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3 Misconceptions About Mutts, Debunked

While they may not qualify for a spot at Westminster, mutts never fail to win our hearts. How well do you know mixed breed dogs? Check your knowledge against this list of three top misconceptions about mutts.

You can identify a mutt’s breed makeup by appearance.
It’s fun to guess at a mutt’s mix by looking at their features. Button ears can come from a Jack Russell grandparent, while a curly, fluffy tail may have been inherited from a Shiba Inu ancestor. The truth is, though, that you can’t tell a mutt’s breed makeup just by looking at them.
Intakes at shelters often do not come with any identifying paperwork or known history. Shelter workers have to label dogs with their best guess. Pitbulls or bully breed mixes are most frequently misidentified. In a University of Florida study, researchers used genetic testing to find the breed makeup of 120 shelter dogs. The results were compared with visual breed identifications from shelter staff.
While the staff labeled 52% of the shelter dogs as pitbull mixes, only about 21% were found to have pitbull terrier or Staffordshine terrier DNA. What’s more, 1 in 3 dogs that were not pitbulls were labeled as such, while 1 in 5 dogs that were pitbulls were passed over.

Mutts are usually made up of just two or three breeds.
The popularity of “designer dogs” like Labradoodles and Chiweenies can mislead some dog lovers to think that mutts are commonly made up of just two breeds. An unidentified mutt may have a very diverse genetic makeup of 4 or more distinct breeds.
Some mutts do not have any specific breed history at all. Village dogs are semi-domestic dogs that live around humans, but they breed without direct human intervention. They’re typically identified by their region of origin. They’re known as callejeros (street dogs) in Mexico, potcake dogs in the Caribbean islands, or pariah dogs in South Asia. Village dogs are not recognized by the AKC and do not have any standard appearance or size, though dogs from the same region will typically look somewhat alike.

Mutts are always healthier than purebred dogs.
Responsible breeders avoid using dogs in their breeding program that have a high chance of passing on a genetic disorder. They also avoid close inbreeding, and may import dogs from overseas to ensure a more diverse gene pool. Even so, not all breeders are responsible, and all dog breeds are susceptible to inherited health issues. However, a mutt can be genetically predisposed to common conditions that affect one or more of the breeds that make up their lineage. Veterinarians see certain conditions more often in purebred dogs than in mutts, including dilated cardiomyopathy, cataracts, and hypothyroidism. Most genetic conditions, though, are equally common in both purebred and mixed breed dogs. When it comes down to it, you cannot predict how healthy your dog will be based on their pedigree.
When you buy a purebred dog, it’s easy to research what genetic conditions are common in their breed. For mutts, there’s always affordable at-home DNA tests like DNA My Dog that can give you the same insight.