Double Merle Great Danes: 5 Facts About White Great Danes

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Hello Danes
Hello Danes
I'm a dog training, nutrition, and science fanatic that believes in ethical breeders, responsible rescue practices, veterinarians, and modern balanced LIMA dog training. Love the dog in front of you.

Double Merle Great Danes can be beautiful.

Double Merle Great Danes

They are most often all white or close to it. (White Great Danes)

As striking as they can be, this is not a color that should be intentionally produced, celebrated, or desired.

Double Merle Great Danes are often blind and/or deaf and can have other significant health problems, including autoimmune disorders, eye disorders, deformities, aggression, allergies, and problems with their heart, thyroid, and digestive system.

It’s important to note that not all ‘double merle’ dogs will have health or temprement problems. However, many will.

Double Merle Great Danes
A double-merle white Great Dane


Many Great Danes carry the merle gene. Merle genes are responsible for creating the Merle and Harlequin coats, as well as any off standard colors with spots (‘merlequin’, ‘fawnequin’, etc.).

By itself, the merle gene is ok.

However, when a puppy receives TWO copies of the merle gene (one from each parent that carries it), they are ‘double-merle’.

Double Merle puppies happen in litters where a breeder paired two dogs that each carry the merle gene. Double Merle dogs are 100% preventable.

The Merle gene shows up in dogs with spotted coats (such as Harlequin, Merle, Brindlequin and Fawnequin). (OFF STANDARD GREAT DANES)

This highlights the importance of genetic color testing prior to breeding, for breeders that are unsure if either dog in the pairing is merle or not.

Double Merle Great Danes
A white Great Dane


Double merle dogs are often produced by unethical backyard breeders who either had “no idea this could happen“, or didn’t care. Some do it because they are in pursuit of ‘interesting’ designer colors.

In the world of show dogs, some show breeders intentionally pair two Harlequin Great Danes with exceptional pedigrees because the pairing may produce desirable ‘show marked Harlequins’.

They will often utilize genetic testing, which can help greatly reduce the risks associated with this practice. The GDCA condones this practice, as of this writing.

Double Merle Great Danes

Unethical breeders may lie to buyers about them, say that they are a ‘designer color’, or dump them on rescues when they are born. These are not reputable practices and are largely seen by backyard breeders.

The GDCA condones the practice of hard culling (euthanizing) deaf double-merle puppies by 5 weeks of age; this is practiced by some breeders.

Other breeders (typically the show breeders that are focused on structure, health, and temperament) take responsibility for these pups and will find them suitable, quality homes and support them for life.

Always ask questions and never support breeders that don’t ethically take care of pups from their double-merle pairings!

(Note, we do not support or condone this practice, but understand that it does happen quite often). 

In a spot-spot pairing, each puppy has a 25% (or 1 in 4) chance of receiving both copies of the merle gene (one from each parent), making them ‘double merle’. 

Some of the double merle puppies will be reabsorbed by the mother long before birth, they simply don’t make it.

In a live litter, there may be no double merle puppies or there could be several.

Be clear about statistics with this one. Some people will say that 25% of the litter will be double merle, and that’s not how it works.
Each puppy is the one saddled with that 1-in-4 statistic, not the litter as a whole.

Double Merle Great Danes


Ethical, educated breeders who aren’t sure and want to avoid breeding double-merle dogs in the first place will use modern advances in genetics testing to confirm the colors of each dog in a potential pairing.

Bad Breeders
Scam Breeders: What to Look For
Breeders: Shady Business
Should I Choose a Breeder or Rescue?
Choosing a Dog From a Show Breeder
What Makes a Breeder Good?

Double Merle Great Danes


The merle gene is beautiful and flashy. It’s responsible for Harlequin and Merle (standard colors) which are always popular.


If you are looking for a color that isn’t accepted by the AKC as a show color, tread cautiously. Some are the result of spot-spot breedings, and unethical breeders will do this because they know it may get you to spend your money with them on ‘designer colors’.

Merlequin is a popular off-standard color that comes from spot-spot breed pairings. Genetically, a Merlequin is actually a double-merle dog. Like any other double-merle, this dog may or may not have health problems.

If you are set on finding a puppy in a ‘designer‘ color, make sure your breeder is focused first on health, structure, and temperament.

These are ‘merlequin’ Great Danes below.

Merlequin are double-merle dogs who have the harlequin pattern (torn patches of color) but instead of having mostly black torn patches, all of their patches are merle. Imagine a harlequin Dane with merle spots instead of black and merle spots, essentially.

Double Merle Great Danes

This sickly-looking merlequin puppy is from Petland, a pet store that sources all of its puppies from puppy mills.

Double Merle Great Danes


Entire rescues are dedicated to helping the double-merle dogs that are created by unethical breeding practices, and they are FULL.

Just the other day I saw a 4-month-old white puppy. The rescue was looking for a very special and hard-to-find home because the puppy was already showing signs of aggression, fear, and guarding.

She required surgery to remove her eyes because they did not develop properly. She also had additional structural problems that will lead to pain later in life.

Backyard breeding is not ok. This is not ok. We have to STOP supporting breeders that do this, whether it was intentional or not. The breeders won’t stop, so it’s up to us as puppy buyers and advocates for Great Danes.

Double Merle Great Danes

Adopt a double merle dog

If we want to stop the production of double-merle dogs, we have to educate people so that they stop rewarding breeders for producing them.

Double Merle dogs are 100% preventable. There is no excuse, but despite the existence of blogs, veterinary documents, reputable breeders, educated buyers, rescues, and people like us who shout from the rooftops, it still happens.

Share this with others, keep spreading the word. Great Dane owners with ‘ooops’ litters that happen ‘accidentally’ between their pet Danes are another contributor. This is also preventable through educated ownership and responsibility.

Support 501c3 Great Dane rescues, adopt double merles, choose only highly ethical breeders, and have fun with your Danes!


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