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Merle Labradoodle: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Written by: Eleanor Glaum

Last Updated on April 3, 2024 by Dogster Team

Merle Labradoodle: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Their name gives more than a hint as to this cheerful doggie’s heritage. The loveable Labradoodle is one of the original “designer dogs” created by crossing a Labrador Retriever with a Poodle.

The merle Labradoodle is not a separate breed but rather an unusual color pattern variation exhibited by certain Labradoodle pups. The merle patterning can be present in various base coat colors but always results in an exotic mottled appearance caused by the presence of lighter patches of fur.

Breed Overview


14–16 inches (Mini), 17–20 inches (Medium), 20–26 inches (Standard)


15–28 pounds (Mini), 29–50 pounds (Medium), 51–85 pounds (Standard)


12–16 years, depending on size. Smaller dogs generally live longer.


Blue merle, red (and diluted red) merle, chocolate merle, black merle, brown merle, sable merle, fawn merle, and yellow merle.

Suitable for:

Active young or old singles and families with kids. Multi-species households. First-time pet owners.


Loving, energetic, friendly, intelligent, playful, and easy to train.

There is notable variation within the breed, in terms of size, coat texture, color, and type. The variation in size, coat texture, and color are obvious considering the dog’s hybrid heritage. Labrador Retrievers as a breed are pretty consistent, varying almost only in color. Poodles, on the other hand, come in a variety of colors and sizes, ranging from toy to standard with potentially any of these kinds providing parentage to the Labradoodle.

Labradoodle “types” provide another aspect of variation. There exists not only the normal “generic” Labradoodle which is a simple Labrador-Poodle cross but also the Australian Labradoodle. The latter may include a few other breeds in its lineage, such as Spaniels, Terriers, and other Retrievers.

The type also varies according to generational breeding practices. For example, whether they are a first-generation (F1) or second-generation (F2) Labradoodle. On paper, variety can become quite complex in multigene Labradoodles even though a greater level of physiological standardization may be achieved.

Any of these Labradoodle variations and types could exhibit the merle coloration pattern.

Merle Labradoodle Breed Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


The Earliest Records of Merle Labradoodles in History

The Labradoodle has been around since the 1950s when the first Labrador Retriever was crossed with a Standard Poodle. The famous land and water record-setter, Sir Donald Campbell, was the first to use the name “Labradoodle” in 1955 to describe his Lab-Poodle cross, Maxie.

The “breed” was not immediately popular, for reasons unknown, considering its undeniable charm and good nature. It wasn’t until 1989 that Labradoodles were officially named and introduced by Australian breeder, Wally Conran.

In response to the need for a “hypoallergenic” guide dog, he crossed a Labrador with a Poodle after unsuccessfully trying to train Standard Poodles to the task. The resultant cross was a success in terms of being trainable and having a low-shedding coat. One of the puppies from the first official Labradoodle litter, Sultan, went on to become a much-loved guide dog to a lady in Hawaii for the subsequent 10 years.

How Merle Labradoodles Gained Popularity

Wally Conran’s breeding exercise brought the Labradoodle into the public eye, and it began to experience a surge in popularity. Service dog organizations were delighted to have another useful breed to add to their ranks and, to boot, one that would trouble allergy sufferers very little.

The general dog-loving public also fell in love with the Labradoodle, and it started to become sought after as a pet. During the last few decades, Labradoodles have firmly established themselves as one of the most popular cross breeds to own. Their loving, gentle, and obedient natures ensure that they are likely to remain so for the indefinite future.

Certain Labradoodle lovers have a particular affinity for the merle pattern of coloring and will choose a Merle pup over one of its more plainly colored brethren. There are a few health concerns regarding Merle Labradoodles, and it is important to be fully informed about these. We touch on this later in the article.

Formal Recognition of Merle Labradoodles

As a crossbreed, the Labradoodle is not formally recognized by Kennel Clubs, including the AKC. Many Kennel Clubs have now introduced a separate category for hybrid dog breeds and do allow them to be registered under these conditions, should an owner wish.

There are several dedicated Labradoodle organizations, however. These include the Australian Labradoodle Association of America (ALAA), the Australian Labradoodle Club of America (ALCA), and the Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association (WALA).

There is a drive amongst certain Labradoodle breeders to create a breed standard that will allow the breed to be categorized as an official “pure” breed. We touch on this in point number four in the next section.

Top 7 Unique Facts About Merle Labradoodles

1. Merle Labradoodles Can Be at Higher Risk of Certain Health Conditions

Merle-patterned Labradoodles are at a higher risk of being born with visual and/or auditory defects. The chances of these defects being present are significantly higher (to the point of almost being assured) if both parents carry the Merle gene. This homozygous gene condition is known as “double merle.”

Double merle pups have a high chance of being born completely blind or deaf. It is unanimously accepted by breeders and Labradoodle organizations that interbreeding merles is unethical and cruel. Consequently, no ethical and reputable breeder will practice this.

2. Merle Labradoodle Coats Are Variable

Due to their mixed parentage, Labradoodles could inherit more of the coat characteristics of either one of their parents. They could have soft or wiry fur that is straight, curly, or wavy.

3. Many Merle Labradoodles Have Light-Colored Eyes

Many merle Labradoodles have captivating blue or light-gray eyes. These result from the same gene that is responsible for their unique coat pattern.

4. Breeders Are Trying to Establish the Labradoodle as a Breed in Its Own Right

By multigenerational breeding, some breeders are trying to establish a Labradoodle breed standard. This is achieved by breeding second (F2) and consequent (F1b, F3, etc.) generation Labradoodles to one another. Breeders of F1 Labradoodles are concerned that this practice may result in undesirable health conditions that result from inbreeding.

5. A Labradoodle Called Fang Was a TV Star in the 1960s

A Labradoodle named Fang achieved a modicum of television fame in the 1960s through its regular appearances on a popular television show called Get Smart which was co-created by American funnyman Mel Brooks.

6. Labradoodles Are Popular with Celebrities

Many celebrities own and adore Labradoodles. Tiger Woods, Joe Biden, Christie Brinkley, and Graham Norton have all owned or currently own a Labradoodle.

7. Blue Merle Is the Most Common Labradoodle Merle Pattern

The most common merle variation in Labradoodles is blue merle. Red merle and other merle variations are rarer.


Do Merle Labradoodles Make Good Pets?

Labradoodle owners will be the first to tell you that they’ve hit the pet jackpot! These intelligent and kind yet playful and mischievous dogs are a joy to own. They become invaluable members of the family and make rewarding companions.

Labradoodles have inherited all the desirable qualities of each of their Labrador and Poodle parents. Like their Lab parent, they just love kids and will play gently with them for hours. They are equally enamored with the other pets in the household. From their Poodle parent, they inherit intelligence, trainability, and low-shedding status.

Labradoodles love their humans and like nothing more than to be around them and please them. Of course, the inheritance of traits does not happen uniformly or consistently. A Labradoodle may end up being more like one or the other of its parents in terms of appearance and personality.

Labradoodles are prone to several health conditions, which will need to be monitored in consultation with your veterinarian. These include hip dysplasia, congenital eye issues (particularly merle Labradoodles), and heart disease.

Depending on the degree of fuzz your Labradoodle has inherited from its Poodle parent, it will require regular grooming to keep it tangle free. This Doodle’s parents are both active and intelligent breeds, so it will need daily exercise and stimulation.



There’s no denying the merle Labradoodle’s exotic good looks and alluring disposition. Although not immediately popular following its initial introduction to the dog world, the Labradoodle has more than made up for this in recent decades.

The Labradoodle has firmly entrenched itself in the hearts of dog lovers around the world, and its popularity is sure to increase even more in the future.

Featured Image Credit: aukalou, Shutterstock

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