Sometimes I forget there are people completely new to dogs.
Blogging on this, National Mixed-Breed Dog Day, I want to help the newbies on the scene. If you're too embarrassed to ask the difference between a pure breed and mix breed dog, pull up a chair. I'm happy to shed some light!
According to Dr. Brian Hare, author of The Genius of Dogs, and founder of Dognition, dog breeding began 200 years ago. It started during the agricultural era as people stopped migrating and needed dogs for specific tasks. Dogs with strong tendencies, to say hunt, herd or protect, were paired together to produce like-minded puppies. These offspring eventually became breeds that after generations produced often mirror images of one another. Sharing similar looks, personalities, and obsessions, the sporty retrievers love to retrieve, sledding dogs to pull and hounds love to follow scents.
While today, civilized countries record the lineage of a hundred or more breeds, unintentional mating occurs whenever and where ever dogs are free to wander. Many third world countries, in fact, continue to be populated with randomly paired dogs, many of whom roam the streets and present health concerns.
But when "Oops" puppies are born state-side they're called by various names, e.g. mix-bred, mutts, strays or random pure-breed dogs. Call them what you like, if you know a mixed-breed dog’s heritage—for example, if Pete, the Jones’ Lab, found his way into the Smith’s backyard and spent several unsupervised hours with Mitzi, the springer spaniel, you can make some assumptions about your future dog’s personality.
But what about the pup, with no known history, delivered in a box to the shelter or transported to your community from another state?
It’s possible to make an educated guess at a mixed-breed puppy’s heritage based on appearance. Sometimes it’s easy—for example, you find a beagle’s classic markings on a basset hound’s unmistakable physique. Other times, the breeds are harder to determine—especially for puppies. And looks don’t always tell the tale: A Rottweiler looking mix may be a hound-Labrador retriever mix with no pronounce or protective tendencies whatsoever!
For those who must know the full details of their love bundle’s heritage, there are DNA kits available. For a fee, you can send a cheek swab to a laboratory to identify your dog’s ancestry. The other option, of course, it to watch your dog carefully for clues. Herding, retrieving, guarding, digging, chasing--all of these behaviors hint at specific breeds.
Now a days, however, some mixed breed dogs are intentional. No longer love children, designer mix-bred dogs (often bred with poodles with the claim to be lower shedding) are growing in popularity.
But these love puppies? They're a folder for another day: For now go find a mutt and wish him a happy day!