How much does a merle dog cost?


How much does a merle dog cost?

Did you decide to get a merle dog for your next puppy? These pups are indeed incredibly good-looking, and every merle dog is unique. But how much do they cost? What’s the price point you can expect for a merle dog? The quick answer is – somewhere between $800 and $2,000, with an average of $1,300. Where exactly your puppy falls in this range will depend on his breed, pedigree, health and other factors.

Let’s look at what determines the cost of a merle dog, and why they are so expensive!

Table of Contents

Which breed?

First of all you need to look at what breed your merle dog is going to be from. Different breeds have varying price points, and this is no different for dogs of the merle pattern. For comparison, here are some examples:

How rare is the merle dog?

As with everything you can buy, demand and scarcity increases the price of certain puppies. The more rare the merle puppy is you are looking for, the more expensive he or she will be. Australian Shepherds and Mini American Shepherds are the most common merle-colored breeds. It is easy to find a merle Aussie puppy, and you will probably not pay more for this dog than for a solid-colored littermate.

In other breeds however in which this pattern is less common, the prices for a merle puppy can be over $1,000 above the price for a solid-colored dog.


What base color?

The base color of the dog will also determine the cost of a merle dog. The most common form of merle is blue merle – this means that a dog is genetically black and has one copy of the merle gene – making him look “grey with black spots”. Other forms, such as red merle are less prevalent. Border Collies show a great variety of colors and patterns that can be extremely rare

An very unusual combination such as a lilac tri merle dog could cost as much as $3,000.

rough collie at the beach

Cost of rescued merle dogs

If you would like to get a merle-patterned puppy but are not up for spending thousands of dollars, look at shelters and rescues. Especially in areas that have a lot of farms, you can expect to find merle dogs that have been surrendered or were picked up as strays. This is due to the prevalence of the merle pattern in working dogs, such as the Australian Shepherd or Catahoula Leopard Dog

These dogs are crossed among each other and with stray dogs, and will produce a lot of interesting colors and patterns in the offspring. Check your local shelter for a merle puppy – you might just walk home with a very beautiful dog that only cost $200!


Why are merle dogs so expensive?

In a nutshell, merle dogs are expensive because puppy buyers are willing to pay a lot of money for them. The pattern is very sought-after, and the more demand there is, the higher breeders can set their prices. In addition, merle breedings can be quite rare in some breeds. While they are common in Australian Shepherds, other dogs such as Pomeranians or Rough Collies do not have a high prevalence of the merle gene. 

The breeders themselves have to purchase their breeding dogs for high prices and often search for a long time for the ideal merle breeding males and females.


Is it ethical to charge more for merles?

There is a lot of discussion about whether it is right to charge a higher price for certain colors. Some show breeders and nearly all sports breeders (such as breeders of agility Border Collies) are against this practice and call for prices to be the same for merle and solid-colored dogs. While the argument behind this is valid (dogs are worth the same regardless of their looks), reality still sees a lot of breeders charging much higher prices for merle-patterned puppies.

As long as buyers are willing to pay higher prices, breeders will charge those and the cycle will continue.


Cost considerations

Before you say yes to your new merle puppy, make sure to ask the breeder about the puppy’s parents’ health. Remember that you are not only paying for the merle color – you are also paying for a puppy that should have great overall health and a sound temperament.

Ask your breeder about:

  • Breed-specific health testing of the parents (such as hip x rays for Border Collies or CERF for Pomeranians)
  • Vaccination and deworming records of the puppy
  • The parents’ temperament, disposition and trainability
  • The puppies’ early socialization and exposure (did they live in the home, did they spend time around the family, did they get enriching toys, experience different surfaces etc.)

If your breeder cannot satisfy you with his answers, search elsewhere. Purchasing a puppy who is not healthy or has inherited a poor temperament will cost you a lot of nerves and money down the line!

It is much smarter to insist on buying a puppy who is the “full package” – with a beautiful merle coat, and great health and character to boot.

The bottom line

Merle dogs of any breed are likely to be more expensive than solid-colored dogs, even though a lot of responsible breeders try to change that. Depending on how rare the merle pattern is in the breed and how much the standard price for a puppy is, your merle dog might cost up to $3,000.

Luckily, you can find a lot of merle dogs through rescue – they can be as low as \$200.

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