In the United States of America there are various names for dogs of mixed breeding - "mixed breed", "mixie", "mutt", "mongrel" and last (but best) is "All American". This last term recognizes that the mixed breed is like many many people in the USA, with a proud but various background. Unfortunately many people fail to give the All American its proper due. Most owners of the All American do not know that their mixed breed is welcome in many fun activities, and that their dogs can be registered, and earn titles in competition. Since this site serves the world I will continue to use the term "mixed breed" so as to not inadvertently exclude our world neighbors.
I'm a mixed breed fan. Interestingly enough, though, when I advise people on dogs I tend to advise by breed. That's because a person ready to take on a mixed breed really must be willing to gamble. Not only final size, coat and physical characteristics but the more important stuff - personality, temperament and activity level.
My dog Tanith is my blessing. But I never would have guessed that such energy existed in a dog. WOW. Purebreds are more predictable, no guarantees, but your chances of getting what you expect are higher. Getting an adult, older than two, will get you predictability even in the mixed breeds.
A shelter or rescue dog might be just the perfect answer. Many of these are fine dogs that got to the shelter or rescue because their previous owner did not do their homework. Adult dogs, in particular, are often a good choice because their needs are not so time intensive as puppies. Moreover, the adult dog offers a degree of predictability. A GOOD shelter or rescue evaluation can really do a good job of matching dog to owner. Here are some books to read to learn more about shelter and rescue dogs.
"Second Hand Dog" by Carol Benjamin
"Choosing a Shelter Dog" by Christiansen
When you decide to get your dog don't just take the first cute furry face that comes along. It may be hard but it is well worth it to apply temperament tests, carefully evaluate the dog, and wait for the one that is truly right for your family. You can't save them all, but you can save the one that has the best chance of having a happy life with you, and that is the one that matches your family. Also, don't pass up a nice dog that you like because "someone else will certainly adopt it". Not necessarily so. The qualities you like another person may dislike or not see. You cannot save them all. The best you can do is pick the one which matches your family the best. Leave the others to get their chance at finding their best match. Don't feel guilty about taking a "nice dog" just because you are "willing" to take another. If you don't mesh you aren't doing each other any favors.
That doesn't mean I don't believe in "projects" (taking a dog that needs special care). I do. I think my greatest personal growth has come from learning to love and appreciate a dog I never would have chosen. It has happened to me several times and each time I learned. I learned patience, I learned to change my training approach, I learned to look at why I liked what I do. Just understand that taking the "project" does not necessarily save another dog.
Although this site repeats the unproven assumption that mixed breeds are less prone to genetic disease it still contains sound advice in choosing a shelter dog. The National Dog Rescue Connection.
Reasonably even-handed discussion of the qualities of the mixed breed dog
This is a fictitious one sided conversation with a pet shop owner. It's purpose? Well its just a different way of explaining what is wrong with buying a puppy from a pet shop.
This site hosts some nice stories of mixed breed dogs, and offers t-shirts for sale promoting our mixed breed (All American) canine friends.
Nothing wrong with mixed breed dogs - unless they are being hawked by breeders who are less than honest or knowledgable about what they are selling.
Mostly correct (species, however is still an artifact of man but that gets complicated), and cross-breeding does have productive benefits but productive cross breeding isn't random. Some specific crosses work out to improvements, some don't. And if your original stock shares genetic problems so will the crosses. Etc etc. But overall the article is reasonably informative and balanced.
There are a lot of reasons given why one should spay or neuter a dog. I'll be honest. The most persuasive reason I can think of is that it is the most certain means of birth control. If you really think you want to breed let me ask you to first learn a bit more about it. What bad thing will happen if you take the time to learn? Starting with my comments on breeding in general. If you explore my Breeder's Ethics Page you will see that the lack of knowledge about the background of 99.99 percent of mixed breed dogs makes it nearly impossible to do a good job of avoiding genetic diseases. If you know of a study that proves that mixed breeds get fewer genetic disease, let me know. I do know of studies (by George Padgett, DVM) summarized in Dog World magazine (Dec 96, Jan, Feb 97) that suggest mixed breeds are at higher risk.
If you have heard otherwise consider this - is there a difference between mixed breeds and purebreds in the rate the dogs are tested or checked for genetic disease? The answer is yes. Purebreds are tested at a higher rate because most testing is related to the desire to discover potential problems as part of the decision about whether to breed. Many responsible breeders will encourage, and occasionally even require, all their buyers to test, even those dogs due to be spayed or neutered. This is important to the breeder because it helps identify problems before they become too widespread.
Naturally problems are going to be detected at a higher rate in the population in which you are actually looking for problems, in contrast to that in which the problems are only discovered when they become so evident that the adverse effects cannot be ignored. Even then the mixed breed owner frequently elects to forego diagnostic tests, especially where it will not significantly changed treatment choice. In contrast the responsible purebred owner will want to determine the cause so if there is a genetic link the breeder can be informed. The difference is not that one person is a better owner, but that determining the cause is critical to breeding decisions, especially in deciding NOT to continue a line.
A person who really cares about dogs does their very best to reduce the incidence of genetic disease. Avoiding genetic disease requires good records for at least three generations, an extremely rare circumstance in the mixed breed dog. Temperament is also related to the background of the dog, and is another reason for carefully examining the pedigree before breeding. OH, and before I forget, a pedigree is not the equivalent of purebred. A dog's pedigree is its parentage - its genetic history and background; its ancestry.
Genetics mandates that if you breed your very nice mixed breed that the resulting puppies will be unlikely to mirror the parent. In the absence of knowledge and understanding of inheritance in dogs you have no idea of what you will get. Did you know that color inheritance is related to deafness? If you don't know the basics of inheritance in dogs, and the background of your dog how are you going to avoid deafness?
Another reason for not breeding your mixed breed is quite simply that there are millions of dogs dying in shelters every year. If no dogs were ever bred that would be the end of our companions. So there must be some criteria for deciding which dogs should be bred. The criteria should focus on dogs that are the most likely to be healthy, and the most likely to be placed in permanent homes. As much as I love the mystery of the mixed breed I know that the surprises are very often too much for the owner and the dog lands in the shelter. The more predictable the qualities of the dog, the more likely the dog will find a permanent home. Being able to predict energy level, trainability, temperament, size, coat, and other qualities will all enhance the potential for permanent placement. The predictability of the mixed breed is very low, the predictability of the well bred pure bred is quite high.
Finally, the market for the mixed breed dog is such that, even if you happened to be very careful, and do the most wonderful job, it is unlikely that you could find people to take your puppies and get them to sign the same kinds of contracts a responsible breeder would require. That means that you would be directly responsible to contributing the pet overpopulation problem, a very sad state of affairs.
No, a person who cares about dogs does not breed dogs with out a great deal of study, care, thought, rethought, education, research, time and effort. The wonder of mixed breed dogs is in the mystery of them. Focus,, then, on the next mystery, not trying to clone your wonderful mixed breed. You cannot replace your wonderful dog. Trying to make another just the same will do honor to neither the original, nor the ones to follow. Let each dog be its own unique self, that is the true beauty of the mixed breed.
This article starts out with what may come across as a "horror story". And in a sense it is. But it is not intended, not should it be taken as an indication that getting a dog from a shelter is a bad idea. Instead its just a caution not to get so caught up in saving just one life that you bypass the really good match for you.
Looking for a great dog? This is the perfect place to start looking.
A modest collection of rescue links leading to much more ambitious collections. You can probably better find what you need through a web search, but these might point you in the right direction.
This page provides links to sites specializing in various activities to do with your dog. The focus is on special animal-human relations. Also included are links to some excellent training sites, agility, flyball, sledding and more. It's a good place to learn about some new dog activities. Most welcome all dogs, including mixed breeds.
This page provides links to sites that list training clubs and classes for a variety of activities. None of them are specifically for mixed breeds. Some will be strongly encouraging because they see their role as supporting responsible dog ownership for all dog owners. Others may be a little surprised, especially if they are not strongly active in mainstream education of dog owners. Don't let that deter you, its an education for all concerned.
Another organization for mixed breed dogs.
N.A.D.R.A. produces the Classic K-9 Show. There are no breed restrictions for joining N.A.D.R.A. Purebred and mixed breed dogs compete equally.
UKC is a purebred registry but it allows spayed and neutered mixed breeds to compete in performance events.
The largest single breed dog registry in North America. Governed by volunteer Australian Shepherd fanciers elected by the membership, ASCA is dedicated to preserving the Standard of Excellence for the Australian Shepherd Dog. I include this site because although they are a breed specific organization mixed breeds may participate in performance events.
1118 Marquita Ave.
Burlingame, CA 94010
You can find logo items for the Mixed Breed Dog Club of California at http://www.cafepress.com/dogplay/753331
This club is based in the UK.
WET DOG's philosophy is that all dogs including mixes are welcome.
I've not heard any evidence that mixed breeds are necessarily any healthier than purebreds - lots of supposition, but no evidence. I think the key to healthy dogs is knowing the backgrounds of the dogs to be bred. Are they free of hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, PRA, heart problems? Labs and Goldens have many genetic problems in common and if you just put one of each together without checking for the existence of those problems in the lines of each I'm not at all sure why one should expect to get a healthier dog.
If I were to be looking for a dog from a breeder I would only purchase a dog from a breeder who used great care in breeding. That means I would expect the breeder to understand the rudimentary genetics of important genetic diseases (to the extent of mainstream knowledge) and to test both the parents for diseases that might be expected to show up in the breed. For both breeds that includes hip dysplaysia (hip x-rays required for screening), heart problems and more. I would expect the breeder to be aware of the health histories of at least the parents and grandparents of the sire and dam, and also many of the siblings of each of those generations. I would want also some independent evaluation of the temperaments of the same. If the breeder is not taking positive steps to detect and avoid genetic disease then they are not someone I would care to support. Careless breeding is not a kind and loving thing to do to a dog. Breeding on blind faith alone is careless breeding at its worst.
I also would purchase only from a breeder who shows true commitment to trying to keep dogs out of shelters instead of adding to them. That means the breeder commits to requiring that if person takes a puppy, then later decides that they cannot or will not provide what the dog needs the breeder takes it back, even if it is an old dog.
Mostly I cannot see buying a dog from a breeder unless I had very specific needs. If that were the case predictability would be very important and a mixed breed dog just can't provide the same kind of predictability as a purebred dog bred by a careful responsible breeder. In my case I would much prefer to take a dog from a shelter or rescue than to do anything to support the people whose dogs end up dying in the same. If you work full time you will not be spending enough time with the puppy to get any socialization/training benefits over a rescue or shelter dog. If you have no strong need for particular breed characteristics I strongly encourage you to adopt a dog that will otherwise die.
A GOOD shelter or rescue evaluation can really do a good job of matching dog to owner. Here are some books to read to learn more about shelter and rescue dogs.
"Second Hand Dog" by Carol Benjamin
"Choosing a Shelter Dog" by Christiansen
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Copyright © 1998-2003, Diane Blackman
Created: March 3, 1998
Updated April 11, 2007