English: Mixed-breed dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the decisions that you will have to make in choosing your dog is whether you want a purebred or mixed-breed dog, or ?mutt.? At the Animal Clinic of Morris Plains, we love all of our dogs equally, whether they are champion show dogs or mutts rescued from lives on the street and we encourage all of our clients to understand and appreciate that every dog deserves the best possible home and veterinary care that you can possibly provide. While both purebreds and mixed-breeds make wonderful pets, it might surprise you to know that, in general, most mixed-breeds are healthier and longer-lived than most purebreds. To understand why that is true, you have to look at how purebreds came to be and what the term ?breed? actually means.
Great Dane & Dachshund Breeds Demonstrate The Great Variety Of Dog Breeds
Our earlier article The History of the Domestic Dog explained that the DNA of the domestic dog, (Canis familiaris) is almost identical (99.9%) to the DNA of the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), and that, for precisely that reason, their more accurate taxonomic classification is actually Canis lupus familiaris. Domestic dog breeds are related to one another even more closely than that: in fact, the DNA of all domestic breeds are, in actuality, completely indistinguishable. What does that mean? It means if you looked at the DNA of the largest Great Dane and that of the shortest Dachshund, you would be completely unable to identify which DNA sample came from which breed. That is because all of the shapes, and sizes, and differences in temperament and behavior evident in all of the recognized breeds of dog are strictly the products of artificial selection in the form of human preferences.
Simply put, every physical characteristic and behavioral trait in specific breeds of dog represents the range of natural variation in the species. Some traits are dominant and others are recessive, but every trait possibility within canine DNA can be selected for simply by continuously mating pairs of dogs that both possess the specific trait desired by their breeders. Over many generations, it is possible to produce very small or very large dogs; long-haired dogs with long snouts and ears that stand up straight or short-haired dogs with short snouts and long floppy ears; dogs that are more territorially protective or less territorially protective, and dogs that love water or dogs that love to retrieve things for their human companions. Naturally, there are advantages to owning certain dog breeds over others depending on what you would like your dog to be able to do. A Dachshund is just not physically built to pull heavy wagons, but a Burnese Mountain Dog is too big to make a good lap dog. A Jack Russell Terrier might have the right personality to protect your family, but a German Shepherd would obviously be a much better choice for a guard dog.
However, if you are just looking for a loving family pet, New Jersey Veterinarian, Dr. Paul Sedlacek suggests that there may be several advantages to considering a mixed-breed ?mutt.? First, mutts tend to have fewer health problems because some of the very traits that humans have bred into specific purebred dogs are actually associated with corresponding congenital health problems such as deafness, respiratory ailments, skin disorders, and skeletal weaknesses. That is because when we artificially selected dogs for visible physical and behavioral traits, we had no way of knowing what other genetic tendencies, especially recessive traits, were linked to the physical and behavioral traits that we happened to select them for. One typical example is the connection between the polka-dot color coat pattern and deafness in so many Dalmatians. Not all purebred dogs are prone to specific health problems, but on average, mixed breeds are less likely to have any of the health problems known to be associated with purebred dogs.
Second, mixed breeds are often more variable and adaptable in their behavior in that they can learn to be happy sharing the same type of life as their owners than purebreds. For example, all healthy dogs love exercise, but breeds selected specifically for high energy and stamina like the Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute, cannot easily adapt to a more sedentary life. Generally, choosing a purebred is something that requires more careful consideration of the specific traits and preferences of the dog because you will be responsible for providing the environment that is most suitable for your dog and the lifestyle that is necessary to keep your dog happy.
In our opinion, your choice of a pet should reflect the needs of your family for a dog that matches your family?s lifestyle. Unfortunately, because many people have a bias against ?mutts,? mixed-breed dogs tend to live in shelters longer than purebreds and they are less likely to be adopted and more likely to be destroyed, just because so many people have such a strong preference for purebreds. Meanwhile every dog shelter is full of loving mixed-breed dogs who deserve good homes and who would make wonderful pets if someone just gave them the same chance as purebreds.