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by: Karen E. Broadus

     Through the years of breeding the Australian shepherd many new people enter into our world. Most do not know anything about the strange gene that is carried with our breed. This article is to help those people who are willing to learn and seek the knowledge of proper breeding.

     First established in which direction you wish to continue with the "Aussie". Concentrate on that direction by seeking knowledge from books, question breeders and research the lines you are interested in continuing. Find a Mentor of the breed and listen to them.  Find someone that you feel comfortable that will answer your questions no matter how off the wall.  These are the breeders who hold the future of our breed.  Many choose to just enjoy the Aussie as a pet, others go on to breed this versatile dog. Breeders are the ones who will make an impact on the future of this breed. These are the people who should seek the knowledge about breeding the Australian Shepherd. Attend a USASA Nationals; this is a place where there is breeders from all over the nation gather for the one time a year.  Check out the USASA web site to find the date and places of the next Nationals.

     There are 4 colors in the Aussies, blue merle, black, red merle and red. (All 4 colors) Each of these can have copper and white trim. The basic colors are body colors of black and red. The merle gene is added to create the distinct color of the Aussies.

     Breeding a merle to merle will produce puppies that are double merle. The homozygous merle as a result of this cross will have various degrees of deafness and blindness from slight to severe. There also may be possible reproduction problems. Only the experienced breeder should attempt to breed merle to merle. If you decide to pursue this breeding, be aware of the problems and what steps need to be taken to insure you do not sell a defective puppy. These types of puppies are culled at birth, with no harm resulting to the dam or anyone else.

The average in a breeding of a merle to merle cross will result in one defective puppy to three normal puppies. In other words, 25% of the litter could be defective.

The following will give you an idea of how the genes are distributed in the merle to merle breeding. See diagram 1.  

Diagram 1

Each normal merle dog has a merle and a solid gene (solid being red or black). These are the 4 possible puppies that would result from a merle to merle breeding:

  1.  The sire will give a solid gene, the dam giving a merle gene resulting in a merle dog that is normal.
  2. The sire will give a merle gene, the dam will give a merle gene resulting in a double merle (homozygous merle) defective pup.
  3. The sire will give a solid gene, the dam will give a solid gene resulting in a solid color puppy.
  4. The sire will give a merle gene, the dam will give a solid gene resulting in a reversal of genes given above as a normal merle pup.

The most logical course of action for the person not comfortable with the above results of breeding a merle to merle cross is to breed a solid to a merle, resulting in only normal pups of solid and merle genes.

Here are the results of a solid to merle breeding: A solid dog will have 2 solid genes. When being bred to a merle bitch 50% of the litter will be solid and 50% will be merle. See diagram 2.  

  1. A solid sire will give a solid gene, a merle dam will give a merle gene resulting in a normal merle puppy.
  2. A solid sire will give a solid gene, a merle dam will give a solid gene resulting in a normal solid puppy.

The results will be the same if the sire is merle and the dam is solid.

The defective pup (homozygous merle) in a litter of a merle to merle cross will be primarily a white puppy with little or no solid or merle markings.  Click below on the following two links for these examples:

Incorrect White Merle Puppy:    Front View White Merle    Side View White Merle

When making a decision to breed your Australian Shepherd consider these facts that will positively effect the future of the breed not only now but for years to come. 


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