Mixed Breeds For Dummies book cover

Mixed Breeds For Dummies

By: Miriam Fields-Babineau Published: 10-13-2020

Own and care for a classy dog—no pedigree required!

All dogs are unique—but mixed breeds are even more so! The new edition of Mixed Breeds For Dummies helps you count the ways, walking you through the latest on choosing, training, and caring for a non-traditionally pedigreed pup. Whether you prefer mystery mixes or designer Labradoodles, winsome rescues or pampered pups from a breeder, you'll find everything you need to know and more about your new faithful friend—including the science on why they frequently enjoy better health than most pedigreed breeds and often make better domestic companions!

In her friendly, dog-whisperer style, professional animal trainer and prolific author, Miriam Fields-Babineau, begins with tips on choosing the mix that's right for you, setting up a puppy-friendly environment, and making sure your larder is stocked with healthy foods they'll love. Once you're confident your new pal is happily settled in, she clues you in on the best (and most enjoyable) ways to exercise together for maximum fitness, finding a vet you trust (and administering first aid yourself), as well as schooling you in the latest animal psychology-based training methods to ensure you both know where you stand (or sit). You'll also discover ways to get to know your friend even better—from exercises to test their temperament to delving into the secrets hidden in their DNA!

  • Decide which mix is the one for you
  • Keep your furry friend healthy, from puppy to senior
  • Establish discipline and overcome common training challenges
  • Socialize your dog at a mixed-breed club

From walks and games on the beach to cozy nights in your happy home, there's a lot of fun to look forward to with your not-quite-best-in-show but much-loved best friend. This book will ensure you and your mixed-breed pal will live happily and healthily ever after!

Articles From Mixed Breeds For Dummies

8 results
8 results
Mixed Breeds For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-22-2021

If you’re thinking about bring a mixed-breed dog into your life, you need to get ready, whether that means knowing which questions to ask and testing the dog’s temperament or stocking up on supplies.

View Cheat Sheet
Mani/Pedi Time: How to Clip Dog Nails

Article / Updated 10-25-2020

Dog’s nails grow quickly, and you’ll probably need to clip your dog’s nails every six weeks, regardless of her size, breed mixture, or age. If your dog spends most of her time on soft surfaces (such as dirt, grass, or sand), she may need her nails clipped more often. Even if you walk your dog on sidewalks or along the street, you’ll still need to clip her nails on the sides of the feet as well as the dew-claw nails. If your dog doesn’t like having her nails done, you’ll need to take her to a professional groomer or to a vet to have them clipped. If you want to do it yourself, however, you’ll need to make certain your mixed breed will remain calm while you’re clipping — otherwise, you might clip the nail in the wrong place and cause severe bleeding. If you want to do it yourself, you’ll need to train your dog to accept nail clipping. This process can take a while, so don’t expect it to happen in one day or even one week. Follow these steps, only moving on to the next step when you’ve had success with the current step. If necessary, move back to the preceding step and practice that for a while, before advancing further. Teach your dog some basic obedience, such as sit and down stays. Teach your dog to give her paw or shake. Gradually hold her paw a couple seconds longer with each successful shake. When you can hold your dog’s paw, and your dog remains calm, show her the clippers or Dremel tool, and speak in a soothing, pleasant tone while touching her feet with the tool. After each touch, praise and give her a treat. If your mixed-breed dog has dark nails, use a Dremel tool to trim them, instead of using nail clippers. Filing with a Dremel tool is less likely to cause injury, because you can gradually remove excess nail growth without accidentally clipping too close and causing your dog’s nail to bleed. Using a Dremel tool takes a bit longer, but your dog will be less likely to have a bad experience. When she accepts the presence of the clippers or Dremel tool with the power on, hold her feet and separate her toes while touching them with the tool. Again, praise and reward after every touch. Before clipping the nail, look at how the nail curves. If your dog has at least one white nail, take note of how far around the curve the pink color (known as the quick) goes (see the following figure). This will guide you on where to clip — you want to remain at least 1/8 inch away from the quick to avoid injuring your dog. Clip or file one nail, and then allow her to relax as you pet her and speak to her in a soothing tone of voice. The moment you completed the nail, praise and reward. Have some styptic powder (available at most pet stores) handy to help stop any accidental bleeding that may occur from cutting too closely. Clip another nail, and pause again to praise and reward. Repeat this procedure until all her nails are done. Release her and play with a toy together. What if you need to trim your dog’s nails and she’s not tolerating it well or you don’t have the time to go through the steps above? If you have a helper, one of you can hold her, while the other person performs the nail clipping. There are two ways to hold and immobilize a dog for nail trimming: Lift your dog with one arm wrapped around her chest and the other around her rump, leaving her feet dangling. This approach gives your partner access to the dog’s nails. If your dog is too heavy to lift, you can leave her hind legs on the ground and wrap your arms around her chest, holding onto her paws to prevent them from moving. Your partner can then trim the nails. When it’s time to trim the back feet, lift one leg at a time to trim, as your assistant continues to hold your dog. If your dog tends to move her back leg too much for you to safely trim, hold her leg firmly against your body to steady the movement. Keep all grooming activities positive so that your dog will easily allow you to work with her. Use small increments, acclimating her slowly into the process. This will make your dog a more willing, and patient, partner. If you are working with your dog in a bath tub, rub some cheese or peanut butter on one side. This will keep your mixed-breed dog occupied as you trim her nails.

View Article
10 Activities You and Your Mixed Breed Can Enjoy

Article / Updated 10-25-2020

There are loads of fun activities you can do with your mixed-breed dog — none of which require a pedigree! From competition to helping others, you can participate in many activities where both of you would have fun. The more events you work for, and the more titles you earn with your dog, the better you and he work together. Never buy into the idea that your dog has accomplished all he can — there is always more to learn! You can also be certain that the more you teach him, the happier he’ll be, because you’re stimulating his brain and exercising his body. If you want to help others, you can enlist your mixed breed as a helper. The first step is to prove that he’s a good citizen. The next is to train him and prepare yourself as a therapy team going to schools, hospitals, and convalescent homes visiting those who can’t have pets. The presence of an animal has great healing power. Just as your mixed breed keeps your heart whole, merely touching his coat or receiving a wet kiss from his lips has great benefits for another person. Your dog will love traveling to places with you, and the attention from everyone is a huge boost to his ego. The things you can do and the places you can go together are endless. Take the time to peruse the possibilities in the great world of mixed-breed dogs! Compete with your dog at American Kennel Club events The American Kennel Club (AKC), formerly the exclusive domain of purebred dogs, has a program called AKC Canine Partners, which allows you to register your mixed-breed dog, earn titles like the AKC Canine Good Citizen or AKC Therapy Dog, and participate in events like agility, AKC Rally, and more. To find out about upcoming AKC events, check out the AKC website. Participate in United Kennel Club events The United Kennel Club is the largest all-breed performance registry in the world. It registers dogs from across the United States and in 25 other countries. More than 60 percent of its licensed events are tests of natural abilities such as hunting, training, and instinct. They emphasize the dog’s performance not appearance. The UKC sanctions obedience trials, agility, dog sport, weight pulling, and terrier races. All mixed-breed dogs are welcome to compete in these performance classes. They are offered throughout the year all over North America and Europe. Train your dog to dive I’ll never forget watching my first dock diving competition. I loved not only seeing those dogs racing down a dock and diving, but observing how much fun they and their handlers were having. Dock diving is open to all dogs of any breed or mix. This event has become so popular that it’s featured on ESPN, in an event called the Big Air Games. Because of the sport’s quick rise in popularity, the organization Dock Dogs was formed to oversee all the smaller organizations dedicated to this sport. Its website has information on how to get started and a list of events throughout the country. Another great site for information on this sport is Sport Mutt. Finally, the North American Diving Dogs is a large organization offering numerous levels of competition for all dogs, including mixed breeds; to learn about its scheduled events, check out the website. In order to enjoy dock diving, you just need to have access to water with either a diving board or dock. Your dog must love the water. Dogs who have a high desire to retrieve are also naturals for this sport, because they’ll want to chase down the ball as it soars over the water. Join the fun at the American Treibball Association If your mixed breed enjoys playing with balls and retrieving, treibball is the perfect sport for you! In this sport, dogs push a large ball down a field. The event is timed, with the fastest dog winning. Dogs compete individually, which means if your dog is easily distracted or mildly reactive to other dogs, she can still participate in Treibball. There are three levels of membership offered at ATA: Level 1: For individual pet parents who want to learn and participate in the sport Level 2: For professional dog trainers who want to teach Treibball to other dogs Level 3: For training facilities with multiple trainers who want to instruct and host trials You can get more information about the sport and information about events at from the American Treibball Association. Camp and hike: finding fun outdoor activities What’s better than exploring and enjoying the great outdoors with your mixed breed? At Dog Play, you can find a useful list of camps and outdoor activities for dog enthusiasts. These camps offer accommodations, meals, scheduled activities and classes, a chance for dogs to play with other dogs, and opportunities for you to hike, bike, canoe, and explore. Whether you go with a special someone or by yourself, you’ll meet many other dog enthusiasts who share your passion for mixed breeds. Help your dog become a good citizen The Canine Good Citizen is a great certificate to work toward with your dog. It proves your dog’s temperament and control as well as social skills. Since its inception, it has become a popular goal for many dog owners. There are even communities that require all dogs living within that community to be CGC-certified! The AKC offers the CGC test to all breeds of dogs. You can find CGC tests listed online — just click Training Resources, and then click Find a Class or Find a Trainer. To earn a CGC title, the dog must pass ten tests of social skill, temperament, and obedience. These tests include Accepting a friendly stranger Sitting politely for petting Being examined for overall health and well-being Going out for a walk (walking on a leash) Walking through a crowd Performing a Sit and Down on command, as well as staying for a short period of time Coming when called Observing your dog’s reaction to new objects and the presence of strangers Observing your dog’s reaction to the presence of other dogs Observing how your dog reacts when left alone for a short period of time Help your dog help other people If you’re interested in training your dog to be a therapy dog (who goes to hospitals and convalescent centers to bring a smile to people’s faces), the Delta Society is the place to start. You can find out where to take a course in your area. (Courses are offered throughout the United States and internationally.) Another organization, Therapy Dogs International offers certification, as well as guidelines for teaching your dog how to offer therapy in nursing home settings, schools, libraries, and disaster relief among other situations. The American Kennel Club also offers a Therapy Dog certification program with multiple levels of accomplishment. The levels depend on how many therapy visits you and your dog successfully complete together. Courses from these organizations help you select and prepare animals for visits to nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and convalescent centers. They also cover how to recognize stress in your dog and provide information regarding animal health and safety. The Delta Society course also teaches you about the special needs of specific client groups, such as children, the elderly, or the physically challenged. This course also covers the legal codes related to the facilities you’ll be visiting with your dog. Prior to passing its stringent testing, your dog must be well trained. When your mixed breed is certified, you and your dog can visit hospitals, nursing homes, and schools bringing joy and healing to everyone. You’ll need to make arrangements with each organization regarding appropriate scheduled visiting times and discuss the individuals you’ll be working with. Preparedness and patient confidentiality are important, and being trained will help you and your dog perform a better service. Knowing how much joy you can bring others with your well-trained, well-prepared mixed-breed dog will be highly rewarding to you as well. Most dogs enjoy all the attention that these situations offer. Dance with your mixed breed Yes, you can actually dance with your dog. This sport is known as canine freestyle, because dancing with dogs is not based on a specific pattern, but rather on your ability to choreograph your movements and your dog’s movements in tandem, to music, incorporating obedience, natural canine movement, and fancy trick behaviors. Several freestyle clubs and organizations hold events all over the United States and some throughout the world. The two largest clubs are the Canine Freestyle Federation and The World Canine Freestyle Organization. It is now offered by the AKC as a point-earning event, and mixed breeds are allowed to compete when they’ve registered in the AKC Canine Partners program. Fly high with flyball Flyball is a relay race. At the starting signal the dogs are sent over a series of four jumps to a box where they must trigger the release of a ball or beanbag, take hold of it, and race back to their handlers over the four jumps, carrying the ball or beanbag all the way. The first team of four dogs and handlers to complete the course wins the race. Points are assigned according to the dogs’ speed. There’s a reason this sport is paired with cheering: It’s fun for your dog, fun for you and your team, and fun to watch. The sport is open to all dogs — purebred and mixed breed alike. The North American Flyball Association is the governing body for this sport. At Flyball Dogs, you can get information about how the game is run, what titles are available, where to find tournaments, and how to train.

View Article
Dog Breed Groups

Step by Step / Updated 10-25-2020

Each dog breed was developed for specific tasks — guarding, herding, hunting, hand-warming — and these breeds are grouped together by their original purpose. A mixed breed is a combination of two or more breeds. Knowledge of the appearance and personalities of the various breed groups will help you understand your own dog, and will also be useful if you’re thinking about which type of mixed breed to get.

View Step by Step
Designer Dogs: Border Collie Hybrids

Article / Updated 10-25-2020

Designer dogs are growing in popularity, and they’re often more expensive than purebred pups. Why? Because they’re unique. People who want to create a hybrid dog breed based on intelligence and not coat type will often use the Border Collie breed as one of the parents. One of the positive outcomes of using Border Collies in a hybrid crossing is that they have few genetic health problems. Borador (Border Collie/Labrador Retriever) The Borador is often medium to large with large feet, a long muzzle, and light brown eyes; some have upright ears. The coat can be either medium length or short with any combination of colors ranging from all yellow to all black or with typical Border Collie white around the neck, on the paws, and on the nose. These two breeds complement each other well. Where the Border Collie might be overly sensitive, the Labrador Retriever is bold. Where a Lab may not be able to figure something out, the Border Collie puts in reason. Where a Border Collie might constantly want to chase farm animals and round them up, the Lab feels more relaxed about work, more likely to wait for the cues from his human companions instead of striking out to work on his own. In all, Boradors are easy to care for, easy to train, friendly, and often very healthy. They’re wonderful companions. Bordernese (Bernese Mountain Dog/Border Collie) A Bordernese appears much like a Border Collie only larger. The coloring of the coat is similar with black and white, sometimes tan eyebrows. The coat texture is also similar; long, smooth, and thick. Both breeds have long muzzles, dark eyes, and long tails with a slight upward curve. Both breeds were developed as herding dogs. Therefore, both are very intelligent and easy to train. The difference in temperament lies in the Border Collie being a higher-energy worker than the Bernese Mountain Dog and also far more sensitive. Border Collies generally don’t interact well with children, whereas the Bernese Mountain Dog adores children. Mixing these two breeds together creates a larger herding dog with a medium energy level and fairly outgoing personality. However, Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t have the same longevity of a Border Collie, so the hybrid offspring may not either. Another issue with mixing these two breeds together is that both are prone to the same genetic defects such as hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems, and heart problems. Border Collies also might have horrendous allergic reactions to flea bites, as well as epilepsy. The hybrid offspring are highly likely to not have good hybrid vigor.

View Article
Designer Dogs: A Basket of Toy Hybrids

Article / Updated 10-25-2020

There are more combinations of Toy hybrids than there are recognized purebred Toy dog breeds. Though small, they’re still dogs and should be treated as such — not as mere arm ornaments. Toy hybrids tend to have good longevity, great personalities, and require the special care accorded to Toy dogs. Hybrid dogs are mixed-breed dogs created by breeding two purebred dogs. So-called pocket dogs are usually a combination of two Toy breeds; the parents chosen more for their small size than anything else. The mixing of two Terrier-type Toys can mean a challenging personality. Also, the combining of two breeds that already have the tendency toward similar health issues, such as breathing difficulties or skin allergies, will likely result in puppies who have to contend with these same issues throughout their lives. Bichon Frise hybrids The Bichon Frise is a small, white, curly-coated dog with an anti-allergenic coat. They require a lot of exercise and consistent training. Bichons are cute and cuddly, but also like to be in charge. Any Bichon Frise hybrid may tend to inherit these qualities, especially if one of the parents is a Terrier-type breed. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes more than 25 Bichon Frise hybrids, ranging from the Griffichon (Bichon Frise/Brussels Griffon) to the Cock-a-Chon (Bichon Frise/Cocker Spaniel). Pug hybrids Pugs are a popular breed for Toy hybrid dogs because they’re fairly hardy, sweet, intelligent, and have a short, easy-care coat. For large-dog enthusiasts, the Pug offers the appearance of a Mastiff (their ancestors) without the enormous size. Pugs do have a few physical issues, however, because they’ve been bred to have extremely short noses, which cause many respiratory problems, and their legs are known to have problems with knee dislocation. Plus, this breed can be willful and stubborn. One of the biggest dangers of using Pugs in designer hybrid Toys is their eye configuration (they have protruding eyes) and short noses. Breeding them with other Toys with similar physical attributes can cause dangerous health issues. Though Pugs are Toy dogs, they have a very ingrained alarm system. For hundreds of years they have alerted their human companions of coming danger, often saving the lives of those in their communities. If your hybrid Toy has Pug blood, you can be sure he’ll bark when he hears intruders! The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes more than 20 Pug hybrids, ranging from the Pugland (Pug/Westie) to the Puggle (Beagle/Pug), currently the most popular designer dog. Maltese hybrids Though very small, Maltese have large personalities. They’re bold, are quick to sound the alarm when they hear something, and can be difficult to housetrain. Some can be snappy with children or with human companions who are inconsistent with their leadership role. These small white dogs have long, silky fur and can grow to be 8 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing about 9 pounds. They have large, round eyes with dark rims, black noses, and a fine bone structure. Their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall, as is common with many Toy breeds. The Maltese may be small, but should not be overly pampered. Pampering makes them jealous of others, causing aggressive reactions. These traits are very possible in the hybrid offspring. Maltese are prone to sunburn on their skin, respiratory problems due to their very short noses, eye irritation due to their somewhat bulging eyes, and tooth problems, a common Toy dog malady. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes nearly a dozen Maltese hybrids, ranging from the Mauzer (Maltese/Miniature Schnauzer) to the Silkese (Maltese/Silky Terrier). Pekingese hybrids Pekingese have long, straight coats with profuse feathering. They come in all colors and grow to about 9 inches tall at the shoulder, weighing 8 to 10 pounds. One of the reasons for their popularity among hybrid dog breeders is that many Pekingese can be found at under 6 inches in height and weighing under 6 pounds, creating a great parent base for a pocket-size dog. This Toy dog tends to have a broad head with wide-set dark eyes, a wrinkled short muzzle, and drooping heart-shaped ears with long feathering. Their necks are short and thick. Like the Pug, they have a rolling gait. Pekingese are very brave, independent, and affectionate with their own people but wary of strangers. They can be obstinate, willful, and finicky. Due to their sensitivity to sound and movement, they tend to be excessive barkers. This Toy breed tends to catch colds easily and is prone to herniated disks, dislocated kneecaps, trichaiasis (eyelashes growing inward, toward the eyeballs), and breathing problems due to their shortened snouts. Heart problems are also a common health issue in Pekingese. As with many other Toy breeds, they have a tendency to easily become overweight so should never be fed a high-calorie diet. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes numerous Pekingese hybrids, ranging from the Foxingese (Pekingese/Toy Fox Terrier) to the Yorkinese (Pekingese/Yorkshire Terrier). Shih Tzu hybrids Though Shih Tzus look like Lhasa Apsos, their personalities are totally the opposite. Where Lhasas are dominant and willful, Shih Tzus are gentle, easy-going, and very willing to learn. They’re happy, hardy, and have loads of character. It’s no wonder that this is a popular addition to many hybrid dog combinations. They grow up to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh about 9 pounds, though they do have a tendency to become overweight because they’re very food oriented. They have round heads, short noses, and lots of fur around their faces. Shih Tzus have long, soft overcoats with a woolly undercoat, making them fairly hardy in extreme temperatures for short periods of time. Their tails curl over their backs, and they come in a huge variety of colors. Because of their short noses, they wheeze and snore, along with having respiratory problems from time to time. They can have spinal disc disease due to their long back and short legs. However, compared to many Toy breeds, their genetic defects are few. Though it has been done, Shi Tzus should not be bred with other dogs who have similarly short noses and large bulging eyes. This can create some horrendous health issues with the hybrid pups. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes more than 25 Shih Tzu hybrids, ranging from the Fo-Tzu (Shih Tzu/Toy Fox Terrier) to the Bea-Tzu (Beagle/Shih Tzu). Pomeranian hybrids Pomeranians resemble foxes, only with thicker, fluffier fur. Their wedge-shaped heads; straight, triangular ears; and pointed noses are foxlike, as are their baby-doll faces. Poms have dark, almond-shaped eyes and a double coat, which can be any solid color, though there are some that are parti-colored, such as black and white. Descended from Nordic breeds bred to withstand extremely cold temperatures and work all day pulling sleds, Pomeranians are some of the hardiest of the Toy breeds. Poms aren’t big enough to pull a sled (though if you put about ten of them together, they’d give it a good try), but they still believe they’re big, tough dogs. This makes them willful, bold, and often temperamental — though not stupid. If you use a positive training technique with lots of incentive, your Pom will do whatever you want. Pomeranians are a popular parent breed for hybrid dogs because they offer the beautiful fluffy coat, distinct facial features, and small size. The average Pom doesn’t grow much larger than 12 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs a mere 7 pounds. Though Pomeranians are tough little dogs, they do have a genetic tendency toward specific health issues, including luxating patella (the kneecap slips out of its proper groove and moves against the thighbone), heart and skin problems, as well as eye infections. Also, as with most Toy breeds, they are prone to dental problems and weight gain. Because Pomeranians have large, bulging eyes and the tendency toward specific health problems, they should not be bred with breeds that have similar attributes. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes more than 25 Pomeranian hybrids, ranging from the Pom-Coton (Pomeranian/Coton de Teluar) to the Poshies (Pomeranian/Shetland Sheepdog). Yorkshire Terrier hybrids Yorkies are very small toys with a long silky coat that falls straight down on either side. Although the puppies are usually black and tan, they mature to steel gray and gold. This breed has a flat head, medium-length muzzle, black nose, and upright V-shaped ears. This is another Toy dog who doesn’t have a small personality — they are Terriers, after all. As tenacious as they come, Yorkshire Terriers have a high energy level, are aggressive with strangers and other dogs, are demanding of attention, and are territorial. Yorkies are often spoiled and catered to due to their small size (a mere 7 inches tall at the shoulder, and hardly ever more than 7 pounds). This coddling creates a mini-monster. Yorkshire Terriers, as with dogs of any size, need structure and leadership. Yorkies do have some genetic health problems. These include abnormal skull formations, paralysis of the hindquarters caused by herniated discs, and other spinal problems. They are also prone to dental abnormalities and excessive tooth decay. They have a poor tolerance to anesthetics and a tendency toward congenital liver disease. The American Canine Hybrid Club recognizes more than 15 Yorkshire Terrier hybrids, ranging from the Fourche Terrier (West Highland White Terrier/Yorkshire Terrier) to the Snorkie (Miniature Schnauzer/Yorkshire Terrier).

View Article
Designer Dogs: Oodles of Poodles

Step by Step / Updated 10-25-2020

Few hybrid dogs (the offspring of two purebred dogs) are more popular than those with a Poodle parent. In fact, it was the Poodle mixture that started the entire fad of designer dogs, beginning with the Labradoodle and Cockapoo. Poodles bring many great attributes into the hybrid crossing, plus they come in four sizes: Standard, Miniature, Toy, and Teacup (a size not currently recognized by the AKC). Plus, they’re low- to no-shed dogs with dirt-resistant coats. When combined with a Retriever, or other straight soft-coated breed, they can produce a beautiful wavy or large-curl coat that’s very attractive. The smaller Poodle breeds also tend to live a long time. So instead of having a dog for only 10 to 12 years, you’ll have one who will live upwards of 15 years. That, alone, makes a Poodle mix very attractive. When compared to other purebred dogs, Poodles are rated high on the intelligence scale. They learn quickly and can work their way through problems faster than most other breeds. What’s not to like about fast housetraining? Poodles are sensitive, highly aware, and learn by watching others. Unless very poorly bred, Poodles have few genetic defects, though they aren’t totally without health concerns. Their hips are far better than most retriever and shepherd breeds. They aren’t prone to heart problems seen in many types of dogs. And they rarely have epilepsy, retinal atrophy, or allergies. Overall, mixing any purebred dog with a Poodle will create great offspring.

View Step by Step
Introduction to Mixed-Breed Dogs

Article / Updated 10-25-2020

The offspring of purebred dogs all look alike on the outside and have similar personalities and temperaments. You can’t say that about mixed-breed dogs. No two are exactly alike — even those from the same litter. Although their environment has a lot of impact on their future behavior, they still have specific genetic codes that are difficult to decipher. Mixed-breed dogs — especially so-called “designer dogs” — have recently experienced a surge in popularity. Though actually hybrids — the offspring of two purebreds — designer dogs are highly prized for their unique characteristics. Designer dogs are very expensive, because they’re in short supply and highly desired. Very small mixed breeds have also become very popular. They’re easy to transport, can be carried in a handbag, and offer all the affection and playful antics of their larger cousins. From 3 to 7 pounds, so-called “pocket dogs” are gaining ground, probably fueled by the fact that they’re carried by their celebrity owners down the red carpet. Many of the current, popular pocket dogs are hybrids — the mix of two very small purebred dogs. Most dogs — regardless of their breed or size — merely want to be with their human companions. Your dog looks to you for direction, companionship, food, shelter, and understanding. In return, your dog offers friendship, trust, and love. He’ll never grow up and move away, he’s there when you need someone to talk to, and he’s always ready to join in a game. Your dog doesn’t have to be purebred to fulfill your needs. After all, your dog doesn’t know what purebred is — all he knows is that he wants to be with you. What are mixed-breed dogs? A mixed-breed dog is one who has been conceived by two different purebred or mixed-breed dogs. The parentage of many mixed-breed dogs is unknown, because the breeding wasn’t planned. Two unsterilized dogs crossed paths when the female was in heat, and the rest is history. Mixed-breed dogs are sometimes called mutts, mongrels, or Heinz 57 dogs. No matter what they’ve been called, they haven’t traditionally been the sought-after purebred dog that people pay a lot of money to buy. In recent years, though, mixed-breed dogs have become more popular. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has officially created a new grouping for mixed-breed dogs — the All-American — through its AKC Canine Partners program. Now mixed-breed dogs can participate in any performance event that was formerly the domain of purebred dogs, including certifications such as the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy programs. Mixed-breed dogs are also being put to work as service dogs, therapy dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs. They’re valued as pets and companions. And in some parts of the world, owning a mixed-breed dog is considered chic. Each mixed-breed dog is unique. Even designer dogs don’t meet any specific standard, such as those seen in purebred dogs. There’s no guarantee of the adult dog’s height, appearance, or temperament. What happens happens. Although some designer-dog breeders claim that their mixed-breed pups are healthier due to breeding two different breeds together, this isn’t always the case. The health of the pups depends on the two individuals who are mixed. Only through careful testing of the parents — such as X-raying hip joints, testing the eyes and heart, testing blood for specific diseases, and temperament testing for overall personality — that a breeder can be somewhat certain that the offspring will be healthy. Although most professional purebred dog breeders do these tests, few designer-dog breeders do so. And you can be sure that the owners of those wandering pets who crossed paths didn’t do so either. A designer dog is a dog whose parents were both purebred dogs, of different breeds. For example, a Golden Doodle has one parent who is a purebred Golden Retriever, and another parent who is a purebred Poodle. His mother may have been the Poodle, and his father may have been the Golden Retriever — or vice versa. The designer dog was bred intentionally by a designer-dog breeder. A non-designer mixed-breed dog is a dog who was bred either intentionally or by accident. One or both of his parents were not purebred dogs. Even though you have no idea what your mixed-breed puppy will grow up to look like, there are ways to be sure he’ll still be a good pet. Your good care, training, and love will make him the ideal companion. It doesn’t matter what others might think when they see your short-legged, long-backed, droopy-eared, multicolored dog with the overshot jaw and wrinkled forehead. All that matters is your love and devotion to him, which he’ll return tenfold. A tale of two dogs: how mixed-breed dogs come to be The story of mixed-breed dogs is often a sad one. Many people see them as a lower caste of animal — with no heritage and an unknown future. They overpopulate animal shelters and humane societies. They roam the streets in cities, suburbs, and rural areas, menacing wildlife and small pets. In their search for food, they raid garbage cans and alleyways. If captured by animal control, few are claimed, and most are put to sleep. Just as people throw out old computers, or clothing that’s no longer in style, mixed-breed dogs often suffer the same consequences when their owners no longer want to be bothered to care for them. The most common scenarios: Someone falls in love with a mixed-breed pup, but quickly tires of the pup as he grows and develops behavioral problems (because the person treated him more like a toy, than a dog). Broken toys are thrown away; mixed-breed dogs are abandoned in the streets or at local animal shelters. Someone wants to let her children experience the wonders of birth. How great is it to watch puppies being born and nursing! How cute the puppies are as they crawl around! Seeing the pups’ eyes open for the first time, watching them eat solid food for the first time, and watching them play with each other — what could be better? But when the pups’ mother no longer cares for them, the task of feeding and cleaning up after the puppies falls on the adult in the house. And if homes can’t be found for the pups, they’re abandoned. A dog just gets loose. The dog’s owner tried to keep him contained, but where there’s a will, there’s a way, especially if the air is carrying the odor of a female dog in season, which many male dogs can detect from more than a mile away. It’s not unheard of for a male dog to climb a high fence to escape or boldly run through an invisible fence’s electronic field. An unhappy dog without companionship will do what he can to get loose and find company. Dogs who are tethered outdoors break their ropes; those in pens dig under the fence; many in yards jump over a fence or take advantage of open gates because they want to find other dogs. And when they find other dogs, they often procreate — and then more unwanted mixed breeds enter the world. Rarely does breeding of mixed-breed dogs happen intentionally. Though unplanned, many mixed-breed dogs can still bring joy and love to your life. Don’t judge the dog on how he came to be, or where he was found — instead, consider how happy and fulfilling a future shared with that mixed-breed dog can be! They don’t call ’em man’s best friend for nothin’ Wondering what you can do with a mixed-breed dog? Anything! You may not be able to compete in purebred dog club shows, but similar certificate-awarding shows are available for mixed-breed dogs. You and your dog are teammates in all performance activities. Your mixed breed can Participate in obedience trials. These are tests of your dogs’ response to obedience commands. Participate in agility. Not only does this challenge your dog physically, but also tests how well you communicate with him while in action. Compete in flyball. This is a relay team event with four dogs/handlers per team. The dogs run down a lane to fetch a ball and return. The fastest team wins. Take the Canine Good Citizen test. This test is a way of testing your dog’s obedience and temperament in public. (It’s not a competition.) Work as a therapy dog. Your mixed breed can bring joy to others by going to nursing homes, hospitals, and care centers. Work as a service dog. Service dogs perform important tasks for those who are unable to. They are guiding eyes for the blind, ears for the deaf, and hands for those without. Assist with search-and-rescue operations. Search-and-rescue dogs find lost people and save their lives. Mixed breeds can perform jobs to help people, save people, and inspire people. They’re stars on the screen, stage, and television. They’re heroes in the line of duty or while sifting through debris. They keep our borders safe, sniffing out dangerous chemicals and drugs. Many mixed breeds have a bad start, but you can change that by adopting one that steals your heart. Just one stroll through an animal shelter or humane society, and you’re bound to find one, or two, who’ll give you the love and devotion you’re looking for. They don’t call dogs man’s best friend for nothing. Nobody can love you like a dog.

View Article