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Merle Poodle: Pictures, Info, Care & More

Written by: Lorre Luther

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

Merle poodle sitting on woman's lap

Merle Poodle: Pictures, Info, Care & More

Merle poodles are just like regular poodles, but they have coats with distinctive multicolor markings, often resembling dashes and spots. Poodles with merle markings are a bit controversial. There’s a debate over the provenance of the merle gene in these dogs, with some arguing it was a spontaneous mutation and others swearing it must have been introduced through deliberate cross-breeding.

Breed Overview


15 – 24 inches


40 – 70 pounds


12 – 15 years


Apricot, brown, white, gray, black, cream, fawn

Suitable for:

New dog owners, families with older kids, people with allergies


Intelligent, active, friendly, mischievous

The American Kennel Club (AKC) refuses to recognize merle poodles. But for the casual dog lover, there’s really nothing to talk about; these dogs act and look like poodles except for their vibrant, multi-colored coats.

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Poodle 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 Poodles in the World

Although they’re commonly associated with France, poodles were initially bred in Germany to work as water retrievers during waterfowl hunts. The breed has been around for over 400 years, as indicated by the representations of poodles in 17th-century artwork. Before the turn of the century, they were also popular performers in French circuses.

Miniature poodles developed because the traveling circuses began breeding smaller dogs, as they’re easier to transport and cost less money to maintain. No one’s definitively established where merle the trait comes from in poodles. Some say the gene had to have been introduced from another breed and others swear their poodles are 100% purebred and have the DNA tests to prove it.

How Merle Poodles Gained Popularity

Poodles weren’t popular in the United States until one was named the AKC’s Best in Show in 1935. After that, poodles hit the big time, becoming the most popular dog breed in the United States in 1960 and staying there for 22 years, until 1982.

They’re still the fifth most popular dogs in the country. While some people adore the merle look on poodles, others find breeding dogs with the trait problematic due to the health risks involved. Merle dogs are often born with severe physical issues—many are blind or deaf.

Breeding these dogs is seen by many as a high-risk affair. And then there’s the controversy over the provenance of the poodle’s mere gene. As a result, merle poodles have never been extremely popular as a color option within the overall breed.

Formal Recognition of Merle Poodles

Standard, miniature, and toy poodles were recognized by the AKC in 1886, and the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom recognized them in 1874. The AKC recognizes poodles of any solid color, including white, black, blue, cream, gray, and others. It acknowledges the existence of multi-colored dogs with coats featuring two distinct colors, but it classifies them as not adhering to the breed standard.

When it comes to merle poodles, the AKC takes a different tact; it doesn’t acknowledge merle as an accepted breed standard or alternate color. The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom explicitly excludes merle dogs of all breeds from registration.

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Top 3 Unique Facts About Poodles

1. Poodles Once Competed in the Iditarod

Poodles were bred to be water retrievers and, as such, are serious athletes. They’ve had success competing in dog show agility competitions. In 1988, John Sutter competed in the Iditarod with a team of poodles. The rules were changed, and the competition is now only open to cold-tolerant breeds.

2. Poodles Are Incredibly Smart

A study determined that poodles are the second smartest dog breed. Border Collies have the top spot. Poodles are so sharp that most can learn a new command with five or fewer repetitions. This trait is also responsible for the famous poodle’s tendency to ignore owners’ commands.

3. All Sizes Follow the Same Breed Standard

Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. Standard dogs are at least 15 inches tall at the shoulder, and most weigh anywhere from 40–70 pounds. Toys must be under 15 inches tall. All three sizes are judged in competition using the same breed standard.

Do Merle Poodles Make Good Pets?

Merle poodles make fantastic pets for the right owners. Poodles are whip-smart and have a ton of energy. They’re also incredibly sensitive. These active dogs require tons of physical activity and human attention, or they risk becoming neurotic and exhibiting unwanted behaviors such as excessive barking and hyperactivity.

Standard and miniature poodles need at least 1 hour of exercise daily to get rid of all that anxious energy. Toys can usually get by with a 45-minute outing. Training is critical for poodles as they’re incredibly intelligent and inclined to ignore their owners. Friction between household members often causes anxiety in the dogs. Poodles that aren’t ignored or don’t receive sufficient attention often become anxious and depressed.

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Merle poodles are just like other poodles: active, energetic, and intelligent. They have stunning multi-colored coats featuring dots, dashes, and flecks that create a magical, multi-hued effect. Quite a bit of controversy surrounds these dogs.

No one can agree on where the merle trait comes from in poodles, leading many to suggest the dogs aren’t purebreds. They’re considered problematic in breeding due to the risk of merle poodle puppies being born blind or deaf. They also have heightened chances of developing severe eye and ear problems later in life.

Featured Image Credit: Dayvison de Oliveira Silva, Pexels

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