yourpurebredpuppy logo

The Truth About Purebred Dogs

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Purebred dogs

Should you get a purebred dog? Before you decide, there are some negatives about purebred dogs that you should know.

You might be absolutely convinced that you want a purebred dog. And on a website called yourpurebredpuppy, you would think I would be delighted with your decision.

But my 40 years experience as a Dog Breed Consultant has taught me that people who want purebred dogs are often basing their decision on the positive things about purebred dogs – without considering the negatives.

And there are definitely negatives.

I believe that if you're going to choose a purebred dog over a crossbreed or mixed breed, you should make that decision after hearing the pros AND cons of purebred dogs. Too many websites talk up the positives, but leave out the negatives.

I try to be more balanced. I want to empower you with the truth about the traits and characteristics of purebred dogs – the pros and cons, positives and negatives, advantages and disadvantages.

Then you can make a wise decision.

Advantages of purebred dogs

You can predict the physical traits of a purebred dog.

Purebred Alaskan Malamutes

Why do these purebred Alaskan Malamutes look so much alike?

When you breed two Lakeland Terriers together, why do the puppies grow up to look like their parents?

Because each breed has its own unique set of genes. These genes produce the desired traits for that breed, including size, coat, color, whether the ears prick up or hang down, and so on.

As each breed was being developed, its breeders decided which traits were desired for that breed. For example, small size was chosen for Cairn Terriers, while medium size was chosen for Border Collies. Long coat was chosen for Old English Sheepdogs, while short coat was chosen for Rottweilers.

When dogs with the desired traits were bred, the genes carrying those traits were spread throughout the gene pool of that breed.

So when you see a puppy who is a member of a particular breed, you have a pretty good idea which genes (and therefore which traits) he inherited. If you want a certain size dog, or a certain length of coat, you can choose a breed that has the genes for those traits. For many people, predictable appearance is the biggest advantage of purebred dogs.

You can predict SOME temperament/behavior traits in purebred dogs.

SOME aspects of temperament and behavior are also carried on genes. If you want an energetic dog, you can choose a breed who typically inherits genes for high energy.

If you want a dog for herding your cattle, or guarding your sheep, or hunting pheasants or rabbits, or pulling a sled, or doing police work, you can choose a breed that tends to inherit those kinds of behaviors.

However, other aspects of temperament and behavior are not inherited. Instead, they're based mostly on the dog's environment (how he is raised and trained, starting from birth). Some dogs are more affected by their genes, while other dogs are more affected by their environment.

When a behavioral trait is "hardwired" into a dog's genes, it is often harder to change. Therefore, to minimize conflict and stress, look for a breed with a temperament/behavior that already sounds close to what you can handle.

DISadvantages of purebred dogs

Predictable physical traits means you're stuck with them.

Too many people acquire a purebred dog and then complain about traits that are hard-wired into its genes.

For example, if you choose a Golden Retriever, he will shed heavily, he will need weekly grooming and some trimming, and his enthusiastic long tail will occasionally send breakables flying off your coffee table.

Before you bring home a breed, make sure you can handle its physical chararacteristics. How much do they shed? How much brushing do they need? How much trimming or clipping? If they're large, can you provide enough exercise? If they're tiny, can you keep them safe? Remember, you're stuck with a breed's physical traits.

Many purebreds have "working behaviors" that can be difficult to live with.

Energetic purebred Flat-Coated Retriever

Hunting breeds such as Flat-Coated Retrievers were bred to work all day. Can you provide the exercise and mental stimulation that so many breeds need in order to feel satisfied?

Most breeds were developed to do some type of work – herding sheep or cattle, hunting pheasants, retrieving ducks, hunting rabbits or raccoons, killing barnyard vermin, protecting livestock, guarding estates, pulling carts or sleds, and police/military work.

Behavioral traits that helped a breed do its work include:

  • high energy level
  • independent thinking (doing what they want to do, rather than what you want)
  • strong desire to DO things, not just hang around the house and yard
  • chasing, grabbing, or nipping at things that move (such as cats and other small animals)
  • aggression toward other dogs
  • digging holes
  • suspiciousness or aggression toward strangers
  • barking or howling

If you just want a family companion and pet, working behaviors can be a nuisance. The reality is that most breeds were never intended to be "just" pets, and trying to stuff a square dog into a round home can end up frustrating both you and the dog.

Purebred dogs are not GUARANTEED to look or act the way you expect.

Up until now it might have sounded like all the members of a breed are robots who look and act exactly the same.

If that were true, you could simply decide which traits you want and choose a breed that's supposed to have those traits, and voila! As easy as ordering the right curtains from a catalog.

So here comes the other shoe dropping....

A purebred puppy can grow up to look or act differently than what you expected.

It's true. All this purebred "predictability" that I've been talking about is TYPICAL – but not GUARANTEED. The reality is that some purebred dogs do not "conform to the norm" for their breed.

I've written a book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, that explains why a purebred puppy may not turn out the way you expect – and how to choose a puppy with the BEST chance of turning out the way you expect.

Purebred dogs can have a lot of health problems.

  • Crippling bone and joint disorders
  • Eye diseases that cause reduced sight or total blindness
  • Heart diseases that drastically shorten a dog's life
  • Endocrine system diseases like hypothyroidism and diabetes
  • Seizure disorders such as epilepsy
  • Skin diseases that cause frantic itching
  • Digestive disorders that cause chronic diarrhea and vomiting
  • Kidney and liver diseases
  • Blood-clotting diseases
  • Cancer – the #1 killer of many, many breeds
English Bulldog

English Bulldogs have endearing personalities, but are one of the unhealthiest of all breeds.

You're probably shocked by that long list of health problems.

And you should be.

Over 300 genetic health problems occur in dogs. All kinds of dogs.... but the risk of health problems occurring in a purebred dog is far higher than in a crossbreed or mixed breed.

Why are purebred dogs so unhealthy? In my Dog Quest book, I explain the 4 reasons why purebred dogs have so many health problems. More importantly, I explain how to buy a purebred puppy with the BEST chance of growing up healthy.

To sum up, a purebred dog can be a good choice...

  1. if you know exactly which characteristics you want in a dog.
  2. if there is a breed that actually HAS all the characteristics you want (this is unlikely; compromise is almost always required when choosing a dog breed).
  3. if you're willing to accept (and can handle) whatever other traits that breed happens to have.
  4. if you're willing to accept the greater potential for health problems (much worse in some breeds than in others).
  5. if you're willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a puppy – or else adopt an adult dog through an animal shelter or rescue group.
  6. if you acquire your puppy from someone who is doing all the right things to produce good-tempered, healthy family pets.

    There are 7 things a breeder should be doing in order to produce puppies who will grow up to have a stable temperament. There are 8 things a breeder should be doing to produce puppies who will grow up healthy. In Dog Quest, I'll tell you how to find breeders who are doing these 15 things right.

Read about crossbred dogs

Read about mixed breed dogs

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

Check out my other articles on finding a good dog

Pros and Cons of Owning a Dog

Do Dogs Need a Fenced Yard?

Should You Get a Dog If You Work All Day?

Puppies vs Adult Dogs

The Truth About Purebred Dogs

The Truth About Crossbred Dogs

The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs

Which Dog Breed Characteristics Are Right For You?

Male Dogs vs Female Dogs: Which One Makes a Better Pet?

Adopting a Dog From The Animal Shelter

Adopting From a Dog Breed Rescue Group

How To Find a Good Dog Breeder

"AKC Registered Puppies" – Are AKC Papers Important?

How To Choose a Good Puppy

Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.