Red Merle Australian Shepherd – Everything You Need To Know

Red merle Australian Shepherd with its stunning, eye-catchy coat pattern is the most-admired of the Australian Shepherd variants. They are members of the working dogs’ group and trace their origin to Europe’s basque region of Spain, located in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. These canines reached the US with the migrating sheepherders through Australia. Nevertheless, the breed existing today is from the United States. The red merle Australian Shepherd is highly regarded for its distinct coat color attributed to the presence of recessive merle genes. The merle pattern appears as mottled skin patches with contrasting shades of red. They have a strong herding drive as they are closely associated with cowboys. The red merle Aussies are blessed with solid-colored eyes that are either blue or brown. Alternatively, their eyes can also have a variety of colors with a marbled pattern. 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Pros and Cons

Pros Cons 
These dogs are generally healthy. High prey drive
High intelligence Needs to stay active and hence requires a lot of exercises. 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Basic Information 

  • Name: Red Merle Australian Shepherd 
  • Height: 18 – 23 inches
  • Weight: 40 – 65 pounds
  • Coat: Double-layer, medium length with a curly or wavy texture
  • Color: Golden with patches of white and brown
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Companion, sports, obedience, agility
  • Group: Working
  • Barking Level: Medium to high
  • Shedding Level: Medium to high
  • Hypoallergenic: No 
  • Litter Size: 6 to 7 puppies
  • Life Span: 12 – 16 years

Australian Shepherd vs. Red Merle Australian Shepherd: Comparison

Features Australian Shepherd  Red merle Australian Shepherd   
Origin United StatesUnited States
Height 18-23 inches18-23 inches
Weight 40-65 pounds40-65 pounds
Size MediumMedium
Group HerdingHerding
Children Compatibility HighHigh
Family Compatibility HighHigh
Pets Compatibility HighHigh
Barking Level Medium to HighMedium to High
Shedding Level Medium to HighMedium to High
Hypoallergenic NoNo
Grooming Needs Medium to HighMedium to High
Overall Health Medium to HighMedium to High
Energy HighHigh
Exercise Needs HighHigh
Trainability HighHigh
Activities Companion, Sports, Obedience, AgilityCompanion, Sports, Obedience, Agility
Complication in breeding NoNo
Litter Size 6-7 Puppies6-7 Puppies
Lifespan 12-15 years12-15 years
Other Names Spanish Shepherd, Pastor dogs, Bob-Tails, Blue Heelers, New Mexican Shepherds, California Shepherds

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Personality

The red merle Australian Shepherd appears very similar to a standard Australian Shepherd. Australian Shepherd is adorned with a double-layered coat in a curly or wavy texture. Their splendid coat color differentiates them from the rest of the breed. The coat color consists of mottled cream and liver patches. They have a well-defined, firm, and proportionate head, accompanying a dome-shaped skull of equal length and width. However, the back skull is shorter than the muzzle. Its well-rounded muzzle is split into parallel planes that merge into its head. The red merle Aussies have their almond-shaped eyes perfectly placed into the eye sockets. Their medium-sized ears are triangular-shaped and set high on their heads. Their red pigmented lips curtain a set of strong white teeth, meeting at a scissor bite. These canines are blessed with a slightly arched neck fitting into their shoulders. Their shoulder blades are long, flat, and well laid back. Deep-chested dogs with a firm topline exhibit longer ribs that end with a straight tail. Their oval-shaped and compact feet contain well-arched toes and thick pads. 

Friendliness Overview

Affection level Medium to high
Family-friendly High
Kid-friendly Medium to high
Pet-friendly High
Stranger -friendly Medium

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment living Low
Good to new owners Low to medium
Sensitivity level High 
Tolerates being alone Low 
Cold-tolerance Medium to high
Heat-tolerance Medium to high

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Temperament

Red merle Australian Shepherds have a muscular build with an enthusiastic personality. They are highly intelligent and love to be occupied. Hence, they exhibit destructive behavior without proper physical and mental stimulation. They are loyal and affectionate to their pet parents. This nature has earned them the name velcro dogs. Red merle Australian Shepherd is an astute dog with an athletic and lively personality. Although they are pretty reserved initially, they become friendly later. They are well-known for their extreme loyalty and are often called the velcro dogs as they get emotionally stuck to their pet parents. They are excellent therapy dogs who make fantastic aid for the impaired. In addition, they are often used in the police force to locate drugs or missing people. They have strong guarding and herding instincts. These canines warn you with a loud bark when they sense danger. 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Training

Red merle Australian Shepherds are blessed with high intelligence levels, easing their trainability. In addition, they are pretty friendly and always look forward to their sessions due to their passion for work. Therefore, their training session must be interesting to kindle their interest and keep them engaged. They react well to a reward-based positive reinforcement technique. On the other hand, these canines adopt destructive behavior if bored, leading to extended barking periods. In addition, their herding instincts push them to chase or nip kids and pets. Hence,  you must socialize them early to be wary of their surroundings. 

Trainability Overview

Easy to train High 
Intelligence High 
Mouthiness tendencies Medium to high 
Barking and Howling tendencies Medium to high 
Prey drive Medium to high 
Wanderlust tendencies High 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Exercise Needs

Keeping your red merle Australian Shepherd active is vital to deplete his energy and prevent destructive behavior. For this reason, you must engage him for an hour and a half with activities such as:

Alternatively, you can keep them mentally stimulated with puzzle toys such as buster cubes. Nevertheless, when your pet is still a puppy, exercise carefully as they take at least a year to become good running companions. You can also enroll them in canine events such as obedience, herding, agility trials, or dock diving. 

Exercise Needs Overview 

Energy level High 
Exercise needs High
Intensity Medium to high
Playfulness High 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Grooming

Red merle Australian Shepherds have a thick, waterproof, double-layer coat. To maintain it, you must remove dead hairs and dirt and prevent matting. For this purpose, brush your pet at least once a week. However, during the shedding season, brush them twice or thrice a week. You can execute this with the help of an undercoat rake and a wire brush.

Further, never shave off your dog’s coat as it protects them from heatstroke, sunburn, hypothermia, and skin injuries. But you need to clean up his hair around the belly, paws, and back. Besides, you need to give them a good bath every six weeks, depending on the number of times you take them to the park. Additionally, other grooming care for your doggy includes:

Nails: Your dog’s nails are subject to breakage if they grow too long. Since broken nails are very painful, trim your pet’s nails regularly. 

Teeth: You can prevent periodontal diseases by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth with a dog-formulated toothpaste. Additionally, you have to schedule an annual appointment with the veterinarian. 

Ears: Your dog’s ears accumulate wax which has to be removed using a cotton ball dipped in pH-balanced ear cleaner. However, ensure not to damage his ear canal and check for signs of ear infection during the annual appointment with the vet.

Grooming Overview

Easy to groom Low 
Drooling tendency Low
Amount of shedding Medium

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Health 

Hip Dysplasia: When the thigh bones do not fit into the pelvic socket of the hip joint of your pet, it results in hip dysplasia, which is a heritable condition.

Other Causes of Hip Dysplasia: 

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia: 

Some of the notable signs that may be present on one or both rear legs include:  

  • Pain  
  • Lameness

Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia occurs when the elbow joint bones don’t align properly. This misalignment causes abnormal pressure at the joint, leading to chronic rubbing and severe osteoarthritis.


  • Mild to moderate pain 
  • Lameness in the forelimbs 

Although the symptoms begin to show as early as four months, some dogs will not show these signs until later in life. Further, it involves both elbows, of which one may be heavily affected.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: An eye disease that causes blindness from losing photoreceptors. It can be diagnosed earlier. Dogs with this disorder can survive for many years since they have other senses to compensate. The gradual deterioration of the eye’s retina marks the progression of this disease. Affected dogs exhibit symptoms of night-blindness which slowly progresses to complete loss of vision. Most affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision if they continue to reside in the same environment.   

Collie Eye Anomaly: CEA is an inherited developmental condition usually seen in breeds like Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, etc. This disorder leads to blindness. 

Cataracts: When your dog experiences a thickening lens, it results in cloudy vision due to age. This condition is treatable either through medications or surgery.  

Deafness: Some dogs are born deaf, and others may acquire it with age. While hereditary deafness is due to genetic defects, acquired deafness results from decreased blood supply to the cochlea of the inner ear resulting in the loss of hair cells necessary for sound transmission. Deafness may present unilaterally (deafness in one ear) or bilaterally (deafness in both ears). Bilaterally deaf dogs require some special considerations. To get to know your pet better, you can subject your pet to the BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response), which helps you detect deafness in dogs. 

Epilepsy: Red merle Australian Shepherds suffer from a higher rate of epilepsy. Although the exact cause is unknown, a genetic base is often suspected. Epilepsy is a sudden spike in the brain’s electrical activity resulting in malfunctioning. Some of the signs to look for include:

Symptoms of epilepsy: 

  • A stiffening of the neck and legs 
  • Stumbling and falling over
  • Uncontrollable chewing
  • Drooling
  • Paddling of the limbs
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Defecating
  • Vocalizing 
  • Violent shaking 
  • Trembling

Osteochondrosis Dissecans: Osteochondrosis Dessicans is an inflammatory condition due to the cartilage’s abnormal development, leading to its separation from the underlying bone. Although it most prominently affects the shoulder, it may be prevalent at the elbow, hip, or knee.

Symptoms of OCD:

  • Limping in the affected leg 
  • Extremely painful when the affected leg is manipulated
  • Swollen or warm joint

Treatment generally follows a strict rest schedule, medications, supplements, and surgery, if necessary. 


  • Food-based allergies: This can be treated by following an elimination diet that eliminates suspected ingredients to which the dog may be allergic.  
  • Contact allergies: These allergies are caused due to the adverse reaction of a dog’s immune system when it comes in contact with a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals. Removing the cause of the allergy reduces the symptoms.  
  • Inhalant allergies are caused when your canine accidentally inhales airborne allergens like pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment for these allergies depends upon their severity. Often, these allergies are accompanied by ear infections.

Hypothyroidism is when a dog’s metabolism is slowed due to the lack of thyroid hormone production. Symptoms are:  

  • Lethargy 
  • Gaining weight 
  • Reluctance to work out 
  • Hair Loss

Distichiasis: Distichiasis is prevalent in dogs. It results from the abnormal growth of eyelashes. It occurs when eyelashes emerge from the eyelid margin instead of its skin. Most dogs don’t experience any adverse symptoms due to soft hairs. However, other dogs experience discomfort due to eye irritation. In severe cases, this condition can lead to corneal ulcers. 

Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM): Before the birth of canines, specific blood vessels are involved in nourishing their eye lens with nutrients. When these blood vessels don’t disappear after birth, they develop into strands of eye tissue known as persistent pupillary membranes. However, most dogs don’t experience any symptoms due to it. 

Drug Sensitivity: Most herding dogs react adversely to certain medications due to a mutation in the MDR1 gene. Consequently, they experience enhanced sensitivity to certain medical drugs like antiparasitic, antidiarrheal, and anticancer drugs. 

Cancer in dogs is treatable if detected early. Although certain dogs show no symptoms initially, some of the warning symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Prevalence of a lump or bump
  • A non-healing wound
  • Swelling
  • Enlarged lymph nodes, 
  • Lameness or swelling in the bone 
  • Abnormal bleeding 

Nasal Solar Dermatitis is a congenital condition that results from abnormal skin sensitivity to sunlight. This disorder worsens with exposure to sunlight and affects the skin, nose, eyelids, trunk, and limbs. However, its exact cause is not yet known. 

Detached Retina: Retinal detachment in dogs occurs when the retina isolates itself from the back of your dog’s eyes. This occurs due to underlying medical conditions such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, and hypothyroidism in dogs. It is a medical emergency as it can lead to blindness in dogs without immediate treatment. 

Health Overview

Overall health Low
Weight gain tendencies Medium to high 
Size Medium

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Diet and Nutrition 

Your red merle Aussies are prone to weight gain. Hence, supplement them with a protein-rich diet measuring 1.5 to 2.5 cups of dry kibble instead of a low-calorie carbohydrate-rich diet. However, check if that measure is appropriate for her age, weight, and activity level and adjust the amount of food accordingly as they become fat or thin. Besides, never leave out food all day; instead, divide their meals into two to feed them daily. Further, they need 1300 calories daily to meet their daily nutritional requirements. Besides, you need to give them ample exercise to ensure proper mental and physical fitness. 

Red Merle Australian Shepherd Living Condition

Red merle Aussies love an enormous play area to expend their energy. As a result, they don’t fit well into apartment life. However, meeting their stimulation needs despite being in an apartment enables them to adapt well. As they are headstrong, these pets can take up the dominant role without firm leadership at your home. Therefore, they are unsuitable for novice owners. These canines are well-protected from extreme temperatures, thanks to their short insulated coat layer. Although pretty attached to their pet parents, these dogs aren’t friendly with strangers. To overcome this, you need to teach them socialization skills early on. These pets don’t get along well with children and other pets due to their intense herding instincts. 

Adding a Red Merle Australian Shepherd to Your Family

Things to Remember Before Adding Red Merle Australian Shepherd

A red merle Australian Shepherd requires only one copy of the merle gene for its stunning coat pattern. However, when both the parents are merle, it results in a double-merle offspring. These puppies develop serious health complications ranging from eye defects to deafness. Hence, it is always essential to avoid breeding two merle parents. In addition, as most merle dogs are prone to health issues, it is good to obtain the necessary health clearances before buying a puppy. 

Cost of a Red Merle Australian Shepherd Puppy 

The price of a red merle Australian Shepherd puppy ranges between $600 to $3,000. However, you can expect to pay more as red merles are a rarity to find. 

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