When it comes to finding a puppy pal, there are so many places to turn to. From amazing pet finders and shelters to responsible breeders, there are pups a plenty for everyone! Unfortunately, some people take advantage of our love for the cute and fluffy. Today you’re going to learn about Echo, a double merle dog.
Fondly dubbed the “Hellen Keller” pup by friends and family, Echo is the result of backyard breeding. Emaciated and covered in fleas, Echo was rescued by kind strangers. He was brought to a local shelter, where it was determined that, because of double merle genes, he was deaf and blind in his left eye. Fortunately, his forever family found and adopted him soon afterward.
Since then, Echo has lived a wonderful life of cuddles and playtime with his humans. With patient training, he has since learned a variety of hand signals. Today, Echo loves to romp and play as much as any other dog!
What Echo Wants You to Know About Double Merle Dogs
So, what is a merle dog? In dog breeding, a “merle” is a highly desirable type of coloration or coat. Merle dogs often have lovely blue eyes, and their coats have lovely spots of color. Tricolor merle dogs are brown, white, and grayish-black; the blue merle dog has varied shades of gray. Informally, there are also “bi-merle” coats, which have only two colors. In fact, The American Kennel Club recognizes “merle” as an acceptable pattern in many breeds.
Because of their beauty, these dogs tend to fetch high prices on the market. This makes them a prime target for backyard breeders, who will try to produce merle coats without paying attention to the genetics of the parents.
What are the Risks for Merle dogs?
When only one parent has the merle gene, there is no concern. However, when both parents have the gene, that’s where things get tricky.
As gorgeous as they may be, evidence suggests that merle genes may contribute to birth defects and health issues. Even responsibly bred merle pups can have hearing and vision problems, as the gene responsible for the coloration predisposes pups to congenital deafness and incomplete eye development.
What is a Double Merle?
Often, this haphazard breeding produces unhealthy combinations of genes. A double merle dog is one who has inherited two positive merle genes (MM), doubling their risk for health problems and defects. Whereas a standard merle coat is achieved by breeding a parent with the merle gene with one without, a double merle or SILV is the result of breeding two merle dogs.
When this happens, all of the risks of a merle coat are doubled. Many double merle dogs have underdeveloped eyes, like Echo, and congenital deafness. Sometimes, these pups also have weak immune systems.
Thankfully, double merle dogs are reported to live as long as other dogs of their breed.
Why Do People Breed Double Merles?
In many cases, the problem is not the result of intentional actions. Many double merle pups are the result of backyard breeding, where irresponsible owners breed dogs purely for desirable traits. Unlike a responsible breeder, these folks will disregard, ignore, or be entirely unaware of the genetics of the dogs they breed.
Unfortunately, this has a multitude of terrible effects for the pooches. Many dogs end up being unhealthy and prone to diseases, deformities, and cancer. Less desirable pups may be released to fend for themselves or outright killed.
Backyard breeders are in it for profit. Many of them are only producing puppies to sell, which means that they will try anything to get rare and desirable colorations and traits.
What Breeds Can Carry The Merle Gene?
The most popular breeds that carry the merle gene include:
- Border Collies
- Pit Bulls
- Australian Shepherds
- French Bulldogs
- Great Danes
Photos of Double Merle Dogs
What You Can Do
Unfortunately, like puppy mills, many backyard breeders act just within the confines of the law. While their actions are morally wrong, they don’t actually break any laws. Backyard breeding is technically legal across the United States, and the only way to really shut down a backyard breeder is to prove that they are abusing their animals.
Nonetheless, there are things you can do to help!
Know How To Spot a Backyard Breeder
Being able to spot a backyard breeder is as important as avoiding a puppy mill. Many backyard breeders have relatively fair conditions for their pups, and some see nothing wrong with what they are doing. In some cases, these folks are unaware of the complex genetics involved in proper breeding.
Some red flags for a backyard breeder include:
- Not screening buyers
- Selling on eBay, Craigslist, or other online venues
- Inability to provide genetic testing
- No medical records or poor medical records
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Another way to avoid contributing to the backyard breeding problem is to adopt your next pooch! There are so many amazing charities and shelters out there, and they’re packed with loving dogs looking for a human to take them home. Your next best friend may just be at your local rescue shelter, and you just haven’t met them yet!
Spread the Word
Finally, you can share this information with your friends and family. If you know anyone on the market for a furry family member, be sure to talk to them about the best practices for obtaining a dog. Together, we can make a huge difference in the lives of pups around the world!
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