or “How to make a merle retriever.”
Breed a liver flat-coat bitch to a merle Australian shepherd.
And when the puppies mature, some of them can become guide dogs.
As adults, the puppies look like merle flat-coats.
And seeing as unusually colored flat-coats once founded a separate breed, I’m sure that some people might be chomping at the bit to get this breed started.
I have to say no on this one. No– without any exceptions or reservations.
Merle is stunning, but attempts to create entire breeds that consist of only merles are doomed to failure.
Merle is a dominant trait, but when a dog is a homozygous merle, very real health issues can result. Blindness and deafness are par for the course among double merles. Many of these blind dogs have no eyes or very small ones that are of no use to the dog.
I have no problem with breeding this cross for assistance dogs, but when you start playing around with merle, we need to be concerned.
A blind guide dog is of no use to a blind person.
The merle trait also has to be monitored in the Australian shepherd/toller outcross, for cryptic merles are not unknown. I would be careful about breeding any merle to a red retriever. The e/e genotype can mask the merle, and one could be breeding any number of double merles form tollers that might result from this cross.
Flat-coats wouldn’t have that much trouble, but you would still be playing with double merle.
And this is one color that you just don’t need in a breed that doesn’t already have it.
The breeds that have it are having a very hard time managing it– and there are breeders who revel in producing double merles, regardless of the health and welfare consequences. There is a lot of ignorance about this color.
If you’d like to learn more about merle, check out these posts on Border Wars.
I have no problem with an F-1 cross to produce these dogs as assistance dogs.
It’s when people decide to use this cross to produce a merle retriever breed that makes me concerned.