Mixed dog breeds versus purebreds, which is right for you

You hear a lot about the merits of getting a purebred dog–and I have one myself–but have you considered a mixed breed dog? There are advantages to both, and a few cautions to keep in mind, as you decide what type of dog to get.

Mixed breed dogs, lovingly known as “mutts,” are just as affectionate and loyal as purebred dogs. The main differences are predictability and cost. When you buy a purebred dog, you know what you are getting in terms of size, looks, temperament, and potential health concerns. For example, if you buy a German Shepherd puppy, you know it will grow to be about 65-100 pounds, have a thick, medium-length coat, that it will shed a lot, and that it will probably not be good around strangers. You would know this because that’s the breed’s profile. When looking for a purebred dog it is critical that you research breeders carefully and meet your puppy’s parents so you know that they conform to the breed’s profile, including temperament.

When you get a mixed breed, you may not know exactly how big he is going to get or his personality and temperament. Even if you’ve been told your puppy is part Springer Spaniel and part Australian Shepherd, chances are the parent dogs were not purebred either and have other breeds in their mix. Therefore you can’t count on your puppy growing up to look and behave like its parents. Further, non-purebred mixed breeds dogs tend to have a more middle-of-the-road temperament than purebreds because they are not genetically programmed to be a certain way. For example, the profile of a Chihuahua says the breed is highly companionable but temperamental and tends to be a one-person dog. The profile of a Jack Russell indicates the breed is high spirited, stubborn and needs firm training.

Getting a mixed breed often means a big cost savings, because purebreds tend to expensive to purchase (unless you get a purebred rescue dog). When you buy a purebred dog, such as a Border Collie, you would likely buy it from a reputable breeder who needs to cover his costs for breeding, kenneling, feeding, medical expenses, etc. Some breeds are more expensive than others and a purebred puppy can cost over $1000. Mixed breeds are often found through the newspaper classified ads, often for free, and at shelters. At shelters, you usually pay an adoption fee to cover the cost of housing the dog and spaying or neutering the pet. Usually these are nominal fees, very likely under $100. The added benefit is that by getting dog from a shelter you may well be saving its life.

Purebred dogs are often prone to medical conditions such as hip dysplasia, bloat, and skin conditions. This is because of a limited gene pool. To keep the breed pure, the same set of genes is reproduced over and over for years, and this can result in health problems. Genetic defects and health problems can literally get bred into dogs. When you get a mixed breed (non-purebred), you may not have to worry so much about potential health issues because a mixed breed, being a combination of several breeds, may not be predisposed to certain conditions that are “bred” into purebreds. Mixed breed dogs may be more healthy and vigorous because they have a genetic diversity.

No matter what type of dog you choose, mixed breed or pure, he will need plenty of love, training, and exercise, the key components of a happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved dog.