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Mixed Breeds : Pros and Cons

As designer breeds seem to be all the rage these days, potential dog parents may find themselves torn between the traditional wisdom of buying a purebred or choosing to get a trendy mixed breed pup.  The US is leading the way for mixed breed adoptions and purchases, but Europeans are not far behind, as crossbreed pet parents are now becoming the majority around the world. Read on to better understand the advantages and disadvantages of mixed breeds as opposed to purebreds.  

Definition of Purebred and Mixed Breed

All purebreds at some point in their history were mixed breed canines who were then bred to emphasize certain desirable traits. Some breeds were bred to be hunters, for example, while others were bred to be small lap dogs for privileged owners.  Mixed breeds fall into two categories: mutts and designer breeds.  Mutts may have any number of different breeds in their ancestry and their dominant gene characteristics may not be readily identifiable.  Designer breeds on the other hand are dogs bred from purebred parents of different breeds. For example, a purebred poodle is bred with a purebred Labrador to get the popular labradoodle found in so many homes today.  Two labradoodles may then be bred to get a “Double Doodle.”  Other more recent designer breeds, such as Shih-poos for example, continue to only be bred from purebred parents; in this case a Shih tzu and a poodle, as they have not been around long enough for breeders to be sure of the genetic predictability of “double breeding.”

Pros & Cons 

In the following paragraphs, we breakdown the pros and cons of pure and mixed breeds according to five major criteria.

1.    Predictability:  

Purebreds: It will come as no surprise that in terms of knowing which characteristics your puppy will exhibit, purebreds offer a clear advantage.  Although each dog will have unique attributes, you can assume with relative accuracy how big your purebred will get, his temperament, his health vulnerabilities, his tendency to shed, as well as his socialization, exercise, and training needs.  Knowing what to expect increases the odds that the pup you choose will be the right one for your family and lifestyle.

Mixed Breeds:  Mixed breeds are obviously more unpredictable, with mutts exhibiting a wide range of possible characteristics and even dogs of the same designer breed displaying vastly different attributes.  Although the traits of each breed in a designer mix are well known, you cannot predict which traits of each breed your mix will inherit.  For example, poodles are often paired in designer breeds, because of their non-shedding trait, but when mixed with a shedding breed, such as a Labrador, you cannot be sure if your pup will shed or not.

2.    Health:

Purebreds: Purebreds are all to some degree inbred to encourage certain desirable traits.  However, this lack of genetic diversity is a disadvantage when it comes to their health, as these dogs may inherit breed-specific illnesses.  As with other mammals, rare recessive genetic traits are more likely to appear in offspring of inbred dogs, so purebreds tend to have more genetic health problems and shorter lifespans.

Mixed Breeds:  Mixed Breeds, being the offspring of wider gene pools benefit from “hybrid vigor.”  Contrary to purebreds the rare recessive genetic maladies found in some dogs have a better chance of being diluted and/or eliminated in mixed breeds. Designer dog mixes also benefit from hybrid vigor, despite their purebred parents, because each parent is introducing a different gene pool to the mix.  Of course, a mixed breed dog may end up with one of the common illnesses found in one of his parents, but in most cases mixed breeds tend to be healthier than purebreds and have longer lifespans.

3.    Cost

Purebreds:  Purebreds will cost more than mixed breed dogs with pups ranging from $1,600-$5,500 depending on the breed. Currently the most expensive breeds include French bull dogs, English bull dogs, Tibetan Mastiffs, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Mixed Breeds:  Dog pounds and shelters are usually full of mixed-breed dogs ready for adoption with no initial out lay of money.  Many pet parents feel that adopting is the ethical way of obtaining a new pup. That being said, designer breeds are becoming quite costly with breeders charging on average $1,500-$2,000 per pup.  However, in general most mixed breeds will cost less than most purebreds.

4.    Behavior & Training

Purebreds: Touching again on the issue of predictability, purebreds have certain behavioral traits that pet parents and trainers can expect to encounter.  There is also a great deal of resources available to purebred owners including specialized obedience trainers, canine behaviorists, and quantities of breed-specific literature about their purebred dog’s needs, problems, and solutions to common behavioral issues.

Mixed Breeds:  Many mixed breeds are smart, playful, and easily trainable, but their mixed lineage makes their behavioral patterns unpredictable, complicating traditional training mechanisms.  Although general training methods work for any breed, those dogs with behavioral issues are often enrolled in breed specific programs based on years of research and breed literature, an option not available to mixed breed owners. Without such resources, pet parents of mixed breeds may find themselves at a loss when facing difficult behavioral issues.

5.    Pedigree

Purebreds: A pedigree dog is one who has a written record of his lineage.  A pedigree dog must come from parents of the same breed, registered in a recognized kennel club. Not all purebreds are pedigree dogs, only those whose lineage is recorded in the written form. However, as it currently stands only purebreds can be pedigree dogs and are able to enroll in prestigious dog show events.

Mixed Breeds:  Although some mixed breed dogs may have a traceable lineage, they cannot be pedigree dogs because their parents are from different breeds. Designer dogs, even those whose parents are the same mix, such as Double Doodles, are not considered pedigree candidates, because these designer mixes are not yet considered actual “breeds” by traditional kennel clubs.  Although many purebreds today began as cross breeds years ago, it takes generations to create a new breed of dog accepted and recognized as such. This means dog parents of mixed breeds cannot participate in most world class dog shows and prestigious dog competitions.  This is a controversial point in the dog world, but some experts expect kennel clubs to soon capitulate to public opinion and begin accepting certain designer dogs such as labradoodles and cockapoos (cocker spaniel and poodle mix).

Whether you opt for a mixed breed or a purebred, always evaluate first whether your lifestyle can accommodate the addition of a new pup. If opting for a mixed breed, consider adopting from a shelter to give an abandoned dog a second chance at having a family.  If opting for a purebred do your homework about the breed to make sure you are ready to commit to his needs. 

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