The Merle Chihuahua. Why the controversy?

What is a merle chihuahua?

We have had some lovely photos of merle chihuahuas sent into the blog. They are such an unusual colour combination that we thought it would be good to look at the history of this pattern. Goodness me what a hotbed of intrigue we uncovered. Who knew that there was so much controversy over the merle chihuahua!

What does ‘merle’ mean

Merle refers to the unusual colouring of the dog’s coat. Sometimes referred to as dappling. It is the result of a gene modifier that changes the pigmentation at the base of the coat. The result of this gene is the unusual light and dark patches. The chihuahua may also have blue eyes.

Why is a merle chihuahua controversial?

It has been suggested that the merle gene is not naturally present in a chihuahua so to produce this colour pattern there must have been some cross breeding back in the chihuahua’s bloodline. The merle gene is naturally present in other dogs, like great danes and collies.

The merle gene occurs naturally in collies and other dogs

The Kennel Club no longer allows the registration of the merle chihuahua although it has done in the past. Some argue that the merle pattern has been present in chihuahuas since the 1940s and the kennel club has been Ok with it for 70 years so to suddenly decide they are cross breeds now is a bit harsh.

Designer chihuahua

Completely contrary to the above view others state that the merle chihuahua has only been around for 15 years and has been specifically bred to produce an unusual colour combination to appeal to buyers. They suggest that merle chihuahuas can be prone to specific health problems that are directly related to the merle gene.

Do merle chihuahuas have health problems?

There is some debate and opinions differ on this. Some suggest that the merle chihuahua will have health issues such as sight problems, hearing issues and possibly sperm deficiencies. Similar suggestions of ill health are associated with blue chihuahuas as well and it is suggested that you do not breed from two blues. Although the Kennel club does allow the registration of blues.

It is for reasons of health issues that the kennel club state that they do not allow the registration of merles. (Taken from their website)

‘’With effect 01 March 2009, the Kennel Club will no longer register puppies whelped from a merle parent, mated on or after this date. This is because the merle gene in this breed carries an increased risk of impaired hearing and sight problems.’’

Others suggest that there is no more risk in breeding merle chihuahuas than any other breed if it is done responsibly. That problems only start to occur when two merles are bred together (known as MM.) The feeling is that if the parent is healthy and only one parent is a merle (Mm) then you have no more risks than any other merle dog breeds.

Do you have a ghost merle?

It is possible to have a merle chihuahua and not know. If your chihuahua is light in colouring the light pigmentation that occurs with the merle gene will not show. These are called ghost or phantom merles.

Does my merle chihuahua need more attention?

If your puppy is healthy then no. If she has blue eyes there might be a sensitivity to bright sunlight. Some suggest that your merle chihuahua could be slightly larger than average.

Are merle chihuahuas rare?

Not especially, but there is always going to be breeders who jump on the popularity bandwagon and charge over the odds for this type of colour marking. If you are buying a merle do check the parents are not both merle and be aware that you won’t’ be able to register your dog. Similarly, some breeders go out of their way to suggest they are more responsible by not having merles in the bloodline.

However, the clampdown on this coat colour seems to continue and you are not allowed to show him at formal dog shows.

So, there you have it. You pay your money and take your choice.

We would love to have your opinions about merles, do you breed them or do you own one? Have they had health issues? Please leave your comments below.

22 thoughts on “The Merle Chihuahua. Why the controversy?

  1. Fawn Frazer Reply

    I have a Blue Merle Chihuahua with his own facebook page at “Merlin the blue merle Chihuahua” he has one blue eye and one brown and I’ve been told there is an old native american myth that says dogs with different colored eyes can see both heaven and earth!

    My boy has perfect vision and hearing and is STUNNING

        • Agnes Reply

          I own a merle female who i cross with my male i have health checked them both and my litters produced are healthy as well my female is 4.5lbs my male 4.2 she is slightly heavier bone density than my non merle male but she not overly big and her mother was merle and only 4lbs i could see it being bad if the color just showed up but its been around for long enough i find it ridiculous they are saying its a cross all dogs are technically a cross and if kennel clubs recognize designer dog breeds like labradoodles then why not these beautiful little dogs who are no different than their counterparts of other colors its just a color all dog breeds have health issues of some sort smh for example King Charles Cavaliers have heart issues people still breed and buy them and kennel clubs still recognize them

  2. Kari Reply

    I have a blue Merle chihuahua. He is stunning, as well. He is slightly larger than my other chihuahuas. That’s not a concern for me. I wanted to add to my pack and like how they looked. My boy is spunky, friendly and loving. He has a gorgeous long coat. I am often stopped for steangers to see him. More than my other chihuahuas. I knew about the controversy prior, I had looked passively for two years, just happened to run across my little one day and had to have him.

  3. Mary Reply

    I lost my 12 year old Chi in December. I was so lonesome and knew I wanted another Chi to fill the empty place on my lap. I found a Merle and loved her unusual coloring. I thought “Merle” just referred to the coat color, not the genetics. The problem I’m having is she plays rough, nips a lot and we’re having trouble getting her housebroken. Will some of these issues resolve themselves as she gets out of the puppy stage? We don’t remember having the nipping and feistiness with our last one. Any help/advice would be appreciated! Thank you!

  4. Joanne Reply

    I just received a double Merle long haired chihuahua into my rescue. He is larger than usual, about 8 lbs. Both eyes are blue and he seems to hear well although he just arrived yesterday. He will be looking for a home in NJ.

  5. Lynne Reply

    We have a merle chihuahua he is a little bigger than most chihuahias he also has one blue aye and one brown he is perfect no problems perfectly healthy boy. People always comment on hi. When were out he is our baby boy Bruno.

  6. Julie Reply

    I have a blue merle longhaired Chihuahua. We just got him a few days ago. He is almost as large as my other Chi (short haired white and tan Chi, 1 year and weighs 4 pounds). I think the merle is about 3 pounds and he is 4 months old. His name is the Marvelous Mr Merle, he is so sweet and loving and GORGEOUS! He has one brown eye and one half brown/half blue eye.

  7. Barbara Reply

    Im not sure why the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) was so quick to put a ban on merle chis. It is possible that they may have been crossed with other breeds by USA breeders to achieve the merle coat pattern but putting a ban on merle chis by saying they are not pure breds is a but hypocritical for CKC. Many! And I say many, CKC breeders cross their chis with pugs and japanese chins to achieve a more heavy bone and flat face look then forge the papers to claim pure bred status. So though they hate merle chis because merle chis are not “pure breds;” their so-called grand champion dogs are also cross bred mutts. Shame!

  8. Becky Reply

    My 5lb female blue Merle chihuahua is very healthy and a wonderful addition to our family. She was breed to a black male and just gave birth to a Merle male and tri female.

  9. Jeanette Flores Reply

    I have a long hair Lavender Merle Chihuahua. He has 1 blue eye and 1 green eye. . His name is Ares He is a CKC registered.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      We would love to see a photo of him, why not join us on Facebook and post a photo.

      • Jeanette McBride Reply

        I am trying to find you on Facebook but can’t no matter what I put in the search engine. Jeanette McBride – JeanettieM

        • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

          Hi there, we are @chihuahuapowerdotdog


  10. Louise Kirby Post authorReply

    We would love to see a photo of him, why not join us on Facebook and post a photo.

  11. Marceline Hayes Reply

    I just got a totally white male chihuahua with one BLUE eye and the other is sort of “merle.” It is a beautiful dog. I just hope there are no health issues.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      Why not join the Chihuahua Power Facebook group and share photos of your chi chi.

  12. Promise Reply

    I have a chocolate Merle long hair chihuahua. He has one brown and one blue eye and he is blind in his blue eye.

  13. Marco Reply

    I have a chocolate Merle chihuahua. He’s the most beautiful little guy. His name is Rocky. I just leave my house to go for a walk with him I get stopped because people are so curious. He’s got a huge ears and everyone comments on them. His personality is like something I’ve never seen in a chihuahua. I’ve had lots of experience with the breed. I can tell by his eyes that he might have a mix of something else in him. They’re not the usual bulges eyes that they typically have. I don’t have Facebook but I’d love to send you a photo if you let me know how.

  14. Ivanka Tolan Reply

    I have a merle chihuahua. His name is Bravo. He has one eye that is half blue, half brown and the other eye is brown. He is the most beautiful and smartest dog I have had. He has no health issues.

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