A mixed-breed dog is a testament to nature. Without any input — some might say interference — from humans, the mixed breed defies description. Available in all sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns, he might have a long snout or a short nose. He may display prick ears or floppy ones. He could have a stubby tail, spindly legs, a giant spot over his left eye — or all three. A divine inspiration, the mixed breed is gloriously, wonderfully someone else’s design.
And as the ultimate family dog, the mixed breed excels where the purebred lacks. Drawing from a broader, more diverse gene pool, his intensity is softer than his pedigreed cousins, his drives and compulsions mercifully muted. The Mutt’s loyalty, warmth, and deep desire to please, however, remain as fiercely intact as any dog you could choose to create.
Choosing a mutt is a lot like dating: you may meet a few dogs that seem interesting, and then fall in love with one for reasons that make sense only to you. (Choosing a purebred, on the other hand, is a little like saying, "I only date blondes." You can still find a love match, but you may end up overlooking someone who's even more perfect for you.)
The truth is, heritage matters very little. You'll get along well with your dog because you both love to run, for instance, not because a piece of paper says he comes from a long line of dogs originating on the coast of Croatia.
When you adopt a mixed breed you learn to think in terms of personality, rather than breed. This can have the effect of stripping away expectations and so you appreciate even more deeply the surprises and joys that come from living with a dog.
Finally, since about 75 percent of the dogs in shelters on any given day are mixed breeds, choosing a mutt usually means giving a home to a dog who really needs one, and that's nice, too.
Everyone knows that dogs must have adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, and medical attention when needed. His other requirements may be harder to quantify, but they are just as crucial: mental stimulation, physical exercise, and plenty of positive contact with his owner.
A leashed walk around the block is usually a sufficient bathroom break, but it isn't enough exercise for most dogs. The majority need 30 to 60 minutes a day to stay in good shape. For some pups, this means off-leash, full-out running to burn off steam; some dogs enjoy a good long walk; others want to go play fetch in a lake. Whatever form of exercise your dog likes the most, he'll be healthier for indulging in it.
A dog's mind needs exercise as much as his body does — the same "use it or lose it" philosophy applies to us all. Training is a mainstay of canine brain workouts. It could be as simple as playing games with you and learning to sit, or as complex as training for agility or obedience competitions.
And whether it's through playing, training, hiking, or petting, your dog needs a substantial daily dose of attention from you.
As with purebreds, the mixed breed's temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and early socialization.
Some mutts' heritage is impossible to decipher. If you find one particularly baffling, it may be because he comes from a long line of dogs who were never selectively bred. These mystery dogs are more accurately called non-breeds, than mixed breeds.
But a lot of mixed breeds truly are mixed. That is, you can identify a smattering of Australian Cattle Dog, or Beagle, or Collie. This means it's likely some of those breeds' traits are carrying through.
Sometimes that can work in your favor. A dog that appears to be a mix of Labrador and Border Collie, for instance, may have the easygoing friendliness of the first and the whip-smart agility of the second.
With any blend, there's no guarantee you'll get the best traits of the contributing breeds. The only guarantee is that whatever you end up with is something unique and inimitable.
Mixed breed dogs are generally considered healthier than purebred dogs because they draw from a broader gene pool. Producing a mixed breed, in other words, is the opposite of inbreeding.
But you can't assume your mixed breed will be the healthiest dog you've ever had. Having a fresh bloodline makes little difference if the parents aren't healthy.
If you can determine one or more of the breeds that went into your mixed breed's heritage, it's worth researching the health concerns common to that breed or breeds. And like all dogs, mixed breeds are prone to certain conditions and diseases.Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs. There are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a hybrid puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.Cancer: Cancer can develop in dogs as well as humans. There are many different types of cancer, and the success of treatment differs for each individual case. For some forms of cancer, the tumors are surgically removed, others are treated with chemotherapy, and some are treated both surgically and medically.Ear Infections: These are most common in dogs with long ears. You may be able to prevent many ear infections by keeping the ears clean and dry. Ask your veterinarian about appropriate ear care products.