Aussie Genetics Fact Sheet

by C.A. Sharp


 What’s wrong with white Aussies?

             An Australian Shepherd with a coat mostly snowy white sounds beautiful, but for decades all the breed standards have made having even so little as a third of the coat white a disqualification--meaning such dogs cannot be exhibited at dog shows and should not be bred.  Why?

           Aussies with mostly white coats can be produced when two merle Aussies are bred together.  Merle is the patch-work coloring (black and grey or liver and buff) most associated with the breed.  When a puppy inherits two copies of the gene for merle, it will usually have a lot of white in its coat. 

           If these puppies only had lots of white, there wouldn’t be a problem.  Unfortunately, most of them are also blind, deaf or both.  This is the reason that the breed standards disqualify white dogs and why knowledgeable breeders will not raise them.

           Life for a dog which is blind or deaf can be difficult.  The defects cannot be cured or corrected by surgery or other treatments.  Sometimes such dogs will tend to bite when startled.  People who own white Aussies must take extra care all through their dog’s life--which can be 15 years or more--to make sure the dog cannot harm itself or anyone else because of its disabilities.

           If someone offers to sell you a white Aussie, don’t buy it.  If you already have one, have your vet check for defects in its vision and hearing, then take whatever precautions are necessary to protect your dog and those around it.


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