Purebred? Mixed-breed? Mutt?

Date Published: 
Jan. 27, 2017

There are some people who only believe in obtaining a rescue dog. Others will only own a registered purebred dog. Is there a right or wrong answer? No. There are different reasons for owning different types of dogs.

Let’s start with purebred dogs, because they are probably the most controversial. Most people shopping to buy a purebred have a specific reason for doing so. Whether it is the looks of that type of dog, using the dog for a specific purpose, that type of dog fits their lifestyle, etc.

In this area, Labrador retrievers are very popular dogs. Some of the reasons are for hunting and retrieving. I got my bloodhounds because, as a teenager, I had seen a bloodhound puppy and fell in love with the looks. As I got older, I researched the breed and also fell in love with the breed. They are very large dogs — actually classified as giant breeds — which I like. I was also drawn to the scent training for search and rescue work associated with bloodhounds.

I also liked the generalized personality traits of bloodhounds. Bloodhounds are gentle souls. They are loving, affectionate, active dogs. They can be a little hard to train, as their nose is their priority in life and they can be a little stubborn. You must use gentle training methods. Bloodhounds are very sensitive dogs and can even become heartbroken, which is why they should never be used as cadaver dogs. Bloodhounds are generally not that big, lazy, lay-on-the-porch type of dog — at least not until their senior years, and then some of them never realize they are a senior dog.

Now, these are all generalizations to the breed, and there will be some hounds that fall onto the outer edges of these generalizations. I fell in love with the looks and the gentleness of the breed, liked the possibilities of doing search and rescue work, and learned to tolerate the drooling, slobbering and nose-driven traits of the breed. I also wanted to someday have a litter of puppies.

A mixed-breed dog was not going to fit what I wanted in a dog. So, purebred was the way for me to go at that time of my life. Previously in my life, I wanted a dog for different reasons, and mixed-breed was fine at those times.

So, I decided that I wanted a purebred registered, well-bred dog. Well-bred meant that I was looking for a dog that would come close to breed standard, was healthy and came from healthy parents, where the parents had been screened for possible genetic diseases/ailments.

Because I eventually wanted to possibly breed my dog, I did not want to do a rescue bloodhound. Because I wanted to eventually do some search-and-rescue work, I wanted a dog that was nose-driven.

Because I have other pets and a small grandson, I wanted a puppy, so it could be socialized at a young age with my pets and grandson. (With my first bloodhound, I didn’t have my grandson, but I still had other pets.) So, choosing a purebred was what was right for me at this time.

Now, I definitely believe in rescue and mixed-breed adoption. I have adopted numerous rescue dogs and other rescue pets. My current bichon is actually a rescue. I do not believe in purposely breeding mixed-breed dogs, which are now termed “designer breeds.” In my youth, these designer breeds were called “mutts.” (Which I do not feel is a derogatory term, but describes a dog of mixed or unknown parentage.)

When you breed two purebred dogs, you have a pretty good idea of what you will be getting. While each puppy will be different in minor ways, it will generally be similar to its two parents and carry the genes of a long line of similar dogs.

When you breed two dogs of different breeds, you have no idea what you will be getting. These Labradoodle breeders often say the dogs will be hypoallergenic, but they most likely will not be. The poodle parent is; however, the Labrador parent is not, so there is no way to know if the puppies will carry all of the hypoallergenic aspects of the poodle parent or not.

Many times, they are also touted as not having to be brushed/groomed as often as the poodle, but that too is incorrect. If they carry the poodle genes for the hair, it matts easily and needs extensive grooming.

Also, are these designer breeders doing genetic testing of their breeding dogs? A few may, but most do not. They are not selecting the best of their offspring that come as close to breed standard (because there is no standard for designer breeds) to further their “line” of dogs. There are a few out there that are striving to develop a new breed of dogs, but that takes decades of careful, selective breeding.

Now, if they were to be selling these dogs for simply enough to cover the cost of their “accidental” breeding, such as say $50.00 to $100 each, that would be one thing. However, they are charging people more than some breeders of purebred dogs do. Many well-bred purebreds can be purchased for $500 to $1,500, and some for less.

Many breeders will sell some of their puppies for less than some of their others, because they do not come as close to breed standard as they like, and they will be sold with “limited” registration, simply meaning they cannot be shown or bred. They are going to “puppy homes,” not to “show” homes.

It does not mean those dogs are defective; they are just not as close to standard as they desire for their breeding program. Breeding programs are to attempt to breed the perfect specimen, which will never happen, because we are not God, but it is to eliminate the undesirable traits, diseases, etc., and to further the good desirable healthy traits.

A simple example would be that bloodhounds should never have any aggressive traits. So, a responsible breeder would never breed a dog that showed any signs of aggression toward humans or animals. Some even go to the extent that a bloodhound that does food-guarding would not be bred.

Responsible breeders also take responsibility for their dogs for the dog’s life. They desire to become friends and mentors to the people who buy their puppies. They usually have in their puppy contracts that, if the new owner ever needs to give up their dog for any reason, it will go back to the breeder and the breeder will either keep that dog or try to find the dog a new forever home.

So, yes, I am personally against designer-breed dog breeding, but there is a market for it, and as long as people keep buying them, and often for thousands of dollars, people will keep breeding them. Many of these designer dogs are being bred by puppy mills, also.

Now, old-fashioned mixed breeds are fine, or “oops” litters, where the neighbor’s dog visits your dog at the wrong time of the year. But these dogs should be sold for what they are and at a matching price. I call these the old-fashioned “doggy in the window” puppies, where the local farmer brought his dogs’ puppies to the local pet store and they sold them for a nominal amount (years ago, $25 to $50).

The prices these people would charge for these puppies were to cover the costs for care of these puppies and maybe make a few dollars. Also, the small charge was also to help to deter people from just taking the free dog that they may or may not really want. After all, if you do put a little amount of money into something, you are more likely to take better care of it than if you paid nothing for it upfront.

Now, say you do want a particular breed of dog, but you are not planning on doing confirmation dog shows, or breeding a litter of dogs — then breed rescue is possibly the way to go. You can get your desired breed and rescue a dog at the same time.

Many of the dogs used in SAR (search-and-rescue) work are rescue dogs, both bloodhounds and other breeds. If you definitely want a puppy and are on a timeline for when you want it, it may or may not work out for you, but it is still worth trying that route first. The cost for rescuing a dog is generally a lot less, too.

Also, the dogs in many rescues are often living in foster homes, and the foster parents will often know whether they get along with other dogs and other animals. The foster parents know that dog’s personality and the rescue organization works very hard to make sure the right dog ends up with the right family. Often these rescue dogs are housebroken and have some degree of training.

Many breed rescues work with animal shelters and, if a particular breed of dog comes into the shelter, they contact the breed rescue representative and then the breed rescue makes arrangements to transfer that dog from the shelter to the breed rescue. Breed clubs try to take responsibility for their breed of dog. So, even if you want a purebred dog, if the circumstances are right, you can still rescue a dog.

Then there are the mixed-breed rescues. There are thousands of rescue groups. There are the large shelters, like SPCAs, Humane Societies, etc., and the smaller private rescue organizations. There are also some private individuals who just seem to always have a dog they’ve taken in and need to have adopted. (Been there, done that.)

Yes, for many years it seemed like everyone seemed to know I would take in practically any kind of animal and keep it until I could find a new home for it. Unfortunately, I have mostly had to give that up for the most part. I still get some occasional phone calls, and I still have some contacts, but I don’t house many myself any more.

(Of course last spring I did hand-raise a litter of kittens, and just a few weeks ago, a stray cat moved into my basement and has decided it is not moving out. He climbed in the window one night and now he won’t go away. My grandson named him, so I guess he’s mine.)

If you decide you want to get a new dog, first ask yourself why you want a dog. Make a list of the reasons you want a dog. For example, are you a jogger/runner and want the dog to go running with you? Do you like hiking and want a companion? Do you like to sit on the couch and read all day, and you want a dog to cuddle with you? Do you have small children or grandchildren that are around a lot?

Are you home a lot, or at work 10 hours a day? Do you like to travel and want the dog to travel with you? Do you like to hunt and want a hunting dog? Do you want to take long walks with the dog? Do you want to do competitive activities, such as obedience, agility, lure-coursing, hunting trials, tracking, retrieving, dock-diving, etc.? (Many of these can be done with mixed-breed dogs.)

So, after you make a list of activities you desire to do with your dog, think about the care and cost of care for your dog.

Larger dogs cost more to feed than smaller dogs. A tiny dog, such as a Yorkshire terrier, eats about a quarter-cup of dry food per meal, and a Newfoundland could eat about 6 cups per meal. Some larger dogs do not always eat super-huge amounts of food. Greyhounds, for example, do not eat as much as a Labrador might.

Puppies are generally going to require more upfront time, because of training, housebreaking, etc.

All dogs are going to need the same basic items to start with: collars, leashes, bowls, beds, crate, toys, treats, food, etc. Puppies may need a few more items than an older dog.

Next think about how much time you want to put into the new dog’s training. If you get an adult dog, it may have some training already.

So, after you really sit and think about what your reasons are for wanting a dog and your plans of what you plan to do with your dog, then you can decide what type of dog you want.

It’s OK if you decide you want a purebred dog. Don’t let people make you feel guilty for wanting a purebred, but also, don’t feel bad if it doesn’t really matter to you. Mixed-breeds make wonderful pets, and you can still participate in lots of competitive events with mixed-breeds.

Whatever type of dog you decide to get, just remember to make sure that type of dog is going to work in your household and that the individual dog you choose is also a good fit. Each dog has its own personality, and not all personality types are right for everyone. Some are shyer, some more outgoing and some more laid back.

So get someone to help you match the right dog with you and your family. Remember, this is hopefully, a 10- to 20-year commitment. So make sure you choose wisely, so that your dog does not end up needing to be rescued because you decided to give it up because it was not a good match.

Cheryl Loveland is a semi-retired dog groomer. She currently resides in Millsboro with two bloodhounds, a bichon frisée, two cats, a scarlet macaw, two tree frogs, a leopard frog and a lizard, and a stray cat that has recently moved in and adopted her. Also living on the property are her daughters family’s pets and livestock, including two dogs, a guinea pig, a turtle, a tank of fish, three ducks and numerous chickens and rabbits. She is a member of Colonial Bloodhound Club and secretary for the Mispillion Kennel Club. She is currently retired from rescue work due to her desire to do some traveling. She has been working with all types of animals all of her life. She may be reached at countryservice@comcast.net.