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Merle Cockapoo: Pictures, Facts, and History

Jessica Kim

By Jessica Kim


While Cockapoos have been bred since the 1960s, the Merle Cockapoo is a variant of Cockapoos that has emerged within the past several years. Their beautiful coat patterns have caused them to become more sought after, but they’ve also sparked some controversy amongst breeders.

Despite their attractive appearance, many Cockapoo and Poodle breeders warn against scams revolving around Merle Cockapoos. Since merle patterns aren’t formally recognized in the breed standards of Poodles, it’s very possible that Merle Cockapoos have other dog breeds mixed in their lineage. The Merle Cockapoo has a bit of a cloudy history, but here’s what we know so far.

hepper-dog-paw-divider2The Earliest Records of Merle Cockapoos in History

It’s unclear as to when Merle Cockapoos first appeared, but they started gaining more attention within the past decade. The Cockapoo, which is a mix between a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle, appeared in the 1960s and has remained a popular hybrid dog because of its friendly, easygoing temperament and ability to thrive as both urban and rural dogs.

Cockapoos have a Poodle parent, and their other parent can be either an American Cocker Spaniel or an English Cocker Spaniel. Both Cocker Spaniels and Poodles were originally bred as hunting and retrieving dogs.

Cocker Spaniels originate from England, while Poodles were first bred in either Germany or France. It’s unclear when they first arrived in North America, but the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized both breeds in the late 1800s.

The Poodle was recognized by the AKC in 1887. The American and English Cocker Spaniels were grouped together and recognized by the AKC in 1878. However, the American Cocker Spaniel was developed as more of a companion dog and became a smaller version of the breed with a domed head. In 1946, the AKC separated the American Cocker Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel into two distinct breeds.

merle cockapoo
Image credit: Fran • @thisisfranpatel from Pixabay

How Merle Cockapoos Gained Popularity

Many Poodle mixes are sought after for their low-shedding coats, and Cockapoos also have easygoing temperaments that make them ideal for first-time dog owners and families with young children.

Cockapoos have been a popular hybrid breed for decades, and Merle Cockapoos started gaining popularity because of their beauty and rarity. Most Cockapoos will have solid coats, and some might inherit the merle markings found only in American Cocker Spaniels.

Merle Cockapoos are extremely rare because it’s difficult to breed them. Cockapoos must have an American Cocker Spaniel parent with the merle gene, but there’s no guarantee that puppies will inherit a merle coat, even if their parent has one.

Do Merle Cockapoos Have a Formal Recognition?

No, Cockapoos and Merle Cockapoos don’t have any formal recognition at this time. They aren’t recognized as purebred dogs, and only Cocker Spaniels and Poodles have formal recognition by the AKC.

Cockapoos aren’t recognized by the AKC, but the American Cockapoo Club exists to register Cockapoos and support Cockapoo breeders. You can find many healthy Cockapoo puppies through the American Cockapoo Club, but none specifically breed Merle Cockapoos. If you’re looking for a Merle Cockapoo, you’ll have to contact the breeders directly to see if they have a record of producing dogs with the merle marking.

As we’ve mentioned before, merle coats aren’t listed in the breed standards of the Poodle, and only American Cocker Spaniels can have the merle gene. On top of that, due to health concerns, breeders shouldn’t breed two merle dogs. So, it’s extremely rare to find a Merle Cockapoo.

hepper-dog-paw-dividerTop 3 Unique Facts About Merle Cockapoos

1. Controversy Surrounds Merle Cockapoos and Poodles

Merle Cockapoos have become a topic of controversy because of their unique pattern. The AKC doesn’t recognize the merle coat pattern in Poodles. While English Cocker Spaniels can still have spotted coat variations, it’s important to note that this is due to a completely different gene that causes a roan marking.

Therefore, suspicions have risen about the sudden rise of the merle gene in Cockapoos. While Merle Poodles and Merle Cocker Spaniels exist, the merle gene may not naturally occur in Poodles. So, it’s possible that other dogs that naturally carry this gene, like Australian Shepherds, Dachshunds, and Border Collies, were bred with Poodles to create Merle Poodles.

It’s very possible that Merle Cockapoos can have other breeds in their pedigree. This isn’t as much of an issue as it is within the Poodle community. Many Poodle breeders are concerned with mixed breeding and protecting the breed. As Poodles have been bred for centuries, it can be concerning that Merle Poodles have only started appearing in recent years. Therefore, if you encounter a Cockapoo breeder that has Merle Poodles, it may be that the Poodles aren’t purebred dogs.


2. The Merle Gene Can Also Affect Eye Color

The Merle Gene causes color variations in the coat so that dogs appear patchy or spotted. This gene also can affect eye color, and dogs can either have a set of blue eyes or one blue eye and another eye color that’s typical of the breed. Dogs with the merle gene can also have different skin pigments and have pink paws and noses.

3. There Are Health Concerns Related to the Merle Gene

While most dogs with merle coats are healthy, some health concerns are associated with the merle gene. Research shows that dogs with two copies of the merle gene, also known as double merles, frequently have abnormal eye development and are highly prone to blindness. Double merles also often have ear and hearing problems, and it’s not uncommon for them to be deaf. Therefore, two merle dogs should never be bred.

hepper-dog-paw-dividerDoes a Merle Cockapoo Make a Good Pet?

All dogs can be good pets if they’re living with the right kind of owner. That said, Merle Cockapoos tend to be good dogs for first-time owners and are most happy when surrounded by people. These dogs are usually pretty easygoing and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train.

Merle Cockapoos will most likely be friendly and social. They’re excellent family dogs that can play well with children and other dogs. Just remember that early socialization is key to helping puppies build confidence and learn to interact appropriately with others. Children should also be taught how to pet and play with dogs.

While all dogs need daily exercise, Cockapoos aren’t too demanding and do well with about an hour of daily exercise. Smaller varieties may be able to get by with shorter walks and plenty of playtime inside the home.

One essential need that Cockapoos have is the need to be around people. Cockapoos were bred mainly for companionship, so they do best in families where they won’t be left alone for long hours. They can develop separation anxiety and become unhappy and depressed if they’re constantly left home alone.


hepper-dog-paw-divider2Final Thoughts

Merle Cockapoos are rare, so it can be especially delightful to come across one. While dog fanciers may have concerns about Merle Poodles and are suspicious of crossbreeding, this isn’t as big of an issue for Merle Cockapoos. American Cocker Spaniels can have the merle gene, and everyday dog owners are less likely to care about the pedigree of a mixed-breed dog.

More than appearance, prospective dog owners should look for a dog that’s healthy and matches their lifestyle. So, even if you find a rare and adorable Merle Cockapoo, it’s best to bring it home only if its temperament and personality fit well with your own.

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Featured Image Credit: Ian Francis, Shutterstock

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