries with it health risks. Merle dogs have a higher risk of deafness than non-Merle dogs when there is loss of pigment on the head, and dogs containing two copies of the Merle mutation (“double Merles”) not only have an even higher risk for deafness but a risk of improper eye development and blindness (see reference 4).
This is bad for poodles, where a lot of dogs are white and cream, where Merle can be "hidden". Breeding a “hidden Merle” to a Merle dog will result in the production of “double Merles”, which will have a significant risk for hearing and vision loss. Genetic testing to detect the presence or absence of Merle in colors where Merle would be hidden would be required to prevent this unfortunate result.
 
1 Mackey J. Irick, Jr. “The New Poodle 6th Edition”, Chapter Howell Book House, New York, NY 1986
2 Clark, L.A., Wahl, J.M., Rees, C.A. and K. E. Murphy (2006). Retrotransposon insertion in SILV is responsible for merle patterning of the domestic dog. Proc Natl Aca Sci USA 103(5):1376-1381.
3 Langevin, M., Synkova, H., Jancuskova, T., and S. Pekova. (2018). Merle phenotypes in dogs—SILV SINE insertions from Mc to Mh. PLoS One 13(9):e0198536
4 Strain, G.M., Clark, L.A., Wahl, J.M., Turner, A. E. and K.E. Murphy (2009). Prevalence of deafness in dogs heterozygous or homozygous for the merle allele. J. Vet. Intern. Med. 23:282-286.

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  • It's like you read my mind. I was just thinking about this last night when I was lying in bed. I understand the science behind it. But the reality is that there are merle poodles. And I would love to see the DNA results. Because I do believe that they were likely crossed with a different breed at some point and then bred back to poodles, preserving that merle gene. But they must have been crossed far enough back that at this point all you see is poodle. The dog doesn't look like a doodle. And I know that many doodles look a lot like poodles, especially given the right hair cut. But even Maggie, who is mostly poodle can't pass for a poodle with poodle people. Her hair is wrong, among other things.

    My question is, how do you take a hybrid like an Australian Shepherd/Poodle mix and get it all the way back to looking like a Poodle and the only quality you kept from the Australian Shepherd is the merle gene? Why aren't these dogs randomply popping up with incorrect coat or... other Aussie things? Or maybe they are and I just don't know.

    But regardless, I think it does muddy the waters when you think that you can't have a merle gene in a goldendoodle because Goldens don't have a merle gene and poodles shouldn't have a merle gene, except it's there from somewhere. You may have a golden(something)doodle. But I am so curious if there is enough of the something left to show up in the home DNA kits.

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    Not my dogs, not pretending to misrepresent them. Just borrowed images of merle poodles I see on FB.

    • Well, how do you take a crossbreed ("hybrid" is the wrong term, lol) like a Labrador Retriever/Poodle Mix and get it all the way back to looking like a Poodle, lol? I see an awful lot of F1Bs in which the Lab genes aren't even that far back who would look just like purebred Poodles (bad purebred Poodles, but Poodles) if you just shaved their faces, lol. 
      I'm betting that a good DNA kit would show the Aussie, even if it's way way far back. And it is way far back. The merle gene is very very very dominant. 

      For me, the solution to muddy waters is just to avoid merle coloring in any dog whose parent breeds do not recognize merle. Problem solved. 
      I personally do not find the above dogs attractive. The bottom one in particular. (I mean, do you really like the look of black ink pouring from a dog's eyes?) "Unusual" colors and patterns may be nice in textiles, but they offend me in dogs. There is a reason for the breed standards, and contrary to popular opinion, it is NOT about arbitrary standards of beauty. 

      • Okay, but just for the sake of argument, I would says that breed standards are arbitrary. Purebred dogs only exist because a long time ago someone decided they should. And then they decided what they should look like. Left to their own devices what would dogs look like? I think they would all be some generic brown medium sized dog. How many generations would it take without human interference to destroy thousands of years of work that people have done with dogs? 

        Breed standards are still evolving. I was reading the minutes to one of the AKC meetings recently and they were voting on ammendments to breed standards. In some breeds it doesn't seem like it's for a health benefit. Look at some of these show dogs. The brachycephalic breeds with bigger heads and flatter faces who can't breathe and can't free whelp. They're sacrificing the health of the dogs for aesthetics. Left to their own devices there would be no Bulldogs or hypoglycemic 2 pound Chihuahuas. There would probably be no giant breeds. If someone had decided in 1800 that Poodles should be a parti colored breed there might not be any solid colored poodles. Parti colored Poodles are en vouge right now. People like them. It wouldn't surprise me if sometime in the future AKC decided to recognize them and allow them into the conformation ring. They have to "keep up" with UKC.

        Call me jaded, but I think AKC cares more about money than they do about dogs. Once upon a time my dogs wouldn't have been eligible to do obedience or rally. I think that change was made solely to get more dogs in the ring. I spend 28 dollars for 2 minutes in the ring and a 35 cent ribbon and I'm happy to do it. 

        I'm certainly not arguing that merle in Poodles is a good idea. It's a dangerous gene with many health implications. But I do think that breeders breed dogs based on their idea of the perfect dog, and that the picture is different, sometimes very different between individuals.

        • It's a myth that purebred dogs only exist because someone decided they should, and that left to their own devices, all dogs would be some generic brown medium sized dog. There are natural variations in every species, lots of them. Look at wild birds. Nobody created those. There is every color, every size, every shape. And they all evolved naturally. Why would any thinking person believe the same isn't true of dogs? Sure, people bred for a certain type or a certain look or tinkered with nature, and for sure it has caused harm in certain breeds, but there are still reasons for the breed standards that make sense to me in the breeds I like. I don't like brachycephalic breeds and haven't bothered learning about their standards and the reasons for them. 
          BUT...it seems to me that anyone who feels that breeders are  "sacrificing the health of the dogs for aesthetics" would be the last person in the world to advocate for breeding dogs solely for certain colors and patterns because "people like them". And worse, creating more and more outlandish mixtures, "Mini St Bernards" being the latest hot new trend, which is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel bred to a St. Bernard. I met one of those the other day. And then "Mini St bernardoodles", which are created by breeding the aforementioned monstrosity to a Miniature Poodle. Justify that for me, Stace. What health benefit do you see there, my friend? 
          What health benefit is there in breeding for recessive coloring like rose noses & light eyes in ALDS for no reason other than because "people like them"? 
          I think the majority of doodle breeders are breeding solely for what sells, not for their vision of the perfect dog. In fact, their vision of the perfect dog IS what sells. Minis are in demand? Fine, we won't breed any more standards. Black doesn't sell well? Fine, we won't breed any more black doodles. 

          The fact of the matter is that breeding dogs for "what people like" has caused more harm to dogs of every kind than any breed standard dreamed up by any AKC breed club. 


          As for the AKC caring more about money than they do about dogs, there is good and bad in everything, and we all have our better qualities and our areas that need improvement. Let's also consider that the AKC breed clubs fund more canine health studies and research that benefits and improves the lives of our pet dogs than any other organization. It was the AKC that funded the study at Iowa State Vet School that led to the development of the use of the VSL#3 probiotic in dogs with IBD, and that made a huge difference in quality of life for Jack for many years. I will be forever grateful to the AKC for that alone. And there is absolutely no ulterior motive in that type of funding, unlike the type done by corporations that benefit from favorable research findings. And that funding benefits ALL dogs, not just AKC purebreds.
          They obviously need to make money in order to fund research. So I will gladly pay the fees if it means it will help another sick dog like Jackdoodle live a longer, better life.

          • I always enjoy these conversations. It always gives me something to think about. I know nothing about birds. But I was like, huh why don’t we have F1 cardibins? (Cardinal/Robin?) So I googled (I know, source.) In an article titled Avian Affairs from the NYT April 22, 2013 they say that about 10% of the 10,000 bird species are known to have bred with another species at least once. In the eastern US native black ducks have hybridized so often with mallard ducks that pure black ducks have become rare. They say that often hybrid birds die young and even if they survive until adulthood they may be sterile or have trouble attacking mates. I know that when donkeys and horses mate they create a mule, who is sterile. So not evolutionarily compatible. Ligers don’t occur in nature because their habitats don’t overlap in the wild. But there are definitely generic cats. They all just kind of look like cats. And there are generic brown dogs. My sister has one. She’s a cute dog, but I have no idea what she’s supposed to be.

            I fully admit that I’m out of my depth of field of biology here. But I think if you put 10 pairs of purebreds in a field and left them to their own devices for 3 generations there wouldn’t be anything of the parent breeds that was identifiable. Dogs seem to breed indiscriminate to type. Now get someone to go do an experiment, because I want to see what happens. I would be fascinated to see if the Poodles mated with one another at a higher rate than they bred with say, a German Shepherd. I do think dogs recognize their own kind. The Poodles all seem to congregate with one another. I just don’t know how much that has to do with the dogs or the owners.

            I can’t and won’t justify breeding odd mixes just because someone likes them and they sell. Indiscriminate breeding and breeding solely for money is a problem. I think people should be breeding for health first. But people are allowed to have preferences. You don’t like parti Poodles. I do, though I’m going with the standard because I get enough flack about my rescue mutts. But leave out the breed standard for a minute. All other things equal, all parents completely health tested and excellent breed specimens. What is wrong with a parti color Poodle other than someone decided that the pattern was incorrect? It seems completely arbitrary. There are no health implications there. They’re a poodle of a different color. If someone woke up tomorrow and decided that only black and white Poodles were allowed to be shown, and all the other colors were wrong I would ask the same question. Why? What is wrong with a different color? I agree that people shouldn’t be breeding solely for color, but I just can’t see the harm in color being one of factors used in selecting dogs to be bred.

            • Okay, do this. Take a picture of Maggie or Willow or Ava, one with that soft, sweet, appealing facial expression that you love, and make some random black marks on the face. Put black blotchy teardrops coming down from the eyes, or a black irregular patch around one eye, right up to the eye rim. Or take a picture of Katie and make a white jagged diagonal streak right through one eye, like that dog in the first picture you posted. 
              How do you like their facial expressions now? 
              One of the things I think most people love about their dogs is their facial expressions. Contrasting random colorings and markings often distort and obscure those expressions. Not always, but often. Assymetrical coloring especially. The dog with the streak through its eye looks like it is squinting. It throws off dog's expression and makes it look lopsided. The other one looks like it is crying. I think dogs with phantom coloring often look angry. Google phantom dogs and see. It's those strongly contrasting eyebrows that look like a permanent frown. Most of us don't want a dog to always look angry, or sad, or lopsided, lol. It's well known that symmetry in appearance equates to beauty in the human subconscious. 
              And from a purely practical aspect, I think that when you have a close relationship with a being who can't speak, being able to read facial expressions is important. Especially the expression in the eyes. 
              So there's that. 

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                I am not going to lie. I am biased toward nice symmetrical facial markings. I think they're adorable. I don't think I would have a problem with the girls having facial markings like that. Now, I would agree that some markings are nicer than others. 

                While I don't want one, now that I know better, I think the sheepdog/poodle mixes are just about the cutest thing in the whole world.

                • Well, these are all symmetrical, so you don;t have that look of something blew into one eye, lol. It does make a difference. 
                  I think Old English Sheepdogs are one of the cutest things in the world, period. They really didn't need the Poodle to make them cuter. 

                  • Yeah I don't understand why sheepadoodles are so popular either.  Maybe for the high contrast black/white instead of grey/white?  I wonder if a lot of sheepadoodles get lighter as they age since both poodles and sheepdogs do.

                    • There are actually several colors of OES, including grey and white, blue and white, "grizzle" and white, and blue merle and white. There are even black and whites. The darker color in the greys and blues does lighten from puppy to adulthood, just like in Poodles, but all Poodle colors do not get lighter as the dogs age, and OES colors in well-bred dogs do not usually fade with age, either. 

                       

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