Mutts vs Purebreeds: What's The Difference?

12 July 2019

Mutts vs Purebreeds: What's The Difference?

When you are considering getting a new dog, your first thought might be whether or not to get a purebred dog. Some dog owners prefer purebred dogs and others prefer their dogs to have mixed breeds. What is the difference? Here, we have gathered all of the information you need to know about the differences between purebreds and mutts.


What are purebred dogs?


A purebred dog is one in which their pedigree is well documented. These dogs can be registered with a breed club or national kennel club. Purebred dogs are not necessarily “high-quality dogs,” as the breed does not automatically improve the health or temperament of a dog. Pedigree is now commonly determined by DNA testing, which can show the percentage of DNA that is only from one type of dog breed.

Modern purebreds are registered in two ways. The first is the closed stud book, which requires that all dogs descend from a registered set of ancestors. This process means that the more generations that come from the set of ancestors, the less variation there is in the dog’s genes, making it very easy to identify what breed they are. These genetic traits are also the key to defining necessary traits for sporting conformation standards as well. These dogs are typically highly inbred, which can also increase the likelihood of genetic diseases.

The open stud book registration means that there are some acceptable situations of outcrossing, which means breeding between two different breeds. This typically happens with herding or hunting dogs, or working dogs such as police dogs or assistance dogs. Dogs on these registrations do not compete in the sport of conformation showing, because their genetic traits do not align with the standards set by the closed stud book dogs. Outcrossing breeding is done specifically for working characteristics, as opposed to appearances. There are some cases in which stud dogs are overused because of their working style, and that can lead to a narrowing of the diversity of the gene pool.

Crossbreeds are not considered to be purebred, but dogs who are bred from the same two purebreds may have identical genetic qualities meaning they could appear to create a new breed of purebred dog. Crossbreeds cannot continue to breed consistently, and to maintain similar genetic qualities, the dog will need to be bred from the previous two purebreds.


What is a mutt?


A mutt, or otherwise known as a mixed-breed, is a dog that does not officially belong to one of the recognized breeds and is also not the result of intentional breeding. Mixed breeds are different than crossbreeds, because the mixed breed is unintentional, while a crossbred dog is an intentional breeding of two different pedigrees.

Discovering the ancestry of a mixed-breed dog can be quite difficult, because mixed breeds have significantly more genetic variation than purebreds. Luckily, genetic analysis can help determine the breed composition of mixed breed dogs. These DNA tests are still being developed and are only so accurate, because only a small number of dog breeds have been validated against the results, and because the same breed in a different geographical area may have very different genetic profiles.

Generally, it is accepted that dogs who have a higher variation of genes are healthier than their purebred counterparts. Inbreeding among dogs has highlighted a variety of genetic health problems that may not be as apparent in breeds that have not been as closely inbred. Mixed breed dogs are also more likely to live longer than purebreds.


Why choose a purebred?


According to the American Kennel Club, there are a number of reasons why you should choose to have a purebred dog as your pet. For example, purebred dogs that are registered with the AKC have a distinct heritage. Most breeds were intended for a specific purpose or function that could help us in our daily lives, such as herding dogs. Many of these breeds’ pedigrees can be traced back over 100 years, which allows breeders and owners to predict their behavior and temperament. This can help you determine which dog breed is best for your lifestyle, based on all of the information that is available.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not only have to rely on a breeder for a purebred dog. Many times, your local shelter will have a number of purebreds up for adoption because their owners could no longer take care of them. If you are not attached to having a puppy, and instead are certain what type of breed you think would be best for your family, adoption is a great option.

If you do purchase a purebred from a breeder, you will likely get them at around 8 weeks of age, which gives you an advantage in the training arena. For example, it will be much easier to train a puppy who has not spent any time in a shelter, and most times those are purebred dogs. This is especially important for socialization, because purebred dogs from a breeder likely have not learned any negative lessons about how to interact with others. Generally, they have had a pretty comfortable life, and are still open to trusting people.


Why choose a mutt?


Mutts are becoming an ever more popular choice for new dog owners, and there are a number of reasons why. First, mutts can offer characteristics from all of the breeds that they are made from. While these breeds may not always have compatible temperaments, with good training you will be able to have a smart dog who is also very personable. You are also less likely to have a dog who will need a lot of medical attention as they get older, because they are less likely to suffer from hereditary diseases.  

It is also a fun surprise to watch your mutt grow. Even if you are not sure what breeds they are, it will be fun to see how tall they grow, what their fur will be like, and any characteristics that develop that you were not expecting. Of course, mutts are significantly more affordable than purebred dogs, for obvious reasons. These dogs typically do not come from breeders, and therefore have far fewer expenses tied to them.  

Mutts are also highly unique dogs. It is unlikely you will find two mutts who are very similar, which is very fun. With a mutt, you will know that your dog is one of a kind, and is a very special member of your family. Unfortunately, a significant portion of all dogs currently in shelters are mutts. They often spend a lot of time in the shelters, because many people who are looking to adopt are doing so with a very specific breed or appearance in mind. Instead of selecting your dog based off of appearance, instead select a dog whose personality will be a great match with yours.


What are the behavioral differences?


In general mutts tend to be less calm and less sociable with other dogs, because purebreds tend to have calmer, more predictable lives. Mutts, unfortunately, often have to learn to fend for themselves because they tend to spend a lot of time in shelters. However, this does not mean that mutts are untrainable. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite.

A recent study in the journal PLOS One took a look at the behavioral differences in purebreds and mutts, looking at more than 7,000 purebred dogs and nearly 7,100 mixed breed dogs. Dog owners were asked to fill out an online questionnaire about their dog, their breed and their behavioral traits. Calmness was found to be more apparent in purebred dogs than mixed breed dogs. Calmness was identified as a dog who can remain cool-headed and emotionally balanced, compared to a dog who is generally anxious or visibly stressed.

Mixed breed dogs also showed a higher probability of having behavior problems. Dogs who express behavioral problems were identified as those who tend to pull on leashes, jump up on people, do not respond when their names are called or generally show dominance behaviors.

This research looked at why purebreds and mixed breeds show such a significant difference in their behaviors. One reason is that the mixed breed dogs are random, instead of planned, whereas purebred are often subjected to very intentional breeding. Breeders are highly attentive, and generally will not breed a dog who shows any signs of behavioral issues or who has an undesirable temperament. Therefore, the genes that trigger the unwanted behaviors are bred out, and the more desirable behaviors remain.

Researchers also found that a dog’s environment also plays a significant role in their behavior. Mixed breed dogs are more likely to be owned by women who tend to be younger and have a lower education level. These owners are also more likely to be first-time dog owners will little experience caring for or training dogs.

Mixed breeds also tend to be the only animal in the house, and are more likely to be left inside a lot of the time. Mixed breeds tend not to be adopted until they are older, which makes a significant difference in how calm they are. These researchers found that dogs who entered a home at an age of less than 12 weeks tend to be calmer overall than dogs who enter a new home after that age.




As we can see, there are pros and cons for both purebreds and mixed breeds. At the end of the day, it really depends on what vision you have for your pet, and how you intend to care for them. If you have a busy household and do not have a lot of time for training, you may want to consider a purebred dog. Because purebreds tend to be calmer overall, it is highly likely that they will be easier to train and manage on a day to day basis. Of course, purebreds tend to come with a higher price tag, and as they age, they may require more frequent medical care due to their disposition to genetic diseases.

A purebred might also be the right choice for you if you are interested in showing your dog. As we mentioned before, only purebred dogs who are on a national register, such as the American Kennel Club, are allowed to participate in the sport of dog showing. Dogs who enter conformation showing competitions must meet very specific standards, and will be subject to rigorous training and intense schedules. You should make sure that you have considered everything that is required for a show dog before deciding to throw your hat in the ring.

On the other side of the coin, mixed breed dogs tend to be much more affordable, and can offer you a unique experience. Mixed breed dogs have temperaments and behaviors that are more difficult to predict, but they can have the ability to learn very well and show multiple positive traits from a number of dogs. Of course, adopting a mixed breed dog also comes with some struggles. The most significant of which is that you will not know what to expect from your dog as they grow older. While purebreds have decades worth of documentation about how they behave and what skills they are best at, it is nearly impossible to know what to expect from your mixed breed.

Overall, the choice is yours, and whatever it is we are sure you will make the right one. Once you have chosen what dog you are going to get, be sure to do a lot of research on their breed, or assumed breeds, so that you can start to get a sense of what to expect as they grow older. If you run into issues, contact either the registry or a professional dog trainer to help you navigate challenges as they arise. Dogs are wonderful pets, and no matter which dog you get, they will be sure to bring lots of joy to your life.

Category: Breed Facts

Schedule a Visit

Book an appointment with one of our highly-trained veterinarians today.