If you are looking for a dog to join your family, don’t rule out the mixed breed dog. These dogs can make wonderful companions, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some mixes have fairly obvious breed origins, while others don’t resemble any breed at all and their parentage is a bit of a mystery.
Genetics is a fascinating subject, and there’s often no way of predicting the genes a cross breed pup is born with. A puppy born of two separate breeds could have physical characteristics of both breeds, or it could look just like one of the parent breeds. I once owned a mixed breed; mom was a Border Collie and dad was a Labrador Retriever. Missy looked just like a pure-bred Border Collie, and showed no outward signs that there was a skeleton in her closet!
However, if you know a dog’s parentage, you can make an educated guess as to what he looks like when he grows up. A chihuahua mix is likely to be small with prick ears and a short coat. At the other end of the spectrum, an Afghan Hound crossed with a Golden Retriever will probably be a larger dog with a long silky coat and floppy ears.
Working out what your dog will look like when he grows up can be difficult when you have no idea what breed of dogs his parents were! All you can do is make an educated guess about his background based on his general appearance, and as we’ve seen with my dog Missy, this isn’t necessarily accurate.
If you aren’t sure of a mixed breed pup’s parentage and how big it is likely to grow, have a look at his feet. In general terms, big feet and big wrist joints indicate that a pup will grow reasonably large.
Whatever your preference, you should be able to find a mixed breed dog that meets your needs when it comes to size, appearance and coat type.
Your mixed breed dog’s temperament can be as random as his appearance. In general terms, you can expect his temperament to resemble that of either or both parents. A Border Collie mix may well be extremely active, and insist on playing with you whenever you get up from the couch. A greyhound mix will be right there on the couch with you, and will be the last to move!
No matter what your dog’s genetic make-up, you can be proactive and help him to become a friendly, sociable and happy member of your family. Start with puppy pre-school from a very young age, and teach him to get along with other dogs and people. When he is old enough, continue his training in dog obedience classes. He needs to learn how to behave, and how to interact with people and dogs he may meet either when he is at home, or out on a walk.
All dogs benefit from firm, fair and consistent leadership, so make sure you let him know that you are in charge. There’s no place for aggression or harsh handling; this will only lead to your dog being afraid of you, or being aggressive back.
You may have heard of the term “hybrid vigor”. This means that the offspring of two different breeds get the best characteristics of both parents, and are healthier than their mom and dad. This is certainly a possibility, but as we’ve mentioned, there’s no guarantee as to which genes a pup will receive from his parents. He is just as likely to end up with the worst characteristics of his sire and dam!
What does this mean for you? It means that if, for argument’s sake, your dog is a Labrador Retriever – German Shepherd mix, he may well develop hip dysplasia, just as a pure-bred would. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the parents of a mixed breed pup will have been hip scored, or will have undergone any genetic testing before being bred.
This isn’t necessarily a reason to give up on the idea of welcoming a mixed breed dog into your family. It just means you need to educate yourself about the potential health issues associated with any of the breeds that may be in your dog’s ancestry.
You can take steps to keep your mixed breed dog healthy and help him to live a long and happy life by feeding him a quality dog food, exercising him well and avoiding excessive weight gain.
Maintaining your mixed breed dog is fairly simple. If you don’t have time to spend on grooming, then choose a dog that has a short, low maintenance coat. If you’re happy to sit back in the evening and give your dog a brush while you watch the latest DVD, then a mixed breed with a longer coat won’t be an inconvenience. Even cross-breed dogs may need regular haircuts, particularly if they have breeds such as the Poodle in them, so you may need to factor that into your doggie budget.
When it comes to exercise, all dogs need some activity to keep them physically and mentally healthy. For some dogs, this may be just a daily stroll. More active dogs who have any of the working breeds in their family tree will need not only plenty of exercise, but something to do with their brains. Otherwise they’ll look for their own entertainment, such as digging holes, barking or pulling your laundry off the line.
Is a mixed breed dog the right choice for you? Unless you have a specific interest in a particular breed, a mixed breed will meet all of your needs. They can be active and accompany you on a run. They can be quieter and spend the day dozing at your feet. They can have long tresses that need brushing, or a short neat coat that needs no grooming at all. They can be big dogs that take up a lot of space on your couch, or small dogs that can be carried around in your arms all day.
At your local animal shelter you’ll find any number of mixed breed pups and adults who would love a forever home. Alternatively, check the classifieds of your town’s newspaper; sometimes you’ll find an advertisement for puppies after a female dog has had an illicit liaison which resulted in an unexpected litter.
A mixed breed dog will give you a lifetime of love and laughter, and be a wonderful companion for your family. They are certainly worth keeping in mind when you are choosing your next canine companion.