Researching Mixed-Breed Dogs

When your objective is to get a mixed-breed dog, you don't need to spend as much time and effort in researching your options as someone who is interested in finding the right designer or purebred dog. However, you do need to consider where you're getting the dog, as well as being alert to misleading descriptions.

Be Alert to Breed-Specific References. Many people who have a mixed breed dog available claim that the dog is of a specific breed mix. For example, a puppy with the long, gold-colored hair might be called a Golden Retriever mix. One of the most common mixed breed descriptions for dogs of unknown heritage is "Labrador Retriever mix" and a small fine-boned dog is frequently referred to as a Chihuahua mix even if it has no Chihuahua parentage.

Remember, when someone describes a mixed-breed dog with a breed-specific reference unless you can verify the claim, it may not be accurate and you should not attribute the characteristics associated with that breed to the dog you are investigating. Just because a dog appears to share some physical characteristics with a specific breed doesn't mean that dog shares any genes with that breed, and it is a common set of genes that make a purebred more predictable both in appearance and in behavior. After all, there are only so many different ways for a dog to look. Just because a dog resembles a purebred doesn't mean it is a purebred.

Mixed-breed puppies or adults typically possess a blend of the parents' features, and may resemble the parents to varying degrees or not at all. Puppies of many breeds may share similar characteristics, and with a blend of DNA that may or may not have any DNA from a purebred dog, it's almost impossible to pinpoint a dog's genetic history based on appearance. You can conduct DNA testing for parentage with varying degrees of accuracy, but DNA testing may not be able to identify all of the breeds in your dog's background.

A number of companies offer DNA testing for your dog but typically they are unable to recognize every breed that exists. If your dog's background isn't one of the breeds that can be identified, or its DNA test is inconclusive for other reasons, you may receive incomplete results. Some veterinarians also offer DNA testing through various services.

Keep this in mind when shopping for mixed breed puppies: any guess as to the parentage of mixed breed dogs is just that- a guess. Unless you've physically seen the parents and know their breed, you can't really know the breeds, if any, that are in a mixed breed puppy's background.