Blue Merle Cockapoo: Facts, Origin & History

Blue Merle Cockapoo: Facts, Origin & History

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of Merle Cockapoos available for adoption. These dogs have a very interesting coloration that many dog owners are drawn to. However, everything isn’t as it seems with this breed.

Merle Cockapoo: Facts, Origin & History
Merle Cockapoo: Facts, Origin & History

Neither Cocker Spaniels nor Poodles (the two breeds that make a Cockapoo) come in a merle coloration. Therefore, a Cockapoo can’t come in a merle coloration, either. There are very few breeds that do come with a merle coat, and it often isn’t very common within these breeds, either.

The Truth About Blue or Red Merle Cockapoos
The Truth About Blue or Red Merle Cockapoos

There are several different ways the merle Cockapoo may appear. While a mutation can lead to a puppy suddenly becoming merle, this is extremely rare. Instead, it is more likely that merle Cockapoos aren’t Cockapoos at all. Instead, they are likely the result of another dog mixed in with the breed to bring about the merle coloration.

Shelties, collies, or the Australian Shepherd were likely used to bring about this merle gene. Likely, this was done to increase the “rarity” of the puppies and make them worth more money.

To completely understand how this merle coloration came to be and why they likely aren’t Cockapoos, let’s look at the Cockapoo’s history.

What is a Cockapoo?

A cockapoo is a mixed breed between a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle—hence the name. This dog can inherit any trait from either parent. Therefore, you often don’t know what you’re getting until your dog is full-grown. Therefore, cockapoos are a bit of a coin flip.

However, this is one of the most popular mixed breeds out there. They are also one of the oldest to take off. In fact, these dogs are more popular than Poodles and Cocker Spaniels by themselves.

These dogs are bred to be companion animals. They are not commonly utilized for hunting, herding, or any work. Because they are very intelligent, they are also easy to train. However, their popularity isn’t entirely a good thing. Many breeders now see them as a way to make money since buyers often pay quite a bit.

While not all cockapoo breeders are bad, many puppy mills and backyard breeders have begun to produce them. Their breeding is not regulated by any sort of breed club. Therefore, breeders don’t have any regulations to look at (or even a definition of what a cockapoo is). There is no list of “approved” breeders out there.

Often, these dogs are bred entirely to sell. They aren’t shown in any kennel club, as they are not a recognized breed. Therefore, “novelty” and “rareness” often make puppies more expensive. Breeders aren’t working towards any breed standard, as with other breeds. Often, “rare” puppies can cost as much as $1,000—easily.

In the end, the merle coloration fits into this category. It is often advertised as a rare coloration, and the price tags for these dogs are often higher. However, neither Cocker Spaniels nor Poodles come in the merle coloration. Therefore, how any cockapoo ends up with this coloration is a bit controversial.

What is the Merle Gene?

The merle coloration is a particular kind of pattern found in certain breeds. However, how this coloration comes about is a bit more complicated than others. This coloration is known under several different names. For instance, you’ll hear it referred to as “dappled” or “harlequin” in certain cases.

In a dog with this coloration, the canine will have patches of a solid color mixed with a paler color. This color is created by a “defect” in the gene that causes pigmentation. Instead of the dog appearing all one color, some of the hairs don’t form correctly and the color appears paler.

Because of the defect, individual hairs can appear in multiple different colors. The whole coat can also vary in color, though it will usually be all one shade (such as all gray-black or red-brown).

With that said, this defective gene causes all sorts of different health issues. Pigmentation controls both eyes and ear development. Therefore, dogs with this coloration may have hearing issues and seeing problems.

There are a few select breeds that are known to display this coloration sometimes. For instance, Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Rough Collies, Miniature American Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dachshunds can all inherit this gene. However, neither the Cocker Spaniel nor Poodle has this gene.

So, how does the cockapoo end up with this gene?

Can Cockapoos Have the Merle Gene?

A pure-bred cockapoo cannot have the merle gene. While there is a chance that this gene may appear randomly through mutation, this would be extremely rare. Therefore, the only way to make a merle cockapoo is to mix the dog with something else too. Often, collies and similar dogs are utilized. However, this would not make the dog a cockapoo at all.

Merle coats are generally not popular for working animals. Therefore, these coats tend to be popular with dog owners looking for companion animals, as they can look quite unique. However, many who purchase these dogs don’t know the significant health problems that can come along with them.

When it comes to the merle coloration, color does matter. It simply isn’t a matter of how the dog looks. The gene of pigmentation can affect hearing and seeing. For instance, one common condition that is found almost exclusively in merle coloration is iris coloboma. Simply put, this eye condition is present at birth and causes the eye to not develop correctly. The severity differs a bit.

When two merles are bred together, more serious conditions can occur. When two merles are mixed together, about 25% of the puppies will have two copies of the merle gene. Usually, these dogs have both eyesight and hearing problems. Sometimes, the eyes or ears simply don’t form, and they often look like albinos.

Top Unique Facts About the Merle Cockapoo

It’s Possible That Merle Cockapoos Might Not Be True Cockapoos

Merle patterned fur is incredibly rare in purebred Poodles and purebred Cocker Spaniels. This means the origin of the Merle Cockapoo is not quite certain. As a result, many dog breeders suspect that Merle Cockapoos are not true Cockapoos.

Some believe that Merle Cockapoos have additional dog breeds in their ancestry. Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, or Collies are just a few possibilities. So, if you are seeking a purebred Cockapoo, you may have trouble finding one with a merle coat.

But aside from genetics and coloring, the difference between a Merle Cockapoo and any other Cockapoo is trivial. A Merle Cockapoo can still be a wonderful pet if you’re not too concerned about having a purebred dog.

Merle Cockapoos Are Super Affectionate

Like all Cockapoos, the Merle Cockapoo is an incredibly affectionate dog. When you have one of these dogs in your home, don’t be surprised if they follow you everywhere you go. This makes the Merle Cockapoo a suitable dog breed for people who want to dedicate lots of time to their furry friend.

They enjoy lots of cuddles and playtime. However, affectionate dogs can often be a handful. Cockapoos need lots of attention and are more likely to experience separation anxiety. So, the Cockapoo Merle may not be your best choice if you’re often away from home.

Merle Cockapoos Are Great With Children

The Cockapoo is a mashup between two super kid-friendly dog breeds: the Poodle and the Cocker Spaniel. These dog breeds are incredibly affectionate, loyal, patient, and easy to train. So, the Cockapoo Merle is the way to go if you’re looking for a family-friendly canine friend.

The temperament of merle-colored dogs doesn’t differ from its solid-colored counterparts. So, you can rest assured that the Merle Cockapoo will be as family-friendly as any other.

Many Merle Cockapoos Have Trouble Hearing

Dogs with white fur and blue eyes, traits that most Merle Cockapoos possess, have a higher risk of deafness. So, if you plan on adopting one of these dogs, training them might be a little more challenging. The shape of a Cockapoo’s ears also puts them at a higher risk of poor hearing, especially as they age.

These dogs have narrow ear canals, which allow the wax to build up and block the eardrum. These factors mean that if you have a Cockapoo with merle coloring, their risk of being deaf is somewhat high. However, being deaf isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Deaf dogs can still live long, healthy, and happy lives if you’re willing to make some adjustments.

Merle Cockapoos Are a Good Choice For People With Dog Allergies

Cockapoos are a hypoallergenic dog breed, a trait they get from their Poodle parents. But some people may be wondering if Merle Cockapoos are an exception to this because of their unique coat pattern. People with dog allergies may be pleased to know that the Merle Cockapoo is just as hypoallergenic as any other. So, if you’re allergic to dogs, this beautiful breed may be the furry friend you need.

Merle Cockapoos Are More Likely to Have Heterochromia

Heterochromia is when an animal has two different eye colors. This condition is common in dogs with Merle patterns, so you will often see Merle Cockapoos with one brown eye and one blue eye. Some Merle Cockapoos can also have sectoral heterochromia when there are two different colors (typically brown and blue) in a single iris. Fortunately, heterochromia is nothing to worry about. Dogs with this condition do not face more health risks than dogs without.

Merle Cockapoos Can Come in Different Colors

Not all Merle Cockapoos have the same colors. There are two main types of coloring in Merle Cockapoos:

  • Blue Merle Cockapoo
  • Chocolate Merle Cockapoo

A full-grown blue Merle Cockapoo has gray, white, black, and small amounts of brown in its fur. The colors of their fur have cool undertones. This means that this type of Cockapoo may look blue in certain lighting.

On the other hand, the chocolate Merle Cockapoo has mainly brown coloring in its fur. Sometimes, they can have slightly red undertones. When you see their cocoa-like appearance, it is not hard to tell where these Cockapoos get their name.

Merle Cockapoos Can Be Very Expensive

If you want a Merle Cockapoo, you may have to save up a lot of money. These dogs are in high demand due to their unique appearances, so getting your hands on one may take a chunk of your savings. The prices will vary depending on the breeder, but sometimes, a Merle Cockapoo puppy can cost up to several thousand dollars.

Not only is the initial purchase expensive, but raising a Merle Cockapoo can be costly over time, too. Because these dogs have a higher risk of health issues such as ear infections or deafness, you may need to take them to the vet more often than you would with another dog breed.

Merle Cockapoos Are Quite Intelligent

Did you know that the Cockapoo Merle is a clever dog? Their intelligence comes from combining two super smart breeds—the Poodle and the Cocker Spaniel. Cocker Spaniels have a reputation for being very quick learners. And Poodles are one of the most intelligent dog breeds, making them a common choice for service animals.

When you combine these two sharp-minded dogs, you will get a pretty smart Cockapoo. Their intelligence makes them super easy to train, too. So, if you want an obedient dog, the Merle Cockapoo could be an excellent choice.

Merle Cockapoos Have a High Risk of Ear Infections

It seems the Merle Cockapoo is prone to many ear-related issues. We’ve mentioned earlier that Merle Cockapoos are at a higher risk of being deaf. However, did you know they also face a high risk of ear infections? This risk comes from the narrow shape of a Cockapoo’s ear, which can easily trap dirt and bacteria.

With their heightened risk of deafness, ear infections in Merle Cockapoos can be serious. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your Merle Cockapoo safe from ear infections. Regular vet visits and frequent ear cleaning are the best ways to ensure your Cockapoo has healthy ears.

Merle Cockapoos Have Speckled Skin

Merle Cockapoos have a reputation for their colorful, speckled coats of fur. But did you know that they have this same pattern on their skin, too? You may see some of these speckles on your Merle Cockapoo’s paw pads. And if you were to shave your Merle Cockapoo, you would notice their skin has a speckle pattern just like their fur.

Merle Cockapoos Often Have Blue Eyes

Most dog breeds have brown eyes because of how their bodies carry melanin. However, a handful of dogs commonly have blue eyes, and the Merle Cockapoo is one of them. While many Merle Cockapoos have one blue eye and one brown eye, they may also have two blue eyes.

This trait is somewhat common in the Merle Cockapoo because their bodies have less melanin. Blue-eyed Merle Cockapoos have beautiful, unique appearances. So, if you want a dog that’ll stand out in a crowd, the Merle Cockapoo is sure to catch some eyes.

Breeding Two Merle Cockapoos Can Be Risky

If you are trying to breed Merle Cockapoos, it may seem like combining two Merle dogs is the best way to go. However, when you mix two Merle dogs, there is a 25% risk that one of their puppies will have the double Merle gene.

All Merle Cockapoos face specific health risks. But Cockapoos with double Merle genes have an even higher risk of health issues, specifically blindness, small or uneven eyes, and deafness. So, in general, if you are breeding Merle Cockapoos, it is best to avoid pairing two Merles.

Final Thoughts

Merle Cockapoos are rare, so it can be especially delightful to come across one. While dog fanciers may have concerns about Merle Poodles and are suspicious of crossbreeding, this isn’t as big of an issue for Merle Cockapoos. American Cocker Spaniels can have the merle gene, and everyday dog owners are less likely to care about the pedigree of a mixed-breed dog.

More than appearance, prospective dog owners should look for a dog that’s healthy and matches their lifestyle. So, even if you find a rare and adorable Merle Cockapoo, it’s best to bring it home only if its temperament and personality fit well with your own.

Edward Hollon is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Edward has been writing for petdii for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Edward has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Edward knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.