Merle Great Dane

This is a complete guide on merle Great Danes.

I am going to be breaking down everything that you need to know about the Great Dane color and also show you how it is achieved.

Here are some of the topics we are going to cover:

So without much being said, let’s dive in.

What Is A Merle Great Dane?

A merle Great Dane is one with a light base coat and irregularly shaped dark blotches evenly distributed across the dog’s body. Merle Great Danes mostly differ from the harlequin pattern in that the base color is blue instead of white.

what is a merle great dane

The merle gene come in different colors and patterns but the most common base coat color for Great Danes is blue.

According to Wikipedia;

The gene mostly creates mottled patches of color in a solid or piebald coat, blue or odd-colored eyes, and can affect skin pigment as well. There are two general types of colored patches that will appear in a merle coat: liver (red merle) and black (blue merle).

Merle patterns are usually seen in dog breeds like Great Danes, Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and many more.

It is not encouraged to breed two merle Great Danes together due to the health issues faced by double merle dogs.

White Great Danes are mostly the result of two merles mating together. They are mostly have an all white base coat color with very few markings.

The recommended way of producing a merle Great Dane is to breed a merle with a non-merle dog of any color.

Are Merle Great Danes Rare?

Merle Great Danes are common in Great Dane dogs and other breeds like the Australian Shepherd and Pembroke Welsh Corgi. You can typically find one merle Great Dane in a litter so it is fair to say that the coat color is not rare.

However, since there are many variations of the merle pattern, some coat colorings are rare.

For example, merle Great Danes with a blue or brown coloring are typically rare than those with grey markings.

So it can be said that merles might be rare depending on the specifications of the markings you might be looking for.

Many breeders take advantage of this fact and sell all merle Great Danes at high prices even though some markings are much more common than others.

Merle Great Dane Variations

There are many variations for the Great Dane merle pattern although the blue merle with a popular grey base color is considered to be the most common one.

Here are some of the merle varieties of the Great Dane coat color:

Blue Merle

blue merle great dane

Blue merle Great Danes are the most common type of the merle variation in the dog breed. They are easily identified with their blue grey base coat color with black irregularly shaped patches spread all over their body.

The major difference between a blue merle and a harlequin Great Dane is that they have a blue base color instead of white. The neck is also a key difference since harlequins are much more preferred with an all white neck.


merlequin great dane

Merlequin Great Danes are very similar to harlequins in that they have a white base coat color with irregularly shaped black or grey patches spread across their bodies.

The major difference between a merlequin and a harlequin is that merlequins have patches that appear to be a blanket whilst harlequins have evenly distributed small patches that are irregularly shaped.

Merle Mantle

mantle merle great dane

Merle mantle Great Danes have a silver-grey blanket over a pure white base coat. The silver-grey blanket is often spotted with irregularly shaped black patches.

One of the major differences between a mantle merle and a pure mantle Great Dane is the color of the blanket marking on the white base coat.

Fawn Merle

fawn merle great dane

Fawn merle Great Danes usually have a tan or brown coloring with grey or dark spots spread all over their bodies. This variation deviates from fawn Great Danes but they can easily be confused with fawnequins which have a white base color and tan or brown spots spread all over their bodies.

Chocoloate Merle

chocolate merle great dane

Chocolate merle Great Danes are very similar to fawn merles but the major difference is that they have irregularly shaped chocolate or red spots spread all over their tan or brown coat.

Brindle Merle

Brindle merles are a combination of the traditional brindle and merle patterns. You can easily notice the multi-colored stripes from the brindle Great Dane gene and the spots from the merle gene are easily noticed.

Merle Great Dane Genetics

Dogs show a variety in coat coloring or patterns and this is mostly because during domestication and breed formation some genes responsible for coat color underwent a strong selective pressure. This includes the gene PMEL (SILV) which is responsible for pigmentation.

SILV can be basically defined as a protein found in specialized organelles for producing the black and brown pigments that give hair its color identity.

The merle pattern is inherited in an autosomal, incompletely dominant fashion in dogs. In rare cases, a dog that does not present the overt merle phenotype may possess the merle genotype and actually produce a merle offspring.

Most merle offspring are heterozygous of the merle gene but it is possible to produce a homozygous merle (MM) or double merle by mating two merles.

If two merles that are heterozygous to the merle gene mate, on average one quarter of the puppies will be double merles or homozygous to the merle gene.

Double merles are predominantly white and they often have a lot of health issues like deafness and vision impairment.

The genetics of the merle coat color in dogs is due to SINE insertion in SILV-gene, which can be of various lengths. The length of the SINE insertion is what determines how the merle gene will manifest in a dog.

In the next section I am going to be breaking down the different variations of the merle-alleles.

Variation Of Great Dane Merle-Alleles

There are some variations to the merle-allele in Great Danes and these are the most common ones:

Visible Merle

These are the most popular merle Great Danes that most people are aware of. Merle Great Danes of this type usually have a light base coat color with irregularly shaped dark patches spread all over their bodies.

Hidden Merle

Hidden merles are not detectable to the natural eye. These are mostly dogs that are genetically merle but have the gene expressed in a white coat color. Dogs that have large areas of light coat color are at an increased risk of being a hidden merle.

As mentioned earlier, this allele variation is not visible to the natural eye and it can only be proven with a genetic test.

Double Merle

Double merles are homozygous to the merle (MM) gene and they are mostly produced by mating two merles that are heterozygous to the genes.

These double merle Great Danes are predominantly white with no or few markings and they are one of the most rare Dane coat patterns.

The American Kennel Club does not encourage the breeding of two merles to produce a double merle due to the health issues faced by the allele variation.

Great Dane merles should only be produced by mating one heterozygous merle with another Dane of any coat color.

Breeding Merle Great Danes

As mentioned earlier, merle Great Danes should only be bred by mating a heterozygous merle with another Dane of any color. It is not recommended to produce a merle by mating two merles.

These homozygous merles or double merles are predominantly white and they have a lot of health problems due to their genetic makeup.

This is one of the reasons why breeding merle Great Danes can be difficult for most breeders since they have to indirectly produce the color from other coat patterns.

Merle Great Dane Health Issues

Heterozygous merle Great Danes do not seem to have major health issues that are genetically related. However, homozygous or double merles have a lot of health issues due to their genetic makeup.

Here are some of the common health problems experienced by double merles:

Ocular Defects

Ocular defects are mostly described as nearsightedness. This is basically a visual impairment in which far objects appear blurred but near objects are easily seen.

The major ocular defects in double merle Great Danes are microphthalmia, conditions causing increased ocular pressure, and colobomas, among others.

Microphthalmia is an eye abnormality that occurs before birth and one or both eyeballs of the dog appear to be abnormally small. Here is an image of a double merle Great Dane with microphthalmia:

microphthalmia in great danes

On the other hand colobomas describes a condition where normal tissue in or around the eye is missing at birth. Here is an image showing colobomas in Great Danes:

colobomas in Great Danes

These ocular defects are mostly common in blue or colored eyes but there is little evidence to prove that the merle gene affects the eyes or cause blindness.

Auditory Defects

Deafness and hearing challenges are very common in dogs with a merle gene.

A study by a German researcher observed 38 dachshunds and partial hearing loss was found in 54.6% of double merles and 36.8% of single merles. 1 out of the 11 (9.1%) double merles was fully deaf while none of the single merles were.

This goes to show how much the double merle gene is associated with deafness and it is mostly true for Great Dane dogs.

However, you should remember that deaf or blind dogs can still have a happy life when you properly take care of them. There are so many activities like agility and therapy where deaf or blind dogs can successfully compete.

Skeletal Abnormalities

Abnormalities of the skeletal system is another common health issue faced by double merle Great Danes. These abnormalities are mostly visible in the legs of the dog.

Cardiac Problems

Double merle Great Danes are also at risk of cardiac problems. These may include chest pains, high blood pressure and other heart related problems. If your dog has a dominant merle gene it is important to go for a vet checkup for diagnosis of these health challenges.

Respiratory Problems

Respiratory problems are another common health challenges faced by double merle Great Danes. These challenges may include asthma, pneumonia, and in rare cases, lung cancer.

Merle Great Dane Puppies: Cost And Price

merle great dane puppies

Coat color is actually one of the major factors that influence the cost of Great Dane dogs. Most breeders sell merle Great Danes at higher prices due to the suggestion that the color is rare but merles are actually common depending on the pattern specifications you are looking for.

The average cost of a merle Great Dane is between $600 and $3,000 depending on whether you are getting a companion or a show dog. Other factors like pattern specifications will also influence the price.

Here are some of the factors that influence the price of merle Great Danes:

PedigreeIf you are getting a pure bred merle Great Dane you should generally expect it to be more expensive. Pedigree and ancestral history have a major role to play in issues like health and temperament.
LocationThe location where you are buying your Great Dane will also influence the price. The rule of thumb is that exotic breeds are more expensive than local breeds.
BreederThe reputation and expertise of the breeder will also influence the cost of your Great Dane.
StandardThe standard of your merle Great Dane is another contributing factor to the overall price of the dog. A Dane that meets the color specifications of the American Kennel Club will be more expensive than any that shows a degree of deviation.

Merle Great Dane Temperament

The is no evidence to link coat color and temperament. Personality and temperament are mostly determined by ancestral history so you should generally expect your merle Great Dane to behave like others of any coat color.

Here are the common personality and temperament traits of Great Dane dogs:

  1. Devoted.
  2. Reserved.
  3. Loving.
  4. Friendly.
  5. Confident.
  6. Gentle.

Although ancestral history has a major role in determining the behavior of your Great Dane, training is also another key aspect that you should not neglect.

Merle Great Dane Care

Here are some quick tips on how to take care of a merle Great Dane:


Grooming is a very crucial part of taking care of your merle Great Dane. The coat color has some unique grooming needs that every Dane owner should be aware of. Here are some of the grooming tips that you should follow:

  • Thoroughly bathe your Dane with dog shampoo at least 5 times a year. Frequent bathing can deprive your dog’s coat with the necessary natural oils they need to keep their coat healthy and shiny.
  • Always dry your dog after every bath.
  • Dry shampoo your Great Dane in-between bath routines. This is very important for dogs that frequently go outdoors where they can get dirty.
  • Regularly brush your Great Dane with a short hair brush to remove loose hair, dirt and parasites.
  • Keep the ears of your merle Great Dane clean and remove any excess hair inside the ear.
  • You should also remember to regularly trim your dog’s nails. A good rule of thumb is that if you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor when they are walking you should cut the nails.


Diet and nutrition is another essential for keeping your merle Great Dane healthy, maintaining a perfect coat and good growth. Here is a quick summary on the dietary requirements of the Great Dane:

  • A Great Dane does not have to eat a lot of food despite their enormous size. It is important to only provide the necessary calories depending on your Dane’s activity level.
  • The diet of your Great Dane should generally have a lot of protein, moderate fat and low calories.
  • Give your Great Dane food with little to no by products. A good example is the  Rachael Ray Nutrish Dry which contains natural prebiotics for a healthy digestion.


Training is also another important aspect of taking good care of your merle Great Dane. The dog breed is generally easy to train but here are some basic training tips to consider:


Merle Great Danes generally have a light base color with irregularly shaped patches spread across their bodies. The most common variation of the merle color family is the blue merle which has a silver-grey base color with black patches across the body.

The inheritance of the merle color in Great Danes is due to the SINE insertion in SILV-gene, which can be of various lengths. The different variations of the merle color in Great Danes are marlequin, blue merle, brindle merle, chocolate merle, fawn merle and mantle merle.

Most merle offspring are heterozygous of the merle gene but it is possible to produce a homozygous merle (MM) or double merle by mating two merles.

These homozygous or double merles are predominantly white and they have a lot of health issues due to their genetic makeup.

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This site does not constitute pet medical advice, please consult a licensed veterinarian in your area for pet medical advice.