Red Merle Australian Shepherd: A Complete Guide (With Pictures)

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The Red Merle Australian Shepherd is a handsome dog with a beautiful coat, so it's no surprise that some say he stands out from other dogs of the breed. With shades of red blending perfectly with other colors, the Red Merle Australian Shepherd has a coat pattern that looks unique. Thanks to genetics, no two Aussie red merle dogs will likely look alike. 

More than just his color, he is popular and loved by many for the energy and trainability that characterizes the Australian Shepherd breed.

Want to be a furry relative of this beautiful spotted breed? Look no further, as I am sharing a complete guide to this breed.  

What is a Red Merle Australian Shepherd?

The Red Merle Australian Shepherd is a coat variety of the popular Australian Shepherd breed. This medium-sized dog doesn't differ much from his other Aussie cousins ​​in behavior and temperament, but it stands out with its stunning merle coat pattern.

According to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, the merle is a coat color pattern with distinctive spots and splashes.

red merle australian shepherd


He can be diluted pigments or solid colors. The merle gene also exists in breeds such as the Shetland Sheepdog, Welsh Corgi, Pitbull, and Chihuahua. 

Although unique in appearance, the Aussie red merle also carries the innate characteristics of its breed. Known as working ranch dogs, Australian Shepherds have good speed and agility, can be trained well, and are intelligent.

What Does The Red Merle Australian Shepherd's Appearance?

The Red Merle Australian Shepherd has a long, double coat that can be either straight or curly. Disregarding coat color, his appearance is similar to other herding breeds such as the Border Collie or the English Shepherd.

It's pretty easy to spot a red merle Aussie with his red markings or spots on his chest, face, and tail.

The coat colors of this breed are usually more than one and can range from brownish shades like a buff to gray colors like silver. Bi-color or tri-red Australian Shepherds always conform to breed standards.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd's red spots are not the usual red. Instead, the stains can be as light as champagne or close to brown hues like rust or copper.

The eyes of this breed are usually blue, but there are instances where each eye bears a different color. This characteristic, heterochromia or having two different colored eyes, is not new to Australian Shepherds. Your dog may have blue eyes on one side and hazel, amber, or green eyes on the other.

Regarding tails, the red merle Australian Shepherd typically has a short seat, which is the American Kennel Club (AKC) standard. 

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd  A Blue Merle Australian Shepherd Differences Between The Two Breeds?

The breed standard set by the AKC recognizes four Australian Shepherd colors: solid black, solid red, sometimes called liver, blue merle, and red merle.

Blue and red merles both carry merle genes, so what distinguishes them from each other?

red merle australian shepherd

 The color of the spots is the difference between the blue merle Australian Shepherd and the red merle Australian Shepherd. 

The Australian Shepherd red merle has red markings on light main coats. The Australian Shepherd blue merle has "blue" spots on the gray main coats.

Small anecdote: these marks are not blue but rather black. The black-on-gray color combination gives an effect that makes the dog look "blue". The bottom of the gray coat can also have different shades ranging from light silver to dark smoky. 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Coat Color Genetics

Genetics in dogs is an exciting subject. It becomes even more interesting in the case of the red merle Australian Shepherd because of the merle gene that creates different markings in the coats of Aussies. 

 Coat color gene and pattern gene

Australian Shepherds inherit two coat characteristics from their parents: the coat color gene and the pattern gene.

 There are two possible coat color genes for purebred Australian Shepherds. Aussie puppies can have black or red coats, even from the same litter. 

The gene that dictates whether an Australian shepherd is a red merle or not is the pattern gene. The pattern gene has two results: the solid pattern or the merle pattern.

Aussies born with a solid or a merle pattern have only one coat color. But, on the other hand, Aussies with the merle pattern have beautiful markings all over their fur.

The merle gene also determines the color of other parts of the body, such as the eyes, nose, lips, and paw pads.


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Red Merle Australian Shepherd Genes

For an Aussie puppy to be born with a red coat, both parents must each have the recessive gene for the color red. 

As for the pattern gene, it only takes one parent to have the merle gene for a patterned Aussie to be born. Breeders and canine experts have linked having two merle genes to potential health risks. 

If you're planning on getting a red merle Australian Shepherd and you have little or no genetic knowledge, it's best to ask a breeder for help.


Double Merle

The term “double merle” refers to dogs with two merle genes. When two merle dogs are mated, each of their puppies has a 25% chance of either having the merle gene twice or being a double merle.

Breeders try to avoid breeding merle dogs because they are aware that many health issues can arise from the presence of two merle genes. So what are the complications of being double merle? Keep reading to find out.

How tall is a red merle Australian Shepherd as an adult?

 The Red Merle Aussie isa medium-sized dog. You can expect it to measure up to 20-23 inches for males and 18-21 inches for females. This breed can also get a bit heavy, weighing in at 50-65 pounds for males and 40-55 pounds for females.

If you prefer to have a smaller dog, you should consider getting a Miniature Australian Shepherd or a Toy Australian Shepherd.

red merle australian shepherd


Miniature Red Merle Australian Shepherd

Yes, there is a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd!

The Miniature Australian Shepherd has all the characteristics of the Australian Shepherd breed, but is smaller, with an AKC standard size of 14-18 inches for males and 13-17 inches for females.

Miniature Red Merle Australian Shepherd is a smaller Aussie with a red coat and merle pattern. If you were wondering, this new breed is recognized by the AKC and accepted into his Miscellaneous class of 2012. 

Red Merle Dwarf Australian Shepherd

Besides the mini Aussie red merle, another breed also gives us a smaller alternative for the Australian Shepherd.

The toy red merle Australian Shepherd is an Aussie mix that typically weighs between 12 and 15 pounds for adult males. Dogs of this breed usually stand under 14 inches at the withers or shoulders.


Red Merle Australian Shepherd Temperament

Belonging to the working breed, Aussies are known to have good energy and can be trained well. So if your family is looking for a dog that can handle the physical needs of a dynamic pack, the Aussie red merle is an excellent choice.

This breed of dog has the energy to help adults with tasks such as herding cattle and, at the same time, playing chase with younger ones. The Red Merle Australian Shepherd is ideal for families with children as it loves to play with all dog toys. Australian Shepherds' loyalty is a strong point, so expect them to love you and your family.

However, you must do your part as the guardian. You should train your Aussie red merle in socialization as early as possible. Even as a puppy, the red merle Australian Shepherd must be introduced to new surroundings and meet new people.

Consistency in socialization will help your red merle puppy grow into a friendly dog ​​and a great family companion.

Along with socializing, you also need to be consistent in your habits and routines. Red merle Aussies like things to happen at certain times of the day. The daily practices he need to stick to your walks, food, games, and even bedtime.

Although friendly and affectionate, red merle Aussies are protective of their loved ones. Since they are natural protectors, they may view strangers as threats. Their strong watchdog instincts will let you know that something is going on.

This dog breed is perfect for families thanks to its good mix of playfulness, loyalty, and protection.

red merle australian shepherd


Red Merle Australian Shepherd – Lifespan and Health Concerns

 Red merle Australian Shepherd's life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.

Proper diet, exercise, and visits to the vet are the keys to a healthy dog. You should also familiarize yourself with any possible health issues your Aussie red merle may face

Common Health Issues:
  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a common malformation in which a dog's thigh bone does not fit into his hip socket. Signs of this dislocation aren't always immediately visible, so you may not notice it until pain and lameness become evident. If left untreated, it can lead to arthritis in dogs.
  • Elbow dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this deformity manifests on your dog's front legs.
  • Coloboma: Coloboma is one of many eye diseases that Australian Shepherds are prone to contracting. It occurs when part of the iris does not develop properly and leads to sensitivity to bright light.
  • Multi-Drug Sensitivity: Only a few breeds suffer from multi-drug sensitivity and sadly Australian Shepherds are in that minority. This disease, also called MDS, makes dogs hypersensitive to common medications and medications prescribed by veterinarians. Dogs with this problem are unable to pump these medical substances out of the brain, resulting in toxicity. Medications to note are Ivermectin, Imodium A-D and some anesthetics.

Knowing these risks will help you better understand your dog's health and well-being.

Health Issues Related to the Double Merle Breed

As I mentioned before, the result of breeding merle Aussies is double merle offspring with many physical complications. Studies have shown that these double merles are more prone to specific health issues, such as: 

  • Eye Defects: Double merle Aussies are susceptible to eye defects such as abnormal eye development, blindness, and even missing eyes.
  • Deafness: It is possible for double merle Aussies to be born deaf, especially if their head color is predominantly white.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to coat variations, Wirehaired Aussies outnumber Red Merle Australian Shepherds. Although they are only a small percentage, you can still easily find a breeder who owns a red merle Aussie.


It's possible for your red merle Australian Shepherd puppy's coat to discolor and change when it becomes an adult.

Possible coat changes in adulthood include, but are not limited to:

Diminishing white spots.

The light coat becomes darker and richer.

A bicolor coat becomes a tricolor.

More obvious marks and tics.

Changed face mask color and markings.


Red merle Aussies can have solid or mottled, blue or brown eyes. It is also possible to have one blue eye and one brown eye as Merle Aussies are prone to heterochromia.


Australian Shepherds have a double coat, which means they have a short undercoat that keeps their body warm and a longer coat on the outside.

Caring for your Aussie red merle includes frequent brushing of the coat to get rid of unwanted hair. Their coat serves as protection for their body, so shedding is something to expect, especially when the seasons change.


The red coat color is a recessive gene, so many say the rarest Australian Shepherd color should be solid red. Australian Shepherds usually have two or more colors, so finding one that only has one color would be a real gem.


Final Thoughts

Red Merle Australian Shepherd makes great companions because they are full of life, love, and loyalty. They are perfect for work and also for family life. Their gorgeous red markings, which can be of different shades, make them look unique even within their breed. 

Even though they are unique with their merle gene and patterned coat, they are just as energetic, easy to train, protective, and trustworthy as other Australian Shepherd varieties.

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