What do Old Yeller, Benji and Lady’s beloved suitor the Tramp all have in common? They’re all mutts! Whether you call your canine companion a mongrel, a mutt or a plain ol’ mixed breed, every day with a furry best friend is a day to celebrate!

What classifies a dog as a mixed breed?

Mutts, or mixed breed dogs, are dogs who are of no one discernible breed. Technically speaking, even new “designer” breeds like Labradoodles and Cockapoos are mixed breed dogs, as they are the offspring of two different breeds. But more commonly, when we use the term mixed breed, we’re referring to a dog whose ancestors are extremely varied.

In general, mixed breed dogs are the result of unintentional breeding. Need proof? Just visit your local animal shelter to see mixed breed dogs of all shapes and sizes. That’s one of the great things about mixed breed dogs – you can find one to suit almost any need or desire. Large or small, long hair or short, curly tail, straight tail – there’s a mixed breed dog out there for everyone!

There are so many good things about mixed breed dogs that I decided to make a list:

1. You can get a great pet for a fantastic price. While you will likely have to pay a small fee to adopt a mixed breed dog or cat, it will be nowhere near the hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars required to purchase a purebred dog.

2. You will be saving a life. Adopting from a shelter saves lives. Even if you adopt from a “no-kill” shelter, by adopting your dog, you’ve made room for the next dog in line.

3. You are helping to reduce pet overpopulation, even if it’s in a small way. Choosing a pet who needs a home rather than one purposely produced by a breeder reduces the number of homeless pets. As a bonus, your mixed breed shelter pet is likely already spayed and neutered at the time of adoption, further reducing pet overpopulation!

4. Mixed breeds might be healthier. Data suggests that mixed breed dogs live longer than purebred dogs of the same size, and some studies show that veterinary costs for mixed breeds tend to be lower over the life of the pet because they have fewer inherited illnesses. This is due in part to hybrid vigor, which is the theory that mixed breeds are healthier because of their varied ancestry.

Your standard purebred dog may be predisposed to inherited health issues because they run in the bloodlines, but mixed breed dogs don’t have this problem because they have no particular bloodline. Regardless of your pet's breed, remember that any best friend can suffer accidents, illnesses, and injuries during their lifetime, so protecting them with dog insurance can help provide true peace of mind.

5. They can still compete. Though mixed breed dogs cannot show in conformation dog shows like Westminster, they can shine at other kinds of competition, like flyball, obedience, and agility. Just because they aren’t purebred, doesn’t mean they can’t learn amazing tricks!

How can you tell a dog's breed mixes?

The appearance of a mixed breed dog may give some clue as to its immediate ancestry. For instance, if your dog has a fluffy red coat and black spots on her tongue, she might have Chow Chow in her. Or your small mixed breed dog with the giant ears may have a touch of Chihuahua in his bloodline.

Even if you can’t immediately tell who your mixed breed dog’s parents were, some laboratories will be willing to wager a guess based on your dog’s DNA. And, the results may surprise you. Imagine my shock as the results came back on my 60-pound dog (who looks like a leaner black Lab) as German Shepherd/Dachshund mix! Now I call her “my little wiener dog,” even though she looks like nothing of the sort!

In any case, I doubt knowing your mixed breed dog’s ancestry will make you love her any more because nothing beats a mutt!

Dec 4, 2012

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