Odds of a Double Merle Puppy

Lars and Kayla are two lethal white Australian Shepherds that were rehomed by the Amazing Aussies Lethal White Rescue of Arizona.

When you breed merle to merle, there is a 25% chance PER PUPPY of producing a double merle and those puppies are quite often blind and deaf.  It’s not a 25% chance per litter.  One in four of the puppies you produce is expected to be homoygous merle.

So I’ve produced a little table to look at this issue in a different light.  The more puppies you have, the more likely you are to produce one of these puppies, but it is possible that you won’t produce one.  So I’ve calculated the odds of producing no doubles and the odds of producing at least one double, the more puppies you produce.

Litter Size Odds of No Doubles Odds of at Least One Double
1 75% 25%
2 56% 44%
3 42% 58%
4 32% 68%
5 24% 76%
6 18% 82%
7 13% 87%
8 10% 90%
9 8% 92%
10 6% 94%
11 4% 96%
12 3% 97%

So you can see, even if you have a breed that has small litters, say 4 on average, two-thirds of those litters will include a double-merle. This, of course, assumes that all double merles survive to birth, which is not the case. Some people might find this comforting, as if intentionally producing puppies that will be aborted is a saving grace to this breeding ethic, others might not want to burden their bitches or their conscience with these unnecessary complications. It has not been well documented what percent of MM fetuses fail, so consider these percents to be tracking potential fetuses and an average upper limit on the number of puppies that survive.

You can see that when we correctly apply these odds to puppies instead of litters, in a litter of 5 puppies, we have only a 25% chance of NOT producing a double.  I’ve read people claim that 25% sounds low, so it’s not something to worry about. But that’s a horrible misunderstanding of what the odds are really saying. In a normal litter of 5-6, we’re looking at an 80% chance of one of these puppies. That’s not a small number by any means.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.