February 24, 2005

Mixed Breed Dogs

One of my favourite dogs was a mixed-breed, with a family tree that could only be guessed at. He was a real 'genteman' in every sense of the word. But I'd be the first to admit that I was lucky.

While pure bred dogs may have the breed characteristics to a greater or lesser degree, at least you have some guidelines. You can be fairly sure that your labrador is not going to chase and nip the children, that your border collie will herd, and your doberman will guard your property.

With mixed breed dogs it's more of a lottery. While the pup's owner will generally describe their poppet as a cross between two identifiable breeds, chances are that both parents were cross breeds so there are numerous unidentifiable sources of unknown characteristics. But mixed breed dogs can be wonderful pets if you have some flexibility with regard to ultimate size, coat type and herding / fetching/ guarding instincts and if they are socialized and trained as puppies to fit in with your lifestyle. Adopting an older mixed breed, rather than a puppy, might be a solution if you need specific qualities in your dog.

One thing we tend to forget when considering a mixed breed is that if you cross a black dog and a white dog you don't get a grey dog. Similarly with personality traits - you are unlikely to get a midrange blend of the parent's qualities. The puppies will most likely be like one parent or the other.

Also there is a common fallacy that a mixed breed dog is a 'hybrid' and because of 'hybrid vigour' has fewer health problems. A mixed breed dog will not be as healthy as a well bred pure-bred whose parents were selected with an eye to avoiding hereditary conditions, but will be much healthier than a poorly bred one. Again health is a bit of a lottery.

But as they say, you can find your mate regardless of genealogy, and the Heinz 57 may be just the dog for you.

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