Merle Free Pomeranians
Below are some of the many reasons why responsible Pomeranian breeders will not knowingly breed Poms which carry the merle pattern gene:
The merle gene is associated with a number of birth defects including:
Eye problems including being born without eyes,
Hearing problems including complete deafness or born without ears,
Behavior problems (perhaps caused by blindness/deafness),
Skin and coat problems including cancer,
Puppy deaths in utero,
Puppy deaths shortly after birth.
For an excellent explanantion of these merle linked problems see http://mysite.verizon.net/coatcloset/id23.html and http://www.genmarkag.com/download/Factsheet_Merle_Gene.pdf
Some of these birth defects are progressive. For example, puppies may start out with normal hearing and sight but one or both may deteriorate with age. So an apparently healthy puppy may slowly become a deaf and/or blind adult. Other defects may also appear with age and the coat color may continue to dilute as well. Anyone considering purchasing or breeding merles should also ask themselves what becomes of all the puppies that are born with obvious birth defects so cannot be sold - they are commonly referred to as "bucket puppies" because that is where they often end up - in a trash bucket.
For a simple explanation of the genetics that can produce cryptic merles (also called masked merles or phantom merles) see http://www.lethalwhites.com/genetics.html.
To determine whether or not a Pomeranian carries the merle gene, a DNA test is now available. This test is only available through GenMark at a cost of $95.00 - see http://www.genmarkag.com/home_companion.php. Because the merle gene can be carried by an apparently normal dog, those that want to avoid this cruel gene will now have to add the expense of merle DNA testing to the other health tests that they already perform. Even those that want to produce merle puppies will have to perform this test to ensure that they are not breeding two merle gene carriers to one another since you cannot always tell by a dog's appearance if it has merle in its genetics.
Spontaneous mutation is an extremely rare event. So rare in fact, that the astronomical odds of a pattern gene mutation to merle in both the hundred plus year old Pomeranian breed and the ancient Chihuahua breed, at about the same time, makes any claim of this happening beyond belief.
Some Chihuahua breeders believe that merle Dachshunds were used to create
merle Chihuahuas (see http://www.istnet.net.au/~wachiclub/MerleMongrels.htm
Chihuahua breed standards around the world have recently been modified
to either ban the registration of merle Chihuahuas or to at least disqualify
them from the show ring. Even in Mexico, the country of origin for the
Chihuahua breed, merle Chihuahuas may not be shown or registered. On October
6, 2007 69% of the Chihuahua Club of America's membership voted to disqualify
(DQ) merles. Unfortunately, a Director of the AKC, who is not a Chihuahua
breeder, used his official stationary to send a letter to CCA members on
January 19, 2008 to dissuade them from voting to change their standard
to DQ merle Chihuahuas. Per AKC requirements, a final vote was taken in
April of 2008 to add a disqualification of merles to the standard and,
incredibly, it failed. You can find the sad saga of Mr. Gladstone's unethical
interference in the Chihuahua standard revision to DQ merles at http://www.thedogpress.com/ClubNews/CCA-Merle-AKC-BreedStandard-0801.htm.
Even if the merle pattern gene did spontaneously mutate into the Pomeranian breed, it still does not negate the cruelty of intentionally breeding something this harmful. If wolves spontaneously mutated to look like sheep, would you want one in your flock?
Historically, Pomeranians have never displayed the merle pattern. In the many books written on the breed in the last 100+ years, not one reference to a merle Pom can be found. The bible of coat color genetics in dogs, The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs by Clarence C. Little, Sc. D. (first published in 1957) does not list the merle gene as one of the genes found in Pomeranians. Reports are that merle Poms started to mysteriously appear in the 1980s, however they were still extremely rare at that time. As soon as the pet industry realized that they could charge higher prices for this exotic pattern, many Poms were bred specifically to produce merles for financial gain.
It is believed that one or more unscrupulous breeders intentionally crossed Pomeranians with Toy Australian Shepherds and/or other merled breeds and falsely registered the resulting puppies that most resembled Poms as pure-bred. DNA tests which have been carried out on merle and non-merle Pomeranians seem to support this theory. However more tests need to be conducted and more reliable tests are needed before these tests can be used as proof positive that merle Poms are not pure-bred. If true however, not only have these irresponsible and greedy breeders introduced the health hazards associated with the merle gene into the breed, they have also now introduced genetic problems that were previously unknown in Pomeranians but which are associated with the merled breeds used to produce merle Poms.
United States of America:
The AKC standard for Pomeranians, which is written by the American Pomeranian Club, was composed before merle Pomeranians were generally known. In the paragraph describing the head it says "The eyes are dark, ..." meaning that blue, green or light eyes are not acceptable.
The paragraph dealing with color says:
"All colors, patterns, and variations there-of are allowed and must be judged on an equal basis. Patterns: Black and Tan - tan or rust sharply defined, appearing above each eye and on muzzle, throat, and forechest, on all legs and feet and below the tail. The richer the tan the more desirable; Brindle - the base color is gold, red, or orange-brindled with strong black cross stripes; Parti-color - is white with any other color distributed in patches with a white blaze preferred on the head. Classifications: The Open Classes at specialty shows may be divided by color as follows: Open Red, Orange, Cream, and Sable; Open Black, Brown, and Blue; Open Any Other Color, Pattern, or Variation."
Since the merle pattern is not included in the patterns described in the standard, it should be clear that it is not one of the patterns that were intended to be allowed. To read only the first sentence, and ignore the remainder of the paragraph is simply taking the meaning out of context.
The American Pomeranian Club set up a committee to look into the merle pattern. The recommendation of this committee is that the merle pattern should be disqualified in the AKC Pomeranian standard. The APC has recently set up a Standard Revision Committee.
Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI):
The FCI standard for Pomeranians (also known as Toy German Spitz or Zwergspitz in German speaking countries) is used by most European, Asian, Central American and South American countries. Merles not specifically mentioned, but obviously not permissable. See http://www.fci.be/uploaded_files/097gb98_en.doc
Merles are not permissable or recognized. See http://www.pcoc.net/ckc-breed-standard.htm
Merles not specifically mentioned, but obviously not permissable. See http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/197
To find breeders who will not knowingly breed merle Pomeranians, visit the sites on the Merle Free Pomeranians web ring below. This should not be construed as a recommendation of any of the breeders (or their practices) found in this web ring's sites.