Your Purebred Puppy, Honest Advice About Dogs and Dog Breeds

mixed breed dog

The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014

On a website called yourpurebredpuppy, you might be surprised to see an article about mixed breed dogs.

But if you're on my site because you're considering getting a purebred dog, you should know WHY you want a purebred instead of a crossbreed or a mixed breed. Unless you know the pros and cons of all three, how can you make an informed choice of which one is really best for you?

Hence my three articles:

The Truth About Purebred Dogs

The Truth About Crossbred Dogs

and the article you're reading right now:
The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs.

The most common question about mixed breed dogs

question mark

"Can you look at a mixed breed dog and tell which breeds he's a mix of?"

Unfortunately, the answer is "No."

A mixed breed dog has inherited a jumble of genes and traits, and there's no way to tell which of those genes and traits come from which breeds. There could be half a dozen or more breeds in his ancestry. (Reading about purebred dogs and crossbred dogs will help you understand mixed breed dogs.)

Let's consider a dog named Spot.

  • If both of Spot's parents are purebred and the same breed, Spot is a purebred dog. Dalmatian + Dalmatian = Dalmatian.
  • If both of Spot's parents are purebred but different breeds, Spot is a crossbred dog. Dalmatian + Boxer = Dalmatian/Boxer cross.
  • >If one of Spot's parents is purebred and the other is crossbred, well, now it starts to get tricky. Dalmatian + Dalmatian/Boxer is still considered a crossbred dog because there are only two breeds there. Even Dalmatian/Boxer + Dalmatian/Boxer is considered a crossbred dog because there are just two breeds contributing all of Spot's genes.
  • But once you introduce a third or fourth breed, such as Dalmatian + Boxer/Poodle....or Dalmatian/Collie + Boxer/Poodle....well, now Spot is a mixed breed dog. Multiple breeds are contributing genes and traits, and there is no way to sort out which genes (and traits) might have come from which breed. And often there are far more than three or four breeds.

People who look at a mixed breed dog and then declare which breed's genes are inside that dog, are only guessing. There are simply too many breeds, too many genes that can produce a certain shape of head, ear carriage, type of tail, coat length, color, etc., and too many ways those genes can combine.

mixed breed dog

The only way to know which breeds' genes are inside a mixed breed dog is to have his DNA tested. There's a veterinary company called Wisdom Panel Insights that will do this for you. They'll send you a kit with cotton swabs, which you simply swirl inside your dog's cheek. His saliva contains his DNA. Mail the swab back to the company and they'll tell you which breeds are "in" your mixed breed dog.

I think it's a lot of fun to find this out. For example, you might be pretty sure that your mixed breed is "mostly Lab" or "half Shepherd" or "a poodle/terrier mix".....but now you can find out for sure whether you were right or wrong!

Does it help to know which breeds are "in" a mixed breed dog?

So it's a lot of fun to find out, yes.....but does it help you to raise or train your dog?

Let's say you've just gotten a mixed breed puppy. Will finding out his breed composition mean you can predict what he will grow up to look like or act like?

No, not really. Because even if you know which breeds are in him, you don't know whether those individual DOGS were typical for their breed. Heredity is not perfect, so there are many purebred dogs that don't look very much (or especially ACT very much) like their breed is supposed to.

For example, many Rottweilers love everyone instead of being protective. Some Golden Retrievers are shy instead of friendly. Some Chihuahuas weigh 15 pounds instead of being tiny. When these dogs breed, they can pass on atypical genes and traits to their puppies....your mixed breed

So just because your mixed breed puppy "has pure breeds" in his ancestry doesn't help you to know what those individual dogs were actually like – and therefore you don't know which genes and traits they had available to pass on.

Finally, even if you somehow KNEW that all of your puppy's ancestors had the "expected" genes for their breed.....many of those genes will be conflicting. Stubborn vs eager-to-please, friendly vs aloof, noisy vs quiet....when a mixed breed puppy inherits a jumble of conflicting genes, you don't know which of those genes will "trump" the others, or which ones will blend together to form some intermediate result.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "A mixed breed puppy is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

Mixed breed dogs tend to have moderate temperaments

Smiley face "Moderate" means that the extremes of temperament and behavior often seen in purebreds are less common in mixed breeds. Now, it is certainly possible for mixed breeds to be very energetic or very independent or to have very strong chasing or barking or digging instincts. But many purebreds were specifically BRED to have those temperaments and behaviors, because they aided the breed's performance of his work (herding, hunting, guarding, etc.). Whereas in mixed breeds, extreme temperaments and behaviors are by happenstance rather than deliberate design.

Because their temperament and behavior tends to be more middle-of-the-road, mixed breed dogs are often more flexible and can adjust to a greater variety of households and lifestyles.

Frowning face Potential negative: If you want a dog with specific skills, such as herding sheep, or finding pheasants, or hunting rabbits, or guarding goats, or to compete in some specialized canine event such as schutzhund, a mixed breed dog is not the way to go. These are the areas where purebreds (and some specific crossbreeds) are at their very best.

Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier

Smiley face Most mixed breed dogs have good genetic diversity, i.e. their genes are unrelated and include a little of this and a little of that, which promotes overall health and vigor.

Smiley face Because their genes are usually unrelated, the chances are good that the parents of a mixed breed puppy did not both have the same defective genes. It is the pairing up of the same defective genes that causes some of the worst health problems in dogs.

Smiley face When left to her own devices, Mother Nature tends to make dogs moderately sized, with natural builds. In mixed breeds, you seldom find faces as short as a Pug, or bodies as long as a Dachshund or as barrel-shaped as a Bulldog, or weighing 3 pounds or 150 pounds. This is a GOOD thing, because these physical features are deformities associated with increased health problems.

Frowning face Potential negative: For some inherited health problems, there are medical tests that can be done before breeding two dogs together, to make sure they don't have that particular health problem. Unfortunately, it is almost unheard of for a mixed breed dog to have even one parent who has been tested for any inherited health problem. With a mixed breed dog, you have to put your faith in his genetic diversity, rather than in medical testing.

Frowning face Potential negative: Some mixed breed dogs are blends of purebreds that share similar health problems. This means the same defective gene could come over from both parents and pair up in their puppies. For example, a mixed breed puppy with Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, and Bichon Frise genes could inherit hip problems, knee problems, eye diseases, chronic ear infections, etc. – because all of those breeds are prone to the same problems.

To sum up, a mixed breed dog can be a fine choice...

  1. if you're willing to accept whatever characteristics he grows up to have – or if you adopt an adult so you can see what he already looks like and acts like.
  2. if you're willing to put your faith in his genetic diversity to help protect him against health problems, since neither of his parents was medically tested for them.
  3. if you don't want to pay a high purchase price.
  4. and if you like the idea of saving a life that no one else may want.

book coverIn my book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, I'll show you how to find a nice mixed breed dog and how to determine whether he might make a good family pet for you.

Just like I'm talking to you right now, I'll explain:

  • How to find mixed breed dogs available for adoption
  • Which ages are best for adoption – and which ages are riskier
  • Whether a male dog or a female dog might suit you better
  • Four temperament tests you should do before agreeing to adopt any dog
  • How to test for possessiveness and aggression – even in a dog who seems friendly
  • The adoption contract – what to expect, and which terms to watch out for

Crossbred dogs are covered just as thoroughly, if you find yourself interested in a Cockapoo or a Schnoodle or a Goldendoodle. And of course, since my website is, purebred dogs are covered from nose to tail. No doubt about it.... Dog Quest is your complete, step-by-step guide to choosing and finding the right dog for your family. Learn more about Dog Quest.