A great many different terms and descriptive names are used for dogs that are not pedigrees, ie, that have two parents that are not the same breed. Mutt, mongrel, mixed breed, hybrid breed, designer dog, cross breed... The list is almost endless! Just about the only uniting factor for all non-pedigree dogs, is that they will all be highly individual, and you will not be able to refer to a breed standard or guideline to tell you what you might be able to expect from your dog, either physically or in terms of health or temperament.
Most of the world’s dogs are non-pedigree, and there are a great many reasons why ownership of a non-pedigree dog has a lot to recommend it. There are also some potential drawbacks to owning an unknown mix too, or one where you cannot be sure of the exact origins of the dog and their ancestors. In this article, we will cover some of the facts, both on the plus and minus side, of owning a non-pedigree dog.
While it is true that you cannot guarantee the appearance of a pedigree dog either, with a purebred dog, you can at least reasonably expect that the dog will grow to a certain size and no larger, follow a certain body shape, display a limited range of colours and coat patterns and types, and have certain breed-specific temperament traits.
With a mixed breed dog, your dog’s traits will be made up of a combination of those of the two parent dogs, and all of the different ancestors and mixtures of breeds that went into creating them. This means that sometimes dogs with very different traits are crossed and bred, ensuring that you cannot accurately predict the likelihood of them inheriting any one specific trait from one specific parent.
This is certainly not a problem in itself, but it does mean that you need to prepare for the fact that you won’t be able to be totally sure about your dog’s personality traits or what they will look like until they are fully grown!
Starting with two nice-natured parent dogs of whatever variety they are is a good start in ensuring that any mixed breed dog will be good tempered and amenable, but other than that, buying a mixed-breed dog is a real lottery! Dogs of different breeds and types possess a huge range of potential behaviour traits, from a strong hunting instinct to a keen guarding instinct to an overwhelming desire to herd! It can be hard to make an informed decision on a mixed breed dog’s behaviour without spending a lot of time with them and watching them grow, or having a very good idea of all of their component breeds. Your dog might be obsessed with retrieving, love swimming, or be incredibly lazy- you just won’t know!
While the inherited behavioural traits of the dog go along way towards dictating the dog’s behaviour, it is important to remember that training and good management go the rest of the way to ensuring that your dog of any breed or type is responsive, well behaved and under control.
All purebred dogs of any breed can by definition only benefit from a limited gene pool of potential ancestors, meaning that in some pure breeds, genetically inherited sickness and heath problems are very much a trait of the breed, and one that can be hard to avoid. However, out-crossing any breed with another breed, or breeding dogs of different types helps to strengthen the gene pool as a whole, making each generation of mixed-breed dogs progressively less likely to suffer from any ailments that they might have inherited the genes for. This is known as hybrid vigour, and ensures that mixed breed dogs and mongrels are much less likely to suffer from hereditary conditions than their purebred counterparts.
While all dogs may succumb to illnesses, accidents and other unforeseen issues, it is certainly true to say that mixed breed dogs as a whole live longer than pedigrees. Again, this is in large part due to the benefits of hybrid vigour, and due to the genetic diversity that this allows, mixed breeds are less likely to succumb to major illnesses, particularly when young.
Within purebred dog breeds, life spans can vary considerably from breed to breed, ranging from the English Bulldog that is unlikely to live to older than eight years, to some terrier types that regularly live well into their teens. The component breeds that make up your mixed breed dog will in some ways dictate approximately what you can expect from their lifespan, but nevertheless, a mixed breed dog is almost certainly to outlive the parent breeds on the whole, often by a considerable amount.
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