22.03-23.03.2009 Pahkina Kallinen dead of cancer.
Pahkina Kallinen first started breeding merle colored chihuahua.
And was a great success. With her help, merle chihuahuas are very good quality nowadays, with good health and character, and they are loved by many breeders in Russia and many other countries around the world.
For last 5 years she had been breeding a merle dog with an excellent quality.
We want to believe, that merle chihuahua will have good future and be bred by many kennels around the world.

Author Pahkina Kallinen (RUOVESI,FINLAND)

 

Dog Merley and the Wailers

 

Does the heading sound peculiar? You’ll soon understand what it refers to…

 

Articles written about the merle patterned dogs are often exaggerated and resemble headlines seen in yellow papers. ”All merle dogs should be banned because they have innumerable eye problems and their pups are always deaf, if they even are able to have any…” Aggravating a little, I could claim that this is among the most typical statements about merle dogs. Many people believe that all merles are somehow unhealthy. Similar propaganda used to be prevalent in the EU concerning all Chihuahuas: ”Chihuahua is such an unhealthy breed that it should be banned! Hydrocephaly, patellas wildly luxating, always having puppies by cesarean sections, dogs that have fontanels so wide that if you push a knife (???) between, you reach the brain, etc.” Fortunately we know that these horrors and sensational articles are not true.

 

And yes, I know that breeding animals can always lead to problems. Heart defects, hydrocephaly, tail kinks, ocular problems, bad patellas, inevitable cesarean sections and numerous other flaws occur not only in Chihuahuas but in other dog breeds as well. Although we try to do everything we can, defects will come up even in the best lines. We are only humans, not gods. Show me a breeder who sells only perfect super puppies, and I’ll show you a flying cow! We have them in Ruovesi… The aim of this article is not to delve into all possible problems and the worst possible cases, but simply to show how merle breeding can be made as safe as possible.

 

People who have read yellow papers probably ask why I haven’t been silenced in the same way as one dissident was about a year ago? This will certainly happen soon, but while waiting for that, I want to tell you something about merles.

 

Merle pattern has come to Chihuahuas to stay. Horrible! Shocking! What if we followed those Europeans who forbid eating bratwurst with beer or the bisquits with tea on Saturdays? In reality, however, banning the merle pattern would mean that merle breeders would go underground and start breeding fawn merles for shows. This would not be beneficial to anybody. Especially not to Chihuahuas. Did the Prohibition stop people drinking spirits?

 

Actually, it would be beneficial to everybody if merle breeders would produce only dogs that can be clearly recognized as merles, in other words, mainly blue merles and chocolate merles. This note is necessary for the simple reason that show judges must join the fight against hidden merles. Hidden merle dogs will be bred if they are the only ones allowed in shows. That is, if ”genuine” or distinctly merle dogs are dismissed only for their color. Please be honest, my dear judges, do you want to do harm to Chihuahuas? It is now possible! Fortunately there are some fair and wise judges who see the dog itself behind the color. And who dare to do right under hard pressure. And who love Chihuahuas so much that they see the dangers of merle hatred that may develop from merle hysteria. I have great respect for you who recognize yourselves in this description; you brave and incorruptible judges who pay attention to quality, not to the color or the handler’s face. It is the quality that should count in a show ring, not the color, shouldn’t it? There is no place for racism, at least among Chihuahuas!

 

Of course I admit that the first merle Chihuahuas imported from USA to Finland were from pet lines and therefore looked rather appalling. The hard criticism against these dogs was justified. But times are changing, and there is at least one Finnish breeder who sincerely tries to improve the quality of merle Chihuahuas to match or exceed that of any other color. My goal is to breed the best merle Chihuahuas in the world. It is not an impossible mission. I was able to recover from an incurable cancer although all experts claimed that I’d better find a coffin and soon. So why would it be impossible for me to achieve this goal if I am honest to myself and constantly strive for better and better quality? I still remember the young girl who once saw marble-colored shelties and realized that it was the most beautiful color for a dog! And this does not mean that if I eat vanilla yogurt for breakfast, you all have to do the same. Just eat your croissants and don’t let some silly dreaming girl disturb your breakfast!

 

Once I met a person who had bred collies for 23 years and was specialized in merle collies. I asked what was the most difficult aspect in merle breeding. Ha, I can read your minds! You expect, just like I did, that she would say something about ocular problems, deafness or other horrors. But the answer was: ”The most difficult thing is to create a pure blue merle color. Without a muddy hue in the coat.” I started to laugh hysterically at this remark, which was by no means a joke.

 

Breeding fawn merles should be stopped in order to avoid hidden merles. Now you ask what on earth fawn merles and hidden merles could be? Are they some dangerous bacteria?

 

Fawn merle refers to a merle pattern found in a plain “brown” Chihuahua. I don’t mean a chocolate-colored creature but a cream-, sand-, reddish- or sable-colored one. In a fawn merle, the merle texture may disappear behind an ordinary sable or wolf color. The brindle color (tiger stripes) also tends to hide merle pattern. (I must point out that the brindle color doesn’t cause any such risks as merle, white or even blue colors do.)

 

And now back to business... Occasionally, the only visible fawn merle pattern can be just one blotch in a paw, back or the ear. This kind of dog is often called a hidden merle because at the first sight it is impossible to say whether it is a merle at all. In some cases you cannot decide, no matter how closely you look. And here lurks the danger. I will return to that shortly.

 

On the other hand, anybody can see whether a blue merle or chocolate merle is actually a merle or not. This is an advantage because if two merle dogs are mated, the probability of a so called double merle is 25%. A double merle? Well, isn’t double always better than single? Perhaps we might get even a quadruple merle! This is really not a joke but a serious matter, though. Double merles have the greatest risk of being born blind or deaf. They are usually white or whitish (piebald).

 

Let’s return to hidden merles. If two hidden merles are mated–while nobody knows they are merles–one of four pups may have defects mentioned above. Three others are probably healthy, but this doesn’t console too much if even that one defective pup could have been avoided by responsible breeding practices.

 

Why are fawn merles bred in the first place? One reason is naturally the fact that they are accepted in shows in the same way as any other color. This is not appropriate, since we should judge quality, not color, in order to make it less tempting to breed fawn merles. Another reason is nonchalance.

”I couldn’t care less as long as I get pups for sale” is an attitude which we should get rid of. And this is the most difficult task, even impossible in this world where money counts. The same attitude can be found behind unregistered, low-quality dogs and the fact that too small Chihuahuas are allowed to mate or that dogs are bred too early. Money makes the world go round... But as we all know, you should look before you leap. Still another reason is ignorance, and I try to tackle it below.

 

After this long intro, we get to the point: How could we avoid breeding fawn merles? If you want to start breeding merles, pay attention to preparatory work. Buy solely blue merles and chocolate merles. Breed merle dogs only with black, chocolate-colored or blue dogs. If possible, their parents’ color should be merle, black, chocolate or blue. This is the goal that we must strive for.

 

What should you do if the litter includes fawn or hidden merles or even any other colors except merles? The best approach would be to record these pups to a register that forbids them to be used in breeding. This is one thing you can do to prevent problems from spreading to ignorant breeders.

 

The elements of merle breeding or how can you recognize a responsible merle breeder:

 

a)      The dogs used for breeding must be merle, black, blue or chocolate-colored, preferably in several generations. Cream-colored, whitish (piebald), blue fawns and different hues of brown (other than chocolate) must be avoided. In other words, so called fawn merles must not be produced. A fawn merle born from black/merle or chocolate/merle parents might be used for breeding purposes in such exceptional cases where its quality would be really extraordinary and superior compared to the blue or chocolate merle pups of the same litter. But this kind of exception should be made extremely rarely.

b)      To make sure, if the dogs are Mm (single merle) or mm (not a merle), if not able to be seen reliably with the eye, DNA-test them if possible. (In USA already possible)

c)      The eyes of each pup and of all the breeding stock are examined by a specialist veterinary. The eye results of the breeding stock are published.

d)      The goal is to breed dogs that fill or even exceed requirements that national Chihuahua organizations have set for Chihuahuas used for breeding.

e)      The breeding stock and all possible siblings are displayed in official shows.

f)        The minimum goal is to breed champion dogs. The first dogs (by the way, the first merle Chihuahuas were imported from the USA to Finland in 2003) and a few generations thereafter are in most cases dogs which are used for the simple reason that better ones are not available. A responsible breeder stops using pet-quality dogs as soon as progress is achieved and removes lower quality dogs from the breeding program.

g)      Every low-quality pup which is born from merle breeding experiments and which doesn’t have a pure blue merle or chocolate merle pattern is either listed in the register for dogs not to be used for breeding purposes or spayed/castrated. The quality of pure merle pups is checked carefully and the best ones are selected. Others are treated like the low-quality pups mentioned above. (It goes without saying that this is not possible before there are enough pups available.)

h)      Regardless of the color and quality, the breeder tells the potential buyer if there are merles in previous generations and attaches to the sales contract a document explaining problems related to the merle color.

i)        The breeder requires that the buyer of a pup born from a merle breeding experiment and registered to the normal breeding register will follow these basic rules in breeding procedures. This requirement has to be agreed on, written down and signed by both parties. This also prevents a beginner from using a merle dog for breeding to other colors unintentionally. A non-merle dog doesn’t necessarily propagate problems related to merle pattern, but it may propagate pet-quality because the merle pattern dogs exported from the USA have usually been low-quality, not champion-quality dogs.

j)        The breeder describes the characteristics of the merle color impartially and frankly. Both its advantages and disadvantages.

 

If you have read this far, perhaps you have found something worth thinking of.

 

Somebody may see it fit to eliminate me now, so goodbye dear friends! Warm regards, Pähkinä Kallinen, Pähkinän Chihuahuas, www.chihuahuadog.net.

 

The writer has bred and/or owned dozens (approx.70) of show champion Chihuahuas and has been nominated five times as the Breeder of the Year by the Finnish Chihuahua Association (year 2007 still pending). She started intensive Chihuahua life style in 1990 and will continue it until death or the Kennel Association intervenes... She has also worked as an obedience, working dog and agility trainer. She is easy to recognize by her loud voice, exploding temperament, big laugh and of her big nose. People who consider punching to that nose should be warned: she used to practice martial arts! However, any benevolent person may approach her without fear. There is a warm heart behind the harsh appearance! Chihuahuas have a special position in her life. Even her house, site and van bear their name! Chihuahuas are a way of life... in their whole spectrum!