Purebred vs. Mixed Breed Dogs

People will often talk about purebred versus mixed breed dogs. Purebreds are easy to recognize: German shepherds, dachshunds, and Dalmatians. But mixed breed dogs can often be a mystery. Some are easy to recognize, but others aren't. For those who are curious, there are different health tests and dog DNA tests that can be used to figure out the parentage of mixed breed dogs.

For many people, knowing the breed of their dog doesn't matter. They are simply looking for a companion or another furry family member. However, when it comes to things such as health or breed-specific illness, knowing more about your dog can be incredibly helpful.

Picking a Puppy

It is important to pay attention to where your dog comes from. If you're looking for a puppy, make sure you don't give your business to puppy mills. These facilities ignore ethical practices and show little regard for the health and parentage of the animals they sell. Health testing if often ignored, and they breed whatever dogs they're able to in order to make profits off selling puppies.

If you're buying a dog from a breeder, ask questions about the parents, previous health tests, the puppy's first set of vaccines, and do your research. Many reputable breeders will be certified by the American Kennel Club, and follow best practices for whatever breed they work with.

If having a specific breed of dog doesn't matter, then adopting from a shelter is recommended. While shelters don't always have puppies, there are lots of juvenile and older dogs looking for their forever homes.

If you're getting a dog from a shelter, you can ask about the dog's history and health, but some information may be unknown.

With new puppies, foster dogs, and shelter dogs, it's recommended to visit a vet as soon as possible for a check up, and to schedule any vaccines that are needed.

Types of Crossbreeds

Broadly speaking, mixed breed dogs fall into one of four categories:

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  1. Crossbreeds: The term "crossbreed" is often incorrectly used as a synonym for "mutt" or "mixed breed." Technically speaking, a crossbred dog is the offspring of purebred parents of two different breeds.
  2. Functional breeds: This term is used to described dogs of mixed ancestry that have been selectively bred because they excel at a certain practical task, such as leading the blind or detecting drugs.
  3. Pariah dogs: "Pariah dog" is a generic term that originated in India, used to reference animals that are descended from many generations of uncontrolled mixed breeding. The classic pariah dog is medium in height and weight, with nondescript features and straw yellow or light brown fur.
  4. Mixed dogs: This category is the one most people mean when they use the term "mutt" or "mixed breed." These dogs show strong characteristics of one or more ancestral breeds, but are not purebreds. They're normally referred to as a mix of the dominant breed – for example, "Labrador retriever mix" or "collie cross."

Pros and Cons of Mixed Breeds

There are pros and cons to every type of dog, but at the end of the day how they behave will largely depend on how well you train them.

Some types of dogs, such as dachshunds, are prone to illnesses because of their body types. In dogs with long backs and spines, intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is something owners should be prepared for.

Brachycephalic breeds, also known as "squished face" dogs, such as pugs and bulldogs, are prone to issues related to their breathing, and cooling themselves off in warm weather.

In general, mixed breed dogs are believed to be healthier because they aren't necessarily prone to breed-specific illnesses. However, they can get sick with run of the mill illnesses, and are susceptible to developing cancer, arthritis, and other common chronic illnesses.

Many specific breeds are also known for their personalities and behavior. Labs, for example, are known to be loyal, whereas working dogs such as Australian shepherds and huskies are high-energy, and known to be destructive if not exercised enough.

However, mixed breed dogs can be behaviorally unpredictable. Many owners prefer certain pure breeds because of desirable physical characteristics or dispositional qualities. At the end of the day, every type of dog requires training otherwise it will act out.

Regardless of what type of dog you get, do your best to conduct research, ask about it's health and history, and make sure to put in an appropriate amount of training.