Is there a pure bred dog?
Dog Health Issues: Do Mixed Breed Dogs Have an Advantage Over Purebred Dogs?
Have you heard the claim that purebred dogs have more health problems than mixed breed dogs? Is it true, or is it just a myth?
What Qualifies a Dog as a Purebred Dog?
A dog is defined as purebred if he or she has been registered with the American Kennel Club and has papers to prove that the mother and father are both of the same breed. If the papers show that a dog’s ancestors all come from the same breed, then that dog is considered to be a pedigreed purebred dog.
Purebred dogs are a product of selective breeding by humans. Dogs from the same breed are chosen for their genetic traits, such as size, temperament, coat type and color, and then bred together.
Mixed Breed Dogs and Hybrid Dog Breeds
In contrast, mixed breed dogs (aka mutts) are defined as the offspring of dogs that are not from the same breed and usually have unknown ancestry. But there is another category you might not have heard of—hybrid dogs.
According to the American Canine Hybrid Club, a hybrid dog is the intentional offspring of two purebred dogs from different breeds. Usually hybrids are the offspring of a purebred Poodle and something else, and the offspring can have fantastical names, like Goldendoodle, Maltipoo or a Saint Bernadoodle. Some breeders are taking it one step further, crossbreeding hybrid dogs to create second-, third- and fourth-generation hybrids.
Are Mutts Healthier Than Purebreds?
If you ask any mutt parent if they think that mutt dogs are healthier than purebreds, they will usually say yes, because there is more diversity in a mutt’s gene pool. But if you ask a conscientious breeder the same question, however, they will tell you that because of genetic testing, inherited disease testing and temperament testing, a purebred is healthier.
As far as I can tell, there are no studies that back up either claim, so everything I have to share on this topic is based on 16 years of clinical practice experience. Generally speaking, I think mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier and tougher and tend to live longer than many of the purebreds I see in practice. Mutts, in my experience, tend to have lower incidences of inherited disease, such as some cancers, back problems and hip dysplasia.
Why Do Some Purebred Dogs Have Health Problems?
When you purchase or adopt a purebred dog, you are getting a dog that has less genetic diversity than a mixed breed dog. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if the breeder has done her due diligence in making sure to sell puppies that are free of genetic diseases.
In a perfect world, every purebred puppy bought on this planet would be well-socialized and cared for before being adopted, and certified to be free of any genetic diseases. The reality, however, is that disease testing and proper socialization take time and money, and purebred puppies that are sold responsibly cost a lot more than puppies sold from a backyard breeder or a pet store that is selling puppies sourced from an unethical puppy mill.
I have seen many heartbreaking situations where people bring in their purebred puppies for their first health checkup, only to find out that the puppy has one or more genetic diseases that weren’t detected or even tested for by the breeder or pet store.
Why More Popular Purebreds Are More at Risk
Not all purebred dogs have the same trouble with inherited disease. In general, the more popular a breed is, the more likely it is to have problems due to inbreeding or unethical breeding for profit purposes.
Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are very popular family pets and are more likely to be afflicted in inherited disease conditions like skin allergies, ear infections and hip dysplasia. Pugs, Bulldogs and other short-nosed breeds are also very popular, but unless they are carefully bred, can develop all sorts of inherited problems, such as heart disease, dental disease, skin problems and breathing problems.
I’m not saying that a mixed breed dog won’t have any of these problems, but when you increase genetic diversity through breeding different breeds together, then there is a better chance of winning the genetic lottery and having lower incidence of genetic disease.
Avoiding Health Issues With Purebred Dogs
You can avoid purchasing a purebred or hybrid puppy with genetic diseases by only buying from reputable breeders who test for genetic diseases that are common in the puppies they are breeding. You will pay more for puppies that have been certified to be disease-free, but the old adage holds true here: You get what you pay for.
If you have a mixed breed dog and you want to know the genetic ancestry and any potential genetic diseases that he or she may be predisposed toward, the good news is that science is on your side. There are testing kits that allow you to easily swab your dog’s cheek at home, and you send in the sample to get all the genetic information you need on your dog.
Embark breed identification and health detection dog DNA test kit, Wisdom Panel 3.0 breed identification dog DNA test kit and DNA My Dog breed identification test kit are some of the genetic testing kits available for you to test your dog at home. Knowledge is power, and knowing your dog’s genetic ancestry and markers for disease allows you to make lifestyle changes early so you can hopefully prevent disease.
By: Dr. Sarah Wooten
Featured Image: iStock.com/PK Photos
The Truth About 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.
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.
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 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.
- if you know exactly which characteristics you want in a dog.
- 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).
- if you’re willing to accept (and can handle) whatever other traits that breed happens to have.
- if you’re willing to accept the greater potential for health problems (much worse in some breeds than in others).
- 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.
- 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.
About 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.