Double dapple coats can be stunning – until, that is, you realise ‘at what cost’. When you know this cost, it’s surprising how quickly those coat patterns and colour become highly unattractive
Double dapple (also known as ‘double merle’ in other breeds) results from a dapple dog being crossed with another dapple. So, as the name suggests, they will produce puppies that are double dappled; that is, they carry two dapple genes. Technically, on average we will expect such a mating to yield a litter with 50% double dappled and 50% normal single dapple. In the case of a double dapple being crossed with a double dapple, then 100% of the litter will be double dappled.
Double dappled pups can be born deaf and/or blind. This abnormality is caused by the combination of two dapple genes for coat pattern. That is, it’s caused by breeding a dapple coat dog to another dapple coat dog. And this holds true for all breeds; the combo of dapple (also called merle) genes in the one pup risks that puppy being born deaf and/or blind. Often the deafness or blindness is associated with that area being white; that is, white covers the deaf ear and the blind eye. In any given double dapple litter, one puppy, no puppies, or all puppies might be affected.
In double dapple dogs, the white in the coat occurs where the two dapple genes are both interacting. This has a bleaching effect – a double overlay effect – hence the white colour. Note this is very different genetic action to the piebald gene which is delivering a genuine white (no pigment) coat as opposed to a ‘masked’ one.
What do they look like?
Double dapples are characterised by having large areas of white and particularly over the ears and eyes. This can range from an entire white chest blending off to a silver/grey/black ermine patterning, right through to a single colour splotched about in big amounts but still with lots of white. In other words, ‘white’ is a dominating factor of a double dapple.
Typically they do not have uniform colouring on their heads; that is, they might have one side of the head white or an ear white. They characteristically have blue eyes and/or wall eyes (eyes ringed with with a big circle of white). Blue eyes or wall eyes in themselves are not an issue, it’s just when combined with the double dapple pattern it’s a defining feature.
Here are some pictures to get you familiar with the double dapple. Large white over ears and eyes is a generally a giveaway. Also, their siblings. If there are single dapple puppies in the litter and no solid coloured (pattern free) puppies, chances are both parents had the dapple gene.
Double Dappled Pix:
Don’t confuse with piebald
To the untrained eye, some double dapples can be mistaken for piebalds. Be wary of this, because unethical or incompetent breeders could be passing off double dappled puppies as piebalds. Piebald is a totally different pattern and gene (like brindle is) and has ZERO health implications. Piebald is found in many breeds; the jack russell, beagle, basset hound, foxie and dachshund to name a few. This pattern is the result of two recessive piebald genes coming together and can be the result of two piebalds crossing with no genetic defects resulting.
Piebalds are rare in Australia, with Dachshund Australia (us) being the only breeder to be running a breeding program dedicated to introducing this pattern for the enjoyment of Australian dachshund lovers (and increasingly owners overseas too). Breeding pies has required an investment of 10 years in importing this pattern from the USA. Australia had no piebalds prior to this, so the chances of you finding a piebald dachshund from another breeder are quite remote.
If you see an advert in Australia for a piebald puppy, you can determine yourself if they are genuinely pie or – in fact – double dapple. This is how:
- Genuine piebalds have coloured areas that are clearly defined at the edges, such as distinct spots on the body. They can have ‘ticking’, but not the dapple pattern anywhere.
- Genuine piebalds do not have blue eyes (unless they are a blue piebald). They have dark eyes.
- Genuine piebalds have their main colouring over both ears and both eyes and usually the head area. Extreme pies are predominantly white, but they will have solid colour (might be a pale cream) covering their ears and eye areas.
Another coat pattern variation that is rare but can occur is a single-dapple piebald. This comes when one parent is a double recessive for the piebald gene (hence cannot carry dapple and is a piebald in appearance) and the other parent is a single dapple.
This can be seen across various breeds and crossbreeds where the piebald pattern is common, such as Jack Russell terriers and so on. It’s rare because the piebald gene is a recessive gene and the dapple gene is dominant. Clearly there is some incomplete dominance at play when a puppy coat can display both patterns simultaneously.
Here are some examples below of the perfectly healthy coat type of single-dapple piebald. In these cases the white is coming from the genuine piebald gene and not a ‘colour wash-out’ from a double-dapple combo. Of course a puppies pedigree papers will soon reveal what might and might not be being carried through the family tree, plus the parents a puppy themselves.
In some breeds this single-dapple piebald coat pattern is referred to as ‘patterned merle’. Again, the big difference with these dogs is they are single merle/dapple (have one merle gene, not two) and they have the piebald pattern gene as well.
Tricky…but fascinating! Here are some varied examples; note colour cover the ears and eyes and he white in these dogs above is coming from the piebald gene – so perfectly normal. This contrasts to double dapples where the white occurs where the two dapple gene have coincided to effectively bleach out (or overlay) all other colours.
Genuine piebald single-dapples, like these dachshunds above, is rare coat pattern.
Don’t buy from a breeder who has double dapples
It is possible for a double dapple litter to have no deformities. Equally, all puppies might be deformed – so deaf and/or blind – or maybe only one. The point here is that it is unethical and immoral to bring puppies into the world where there is this risk. Whether the breeder has done this intentionally, accidentally, or through ignorance matters not, because the outcome for the puppies is the same. So whatever their reason, this a breeder to steer clear of.
If someone buys a puppy from such a breeder, their puppy might be perfectly healthy but that good health and ‘pretty pattern’ has come at the expense of a sibling (who you probably won’t know about) who is deaf and/or blind. Buying your puppy encourages such breeders to continue their unethical practises.
What else can we do?
The pictures here will let you become a bit of an expert on what a double dapple looks like. To hone your new skills think about Googling dapple dachshunds and identify the doubled dapples among them. Interestingly, in selecting the pictures here I found some pies and single dappled dogs incorrectly badged as double dapples. When you can identify these incorrectly labelled pix you’ll know you are good.
With your new expertise in mind, we can help reduce the sadness of puppies being born deaf and or blind. Namely, if you see anyone advertising double dapples perhaps consider a polite phone call or text to respectfully advise them what they have. For those breeders who have done this through ignorance, your phone call might cause at least this breeder to cease the practice. Referring them to this article might be useful.
All photos sourced from Google Images