Give Me A Minute, I’ll Give You Everything About Merle Great Dane

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Last Updated on September 6, 2022

A Merle Great Dane is an incredible pet. These canines are included in the purebred Great Danes. Although it has become a standard Great Dane recently, hitherto the dogs were not allowed to be part of the dog shows. But now the A.K.C. and G.D.C.A. both approve of the coat as a purebred color of the breed. The official colors of the Great Dane breed are black, brindle, fawn, harlequin, blue, mantle, and merle. 

The dogs were mainly not acceptable due to their increased potential of diseases. As it might suffer from deafness, eye problems, or skin problems. But the occurrence of these ailments is more common in homozygous merles (MM) Double Merle viz-a-viz heterozygous (Mm) Merle. This merle gene detection has become possible due to the fresh gene testing advancement. Thus, a Great Dane color Merle is not forbidden anymore.

A neutral grey to dark grey merle base color with black shred splotches throughout. This is a merle Great Dane. The dogs are intrinsically unique. Each puppy would bear different coat color pattern. This often leads to falsely considering it as a ‘rare’ dog. The dogs carry a variety of color patterns including: merle, blue merle, cryptic merle, and harlequin.


What is a Merle Great Dane? 

Merle coat is not only present in Great Dane breed. Other breeds having the color are;

    • Australian Shepherd
    • German Coolies
    • Shetland Sheepdog
    • American Bully

There are seven genes besides ‘Merle’ that furnish various attributes to a Great Dane. In fact ‘Merle’ is fundamentally the gene responsible for the coat color in dogs. Excluding the chances of mutation, the coat of a Great Dane puppy is mainly due to this inherited ‘M’ gene.

The Merles are lacking in fitness due to this ‘M’ gene. Particularly if the Dane holds double merle genetics the chances of flawed genetic makeup will increase even further.

The Double Merle Gene

The Double Merle gene fashions a feeble and unfit Merles. Due to this liability there were attempts to abolish the Merles altogether. Despite, the attempts the coat color achieved the reverence of a Standard Great Dane.

The breeders endeavors to remove Merle coat color by using the method of selective breeding. However, their attempts were mainly resulted in failure and the Merle gene continued to persist in the breed along with many other dog breeds.

On January 1, 2019 Merle Dane became eligible to join Dog Shows. Both A.K.C. and G.D.C.A. have accepted the coat color. Paving the way for Bellini, the first Merle Dane in the history to compete for the confirmation championship. This marks the paradigm shift from prohibited to this newly allowed coat color.

The main reason behind the significant Merle embrace was owing to the technological advancements. Instead of discarding Merle gene, now researchers have provided breeders with Merle gene test. 

The Merle coat color is observed in other canine breeds as well. For instance;

  • Dachshunds
  • Australian shepherds
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgis

Generally, Merle gene is only confined to domestic canine breeds. Which means you would find the coat only on a dog of domestic breed. 

Solid Merle

Solid Merle is a coat which bears Merle pattern all over on a grey oat color. Grey could be light or dark. The A.K.C. also accepts white on chest and toes of the dog. The solid Merle is a compatible color for show standards.

Mantle Merle

The Merle coat can also exhibit Mantle pattern. Which means the solid white area around the neck and chest. There is no difference in Mantle and Mantle Merle excluding the color. A Mantle Merle also falls in the category of acceptable show colors and patterns.


Merlequins are not acceptable as show dogs by the AKC. A Merlequin carries only blots of merle on white coat.  Which can be described as a dog having no visible solid shred black splotches. Which are otherwise visible on a Harlequin Great Dane. But rather just black spots visible only along with patches of merle. 

Merlequin mainly hold a white coat color with grey or Merle spots on it. Frequently, these dapples on a Merlequin coat are uneven.

Great Dane Merle: Appearance

Merle dogs are huge and mesmerizing owing to their peculiar appearance. Usually, a Merle Great Dane puppy holds a white muzzle. Tip of tail, chest, and toes also appear black or white for Merle Great Dane dogs. 

A darker coat color which is usually grey with grey splotches is a recognized coat color pattern for a Merle Dane.

Besides, the shades of grey, blue, and a combination of white or black base coat color separated with black patches is also recurrent in Merles.

Merle Great Dane color strength

The Great Dane dog shades are also varied. The frequent color strengths of a Great Dane Merle are following;

  • Usual Merle

The regular Merle Great Dane bearing grey color.

  • Dilute Merle or Blue Merle

This coat color has subdued base coat color and pattern color.

  • Cryptic Merle

Cryptic Merle Great Danes color strength is more fine.

  • Harlequin 

The Harlequin color strength lies between Merle and Harlequin Great Danes color. As it is a mixture of both the Merle and Harlequin colors.

How to differentiate a Merle from a Harlequin Great Dane?

Merle Great Dane puppies are seldom mixed with Harlequin Great Danes. The principal contrasting point between Merle dog and Harlequin dog is the base coat color difference.

  • Merle puppies possess grey coat color whilst Harlequin Great Dane’ coat color is white.  The shade of grey could be lighter or darker. 
  • The spots on the body of Harlequin Great Dane are black in color as compared to typical grey colored splotches on the coat of a Merle dog.
  • The abundance of dabbles and pattern on coat also differ for Merle and Harlequin Great Danes.

Are Merle Great Danes rare?

Merle Great Danes are not rare albeit each dog bears a unique color pattern. Despite the difference in appearance arising from diverse coat patterns and color variations, the Merle Great Danes are never to be reasoned as ‘rare’ dogs. There are some devious breeders selling these as ‘rare’ dogs. Therefore, you ought to be cautious in selecting a trustworthy breeder while buying a Merle Great Dane.


Variety within Merles

The Merle Great Dane puppies occur in a variety of coat colors and patterns. On some occasions the difference is so contrasting that the chances to find another dog bearing similar coat pattern as yours would be unlikely. 

There are varied kinds of Merle Great Danes depending upon the color of spots on the coat the canine is wearing.

Great Dane colors Merle

Great Danes Merle pattern is as beautiful and awe inspiring as any other Great Dane colors and patterns would be. Breeding of any coat color Great Dane that was hitherto color crossed can produce a variety of Great Dane colors in Merle coat. Some of which are explained below:

Blue Merle Great Danes

Generally, Blue Merle Great Dane dogs hold light grey, slate, dark blue, or brownish blue coat color. With blue or black color spotting on the coat all over. 

Sometimes nose of a Blue Merle Great Dane can also bear blue color. Additionally, a tinge of blue or black color might be seen all over the Blue Merle Great Dane’s skin. 

Harleqiun Merle Great Dane is basically a Merlequin Great Dane.

Orange Merle Great Dane is probably one of the rarest color patterns. The dogs carry an orange base color coat on which resides the merle pattern. There are chances of  visible orange spots even on merle patches as well. The coat is an expression of fawn previous color crossing in anyone of the parent’s lineage.

Fawn Merle Great Dane coat color lies in the range of light cream to tan or brown tinge. The dogs have Merle spots all over their bodies. These spots might appear in blotches of black color.

Chocolate Merle Great Danes are alike fawn Merle Great Danes. The base coat color of the dog might be tan or brown. These dogs wear chocolate or red colored asymmetrical patches all over.

Brindle Merle Great Dane inherit the coat color and pattern from both Brindle and Merle parents. This suggests the increased likelihood of a distinctive color pattern. 

Typically, such canine holds a scrambled coat. The stripes when separated changes into spots of different colors, on the coat of a Brindle Merle Great Dane are quite visible. These stripes fade in and out of a Brindle Merle Great Dane base coat color. 

These colored stripes are varied in color, arising from the Brindle coat. The coats of these dogs are covered with a fusion of black, brown, grey, and red colored stripes.

Silver Merle Great Dane appear with a silver, grey, or black coat color with black spotting. The nose is typically black in color but rarely it could be of pink color as well.

Grey Merle Great Dane is basically Merle splotches on a dilute grey base coat color.

Platinum Merle Great Dane can be described as similar to albino. But the dog do carry some shine in the coat. Whilst the albino coat appears pure white. It can be alluded to as light cream but not white or off white. Their eyes could be of any color from blue to brown.

Red Merle Great Dane bears red hue all over its coat. It can be explained as the base coat grey color in Merle Great Dane is substituted by a red tinge all over. They carry red merle splotches throughout the coat.

The Brown Merle Great Dane color is similar to Merle coat. The base coat color in this case is brown. The dog carries brown merle spots on a brown tinted base coat all over.

Tri Colored Merle Great Dane

The dogs are sometimes labelled as tri colored canines. Tri Colored coat as shown by its name, is an amalgamation of three individual coat colors. This coat can a combination of white, black, and brown colors. The Blue Fawn Merle Great Dane and Blue Merle Harlequin Great Dane are some examples.

Blue Merle Mantle Great Dane

The dog holds mantle pattern which suggests a ring around neck and chest. With merle patches on a blue hued base coat.

The Merle Genetics

Merle gene in Great Danes and other breeds of dogs, mentioned prior, possess an interesting trait. The Merle gene is quite flexible. It is adaptable to the extent that it can be clipped, duplicated, and attached anywhere on the genetic strand.

The mere change of location of attachment of ‘Merle gene’ can alter whole appearance of your Merle Great Dane puppy. This is how various distinct Merle Great Danes are born.

Merle gene is not only the determinant of coat color in dogs. It is also responsible for deciding eye color of a canine. Blue eyes of Merle Great Dane are also due to the presence of Merle gene in the dogs. 

Occasionally, the Great Dane Merle may have eyes of different colors. Sometimes there are two or even more colors in the eye of a Merle Great Dane puppy.

Great Dane Merle Existence

Merle Great Dane puppies are born to Harlequin parents. The prior are different from the later in their genetic makeup. Merle gene in the canine produces grey tinge on the coat. Whilst absence of the gene produces Harlequin Great Dane.

The Merle Great Dane puppies prevail through another breeding ritual as well. This breeding process is usually favored upon others. In this, Harlequin and Mantle Great Danes are bred jointly which gives rise to Merle Great Dane puppies. 

Breeding of two Harlequins together would likely to produce Merle puppies. Their number in the litter could be either singular or two.

Besides, breeding two Harlequin might also produce White Merle pups as well. 

Merle Breeding

Merle Great Dane breeding is somehow an arguable norm. The breeding was strictly prohibited even though your Merle Great Danes are physically fit. Even the G.D.C.A. Breeder’s Code of Ethics tended to doubt the practice regarding it as an unethical operation. On account of increased possibility of health ailments deliberate Merle Great Dane breeding was avoided. 

Can you breed a Merle Great Dane?

You can breed Merle Great Dane, but to keep the breed standards intact and lineage fit and healthy it is recommended to use DNA testing whilst breeding Merle Great Danes.

Most Harlequin breeders propagated that without Merle there would be no Harlequin. Since, over the years researchers have been able to substantiate that Harlequin is a modification of Merle. Therefore, allowing Merle Great Dane breeding.

Breeding Merle Great Danes without any homework can give birth to physically and mentally impaired homozygous (MM) Double Merle Great Dane puppies.

As broached earlier the Merle Great Dane breeding is likely to White Merle Great Danes. The dogs are deaf, blind, and hold increased latency to develop diseases. These health issues are recurrent in Double Merle Great Danes. 

Why can you not breed Merle to Merle?

Merle to Merle breeding is not favored due to the increased probability of health risks associated with the litter born. It is highly probable that Merle to Merle breeding will produce Double Merle puppies. 

Double Merle Great Dane dogs bears flawed genetic makeup. This suggests a bleak health state of a puppy born from Merle to Merle breeding. The Double Merles are stillborn puppies. Even if the puppy survives there are very little chances of a healthy life span for such Great Danes. 

Some behavioral problems along with skin disorders are also linked with Merle to Merle breeding. The puppies born are more aggressive. It might be due to the incomplete mental development of a Double Merle Great Dane puppy. 

Double Merle Great Danes

When a Merle Great Dane puppy carries two Merle genes, it becomes a double Merle. It mainly happens when both parents carry a Merle gene each. The dogs are prone to many diseases. This makes the dogs non favored in terms of fitness. Hence, the breeding of Double Merles is not supported.

Is Marlequin a Double Merle?

Yes, Marlequin is a Double Merle. But it differs from other Double Merle White Great Danes, in its genetic structure. A strand of gene of a Marlequin is different from White Merles. 

A Marlequin carries double Merle sans Harle gene whilst a White Great Dane bears a Double Merle plus Harle strand in its genetic material.

Being a Double Merle without Harle makes the dog less prone to diseases associated with the latter. Therefore, a Merlequin Great Dane is not that much vulnerable as a white Great Dane.

White Merle Great Dane

White Merle Great Danes appear when a puppy inherits two Merle genes. Presence of a M gene doublet renders white color to the dog’s coat. 

In addition to white coat color, this Merle gene doublet makes the dogs prone to a plethora of ailments. Encompassing errs in ears, eyes, and genetic built of the dog.

The flaws in ears and eye flaws can bring forward deaf and blind canines. A faulty genetic make up can induce a sick white Great Dane puppy as well. The adult dogs also suffer from perilous ailments.

White Merle Great Dane dogs are also produced by Merle-Merle, and Merle-Harlequin breeding.


The Merle Great Dane dog inherits its temperament from its Great Dane parents. They are extremely loving hence the dogs are also called ‘Gentle Giants’. This name exhibits temperament of the dog impeccably.

Given the captivating temperament of the breed, the dogs are also affectionate. They are benign, holding a tender heart, amenable, and friendly no less.

The puppies are minimal to average active canines. They have rather docile disposition furnishing the dogs with a wonderful temperament. The pups could be possessive at times its parent breed.

Its temperament indicates that the canines are obedient and appeasing. Separation anxiety is an integral part of the dog’s temperament. 


Merle puppies are somewhat easy to train as compared to adult dogs. The training becomes simpler due to the dog’s appeasing temperament.  These dogs will readily follow your commands and instructions. During the training sessions you would find the dog an incredible yielding canine. 

By following a training regime regularly and persistently you would be able to furnish yourself with a dutiful canine. 



A Merle Great Dane dog is huge just like its parents. As a large breed canine the dog is susceptible to a number of ailments. Starting from a perilous health situation of Bloat to Hip and Joint Dysplasia.

The Merle dogs are also prone to Cardiomyopathy, Hypothyroidism, and Wobbler’s Syndrome. All these health concerns are a baggage for the dog being a large breed dog. 

Typically, when two dogs holding Merle gene each, are bred together, the resultant puppy is comparatively vulnerable. 


If your puppy is also from a Merle-Merle family, its health problems aggravates. The following are Merle-Merle breeding health concerns: 

Hearing impaired, Deaf dogs

Double Merle dogs are often hearing impaired. 

According to researchers Merle gene and deafness are associated. Just the presence of homozygous (MM) Double Merle gene increments the occurrence of hearing impaired dogs. Whilst there might also be a chance that your dog is deaf from one ear.

Eyeless Merle dogs

The chances of blindness increments due to the Merle gene. The severity of eye problem varies in Merle Great Danes and Double Merle Great Danes. Usually the prior are less likely to develop severe eye problems.

Flawed eyes dogs

Merle Great Dane dogs possess faulting eyes, beside could be vision less canines. Other eye flaws in a Double Merle encompass;

  • Optic nerve weakness
  • Smaller eyes
  • Misplaced pupils and lens
  • Abnormal eye development including iris and retina

Skin cancer 

The dogs are also reported to suffer from skin cancer. It is more frequent when the dogs hold an additional white in their genetic makeup. 


The risks of diseases are relatively higher in case of a Double Merle than a Merle.  

DNA Genetic testing for the Merle gene in Great Danes

To locate the presence of Merle gene in your Great Dane, genetic testing is a credible option. DNA testing would rightly indicate the Merle gene which is responsible for producing unhealthy Great Dane puppies. Thus the DNA testing can efficaciously enlighten the contemporary breeders including Great Dane breeders. Evaluating the recessive genes in the genetics of a dog and furnishing the breeders with recommendations to enhance healthy breeding. 

Nevertheless, the health problems mentioned earlier are more common in Double Merles but are found in heterozygous Merles as well. Therefore, if you are into getting a Merle dog consider a healthy breeder. The breeders keeping the health and lineage record of their pups are more reliable.

Breeders hold great responsibility to keep breeds healthy and fit. They must bear in mind, adhering to moral breeding norms in terms of color code is crucial to enhance the adaptability of the dog.

Our Take

If you are considering a Merle, try to look for reputable breeders. Particularly those who adhere to standard breeding practices. Ask for the pup’s health record to know its lineage. In this way you can secure a fit pup even if it has Merle gene strand. Moreover the Great Dane dogs entail minimal grooming. Just regular brushing in the coat and a bath every fifteen days can keep the dog coat healthy. Use a nail clipper to keep your Dane paws neat and clean. This reduces the chances of any infections.


AKC, Judging the Merle Great Dane

GDCA, Code of Ethics

J Vet Intern Med 2009; Prevalence of Deafness in Dogs Heterozygous or Homozygous for the Merle Allele

8 thoughts on “Give Me A Minute, I’ll Give You Everything About Merle Great Dane”

  1. Hello,
    With the addition of Merle as an accepted colour with the Great Dane Club of America (New accepted colour list coming soon) I ask if you need to update your strong stance on breeding Merles? The code of ethics at the GDCA no longer includes a statement that breeding Merles is unethical.

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  3. Hi, what are the health risks of breeding a Brindle Harlequin ( Brindlequin) to a Merlequin? Can this be considered Merle to Merle breeding? Is a Brindlequin likely to have the Merle gene? Sorry, too many questions at once

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