Skip to Content

Red Merle Australian Shepherd: All the differences

Red Merle Australian Shepherd: All the differences

The Australian Shepherd is a beautiful dog, with a long, colorful coat. They are even one of the most popular breeds in the world. According to the American Kennel Club, they take 17th place out of almost 200 dog breeds! But, have you heard of the Red Merle Australian Shepherd?

This particular variety of Australian Shepherd is one of a kind due to the remarkable coloring of its coat! But, they don’t only look good. This breed excels in speed and intelligence and also has a wonderful demeanor and disposition. In point of fact, they were so exceptional that native Americans had a holy regard for them.

However, the Red Australian Shep does have a few negative aspects to consider as well! I’m going to tell you all there is to know about the dog with the beautiful red coat, including its positive qualities as well as its flaws. 

Where did the Red Merle Australian Shepherd originate?

Contrary to popular belief the Australian Shepherd breed was developed in the United States, not Australia. But it does come from herding dogs in Europe that lived near the Pyrenees Mountains. They came to Australia in the 1800s, when some of the native Basque people took their dogs and moved in search of more land to raise cattle. 

Once in Australia, herders crossed those original dogs with Border Collies and other breeds. And, in the end, they made it to California. Ranchers in the United States thought that these Basque mix dogs were from Australia, so they called them “Australian Shepherds.” The breed kept getting better in the U.S. until it became the Aussie we know today. It became very popular as a ranch dog and in rodeos in the Western U.S. 

red merle australian shepherd

Source: Unsplash

After the end of World War II, the dogs gained widespread notoriety across the country due to their connections to Western culture. They appeared in Western-themed films and programs, as well as rodeos and horse shows, during their careers in the entertainment industry. 

Some Aussies even had roles in Disney movies like Run Appaloosa Run and Stub: The Greatest Cowdog in the West.

The American Kennel Club first recognized the Australian shepherd breed in 1991. Later in 2015, the AKC recognized the miniature American Shepherd too!

Red Merle Australian Shepherd – Appearance

First and foremost we need to make one thing clear, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd is basically still an Australian Shepherd, but with a differently colored coat.

So, the coat pattern known as “red merle” is one of the many variations seen in the Australian Shepherd breed. There isn’t much of a difference between this medium-sized dog and its other Aussie relatives in terms of demeanor and disposition, but their lovely merle coat pattern makes them stand out. 

All Australian Shepherds are medium-sized, solidly built herding dogs with a body that is somewhat longer than it is tall. The standard size of these dogs is 18 to 23 inches in height and 40 to 65 pounds in weight. Usually, female dogs are a bit smaller than males. 

The coat of an Aussie consists of two layers, which means they have a double coat. Their coat consists of a weather-resistant top coat of medium-length hair that is either straight or slightly wavy and an undercoat that allows them to adjust to both heat and cold weather. What is interesting about Aussies is that they can go weeks without needing a thorough wash, but just like any dog with long fur, they do need to be brushed once a week to remove dirt and prevent their fur from matting. It is best to brush them on a daily basis when the seasons change.

Australian shepherd colors 

Although there is a wide range of colors for Australian Shepherds, the four most common, and the only Aussie colors that are accepted by the United States Australian Shepherd Association, are black, red, red merle, and blue merle.

Now, let‘s talk a bit more about the Red Merle coat. You should know that the Red Merle Aussie isn‘t really a bright, Pippi Longstocking red color. The red spectrum is wide. So the red color in dogs can mean anything from light champagne to a strawberry blonde, even with flecks of different colors. It can also be rust color, copper, sienna, or even brown-red. When it comes to eye color a Red Merle can have either blue or solid brown eyes.

It is worth mentioning that eye color can differ from dog to dog so brown eyes might contain blue specks and vice versa. But we can say that there is often some uniformity in eye color. Another possibility is that a red merle will have one blue eye and one brown eye. 

red merle australian shepherd

Source: Unsplash

Can Red Merles have green eyes?

Generally speaking, no, blue and solid brown eyes are the norm for Red Merle Australian Shepherds. Basically, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd can inherit any of these eye color pairings:

  • Two solid brown eyes.
  • Two solid blue eyes.
  • One solid blue and one solid brown eye.
  • Two solid brown eyes marbled with blue.
  • Two solid blue eyes marbled with brown.
  • Two eyes each displaying a different brown/blue marbled pattern.

Genetics of Red Merle Australian Shepherd 

As mentioned before, to get Red Merle Aussie Shep puppies both parents have to carry the red coat recessive gene or the merle color gene But they don’t have to be red. They just need to have that red gene. So, the merle pattern and color can be a big surprise for experienced and good breeders too.

An interesting fact is that the coat of Australian Shepherds will get darker as they get older. They might even have more colors in their coat or even a different colored nose. But, how is that possible? How can they change colors? Well, it all comes down to the dog’s genetics. Some dogs go through genetic changes that will alter their appearance.

For example, two-colored dogs can turn into tri-colored dogs with different color patterns. Their nose, lips, and paw pads can change too. As well as their eye color. You will usually see different white markings besides the main, solid color of their outer layer. 

With that being said, we will talk more about the merle gene in one of our following articles.

Red Merle Australian Shepherd personality

Let’s talk about personality. Does the Red Merle Australian Shepherd have the same nature as other Aussie Sheps?

Yes! All Australian Shepherds have the same personality, Blue Merle Aussie or is not different on that subject. Red Merlecoat doesn’t play a role in it. When you get a Red Australian Shepherd, you’re getting a friend for life. Australian Shepherds are loyal and consider you a part of their pack.

Fun Fact: Australian Shepherds were considered sacred by Native Americans. They were referred to as “ghost eye”. This is because of their blue eyes, which are uncommon among dogs.

But, their loyalty can become a problem too. If you leave them alone for too long they might experience separation anxiety. Then they will bark, whine, and pee in your house. They can even chew on your furniture or shoes.

They also need to be socialized while still young. So let them experience as many situations as possible. Good and bad. They also need to meet many different people and animals. So they remain calm in every situation.

Australian Shepherds are great with children and make amazing family dogs. But, tach both your dog and child to play nicely with each other. Also, they are herding dogs. So they might try to herd your child. Teach them that this is not acceptable!

Do Merle Australian Shepherds have more health problems?

Doble-merle is connected to many health problems and health issues. For example eye issues such as:

  • missing eyes,
  • abnormal eye development,
  • eyesight loss/blindness in one or both eyes
  • cataracts

Another issue that comes from the double-merle is deafness. This can happen if your Red Merle puppy’s head is mostly white.

Besides this, because of their light coat color, Red Merle Aussie Sheps have solid blue eyes. Which then again are more sensitive to sunlight. This puts them at risk of eye damage, skin damage, cancer, or sunburn.

red merle australian shepherd

Source: Unsplash

As you can see, the color of a dog may have a significant influence on the dog’s overall health. Particularly in the situation with the red merle dogs. Therefore, it is expected of you to ensure that they are well cared for. 

In addition to this, Australian Shepherds are prone to a variety of additional health issues. Such are issues with the joints and dysplasia of the hip or elbow.

Most common health problems of Australian Shepherds

Hip dysplasia

A faulty development of the hip socket that, if left untreated, may ultimately lead to debilitating disability as well as agonizing arthritis of the joints. 

Elbow dysplasia 

It is the most prevalent cause of forelimb lameness in large breeds of dogs.  It is generally agreed that elbow dysplasia in dogs is caused by genetic predisposition more so than environmental factors. A quick pace of development, a diet heavy in protein, traumatic experiences, hormone imbalances, inadequate nutrition, rapid weight gain, and degree of activity are some of the other probable contributing factors.


A condition that the Aussie occasionally struggles with, and it causes him to have seizures every so often. Epilepsy is not a disorder that can be cured; rather, it may be managed via the use of medicines. 


Something that occurs in a reasonable number of dogs of this breed. 


Similar to how deafness is a prevalent condition, so too is blindness. Both of these issues may be traced back to the color of their coat. 

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

An orthopedic disorder that affects dogs. This ailment is caused by the cartilage in the joints developing incorrectly, which results in OCD. This might lead to painful stiffness of the joints as a consequence. It is common practice to diagnose OCD in Australians between the ages of four and nine months of age. 


A very frequent occurrence in this breed of dog. Cataracts are characterized by cloudiness in the lens of the eye. In this breed, cataracts do not become visible until much later in the animal’s life. 


A condition in which the Australian Shepherd has a  lowered production and release of hormones. Lethargy, inactivity, mental dullness, and widespread weakness are among the symptoms that may be associated with hypothyroidism. 

Drug Sensitivity

It is common knowledge that this breed, like many other herding breeds, is susceptible to developing drug sensitivity. This indicates that medicine may become toxic in this breed of dog faster than in others. Sensitivity to drugs may be identified by symptoms such as despondency, incoordination, excessive salivation, and even unconsciousness. In some circumstances, sensitivity to drugs may potentially be lethal.

The red merle gene can make them sick

We have talked a lot about the topic of coat color and how it affects the health of dogs. But to recap, according to scientific research, a dog’s health may be affected by the color of its coat. A loss of pigment in the inner ear, for instance, has been linked to the development of deafness. 

Second, when both copies of the merle gene are found in an individual dog, ocular abnormalities might be the aftermath. 

Thirdly, a lack of pigment anywhere on the dog’s body might make the skin far more vulnerable to the sun, which can ultimately lead to the development of skin cancer.

But, what about Red Merle Australian Shepherds? What kind of health problems can they have?

The biggest problem is when both parents have the merle gene. So the puppy has a double-merle gene.

How do you keep your dog healthy?

Your dog’s lifespan, temperament, or health are not necessarily going to be determined by the color of its coat. But, you should still be aware that the merle gene has been linked to a number of different health conditions, like deafness or blindness.  

The best advice we can give you is to do your research if you want to get a puppy of this particular color. Also, get your new puppy from a reputable breeder that has the expertise, and educate yourself about your potential puppy’s family history. 

Lastly, be aware that the manner in which you take care of your brand-new merle puppy will definitely have an effect on the quality of his life, so make sure you are prepared!

How much are Red Merle Aussies?

A Red Merle Australian Shepherd can cost between 600 and 3000 dollars. 

The breeder and local conditions both play a role here. Never purchase an animal from an unknown source, but rather from a reputable breeder. 

Obviously, it’s preferable to spend a little extra money to ensure that your new puppy will be raised in a loving and caring environment. 

Many low-cost breeders just worry about making a profit, rather than the welfare of their litter. 

Discover who the best breeders are in your area by doing some reading. Somebody reliable you can rely on. Usually, if a deal seems too good to be true, it is. If that’s where you’re looking to get your new dog, go away now.

Once you’ve found a breeder make sure to ask them as many questions as possible. Insist on meeting the parents and seeing their documentation. You can never have too much information. We have an article on choosing the right breeder, you can check that out too!

Red Merle Australian Shepherd – FAQ answered in short

Is a Red Merle Aussie rare?

Due to the fact that the red-colored gene in dogs is recessive, which means that both parents need to have it for their puppies to acquire the color, Red Merles are far less common than Blue Merles. However, it is essential to keep in mind that despite the fact that red is the color that occurs in Australian Shepherds the least often overall, the Red Merle coat is in fact one of the most common red-colored coats observed in dogs. 

Do Australian Shepherds shed?

Australian Shepherds shed quite a bit, especially during shedding season. It is up to the owners to make sure they brush their dogs on a daily basis to keep the hair fall at bay.

How big do Red Merles get?

As was said before, the standard size for a dog of this breed is between 18 and 23 inches in height and between 40 and 65 pounds in weight. In general, female dogs are a little bit more petite than male dogs. 

Are Australian Shepherds smart?

It is well acknowledged that the breed has a high level of intelligence and is simple to teach. It’s common knowledge that Aussies go above and beyond to fulfill their masters’ every want. Aussies, true to their herding instincts, are highly protective of their family as well as their area. They will let you know if a stranger approaches, but they are not known to be violent dogs. 

Are Australian Shepherds good with kids?

Generally speaking, yes, Australian Shepherds should be a great addition to families with children. This is because Aussies are playful and easygoing dogs who like spending time with youngsters. They are known for their high level of activity. They usually get along well with other animals kept as pets. 

However, we need to add that while they are not hostile, they may nip at children’s heels in an effort to herd them since it is an inclination they have had from birth. This may be prevented with adequate training and socializing.

The Aussie will want to establish control over your children at first, but socialization training will help educate them that children are not to be herded. It is vital to convey this notion to your dog; once they understand the dynamic, they will be wonderful friends to your children.  

Do Australian Shepherds bark a lot?

If you are interested in getting an Australian Shepherd you should know that Australian Shepherds are big barkers, especially if they don‘t get the physical and mental stimulation they need. Australian Shepherds are very active dogs and need owners that can keep up with them and their character traits. If their owners fail to provide them with the physical and mental stimulation these dogs need to thrive they will turn to destructive behavior. Barking, anxiety, and sometimes even violence will become the norm.

Basically, a typical way for Australian Shepherds to release their boundless energy is to bark at unfamiliar people, vehicles, and other animals. So, make sure your Aussie gets enough exercise and mental stimulation to ensure normal development and lessen the likelihood of excessive barking as an adult. 

Do Red Merles darken with age? 

Yes, the Red Merle Australian Shepherd‘s coat does get darker as they age. In fact, color change in some breeds is a widely known phenomenon. But, obviously, your dog won‘t go from cream to black. 

When the puppy coat falls out and the adult coat begins to grow in, many Australian Shepherd pups go through a series of well-documented genetic transitions, including the following: 

  • Pups that first seemed to be merle or bi-colored develop into tri-colored puppies. 
  • The light coat hues of the dog will eventually become deeper and more vibrant. 
  • The whole coat starts to develop markings and ticking, which may be seen here.
  • White marks that were large on the puppy coat become much smaller on the adult coat. 
  • As the puppy grows into an adult, the colors and patterns on its face mask will change. 
  • Adulthood may bring a lightening or darkening of the eye color. 
  • Adulthood brings about color changes to the nose, mouth, eyelids, and paw pads. 

Do Red Merle Australian Shepherds get sick more often?

As a future or current Red Merle Australian Shepherd dog owner, you should be aware that the merle gene has been linked to a number of different health conditions, like deafness or blindness.   

My name is Jackie and I am a veterinarian with a degree in veterinary medicine. With extensive experience in treating various animals, I am known for my compassionate and personalized approach to animal care.