What is a Lethal White Aussie?

A Lethal White Aussie is the result of breeding two Merle Aussies together. Because the Merle gene (M) is dominant, statistically 25% of a Merle-to-Merle litter will be Lethal Whites. These pups can be born blind, deaf or blind and deaf. They will not die because they are born this way; if correctly cared for, these pups can live a normal and healthy life, just like any other Aussie.

Why do you call them “Lethal”?

We call them “Lethal” Whites because being born blind, deaf or deaf and blind can be lethal to them. Although they may not have any other physical defects besides blindness and deafness, many of these pups are killed at birth or even when they are 6 weeks old! Other pups are dumped in pounds or by the side of the road where they can die lingering and painful deaths. Others are sold without informing the new owner that the pup is deaf and/or blind. Depending on the home they end up in, this can also lead to death, either by ignorance or abuse. So, yes, being born this way can be lethal to these pups.

The scientifically correct name for these pups is Homozygous Merles. Many times they are referred to as “Double Merles”, or “White Aussies”, as some people do not care for the use of the word “lethal” when referring to these pups.

What is a Merle Aussie?

A Merle Aussie is an Aussie with white woven into the solid areas of the coat. Aussies can be either red or blue merles. Merle Aussies, especially those with blue eyes, are highly favored by buyers, thus inducing some breeders to attempt to get more merle Aussies by breeding two merles together. What they don’t realize, is they would statistically produce a litter of 50% merles by breeding a solid to a merle.

How do you train a Deaf Aussie?

You train a deaf Aussie by using hand signs and body language. Most people don’t realize that their body movements and facial expressions are being read along with any voice commands. Animals are much more in tune with reading body language than humans are. So for a deaf dog, a hand sign for “sit” is the same thing as a verbal command. A frown that goes with the word “no” can be read by any dog. You can use basic hand commands for “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “come”, “no”, and “good dog”. You can also use basic ASL (American Sign Language) commands, or create some of your own! We suggest modifying any sign to one hand if possible, as many times the other one may be holding a leash….or a treat! The most important thing is to be consistent with your commands, so as not to confuse your dog.

What about them startling when awakend?

When a puppy is raised to wake up with a gentle shake, they will just wake up like any other dog. Most dogs that startle when awakened have either not been trained from the time they were pups, or have had some bad experiences. There are also some dogs that just wake up more quickly and will jump up ready to play. This is in no way a “startle” response, just the personality of the dog. I’m sure you know some people who can get up and are immediately awake and running around and others (like myself) who need to wake up more slowly……well, it’s the same with dogs. Remember there are many hearing dogs that will startle if awakened suddenly.

We suggest gently touching on shoulder or hip to wake the dog and apply more pressure with your fingers as needed.

It is necessary to have a hearing dog for a companion?

Just like any other dog, some of our pups would do better with a companion, and others are comfortable to be your one and only!

Can they bark?

Oh yes, they can bark! And in the process start any hearing dog barking at what the deaf dog “heard”! They have a normal bark, and some of them can make a rather high pitched yipping sound when excited. In some cases, I beleive those who can hear certain pitched sounds may be able to hear themselves at this level……..those of us who can hear simply wait for the crystal to shatter!

How do you train a Blind and Deaf Aussie?

Training is done by taking time to show them the house and yard and letting them explore on their own while watching to make sure they are safe. They will map out the boundaries of both, and learn to avoid things like trees and posts, and even swimming pools!

Make sure there are no hazards that they can wander into, like air conditioning unit wires (we fence our units off), or sheds with dangerous tools and chemicals (keep the door shut at all times). After they learn the house and yard, if you are going to change something, make sure they are present while you are moving or rearranging (if it’s safe) so they know that an object has been moved or added. As an example, when we put up our gazebo, all the dogs were outside with us as it went up, and thus none of them had problems running into it later.

To communicate with them, use touch signals. You can make up your own, or use some of the ones on the Touch Commands page. Whatever you decide to use, make sure you and all family members are consistent with the touch signals. You will find after a while that your pup knows what you are expecting, even though you did not think you gave a sign…….as things become familiar, they pick up slight movements and changes in your body. It is truly fascinating to watch!

How long will they live?

A lethal white Aussie will live the same lifespan as a regular Aussie, usually 12 to 15 years. The genetics (other than the double merle gene) in their family line will dictate the health and length of their life.

What activities can they participate in?

A lethal white Aussie can participate in any activity they enjoy and are capable of doing within the limits of their disabilities. They can go jogging or hiking with you; learn to swim; become therapy dogs; participate in agility or flyball; do obedience work (though they may not participate in AKC obedience); become assistance dogs to people with disabilities……….many possibilities are open for these special pups!

Can I expect any physical problems besides deafness and/or blindness?

This again will depend on the other genetics in their family background. You can go to the Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, where there is a wealth of information on the genetics of Aussies. There is always a possibility a lethal white could have hip dysplasia, or allergies, or seizures, or other problems. This is not because they have the double merle gene, but is part of other genetic material in the family lines. You must remember, there is also the possibility of ANY normal Aussie, or ANY other breed of dog having one or more of those problems.

How will they fit into my home and/or lifestyle?

This will depend on YOUR home and YOUR lifestyle. If you are very active and participate in lots of physical events, then you should choose an Aussie that needs a lot of activity, and is able to participate with you. Remember, even a blind and deaf Aussie can jog or hike or swim! If you are less active, but take walks and take your dog on vacations, you should choose a companion that enjoys some quite time and doesn’t mind long car rides. The one trait that is pretty consistent with ALL Aussies is that they like to be with you! So whether you are gardening, cooking, taking a shower……..they will be right there with you, helping you out as only an Aussie can!

Who do I contact if I want to adopt one of your dogs?

Just go to our “Adopt Me!” page and see if one of our pups might be the perfect fit for your family. At the top of the page, you will see a link to request an application. Be sure to put in the name of the pup you are interested in!

Who do I contact if I want to foster or volunteer with your organization?

Just contact our Volunteer/Foster Coordinator!

Have more questions, comments, suggestions? Send an e-mail!