When someone decides to get a dog, they want to get the best pet they can.  Many people want to decide between the animal who has certification (“papers”) and one they can get for lost less money from the local animal shelter, a friend, or Craig’s list.  This is a HUGE debate and I’m going to present all the information as clearly as possible, weighing the pros and cons, and giving my own opinion at the conclusion.  I have raised show dogs – Norwegian Elkhounds and Beagles – and had many “mutts”, so I think I may be qualified to give a personal opinion.  Let’s start with the benefits of having a purebred dog.

The Benefits of a Purebred Dog

First of all, there are show dogs and there are purebred dogs.  A show dog has all the makings of the breed that demonstrate superior physical qualities.  Keep in mind that there are no requirements for a show dog for personality, temperament, or intelligence.  Specific breeds like the German Shepherd are known for their smarts, and other like the Labs are famous for their gentle temperament.  Show dogs are judged on their looks and the way they move.  Take it from someone who knows, showing dogs is an expensive hobby that takes lots of money far beyond the original cost of the dog.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a purebred dog as, “A breed is a group of domestic animals related through common ancestors and visibility similar in most characteristics, having been differentiated from others by human influence; a distinctive group of domesticated animals differentiated from the wild type under the influence of man, the sum of the progeny of a known and designated foundation stock without admixture of other blood.”  These dogs, both male and female, are also referred to as “money dogs” because they and their offspring have the potential to bring in large sums of money for both puppies and stud fees.  There is a good chance the breeders know the size, color, and appearance of the digs that are produced.

Jessica Rice D’Amato, the Public Relations Director for the American Kennel Club, states “People may choose a purebred dog over a mixed breed because they’re looking for predictable qualities – temperament, cost type, exercise needs, etc.”

History of registered dogs

When kennel or breed clubs first began registering dogs, it wasn’t a large problem to check bloodlines because only very wealthy people practiced it.  Today, breed clubs may required DNA testing to prove lineage.

It is interesting to note that although breeders stated they want to remain true to the original characteristics of their particular breed, many breeds have changed over the years to make their dogs more interesting or attractive.  For instance, the Cocker Spaniel is known today for its long, flowing coat that takes much attention to be so beautiful.  The breed is one of the oldest recognized because they were used for flushing game out of brush for hunters.  Goodall and Gascow wrote that spaniels “transformed from untrained, wild beaters, to smooth, polished gun dogs after the invention of firearms for hunting.  Today, in addition to looking completely different from their ancestors, they are unfit for hunting because they have the reputation of suffering from “shyness and hysteria to a serious degree “according to hunter Jeff Griffen (History of Spaniels).  The first cocker spaniel to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club took the prize in 1921.  However, the breed is no longer even in the top ten of American favorite dogs.

Different “purebred” dogs

There are some “custom” dog breeds that are not recognized by the kennel clubs that do not fall into the category of mutts.  For instance, when you breed a full-blood Labrador with a full-blood Poodle, you will come up with the very popular Labradoodle.  The Poodle is also crossed with a Golden Retriever to get a Goldendoodle.  Morkies and Puggles.  The list goes on.  These dogs are not a recognized breed, but their cuddly looks, possibly less genetically inherited health problems, and even temperaments carry price tags ranging from $500 to $2500.  These dogs are called “dog hybrids” or “dog crossbreeds” and are no more purebreds than the animals you find at your local shelter.

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR DOG’S TEETH ARE BAD

How do you know if they have dental disease?  THEIR BREATH STINKS!  And I don’t mean the usual bad breath from eating things you don’t even want to think about.  I mean turn-your-head-away-good-grief dog bad breathe.  If Fifi’s mouth smell offends you, it’s time to see the doc.  The teeth will be yellow (check out the gross photo below) and maybe even be loose or fall out.  Also, your dog may not want to eat anything she has to chew or show discomfort when she does eat.  Don’t put off visiting the vet, because a disease process could be already started that could take your guy out of your life way sooner than you ever wanted.  Plus, she may be suffering!

Labradoodle Puppy

The problem with crossbreeding two different bloodlines is that you don’t really know what you’re going to get.  Your Goldendoodle puppy may not have the preferred curly hair or other desired Poodle characteristics.  Then you have a standard mutt and you just want someone to take it off your hands.  These mixes also do not breed true, like a purebred dog.  To get the Labradoodle you want, you would have to return to the same purebred dogs as parents.

In addition, not every puppy is a show quality animal, not coming up to the standards of the breed.  For instance, my heart dog Caesar was a full-blooded black Great Dane, but his ears did not stand up like they were supposed to so he was considered to be a “pet-quality” purebred.

Since I got him from an ethical breeder, I was not given papers on him to discourage breeding him and to avoid selling puppies as AKC animals.  Nevertheless, I loved that dog until his death and now, forty years later, I still tear up writing about him.  There was no doubt he was a Great Dane, but according to the standards he was not a show-quality Great Dane.

In addition, when there is a large enough group that meets standards developed by breeder, they can petition to be considered a purebred dog and be able to issue papers.  This is the case with the Australian Cattle Dog, otherwise known as the Blue Heeler.  They also are listed with the AKC has having the longest life expectancy, even more than the Chihuahua!  Huh!  I have always loved the look of these working dogs, and they were inducted in the American Kennel Club in 1980 after dogs performed in the Miscellaneous Class at least one year.  The criteria for placement in that class was at least 100 active households be interested in the breed in the form of a National Breed Club membership, no less than 300 dogs presented with a three-generation pedigree, dogs and owners in no less than 20 states, and approval of the AKC on the standards of the breed and operation of the National Club.  The American Kennel Club states that then:

At the end of the first year, AKC contacts the National Breed Club for updates on the number of dogs and litters recorded, and the number of dogs who have entered events since being eligible to compete in the Miscellaneous Class. Finally, the club must have held matches, local and national breed specialty shows, judges’ workshops and breed seminars (AKC).

Australian Cattle Dog, aka "Blue Heeler"

The Drawbacks of a Purebred Dog

As breeders striving for characteristics that conform to the breed in as many puppies as possible, genetic conditions that are specific to some breeds have become more frequently manifested when the animals are closely related.  In large breed dogs such as German Shepherds, hip dysplasia is common; this is a condition that has an abnormal formation of the hip socket and results in crippling lameness and painful arthritis.  A blood disorder called Van Willebrand disease is frequently seen in Doberman Pinschers, and Shar Peis will many times have eyelids that curl in, a painful problem that requires surgery.

In a study of 27, 254 cases presenting in veterinary offices from 1995 to 2010, statistics were kept on 24 genetic disorders that included problems with the heart, internal organs, eyes, hips, and cancer.  The study concluded that genetic problems exist equally throughout both the populations of mixed-breed and full-blood dogs.  A similar study in 2002 reported the same results.   It was interesting that elbow dysplasia was more common in the Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Mastiff and Rottweiler and it was thought it is due to all four breeds having a common ancestor with the joint problem and that it was passed down to all its descendants.

Another problem is puppy mills that breed without ethics and many times treat their animals horribly.  Dr. Khuly states that 75% (!!) of the animals produced in puppy mills have genetic defects.  DO NOT SUPPORT PUPPY MILLS AND BACKYARD BREEDERS!

Take the cocker spaniel again.  At one time, the Cocker one of the most popular breeds in the United States and puppy mills pumped them out by the thousands (History of Spaniels).

Today, there are over 1000 Cockers that are homeless animals listed on on-line adoptable databases and who knows how many are strays because of the grooming they require.  In addition, eye problems, hip dysplasia, and temperament problems resulted.

The Benefits of a Mixed Breed Dog

Anyone who follows my Facebook page or blog knows that I am a strong advocate for adopting dogs from the shelter.  I have a Husky-mix, Hondo, right now that’s seven years old. With a shelter dog, what you see is what you get.  Sometimes when you get him home, you find there are things you need to work with, but isn’t that true of any dog?  However, many of the dogs in shelters have not been socialized and need that work some people are not willing to put in. I heard one couple returning a

My Husky-mix, Hondo

dog that would not be housebroken.  Really?  How long were your kids in diapers?  I wanted to reach over and give them a good smack.  EVERY dog can be taught to go outside with attentive, positive training.  Anyway, off my soapbox.  Some puppies come into an adoption center or are offered on a flyer or Craigslist because a booboo happened, but they will need to be socialized, too.  My Hondo is super shy with me and after several weeks is just now getting to the point where he won’t leave the room when I walk it.  But I’m confident that our relationship will improve.  He just has a seven year history as a stray and then the trauma of being rescued from the flooding in Houston in 2017 and then a year in an animal shelter.  I’d have trust issues, too!

With sizes and general health, a mixed-breed dog will live longer than a purebred dog due to those nasty bad genetic inheritances having a harder time getting a grip on a mutt.  Sure, they may still crop up, but the chances are less.

Just as a side note, according to the New Pet Owners website, the top ten breeds that are most popular when mixed (best size, intelligence, temperament, and amount of care) are the blends of Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Shih Tzu, Siberian Husky, Rottweiler, French Bulldog, Pomsky, Beagle, Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle, and Boxer.  While it used to be the rule that only purebred dogs were used for the military and as service dogs, mixed-breeds are now accepted.  It goes without saying that thousands of ex-military suffering from PTSD find their service dogs in shelters as each appreciates the other in leaps and bounds.

If you’re into competitions for your dogs and he isn’t a show quality animal, consider agility contests like the one with the NADC.  The dogs run an obstacle course and they are judged on speed and how they perform.  You can see some really funny ones on YouTube and some really impressive ones, too!  Any pure- or mixed breed dog can enter.  Take a look!  Fame, a border collie mix with incredible energy blows away the other dogs at the 2018 Masters Agility Championship

The Drawbacks of a Mixed Breed Dog

Looking at a puppy in a shelter or someone’s living room does tell you what the bloodline is for her and him.  They may look like they’re going to be a small or medium adult, but you may end up with a St. Bernard!  Even if you know the parents, there’s no guarantee what that puppy will look like when it fully matures.  Buying a purebred dog give a little of a guarantee of the outcome of growing up.  For instance, there are specific characteristics many breeds tout.

The puppy or older dog you get may have health issues.  My Hondo has some sort of lung thing where about two times a day he will sound like he’s choking for a few seconds.  I’ve been told he has a chronic condition, and I’m getting used to it . . . sorta.  Dr. Khuly says that while some purebreds end up in shelters, the health problems with mixed-breed dogs is infectious diseases they have picked up which can be very expensive to treat.  I got my last furbaby, Jax, from a home on Craigslist that listed him as a Great Dane, but I think Mama was a Suluki.  He has this Greyhound body and tears up the park we visit every day.  He has these funny tufts of hair behind his ears, but otherwise he has his daddy AKD Great Dane’s fawn coloring and noble head.  But I’m going to have to pay to get him neutered (he’s 10 months old), shots, and a microchip.  That’s more than the $100 many shelters charge and there are times when they will have an “Empty the Shelter” event where you can get them for a donation.  I got Hondo and my late Lady free because I was over 60 years old and they were over 6 years old.  Ask about it.  Maybe you can offer a foster home forever.  It’s called a Foster Fail.  That’s me!  I’m getting T-shirts made . . .

Conclusion

Dr. Patty Khuly, VDM states that while professional breeders claim they are careful not to use animals that produce medical problems, that most vets agree that the mixed breeds are the healthiest.  Due to their mixture of genetics and sadly, the fact that sick strays don’t live long enough to reproduce, they have a lower risk of inherited diseases.  But on the other hand, Dr. Kulhy says it a DNA crapshoot.  Your purebred dog may never have any problems while your mutt may have a long list.

Have your pet checked at the vet at least once a year just like you should be doing and pick up problems quickly so they can be treated before they get worse.  Be a good pet owner and you should consider pet insurance for unexpected expenses.  Too many pet owners abandon a sick animal or let the condition get too bad to treat because of the cost.  Check out my blog on pet insurance for more information.

Personally speaking, I have loved my mutts more than I did my show dogs.  I know that’s not true of many owners of purebreds and I was proud of my show dogs, but I think I just looked at them differently.  And I found that the dogs just don’t care.  That show-quality beagle rolled in the mud with my Chihuahua mix just the same and they all loved the cuddles.  I push mixed-breeds because there are thousands that need a good home, but pure bloodlines may be more important to you and you might even want to get into showing.  Some dogs love to be in the ring!  Whatever choice you make, remember that you are giving them a forever home.  The behavior of the dog you select is completely up to how well you train them.  In the end, they will reward you with all the love they can give.

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