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merle explosion?


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#1 SoloRiver

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Posted 11 October 2007 - 10:57 PM

I like merle. I think it's a beautiful color. I have also found that probably less than 5% of the merle Border Collies out there are produced by what I consider responsible breeders.

It seems like nearly every new poster with a new pup lately has gotten a merle. Where are they all coming from? Are they getting more common or have I only just started noticing?
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#2 Pat W.

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 07:36 AM

I agree with you its raining merles, samething with aussies and unfortunately the blue merle seems to be the most popular. Its a field day for millers and ir breeders.
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#3 kelpiegirl

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 08:22 AM

Melanie
Actually, in agility circles, merle has been popular for some years now. First it was red, now merle.

I like merle. I think it's a beautiful color. I have also found that probably less than 5% of the merle Border Collies out there are produced by what I consider responsible breeders.

It seems like nearly every new poster with a new pup lately has gotten a merle. Where are they all coming from? Are they getting more common or have I only just started noticing?


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#4 SoloRiver

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 10:43 AM

Yes, I know that in agility, the fashion-colored Border Collies are very popular.

However, it seems like they are starting to trickle out into the pet population now.

The more merles there are, the worse it is for Border Collies -- given health problems associated with depigmentation, and the increased opportunities for irresponsible breeders to produce homozygous merles.
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#5 Root Beer

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 10:51 AM

I don't know. I got mine through rescue. I didn't really set out to get a merle. I'm a black and white stand up ear sort of gal! But Dean was my dog, so that was that. I love his look, but it hasn't made me partial to merles in general.

Supposedly, the lady who bought him got him from a sheep farm in Arkansas where his parents were actively working. She went to see a demonstration of the dogs working and decided to take home one of those smart, wonderful puppies.

I have no way to know if the breeder was totally irresponsible, or simply suffered a lack of good sense letting someone impulse buy a puppy of two working dogs at the age of 5 weeks old.

I've noticed it, too, though. Ever since we adopted Dean I see merles, merles everywhere!!

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#6 jdarling

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 11:58 AM

Where are they all coming from?


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#7 Mojo

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 01:49 PM

I was just wondering....is it possible that merles are becoming more common because it is a dominant color gene (i.e., a b/w x merle will statistically produce merle pups 50% of the time)? One person with a good merle working dog could easily influence an entire generation's color prevalence in just a few litters in that way, I would imagine. I also think merles may seem more common just because they are more noticeable. While I certainly do agree that, for better or worse, merles--particularly blue merles--seem to be very popular in agility now, out of curiosity, may I please ask if anyone feels that merles are also becoming more common in the working dog populations? Are there currently any top Open dogs, for example, that happen to be blue, or even red merle?
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#8 bcnewe2

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 04:38 PM

Supposedly, the lady who bought him got him from a sheep farm in Arkansas where his parents were actively working.


Kristine
Do you remember where in AR like in NW NE or S? I'm in central West AR and don't see any in the working community and I will travel almost anywhere in the state for new sheep. Guess it could be OK cause it's so close?

Melanie
Are you seeing them while out trialing? I usually only see one or 2 and I know who owns them. Could it be a territory thing? At least for working dogs?

I have noticed a lot of merles on here when new people are introducing their new puppies.

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#9 Cynthia P

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 06:04 PM

I only know of one open level merle. Dick Williams' Mirk (i think that is the dogs name); Cheryl Jagger Williams told him the dog had better be good to trial it...he'll get all sorts of flack for a merle... sort of like white dogs (don't bug me...I have one); merle and white dogs aren't generally what working folks want...generality...

I wouldn't say it is the working world that is creating very many of these.

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#10 Root Beer

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 06:24 PM

Kristine
Do you remember where in AR like in NW NE or S? I'm in central West AR and don't see any in the working community and I will travel almost anywhere in the state for new sheep. Guess it could be OK cause it's so close?

Kristen


All I know is that a vet in Ozark, Arkansas cleared him to be flown to Long Island with the buyer. I don't know how close to the farm where he came from that is.

I've been told that one parent was a merle and one was a black and white.

Those are the only clues I have.

If you ever run across anything, do let me know. I am interested in knowning where he came from just for the sake of knowing.

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#11 RuthBelle

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 06:45 PM

Well, do not worry that my merle puppy will be passing her merle genes on. As soon as she's old enough I intend to have her spayed. I didn't realize Belle's color was considered a fashion statement. I can understand the concern over genetic problems and the potential for explotation by those with money as their goal (instead of betterment of the breed).

If I show up at a trial or some other border collie event(as a spectator) with Belle in tow, am I going to be getting looks of disapproval?
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#12 bcnewe2

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 07:12 PM

I don't think you should be spaying your puppy based on her color, only on her working abilites or lack there of. I don't think you'll be getting any looks at trials and if you do I'd be giving them right back. IMO it's no ones business what color dog you have. But don't go yelling "LOOSE DOG" or you might! :rolleyes:
Is anyone noticing that there are more good dogs of color coming on the trial field? Makes me think I'm right about people not putting more into a dog of color because it's easier to just pick the politicaly right color.

Jimmy Martin in IL used to run a bitch in open that was a merle. A friend has a pup out of that same dog and he's running at the pn level. It certainly has open potential. I knew of another lady who had several merles, not just blue and she was trialing with at least 2 of them. If memory serves, it was in open. Don't remember where she was from.

Kristine
Ozark is close, I have a frienid right around the block that works at the sale barn there. He seems to know lots of people around here. I'll ask him if he knows of any working merles in the area. It's such a small world when it comes to working dogs, I can almost always find a dog related to one of mine when I'm out trialing or just working different places.

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#13 SoloRiver

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 07:16 PM

Are there currently any top Open dogs, for example, that happen to be blue, or even red merle?


No. Like Cynthia, I have only seen one Open trialing merle, and it's the same dog she mentions.

I know that good working breeders are not producing all these merles. Therefore, most or all of them must be coming from breeders that I do not consider to be responsible breeders of Border Collies. I don't have anything against merle dogs, as I said, I think it's a beautiful color pattern. But the fact that merles are becoming more common in the pet population is an indicator that many new Border Collie owners are not buying their puppies from responsible breeders.
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#14 bcnewe2

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 07:52 PM

I guess I was lumping red dogs in with the merle dogs when it comes to seeing them running in trials with my statement above. When I was just starting red was just as "bad" as merles and just as unusual around here. I now see a lot more nice red dogs out there trialing (not that I saw bad ones). I just can't see it being related to color. But guess in the end it is, cause they aren't out there to much.

I prefer a smooth prick ear dog. One day maybe I'll have one.


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#15 SoloRiver

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 08:11 PM

Well, it's not that I think that dogs of different colors can't be good workers. We've had that discussion here before. It's that generally, working breeders don't produce many, especially not merles. Red is a color you can get by "accident" because it's a simple recessive and many good breeding dogs carry the red allele. But to get reds at high frequency you have to do it on purpose; and merles are something you can't produce by accident. So when you start seeing a lot of them, it means the breeders producing them are selecting for color -- and if they're selecting for color, they are missing the point of Border Collies.

It's a matter of meeting market demand. If prospective puppy buyers are looking for puppies of a certain color, that's what'll get bred -- at the expense of the breed. I am guessing we will soon be seeing a correlated increase in the number of homozygous merles available in rescue.
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#16 Liz P

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 10:10 PM

99% of the merles I know in the USA trace back to Wildrose Border Collies within a few generations. There are a few out there that do not, but they are rare. I've been searching for a working bred merle for myself for many years because I happen to be a sucker for the color. But, nearly every time I check the pedigree of the merles I find MAH is on there. I have heard there are a few nice working merles in the UK so I might take a trip over there someday to find my pup. Color is just the icing on the cake though and I would rather have the dog of my dreams that happens to be ugly than one who is beautiful but doesn't work well.

#17 herdcentral

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 10:12 PM

I am new to border collies and have recently got a black and white. I was mainly interested in a dog from hip and elbow scored parents (having been through the heartache of elbow dysplasia) and clear of the genetic diseases. Colour or ear carriage was of no real interest to me.

I have seen blue merles at agility and thought that they are attractive dogs. Can someone tell me what problems homozygous merles are prone to.

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#18 Root Beer

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 08:50 AM

Kristine
Ozark is close, I have a frienid right around the block that works at the sale barn there. He seems to know lots of people around here. I'll ask him if he knows of any working merles in the area. It's such a small world when it comes to working dogs, I can almost always find a dog related to one of mine when I'm out trialing or just working different places.

Kristen


Very cool! Thanks! :rolleyes:

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#19 ripley

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 09:42 AM

I agree with you its raining merles, samething with aussies and unfortunately the blue merle seems to be the most popular.


Blue merle Aussies have always been very common. As another poster pointed out, this color is dominant genetically in Aussies (and from what that poster said, it sounds like this is true with BCs as well). Merle has dominance over solid and black has dominance over red, making blue merle statistically the most common color for Aussies. As far as I can tell, with Aussies, blue merles are very common and do not trace back to just a small number of family lines. It seems to me, they are also common in working Aussie lines, but I'm certainly no expert. I love the blue merle coloring, but I agree that the homozygous merles have created a huge problem for Aussies. As a result of merle to merle breeding, there are lots of deaf and/or blind Aussies in rescue. It's very sad. I think a lot of this happens with uneducated breeders, but there are also some so-called reputable, well-known Aussie breeders out there who continue to breed merles together, knowing that statistically 25% of the litter is likely to be born with these problems. I've never understood how this can still be considered acceptable by many in the Aussie community.

I've long wondered why merles weren't as common with border collies. Are BC working lines less inclined to include merles for some reason?

#20 ShoresDog

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Posted 13 October 2007 - 10:12 AM

I was interested enough in this merle thing to go to the Australian Shepherd Club of America website (ASCA Breeding Tips). It was so CREEPY!! Instead of advising against merleXmerle crossings, it explains in great detail how to cull the defective puppies. I would way rather see the BC community avoid merles entirely than go this way...

In litters from merle to merle matings, a breeder will statistically average one defective, homozygous merle puppy out of four. This will vary from one to many defective puppies in any given litter. If you realize these puppies are going to be deaf or have eye defects, it is not too difficult to cull them at birth. This should be done as soon as possible after whelping since there is no reason to stress the bitch with nursing extra pups. If you cull all puppies with white off the blaze, collar, socks, white chest and belly patterns, there are no borderline pups. Defective, homozygous merle puppies are often primarily white with just patches of color, and nearly always have a lot of white on the head. Puppies with each eye surrounded with color, color over the ears, and no white on the body behind the shoulder should be sound. The patterns seem to be the key. Sometimes a puppy without very much white, but with mismarkings on the body, such as a stripe running up from the underside, will be defective.

There are many breeders who said they would keep excessive white puppies long enough to see if they are sound. They then are faced with the sad task of having a cute, fuzzy puppy destroyed because it is deaf, blind or both. Some people have given these pups away, or even sold them. If you really care about the Australian Shepherd, dont do it! That white Aussie is advertising the Australian Shepherd Breed everywhere it goes, as well as your breeding program. So many times the end of the story is the heartbreak of the child you gave that cute white puppy to crying because the dog never knew the family car was coming- he never saw or heard it start.

The best way is for you, the breeder, to cull those white-factored puppies at birth, and then to forget them and enjoy your healthy, sound litter. Another option is to simply do a solid to merle breeding, and eliminate the possibility of the homozygous merle.

Individuals do exist in the breed with excessive white markings, but which are sound dogs. They are carrying the genetic makeup like a pinto or piebald horse, which simply causes white body spots. Also, puppies may be from a bloodline with a lot of white markings, and a puppy is born where the white simply went to far. Breeding these dogs should be discouraged for an obvious reason: if the breed carried genetic possibility for sound puppies to be marked like defective puppies, there would be no way to make a determination at birth. No one wants to make a decision to cull five or six week old puppies. To keep these defective puppies easily identifiable, the excessive white individual must be kept out of the breeds gene pool.


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