Home Health Merle Cockers ASCF Study

Merle Color In Cocker Spaniels - Analyses Goal #2


Goal #2: Provide scientific evidence the Merle color can produce significant health issues.


  • There are a number of articles that describe significant health issues that may arise when breeding Merle dogs
  • The AKC-Canine Health Foundation (AKC-CHF) lists Merle as a disease for which there is a genetic test. The AKC-CHF has therefore concluded that Merle is detrimental to the breeds
  • Based on the PNAS paper from 2006, the mutation for Merle is a disruption of the of pigmentation gene SILV. If this mutation is present, it can result in numerous health issues since the disruption occurs early in the development cycle and those cells then form many different body tissues which then can lead to a wide range of auditory and eye abnormalities. This can occur in both homozygous and heterozygous dogs. The research identified both the mutation and the ‘cryptic’ (phantom) mutation.
    • A referenced study with Dachshunds, studied the hearing capacity for Merle phenotype homozygous and heterozygous dogs and found that over 50% of homozygous dogs and just over 30% heterozygous dogs have auditory problems ranging from mild to severe deafness. All control dogs having no mutation for Merle had normal hearing
    • One can conclude that breeding a Merle to a non-merle can result in health problems nearly as frequent as breeding Merle to Merle (30% vs., 50%)
    • In other cited studies, the homozygous genotype can be sub-lethal and is associated with multiple abnormalities of the skeletal, cardiac, and reproductive systems
  • Common problems cited in an article in the AKC Gazette, dated August 2010 include cyclic neutrorpenia, white spotting and deafness, deafness and blindness, and color dilution alopecia.
    • Cyclic neutorpenia occurs in collies which can result in loss of pigment and internal, life threatening infections
    • Significant linkage has been identified that produces blindness and deafness in both heterozygous and homozygous dogs.
    • The homozygous of double merles have a much higher incidence of eye and ear abnormalities
  • A study lead by Dr. George Strain included several breeds of dogs of which 40 were homozygous (double Merle) and 113 dogs were heterozygous. The results were conclusive.
    • 29 of the 40 were Catahoula, a breed with no white markings – only 2 were deaf in both ears and 1 was deaf in 1 ear
    • Of the remaining 40, 11 dogs included 5 Aussies, 3 Collies, 1 Sheltie, 1 Corgi, and 1 Great Dane and 4 were deaf in both ears and 3 in one ear
    • Only 1 of the 113 dogs was deaf – leading to the conclusion that heterozygous dogs are not prone to deafness


  • Breeding Merle dogs introduces risk that offspring may have significant health issues including but not limited to blindness, deafness and color dilution alopecia and other problems leading to death
  • This is especially true for homozygous offspring resulting from breeding Merle to Merle
  • For significant health reasons, breeding Merle to Merle is strongly discouraged
  • Breeding Merle to non-merle has similar health risks although the incidence is reduced
  • The existence of the “cryptic” mutation introduces significant risk because it is not evident visually. Therefore, if you do NOT know the Merle status of a male you are planning on breeding to, a responsible breeder should perform a DNA test for the Merle mutation as a cryptic Merle may not show Merle phenotype but can produce Merle offspring


All of the ballots regarding the proposed changes to the Cocker Spaniel Breed Standard have been counted. The only proposed change that passed was to add the disqualification for blue eyes or blue specks in the eye.  The results are as follows:


BALLOT 1: Proposed change to include disqualification for blue eyes:

Number of ballots returned 710

Invalid ballots 2

Total number of valid ballots 708


Number required to pass (2/3s) 472


Number of Yes votes 512 (72.32%)


Number of No votes 196 (27.68%)


This proposed change passed.


BALLOT 2: Proposed change to include undocked tails:


Number of ballots returned 708


Invalid ballots 2


Total number of valid ballots 706


Number required to pass (2/3s) 471


Number of Yes votes 324 (45. 89%)


Number of No votes 382 (54.11%)


This proposed change did not pass.


BALLOT 3: Proposed change to include solid sable:


Number of ballots returned 709


Invalid ballots 2


Total number of valid ballots 707


Number required to pass (2/3s) 471


Number of Yes votes 337 (47. 67%)


Number of No votes 370 (52.33%)


This proposed change did not pass.


BALLOT 4: Proposed change to include parti-color sable:


Number of ballots returned 706


Invalid ballots 2


Total number of valid ballots 704


Number required to pass (2/3s) 469


Number of Yes votes 336 (47. 73%)


Number of No votes 368 (52.27%)


This proposed change did not pass.


This has been a thoughtful, vigorously debated, and sometimes contentious process, but the membership has spoken. For the good of ASC and the love of our breed, I hope, and I think we will, all move forward together.


Linda Moore 



Earlier the National Nominating Committee presented the following nominees to serve 2-year terms (1-18 to 1-20) as officers of the club.:


President — Diane Kepley 

1st VP — Julie Virosteck 

2nd VP — Kathy Egeland-Brock


Now the Zone Nominating Committees have finished their work and are nominating the following individuals to serve as Directors and Alternates for 2-Year terms (1-18 until 1-20).


Zone 1 

Director — Stacy Dobmeier; Alternate — Vivian Hudson


Zone 2

Director — Dale Ward; Alternate — Karin Linde Klerholm


Zone 3

Director — Bonnie Buell; Alternate — Lisa Arnett


Zone 4

Director — Linda McLean; Alternate — Lane Tarantino 


Zone 5

Director — Alan Santos; Alternate — DeAnn Jepson


Any members who were not nominated by these committees may run by petition received by the Secretary on or before November 15th. Requirements for the petitions are contained in Article IV, Section 2 of the bylaws found on the ASC website under Documents.


Just a reminder that the ASC Board is soliciting member input prior to taking action on the proposed bylaw changes. The 30 day comment period ends on October 28, 2017.

Please post any comments or questions to the ASC Yahoo List or send your comments to me, Tony Stallard, privately if you so desire. a4r4s4@aol.com 


***** FLUSHING SPANIEL SHOW 2018 U P D A T E *****

Due to unforeseen delays with the building improvement construction, the Knoxville Exhibition Center will not be ready in time for our January show. Therefore, we will move the show to the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park (2201 E. Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville).

The venue is a short 5 ½ miles (approximately 10 min.) drive from the Holiday Inn. The Knoxville Convention Center team has committed to making this unexpected transition as seamless as possible. We are working with Visit Knoxville (Convention & Visitors Bureau) to provide shuttle service for our members and guests to/from the Holiday Inn and the show venue.

More information will be available shortly as the Show Committee works on the logistics of the Show.  For now, we recommend that everyone who has reservations at the Holiday Inn, KEEP them. The few motels located by the facility are not recommended by the KCC or Chilhowee Park management. However, if you would like to cancel your reservation, please DO NOT call the Holiday Inn.  Please contact Jane Williams.  We have a waiting list for rooms and we need to facilitate the room change or the room will go back to general hotel inventory. 

ASC 2017 National Specialty DVD Clips

Best in Futurity July 2017

Best of Breed  July 2017

Junior handlers July 2017 

Latest report from Dr. Aguirre/University of PA cataract study

ASCF WEBINAR Report and Presentation