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But dont they test for these things or do they develop over time? So buying a pup I wouldn't know if it has one of these problems until later, despite the fact that the breeders say the pup has been tested?

 

You automatically should dismiss a "breeder" (regardless of if they breed merle or not) that does not do the proper health testing (i.e CERF, BAER, OFA). Still, genetic health testing is not a promise that your own individual dog won't develop a problem down the road.

 

Two merles bred together is a big No-No. Resulting puppies typically have little or no quality of life, are usually deaf or hard of hearing and/or blind.

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I'm for trying out a rescue as well. The only working merle border collies I know are in the northeast. Look at www.nebca.net and I think you may find them in the breeders section.

 

Put your request in through a rescue; They will find a match for you if you are patient...and starting with a little bit older pup is a great idea; Even if something isn't on their website sometimes they have something come in that will match "exactly" what you want.

 

Good luck

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Merles are fairly popular in my area but not overly so - I think this is due to the fact that Border Collies are kept either as sporting or pet dogs in my area.

 

Yes, "kept" and "bred" for sports and pets......I imagine the you do have some great recommendations for the OP.

 

Again, I rest my case.

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So what were they bred for? As others have noted, there are just a few (can be counted on less than one hand) working breeders who have merle dogs and might have puppies. That means all the sport and pet merles out there are being bred for something else, perhaps their color?

 

I believe the point being made by Elizabeth and others is that most of the people producing merle puppies aren't doing it for any reason that could be helpful to the breed as a whole. That's why so many folks have suggested rescue. It's a win-win situation: Instead of encouraging people to continue to pump out candy colored dogs by buying a pup from a breeder, the OP has the opportunity to rescue one that's already been put on the ground--providing a home for the dog of his/her color choice without adding to the demand side of supply/demand.

 

J.

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I must have missed the part where I mentioned they were bred for sports and pets.

 

Liz

 

You might take a moment to visit:

 

Welcome to the BC Boards -- READ THIS FIRST

 

Bullet #2 is particularly pertinent to this discussion....and #5....and all the others.

 

It's a good place for new people to learn about the philosophy behind the Border Collie Boards....and a good refresher for some that have been here awhile and have forgotten.

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Liz

 

You might take a moment to visit:

 

Welcome to the BC Boards -- READ THIS FIRST

 

Bullet #2 is particularly pertinent to this discussion....and #5....and all the others.

 

It's a good place for new people to learn about the philosophy behind the Border Collie Boards....and a good refresher for some that have been here awhile and have forgotten.

 

You completely ignored my question.

 

I repeat myself - once again - where in my post did I say that these dogs were bred by anyone other than a working breeder?

 

I live in a state where the ranchers utilize their dogs heavily and daily, and as such might not be able to get away from their work on the ranches to go to a trial or "prove" their working ability in trials... more than one of these ranches runs a merle dog.

 

FYI, since you obviously are riding a high horse (and now I am aggravated) the breeder for merle dogs that I suggest 99.9% of the time is a breeder in Canada, who most recently has been running (and winning) in Open trials with a merle.

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FYI, since you obviously are riding a high horse (and now I am aggravated) the breeder for merle dogs that I suggest 99.9% of the time is a breeder in Canada, who most recently has been running (and winning) in Open trials with a merle.

Even if there are some successful merle working dogs, I do not think there are many, and I believe that the breed of border collies has much more to lose than win by perpetuation of the merle gene. It is just a coat color after all. Unusual coat colors present a huge attraction to puppy millers. But in this case, it's not just a color. There are serious health and life quality risks to puppies when merle x merle breedings occur, and sadly I don't see a future without some foolish, ignorant, or greedy humans who, purposefully or not, victimize dogs. It's just not worth it for the sake of a color. This gene we do not need.

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You are advocating breeding against a particular coat color, regardless of working talent, because it's possible to breed them badly or exploit them through puppy mills? Doesn't that apply to all dogs in all colors? It would seem to me, if the founders of the breed wanted to eliminate merle from the gene pool, it would have been easy, as it is a dominant trait. If it were never occurring in a useful, valuable dog, why would they bother to breed that dog? However, they kept it. Presumably, because under that fur were some good dogs. I am bothered by the idea that you would want to eliminate any contribution from them just because they are the trend of the moment. Trends pass. I don't think whatever the fashion is in another area should affect the choice of dogs used to breed sheepdogs.

 

JMHO

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You are advocating breeding against a particular coat color, regardless of working talent, because it's possible to breed them badly or exploit them through puppy mills?

Yes.

 

Others may disagree with my view. Other coat colors e.g. red don't bring the possibility of severely compromiised puppies the way that merle does.

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I beg to differ: Too much white can lead to deafness, and white factoring is a much more subtle and hard to pick out trait than a merle. If someone is going to breed a merle dog, looks up and sees a merle bitch, they can know, immediately, not a good idea. They are little spotted signposts saying "don't breed us together." Other colors have been linked to allergies, coat problems and skin sensitivities. Unfortunately, the merle to merle breedings have been quite thoroughly explored by idiot mini aussie breeders in the area and they have bred double merle dogs without issues - ones that have the gene from both parents. They do it to produce males that will always sire merles. It sucks that they do that, I'll agree on that point. But, even with a merle to merle breeding you only have a 1 in 4 chance of a double merle puppy, and that puppy may or may not be affected. To attenuate the sheepdog gene pool by eliminating every dog that inherits a certain pigmentation simply because its fashionable with the sport dog set or has been exploited by idiots seems tragic to me. Don't we want the sheepdog genetic pool to be deep and broad, rather than closed off to an inbred trickle like they do with show dogs?

 

Just my opinion, and I don't own sheep and don't plan to be a dog breeder, but I would hate for the true border collie sheepdog that is out there today to be walled off into some esoteric ghost of its former self because breeders got into the show dog mindset and were focusing on desirable and undesirable markings and not on breeding the best sheep dogs.

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Diana,

Consider that there are so few merles in the working population of dogs: that would imply that largely they *weren't* deliberately kept (otherwise there'd be a whole bunch more in the working population). That's a discussion that's been had here a number of times before. Whether merles weren't kept because there was prejudice against the color or some other working-related reason is unknown, but the fact is that the merle explosion is a relatively recent phenomenon, and not among most working breeders. Choosing to breed *for* merle means the breeder is putting color first, and frankly, the working merles out there aren't burning up the trial world, for the most part (yes, there are a couple of exceptions, but I still haven't seen working folk lining up for such dogs, and if there were folks lined up for them, then the numbers would rise at the top levels of USBCHA trialing and that's not happening either).

 

Most of the demand for merles and other candy colors is coming out of other sectors, and therefore they're being bred for other reasons.

 

J.

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Just my opinion, and I don't own sheep and don't plan to be a dog breeder, but I would hate for the true border collie sheepdog that is out there today to be walled off into some esoteric ghost of its former self because breeders got into the show dog mindset and were focusing on desirable and undesirable markings and not on breeding the best sheep dogs.

Since there are folks who need and use working dogs--the vast majority of which are not special colors--it's unlikely that the scenario you envision would ever happen. It's much more likely that the rampant breeding for special colors and other activities without real concern for working ability that will cause the "esoteric ghost of its former self" phenomenon. In fact, that has already happened among those populations of dogs.

 

And WRT to your comments about health, please give us more information on the health issues you are aware of that are related to color. White factor to white factor is no more likely to produce deaf puppies than any other cross (save merle-merle). There may be a correlation between mostly white heads and deafness, but there's no real way to predict mostly white heads. The only real issue I know of is the alopecia that occurs in dilute colors (and while blue does appear in working dogs, the dilutes, especially lilac are--once again--a phenomenon that is largely being created by breeders who are addressing demand for candy colors).

 

J.

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Too tired and with too much work let to do, to say much more than what Julie and several others have said, and said much better than I.

 

I think most defense of merles being bred is being put forth by people who have and like merles. Fine, there is nothing wrong with your dog. But unusual or rare colors (how the poor breeders like to tout their "rare" colors!) will always be a draw to folks who may appreciate appearance more than substance. Producing merles from the few good working dogs would only allow someone else, down the line, to breed for color not working quality. It happens too often to be ignored.

 

Any breeder who promotes "dogs of color" (which essentially means anything but b/w and b/w tri) is promoting something other than simply good, working-bred dogs. They have put another criteria that is totally superfluous into their breeding program, and therefore compromised their program.

 

Someone once commented that a large-scale breeder (who shall remain nameless) mentions on their website that dog so-and-so "carries the red gene". This person who made the comment is from the UK currently, and felt that that breeder mentioned this because people don't care to have red pups produced and might not want to breed to that dog. On the contrary, that breeder is all about the pet and sport market, and sees "dogs of color" as another marketing tool. It is a marketing tool but shouldn't be that or a breeding tool, not for a responsible breeder.

 

And, if I wanted another dog or pup, and a merle of very promising breeding and ability was available, it would be just like any other dog - either it's the right one for me or not, merle or not. But there are so few of them that the likelihood of that happening is pretty tiny.

 

I'll step on someone's toes with my comments but that's my opinion.

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Also, for what it's worth, merle isn't always glaringly obvious. A friend of mine bred an Aussie who looked like a slate-blue tri. He had the tiniest little patch of light gray on top of his head. Even though genetically he was a merle, it was not easy to spot at all.

 

http://www.ashgi.org/color/Cryptic_Merles.html

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I live in the dessert. I value the lighter coloring because there is a distinct advantage when working in the direct sun. Breeding against that lighter coloring for dogs that are consistently more heat stressed doesn't seem wise to me. The lighter merle coloring is a valuable trait, in my area. Other people live in different climates where a black dog isn't at a profound disadvantage. But, if you limit the gene pool to those dogs that are dark colored, you limit their usefulness.

 

Why do that? They aren't show dogs. It shouldn't matter what color they are.

 

Yes, the other coat color traits I was referencing were the thin coats on dilutes and the higher incidence of deafness in dogs with white ears, and the higher incidence of allergies among reds. The only health problem associated with merles is merle to merle breedings, and that is easily avoided. Would that all health problems were as easy to avoid!

 

My point is, that ALL of these health concerns are brought about by limiting the dogs you breed to by coat color. Limiting to dark dogs in a hot dessert climate isn't a good idea, either. We need the diversity. I don't believe there is one perfect, quintessential sheepdog. I think the border collie is a good sheepdog because of its variety. I hate to see that curtailed by those who are the current curators of the breed without a very good reason. You make the border collie sheepdog less by these kinds of choices, in my opinion.

 

As I said, I am not a breeder. I don't currently own sheep. My opinion is kind of irrelevant, but that's what it is.

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Rather than perpetuate merles and other light colors, with the justification that some people live in a "hot dessert" (sounds like you are living in something tasty and warm that is normally eaten after dinner, instead of in the heat and sunshine of the "desert" - sorry, the image made me chuckle, kind of like envisioning someone in a puddle of hot fudge), there are breeds like the Kelpie that have been bred for work in warmer climates. Although maybe they wouldn't count because they tend towards dark colors, too.

 

I know studies have been made of heat penetration through different coat colors and so on, but have neither the time nor the energy right now to see if I can locate the results. The Border Collie or working sheepdog was never bred or selected (in their homelands) for working in hot, desert climates. I don't think taking them to a vastly different climate is justification for breeding for other colors.

 

If a breeding produces a "dog of color" and that dog is a quality working dog, then that's just fine. If that dog/bitch is the right cross for a breeding, then that's fine. But if you removed all "dogs of color" that are breeding-worthy from the gene pool, it would not significantly reduce the gene pool - there are very, very few of them compared to the b/w and b/w tris.

 

JMO, you have yours, and I doubt any of us will change anyone else's opinion in this discussion.

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LOL, I'll grant you that I should use spell-checker and proof read a bit more. Hmmm, now I am thinking about a warm brownie a la mode.

 

No, I doubt we will change each other's opinions, and that's okay. I never learn much from just interacting with those that agree with me. I just want to make sure the other side is stated, and people can make their own decisions.

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Well there are working stockdogs all over the western states, including hot climates (not to mention in the south where it's hot *and* humid) and I've yet to see any stock person argue for a lighter colored dog in order to deal with the heat. That's a new one on me. If that were the case, then I would argue for all-white dogs as they surely would reflect the heat better than a merle, whose dark patches and grey patches would absorb heat to some greater degree than a white coat would. Slicker coats, perhaps, but not lighter colors. I'd love to hear the Texans weigh in on the need for merle coloring in order to manage stock in a stress-free manner for the dog.... (We have a member here who lives in the Las Vegas area and I don't recall her ever mentioning that she needed lighter colored dogs to better survive the local temps while working.)

 

I own three red dogs and know lots of other red dogs, and this is the first I've heard of red dog = allergy prone. I wonder where you're getting your information? Hearsay? Limited anecdotal evidence?

 

And I have to ask, but since you don't own stock, how is it that you are able to state that a merle colored dog is at an advantage for working stock in the heat? As Sue points out, the Australian kelpie comes in red and black, and I don't think Ozzies are choosing red over black so that the dogs can deal with the heat. The border collies used in Australia aren't exactly all (if any) merles either.

 

You can't escape the fact that merle dogs are a tiny, tiny percentage of the overall working population (and I mean true working stockdogs, not dogs bred for sport or versatility or whatever). It stands to reason, then, that exceptional merles would be an infinitesimally smaller portion of that group. For example, if we were to assume that 10 percent of all B&W working bred border collies are exceptional workers and extrapolate that across all colors, then 10%--and I'm just pulling these numbers out of thin air for illustrative purposes--of all working merles could also be considered exceptional. If working merles make up 5% of all working border collies, then the number of exceptional working merles is 10% of 5%--a tiny number. Therefore, people who are breeding working dogs for merle coloring are choosing a de facto working standard that trends toward the lower end of the bell curve of working ability. There's no other way to put it. No one who understands breeding and genetics would argue that breeding large numbers of non-exceptional working merles is going to improve the overall working genetics of the working border collie.

 

Perhaps you should search previous threads about merles. I've used a racehorse analogy in the past (choosing the breed greys vs. brown/bays, despite the overwhelming numbers of browns/bays who win compared to greys) and don't care to go into it yet again. But it's a useful analogy and illustrates the same argument being made here regarding merles vs. other colors.

 

I'm not trying to be mean, but I'm having a hard time understanding where you're getting your information from and how you can apply that information to dogs who work stock when you apparently aren't a livestock raiser yourself.

 

J.

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Just my opinion, but I think people do change their opinions from reading threads here on the Boards.

 

Do you remember the young woman last year (from Arizona, I think) who was thinking of buying an AKC puppy? The Border Collie Boards opened her eyes to a lot, as it did mine. I sent her a copy of "The Dog Wars," and she passed it on to another person who "didn't know any better."

 

I certainly learned a lot - about the AKC, the reasons for breeding (or not breeding) Border Collies, food issues, training issues and other things too. I'm still learning.

 

That's why I keep coming back. That's why some of the old-time regulars keep on pounding out posts on the same subjects - because it does change people's minds. Not always - but sometimes.

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My observations on merle vs black dogs in direct sunlight is based only upon my observations of the various dogs I interact with regularly and who goes to shade the quickest, and who seems to be the most distressed by the heat. I doubt color would have any affect on heat tolerance in humidity, but you go outside and stand in the sun dressed all in black and see how you prefer it to being dressed in a lighter color. Or, simply touch the fur of a black dog that's been in the NM sun compared to a merle whose been out in the sun. Or watch them - who is panting soonest? Who is going to shade the soonest? Merle or light colored is absolutely an advantage where I live.

 

My argument is not that you should breed for merles, simply that you shouldn't breed against without good reason. I have yet to hear a valid reason that couldn't be more validly applied to other colors and traits.

 

However, you can have whatever opinion your reasoning leads you to, and I will hold the opinion that my reasoning leads to. It's a big world. But choosing to breed against a color trait when color isn't what you are breeding for is just not logic I can wrap my mind around and it makes me sad.

 

I have said my concern over and over: Why breed against a color without good reason? Why allow the fashions of the sport dog world influence the breeding choices of real stock dogs? Why limit the gene pool unnecessarily? Why not simply breed for the best?

 

I have read every thread on here. I have also worked with double merle rescue dogs. I know that issue. I understand the concern that merle dogs are flashy and people are drawn to them and inclined to overbreed them or engage in bad breeding practices to get pretty colors. But, that isn't what we are debating. We are debating whether it is beneficial to the gene pool of the working border collie to chop out a chunk of it based on coat color, when that chunk of it (however small a percentage it may be) has been present in the border collie from the first and would have been easy to breed out, as it's a dominant trait. It seems to have suddenly become undesirable as a reaction to it becoming desirable in the sport and pet world. I don't think that trend should influence the stockdog world.

 

That is my issue. As I said, I doubt it's relevant to anyone but me as I don't breed stockdogs, nor do I intend to. I doubt I would ever buy a stockdog. I just hate to see the breed attenuated because although I don't own one, nor do I intend to, I admire what they can do and hope they continue, in the diverse wonderment of a dog for every job that they currently are.

 

Make the choices that seem best.

 

And, yes, hoping to learn and grow is why I keep coming back to these boards. I sincerely hope I will continue learning until the day I die. But, I think this issue is one that the opinions on either side have been so dug in, I doubt either side will move.

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My argument is not that you should breed for merles, simply that you shouldn't breed against without good reason. I have yet to hear a valid reason that couldn't be more validly applied to other colors and traits.

 

The good reason is that border collies should be bred for working ability first and foremost.

 

There are very, very few quality working merle border collies. That is simply a fact. If one is breeding with the intent to perpetuate quality working border collies, therefore, the likelihood that merle border collies possess such quality (in a working sense) is very, very small. Therefore, merles are generally (and, as noted, there are a few exceptions) not being bred to by working breeders, further reducing their numbers from the working gene pool.

 

Their unpopularity with working breeders doesn't really have anything to do with their popularity in other circles.

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My argument is not that you should breed for merles, simply that you shouldn't breed against without good reason. I have yet to hear a valid reason that couldn't be more validly applied to other colors and traits.

It seems that what you are not hearing or are disagreeing with is that there truly are valid reasons to select against the merle trait: the attraction to puppy millers and the compromised health and quality of life of puppies produced by merle X merle breedings. Both are very serious issues. You say that it only is necessary to avoid merle X merle breedings. If only it were really so simple! It's not, and it's denying reality to say it is. You yourself admit you know of merle X merles purposeful breedings. Sadly, as long the gene is present, idiots and a**h*les will do purposefully or permit merle X merle breedings. One-quarter of those puppies is a lot of dogs, and it is too many dogs condemned to suffer deafness, microophthalmia, blindness, etc., and in fact it is *NOT* a small minority of merle X merle puppies who are affected badly.

 

Handlers who know what they are talking about aver that there are VERY few excellent working merles. As to heat, I see a big difference in the tolerance of my smoothie and my rough-coated dog. I don't believe color is the issue.

 

 

I have yet to hear a valid reason that merle border collies should be bred.

 

 

[All of you with merle dogs, please don't take offense -- I'm not talking about your dog you love, I'm talking about a gene. A piece of DNA.]

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I have said my concern over and over: Why breed against a color without good reason? Why allow the fashions of the sport dog world influence the breeding choices of real stock dogs? Why limit the gene pool unnecessarily? Why not simply breed for the best?

Hmmm. I think that breeding for the best working stock dog is what most people here on the Boards are for. I don't think I've ever heard (read?) anyone here espousing breeding for or against any particular color. It's been pointed out that statistically, you are going to find it more difficult to find a top-quality working merle Border Collie than one of the more traditional colors. So if the only true rationale for breeding Border Collies is to produce the best working dogs, then I think the merle will have a harder time making the cut.

 

There may be high-quality working individual merles out there - but what of the dogs behind them? And their progeny, should they have any? It would be hard enough to find a top-quality working individual merle, but finding one that had top-quality working parents, grandparents, etc. AND also was able to pass on his or her sterling working traits would be approaching the impossible.

 

However, if you did find such a dog, I don't think any of the people here would have a problem with him or her being bred. What's wanted is a dog that gets the job done, and can pass his talent on.

 

As far as prejudice against the color in the breed goes, who knows why merles fell out of favor with the old-time shepherds? I can imagine that in a rainy country where there was often mist and fog, a merle dog working at a distance would be less visible to the shepherd, and more importantly to the sheep. If sheep don't see a dog until he is right among them he will not be as effective at controlling them.

 

Imagine a red dog or a merle dog in a field of heather or brush. It would all but disappear - especially in low light. A boldly marked black and white dog or a black tri will draw the eye of the stock much more readily in those conditions. The dog which is perceived more readily at a distance would have to cover less ground, and willy-nilly be more "energy efficient."

 

The breed was developed in those hilly, often wet conditions. Is it any wonder that a dog, regardless of how keen, with such a disadvantage would not have been selected for?

 

I don't think anyone argues that a merle dog nowadays isn't as good with stock simply because of his color. But for whatever reason - the one I just suggested or some other, the old-time creators of this breed saw a disadvantage in the grey dogs. If they hadn't there would be many more merles of exceptional working quality now.

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However, if you did find such a dog, I don't think any of the people here would have a problem with him or her being bred. What's wanted is a dog that gets the job done, and can pass his talent on..

Actually, Geonni, I disagree. Merle is different. There's a hazard there that's not present for, say, red. Google "lethal white border collie" or "lethal white australian shepherd". "Lethal white" is a shorthand for a double-merle dog. You will see many rescues devoted to saving these dogs. As the Amazing Aussies rescue in Arizona says, "Lethal Whites can only result from a merle to merle breeding, but not every puppy in the litter is a (MM) white. Statistics indicate that approximately 25% of the litter will be homozygous pups. The pups may show signs of deafness, blindness or a combination of the two, however it should be noted that some pups with this gene can hear and see. Those pups are the lucky ones. The defects can vary from minor vision and hearing loss to complete deafness and blindness. Double merles can also be born without eyes, or eyes that have failed to develop properly." Our local rescue here in southern California has a hard time finding homes for these dogs. And as long as that trait is present, double merle puppies will be born. There are just too many idiots in the world.

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