Get to Know the Unique Red Merle Australian Shepherd

Australian shepherds are undeniably beautiful dogs, but the red merle Australian shepherd is particularly good-looking, with its uniquely mottled coat. 

Curious about what sets the red merle Aussie apart? This article will give you everything you need to know. 

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd laying on grass
A portrait image of a Red Merle Australian Shepherd

Where did the Red Merle Australian Shepherd originate? 

Despite their name, the Australian Shepherd breed wasn’t developed in Australia.

The original dogs came from the Basques in Spain, the AKC reports that there is some evidence that they may have used British sheepdogs to mix with local breeds. 

A blue eyed purebred Australian Shepherd dog
A half profile image of a purebred Australian Shepherd dog

They were brought by immigrants to Australia, where they were refined further. Then, as people left Australia and headed to the United States, they brought their dogs along with them. 

Once in California, local ranchers admired the breed’s ability to work on ranches and assumed that the pups had come from Australia. That’s where they got their name.

From that point, they were developed solely in the United States to the dog we know today.

After World War II, the dogs became famous across the country for being associated with Western culture. They were featured in movies and television shows about the West and were a part of rodeos and horse shows. 

A few Aussies even starred in some Disney films, including Run Appaloosa Run and Stub: The Greatest Cowdog in the West.

Native Americans thought the dogs were sacred because of their pale blue eyes. While not all Aussies have distinct eye coloring, some do, and they were called “ghost eyes” by some native tribes.

Today, they are famous for their ability to thrive in dog sports like agility, herding, trick competitions, flyball, and diving. 

Aussies come in a range of colors, but the only way to get a red merle Australian shepherd is to breed two dogs that carry the red colored goat gene.

The Australian Shepherd is recognized by the Australian Shepherd Club of America, the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Federation Cynologique Internationale, and the United Kennel Club.

What does a Red Merle Australian Shepherd look like?

There’s no denying that the red merle Australian shepherd is a strikingly beautiful dog. They’re less common than the blue merle coloring, which makes them stand out even more. 

Aussies of all coat colors can really stand out because of their beautiful eye color.

Red merle Aussies can have solid colored eyes or they might have marbled or flecks of different colors.

They may have two solid blue eyes or two solid brown eyes. They might also have brown eyes with flecks of blue, or two solid blue eyes with marbled brown.

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd looking adorable with tongue sticking out
A Red Merle Australian Shepherd with its tongue sticking out

Then, they might have completely different colors or color patterns in each eye, something is known as heterochromia. That might look like one solid brown and one solid blue eye. Or maybe each eye will have a different blue or brown marbled pattern.

According to the United States Australian Shepherd Association, amber-colored eyes are the most common. 

The AKC breed standard says that regardless of color, their topline should have a straight back and level withers.

They should have a deep chest and a straight docked or naturally bobbed tail. The neck should be arched and moderate in length.

Their head should be in proportion to their body, with a tapered muzzle, almond eyes, triangular ears, and a flat to the slightly domed skull. 

Wondering how big a red merle Aussie can get?

Red merle Australian Shepherds can come in both the standard size and the miniature size. 

The miniature dog is about 20-30 pounds and anywhere from 14-18 inches at the shoulder. 

The standard size gets anywhere from 35-70 pounds and 18-23 inches at the shoulder. Females are typically on the smaller end, while males tend to be heavier and taller. 

All about that beautiful red coat

Before we jump into the details about coat colors, we need to talk a little about Red Merle Australian Shepherd genetics. All dogs will inherit either solid color or merle pattern from their parents. 

Australian Shepherd sitting on a grass garden with dried leaves during fall season
Australian Shepherd sitting on a garden with fall leaves

Both parents must have the red coat gene to produce red merle puppies. That doesn’t mean that both parents have to BE red themselves. They just need to carry the gene. 

Good breeders won’t mate two merle dogs together. That’s because the puppies could have too much white, and dogs without pigment are prone to poor eyesight, hearing, and other problems.

So what about Australian shepherd colors? When we talk about the red color coats in dogs, we don’t mean bright red like a stop sign. Red can mean anything from a rusty brown to a light cinnamon color. 

The red doesn’t make the Aussie any different from any other color of Aussie, it is merely cosmetic. 

Red is a recessive gene, so that means it is a rarer coat color than the other Aussie colors. 

Aussies can inherit one of two coat patterns. The first is merle. The second is solid, also known as self. 

The merle gene creates patches of color, blended with solid patches. It can also impact eye pigment and skin pigment. 

Solid, as the name implies, creates a dog with either one color or solid patches of two or three colors.

Dogs can be one color or pattern, two colors or patterns (known as bicolor), or three colors or patterns, known as tricolor. You might see red, white, and black tri Aussies or blue, brown, and white, for instance.

Typically, you’ll see red merle tricolor Aussies with white markings, merle coloring throughout, and patches of solid black, red, silver, or brown. 

The bicolor red merle is usually red merle and white. Then, you’ll also see pups that are entirely red merle without white or other patches of color.

The spots can be tiny or they can be large spots that cover large sections of their bodies. 

Solid red dogs are extremely rare, but they are out there. You’ll also see solid bicolor red mixed with white and solid tricolor red mixed with white and copper on the face, neck, and legs.

All Aussies, including the red kind, have a double coat. The outer layer is weatherproof, repelling snow, rain, and sun. The shorter undercoat layer provides them with insulation against heat, cold, and wind. 

You can really see how pretty the red merle coat can be in this video of an adorable Aussie pup. 

Get to know the Red Merle Australian Shepherd personality

One of the first things you may be wondering is if the red merle coloring impacts a dog’s personality. The answer, at least as far as science can tell so far, is no.

Personality is impacted by breeding, life experience, and genes, not coat color.

Red Australian Shepherds, just like any other color of Aussie, is an incredibly loyal friend. They love to be a part of their pack, which includes you and the rest of your family. 

They can be a little standoffish with strangers until they get to know them better, but once they accept someone as part of their pack, they are a friend for life

Their loyal nature is both a good thing and a bad thing. While it’s wonderful to have a companion that always wants to be by your side, if you have to leave them behind from time to time, they can experience separation anxiety. 

When this happens, they may bark, whine, have accidents in the house, or they might chew on something, particularly if it smells like you.

Don’t worry, you can train any dog to be calm when you leave by rewarding them for being calm as you step out of the door. 

Red merle Australian Shepherds need to be socialized when they are young. That means exposing them to a range of different experiences in a positive way to teach them to accept a wide range of situations with calm acceptance. 

Red Merle Australian Shepherds with a black printed bandana collar
Meet Marlow, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd smiling and looking proud – Image source

Puppy kindergarten helps with this, but you should also be sure to introduce them to lots of different people, show them strange things like umbrellas and shopping carts, and take them for lots of rides. 

Training doesn’t stop after socialization. These are clever dogs, and if you don’t keep training them for life, they will train themselves in ways that you might not like so much! 

One thing that likely contributes to the popularity of this breed is that they make great family dogs. In fact, they are great with kids of all ages! 

Of course, both your child and your dog should be taught to play carefully and nicely with one another.

Remember, Aussies are herding dogs and they have a strong herding instinct. They may try to herd little kids around, so teach them that this is unacceptable. 

How to take care of your Red Merle Australian Shepherd

Aussies are active dogs and they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to be happy. If you neglect them, they’ll use their smarts to get into trouble.

Here’s how to make sure your dog is happy and well taken care of. 

Exercising your Red Merle Australian Shepherd

One of the biggest aspects of caring for your Aussie is giving them the exercise they need. These are high-energy dogs!

They won’t be content to sit around on your couch and watch TV. They also aren’t happy running around the yard alone. 

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd having its fur blown by the wind
Meet Duco, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd loving the sun – Image source

They want to be with you and they want to do something that helps them expend all that pent up energy that they have. 

At a minimum, they need 30-60 minutes of exercise every single day, rain or shine. They need at least an hour of walking a day, plus time to run, jump, fetch, herd, and otherwise exercise.

It really helps if you have plenty of backyard playtime to keep them healthy and happy. Throw a ball or frisbee, play hide and seek, make your own agility course – whatever it takes!

Grooming your gorgeous dog

Remember how we talked about that gorgeous, fluffy double coat? Well, it requires some maintenance. 

While you don’t need to brush them on a daily basis, you do need to break out the rake and comb at least once a week to work through their coat. You should also brush their teeth while you’re at it. 

Frequent brushing helps to control shedding because Aussies shed quite a bit. They shed year-round, but especially in the spring and fall when they blow their coat. 

If you brush them often, the shedding hair comes off in the brush rather than all over your sofa and carpet. 

Every few weeks, trim their nails. If you hear the clackity clack sound of their nails on the ground as they walk, it’s time for a trim. 

Every 6-8 weeks, give your dog a bath with a doggy-specific shampoo. You might also want to use a conditioner to keep their coat looking healthy and tangle-free. 

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd having a bath
Meet Bindi, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd soaking in the tub – Image source

Feeding / Nutrition

So how much food should a Red Merle Australian Shepherd eat? The merle coat doesn’t make them any different than any other Aussie when it comes to feeding. 

That said, red merle Australian shepherds have big appetites! They need about 4 cups of food per day, depending on their energy level. That translates to about 1300 calories for a 50-pound dog.

Adjust as needed by keeping an eye on your pup. They should look fit and you should be able to feel an indent in their waist.

The best food for a Red Merle Australian Shepherd is meat-based without fillers like soy or corn. Protein should be the first ingredient.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd health issues

Aussies in general have a few health problems you need to watch out for, but the merle color gene can be particularly concerning from a health perspective. 

As we mentioned above, if a merle is bred to a merle, whether it’s blue or red, the puppy is what is known as a “double merle” or “homozygous,” which means two identical pairs of genes. 

A Miniature Australian Shepherd biting a dried leaf
Meet Luna, a fall loving Miniature Australian Shepherd dog – Image source

They might have all kinds of health problems, including blindness, deafness, skin sensitivity, and eye sensitivity. They might have abnormal eye development or might be missing one or both eyes. 

Even if you don’t have a “double merle” dog, they still might suffer from eye problems such as cataracts and ear problems such as deafness, though it is less common. 

Your pup might also have joint problems like hip and/or elbow dysplasia. 

Australian shepherd dogs also suffer from cancer, epilepsy, and other health issues. Make sure to do a health screening on any new dog that you get.

If you obtain your dog from a breeder, be sure to ask for the health screenings of the parent dogs, as well. 

The Red Merle Australian shepherd lifespan averages about 12-14 years. Many of them normally live for about 14 years. 

While it’s hard to say what most red merle Aussies die from, all Aussies, in general, die from cancer more than any other cause, according to the Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Institute.

How much is a Red Merle Australian Shepherd puppy?

Wondering how much a Red Merle Australian Shepherd costs? The price can vary depending on the quality of the breeder and the dog itself.

Most Aussies cost anywhere from $600 to $3,000, but most fall on the lower end of the scale. 

However, you should expect to pay more for a red merle Australian shepherd. Often the price goes up because they are so hard to come by. 

A cute Red Merle Australian Shepherd puppy
Meet Bennie, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd puppy – Image source

Find a Breeder

You won’t find breeders who exclusively have red merle Australian shepherds because you can’t predict if you will always end up with an entirely red litter. You may have a blue merle Australian shepherd in the mix. 

When choosing a Red Merle Australian Shepherd breeder, there are a few things to watch for. 

If you spot a super cheap red merle Aussie, beware! Make sure to ask the breeder plenty of questions about their breeding program, the health history of your potential dog, and ask to meet the parents, if possible. 

Any breeder who isn’t totally open and who is unwilling to produce medical certifications should be avoided. It can also help to check a breeder’s reputation with the various Australian shepherd clubs. 

Canyon Creek Aussies often have red pups, as do High Desert Aussies. Again, be sure to do your research before settling on a breeder.

Rescuing or Adopting a Red Merle Australian Shepherd

There are always Aussies looking for homes, even the more rare red merle Aussie. Don’t hesitate to find your new best friend by checking out local and regional Australian Shepherd rescues. 

Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline is a great place to start. New Spirit 4 Aussie Rescue is another good option. 

You may also want to check general dog rescues like local shelters, the Humane Society, or Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. 

Who should get a Red Merle Australian Shepherd dog?

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd dog smiling
This is Duco again, being a happy pup while having an adventure – Image source

So what’s the bottom line? Is the red merle Australian shepherd dog right for you? Why not get a border collie or some other similar working dog, instead? 

Aussies stand out because they are incredibly intelligent, loving, loyal, and ideal for families. But they might not be the right dog for everyone. So what’s good and bad about Red Merle Australian Shepherds?

As we said, they’re brilliant and they will stick like velcro to the humans that they love. They also have a high drive to work, so they’re ideal for people who need a working dog.

They’re easy to train and ideal if you live an active lifestyle. 

The cons are that they can be a challenge for owners who aren’t prepared to deal with their intelligence. They also aren’t the right fit for people who aren’t active or willing to exercise their dogs a lot.

Finally, double-merle dogs can have some serious health challenges. 

Only you can decide if they’re the right dog for you, but a red merle Australian shepherd can be the perfect dog breed for the right person.

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