Myths and Truths About Mutts vs. Purebreds

Based on an article that first appeared at

When choosing the right dog for you and your family, there are many considerations to weigh. Which dog could be the right fit for your lifestyle? One of the more difficult issues is the question of whether to get a mixed breed (mutt) or a purebred dog. There are pros and cons to each, as well as differing opinions. There are also some misconceptions about what is available to the potential dog owner and some information out there that may not be completely accurate. Here, we provide some information to help you get a better idea of which may be the right choice for you.

Are Purebreds Inherently Less Healthy?

There is much debate about whether purebreds carry the risk of having more genetically inherited diseases and health issues versus mixed breed dogs. This is a complicated issue due to the impossibility of collecting an accurate data set. Despite a 2013 study by researchers at the University of California-Davis, which revealed that out of 24 disorders, purebreds were more susceptible than mixed breeds to only 10 of them, it is still unclear because of so many variables in the study. This is further complicated by the fact that, although there is much data on purebreds with genetic diseases, there are many purebreds that do live long, healthy lives without these diseases.

The general consensus among veterinary professionals has been and remains to be that mixed breeds, in general, tend to be hardier and more resilient to genetic disease and experience more longevity. That said, research is showing that good breeding practices and early screening could reduce the number of overall health issues.

The importance of finding a good, reliable breeder bears some weight on the issue. Unfortunately, there are some bad, “backyard” breeders out there. The good news is that there are many great breeders out there as well, and with the wealth of online resources available, it’s easy to do some research on particular breeders and check credentials. You can always ask the breeder lots of questions, too.

When it comes down to considering these health issues, it’s important to remember that all dogs carry the risk of susceptibility to disease, both genetic and infectious.

Breed-Specific Health Issues

With these genetic diseases, data has shown that certain breeds are more susceptible to certain disorders. For example, hip dysplasia, although it does occur in small breed dogs, is more common with large breed dogs such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and German Shepherds. Aortic Stenosis, a heart disease, is most commonly found in Newfoundlands, Boxers, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers. So it’s important if considering getting a purebred as a pet to do some research to see what, if any, diseases that breed may be more at risk for. However, mutts may still be at risk if they have these breeds in their DNA.

This doesn’t mean you should rule out a certain breed, but just take it into consideration as a future pet owner. Again, the important thing is early screening with your veterinarian and continued regular veterinary care.

Great Dane puppies

I Don’t Know the Rescue Mutt’s Health History

Just because you don’t know or are uncertain of a rescue dog’s health record, that does not mean you shouldn’t rescue them. Again, all dogs are at risk for illness, and the more important factor is to get an early evaluation with a veterinarian. It’s true that infectious diseases are more prevalent in the more populated location of a shelter, but most quality shelters work closely with a veterinarian and are on top of any health issues a rescue dog may have. Even if a rescue dog did experience infection, this does not mean they won’t grow up to be a healthy dog with longevity.

Aren’t Only Mutts Available at Shelters and Rescues?

A common misconception is that you can only get mixed breed dogs at a shelter or rescue, and in order to get a pure breed you need to buy one from a breeder. While mixed breeds definitely make up the larger portion of dogs available for rescue, there are purebreds available. It is an unfortunate truth that any dog can wind up in a shelter, so purebreds can be found there. Among the common purebreds found at shelters are Chihuahuas, Labs, and Beagles. In addition to this, there are many breed-specific rescues out there. With some quick online researching, you can probably locate a rescue group dedicated to nearly any dog breed you're considering.

Certain Breeds for Certain Behaviors

It’s true that certain breeds have certain inherent behavioral traits. Retrievers are meant to retrieve, Shepherds are meant to herd, Pyrenees are livestock guardians and will bark at anything to protect the “herd.” If a certain breed’s traits are not desired, it can cause issues. However, it is possible with some positive reinforcement training for them to learn anything from basic commands to agility training. But it’s important to take into consideration these behaviors to see if that breed fits into your lifestyle and living space. If you live in a small apartment with many neighbors, that barking Pyrenees may not be the best option. If you’re an avid hiker, a toy Poodle is probably not the best match.

Rescue vs. Purchase

Another big consideration for most prospective dog owners is deciding between rescuing a dog in need and buying one from a breeder. This is obviously a personal choice. There is the financial aspect to this decision. Purebreds from a breeder will tend to be more expensive at the outset, with the cost of the dog and then any veterinary costs on top of that. Rescues will often have most of the initial veterinary services, such as spay/neuter and vaccines, done before they can be adopted.

Puppy with family

By choosing to rescue a dog, you are not only helping out that dog in need, but also the shelter and other resources contributing to help abandoned dogs. But the truth is that all companion dogs need good, loving homes, whether from breeders or from shelters.

In the End, Choose the Dog That's Right for You

When it comes down to it, you should decide on a dog that is right for you and your family. Ask yourself “What do I/we want in a dog?" Owning a dog is a big commitment, so taking the time to research and ask yourself questions to decide what suits your lifestyle is an important step toward becoming a dog owner. Once you’ve made the decision, just love and care for that dog and enjoy your new family member!

And don't forget to reach out to set up your new dog's first appointment with us!



  • Dog Wellness
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  • Dog Breeds