As long as people have owned dogs, the question of which is better – a purebred or a mutt – keeps coming up. Some people want a purebred that looks a certain way or has a breed history of specific personality characteristics. Others say that mutts are inherently healthier than purebreds because there is less chance of inbreeding and genetic issues with a mixed breed dog.

Today, we’re going to examine some of the myths surrounding both purebreds and mutts and take a look at real facts. Let’s start with the one we’ve already mentioned.

Myth: A mutt is healthier than a purebred.
True. In a 2013 paper published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, scientists from UC-Davis studied over 27,000 dogs with inherited genetic disorders, including such diseases as lymphoma, mast cell tumors, patellar luxation, patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), hypothyroidism, hip and elbow dysplasia, atopy, bloat, portosystemic shunt and epilepsy. For each disorder, healthy animals of the same age, body weight and sex were identified and studied.

The researchers determined that although the same genetic disorders occurred in equal numbers in both purebred and mixed breed dogs, some specific disorders such as dilated cardiomyopathy, elbow dysplasia, cataracts and hypothyroidism were 10 times more likely to occur in purebred dogs. Mixed breed dogs had a greater probability of only one major genetic disorder, a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament.

In other words, dogs with similar lineages appeared to be more susceptible to certain disorders that affect all closely related purebreds, whereas the disorders that occurred equally in both mixed- and purebred dogs are more ancient genetic mutations that have evolved throughout the entire canine population.

Myth: When you purchase a purebred, you’re purchasing a guarantee of health and temperament.
False. The only thing the registration papers from the American Kennel Club certify is that the recording registry maintains information regarding the reported lineage and identity of your dog. It doesn’t tell you if your dog’s parents were certified against hip dysplasia, if your puppy has had all her initial puppy shots, or if your new dog has such a high prey drive that you have to put him in “lockdown mode” every time he sees a squirrel while out walking.

Myth: You won’t be able to look at your mixed-breed puppy and tell what she’s going to look like as she matures.
False. If you examine your mutt puppy closely, you should get a fairly good idea what she’ll look like as she ages. Check out the size of her paws. The puppies of large and giant breed dogs come to us with a huge set of paws that means the body will have to grow larger to match the size of the feet. A brachycephalic (snub-nosed) puppy will continue to have that smashed-in face; it will just become rounder and larger. A puppy whose ears stand up, like the German shepherd dog, will continue to be erect as the dog grows. If you imagine your puppy with a few more inches, several more pounds, and a lot more hair – you’ll get a good general idea of how she’ll appear as a grown dog.

Myth: The breeding of your mixed-breed dog can determine his personality.
True. According to the ASPCA’s “Meet Your Match” program, the intelligence and behavior of a puppy can be a combined mixture of the mother’s and father’s temperament and traits. For example, a dog that looks like a Jack Russell terrier, but has the DNA of his Chihuahua father and poodle mother, may have a more laid-back temperament than his appearance would suggest. My own rescue StellaThePuggle (seen in the photo above) has the tracking ability of her Beagle parent, yet the snuggle aptitude of her Pug parent.

Whether you’re looking for a purebred or a mixed-breed dog, the final choice resides with you and what kind of dog you need in your home. Be it a competitive agility dog or a couch companion, the pet you bring home should fit your surroundings and your family’s needs in temperament, energy level, and trainability. The right fit means a happy, contented dog for life.

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