Monday, January 16, 2012

Mismark Case Study: Pomeranian

This Pom is red, but the breed comes in many other colors. The AKC breed standard states "All colors, patterns, and variations there-of are allowed and must be judged on an equal basis." However, this is not the whole story. Image is from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
The Pomeranian is one of the most popular breeds in the country, including its ranking in the top fifteen breeds registered by the AKC for many years. It is also supposedly one of the breeds where color does not matter. However, this is definitely not true. Mismarks are as follows:
  • Blue eyes, either in part or in whole
    • Common in merle and piebald dogs
  • Improper pigmentation
    • A liver or blue nose in a red, orange, or cream dog. A pink nose in piebalds
  • Improper sable
    • Overlay on a sable cannot be liver or blue
  • White feet
    • On otherwise solidly colored dogs
This Pomeranian has a white paw
As with all of these case studies, the breed standard lends itself to breeding based on color classes to avoid mismarks. Breeding of piebalds to solidly colored dogs is clearly not encouraged, as carriers of the piebald gene are far more likely to have completely white feet than dogs who are genetically homozygous for the solid gene. Though white feet are, in fact, not a disqualification, their "major fault" status basically eliminates all dogs with white paws from showing. It seems like a silly thing to happen when a standard states that color doesn't matter.
This Pomeranian has a liver nose

In addition to the above dilemma, red-based Pomeranians cannot have liver or blue pigment in any form, be it in the coat as sabling or when it is only confined to the skin. As such, reds, oranges, creams and the sable variations of the same colors are generally never bred to diluted dogs so as to prevent the production of an undesirably pigmented puppy. Again, the standard's statement of allowance for all colors is a flat out lie when such a simple thing as the wrong color of nose can kick a dog out of a dog show.

This Pomeranian has a blue eye
Another minor variation that is a mismark in the breed is the only one actually listed as a disqualification: blue eyes. The breed standard allows merle, piebald, and extreme white piebald. These genes are known to commonly produce blue-eyed dogs. Merles are especially prone to blue eyes. This is a fact, and it's why so many standards that allow the merle coloration also permit blue eyes, including partial blue eyes. Yet, the Pomeranian standard does not allow it.

Again, the Pomeranian standard states, verbatim, "All colors, patterns, and variations there-of are allowed and must be judged on an equal basis." Despite this statement, not all variations of all colors are considered acceptable. For one thing, this is a poor way to state a standard if it does not represent the truth of the matter. Also, there is nothing wrong with the dogs who are the unacceptable colors. If they happen to be superior to their fellows in every other way, especially health and temperament, color is a pointless barrier to have be in the way. In addition, as with all dog breeds, Pomeranians are part of a closed registry system and as such genetic diversity is a concern. By splitting a breed into color classes, the already limited genetic diversity from the closed population is narrowed even more. If the Pomeranian is to continue to exist as a breed, genetic diversity is of great importance. As such, ignoring color altogether when the standard already says that color shouldn't matter only makes sense.


  1. Right! I'm not much in to show Dogs any ways, it's a Pomeranian, no matter what colour it is! And why do they all have to look the same? I have non standard black Pomeranian, he's a very sweet, healthy, and happy Pomeranian! I could never trade him for a show Pom!

    1. The Pomeranian standard is far more accepting than some standards, but it does still have its issues.