From my perspective, I don’t care if a dog is purebred or mixed. I’ve had both over the years and cherished each for their unique personalities. Mixed breed dogs, however, can garner interesting debates about what breeds are in their makeup. You might be able to figure out a few by looking at the face and overall body type, but one of the best places to start is at the tail. The shape, size, length, how it sets and whether the tail is bushy, feathered or smooth can all give you clues about your mixed breed dog’s heritage.
A dog’s tail is an extension of the spine and consists of flexible vertebrae that give the tail movement up and down or side to side. Muscles located in the lower back are attached to the tail by tendons. The tail gives us information that can indicate a dog’s mood. Recently, scientists discovered a subtle movement to the right or left can mean your dog is feeling negative or positive.
Many of the breeds that are members of the Spitz family of dogs have a bushy tail that forms a sickle and curls up over the back. Some Spitz dogs, such as the Shiba Inu, Akita and Norwegian Buhund, have an extra curl at the tip of their tail. Spitz dogs closely resemble the original body type and look of the first domesticated dog, the Peat Dog from the late Stone Age era, and scientists believe the sickle tail held over the back helped people tell the difference between domesticated dogs and wolves. Chihuahuas are not part of the Spitz family, but they also have a sickle tail type.
Many of us have loved a mutt at one time or another. A special mixed-breed dog was my beloved companion for 17 years. She was stunningly beautiful and incredibly well behaved, with a sweet yet mischievous personality. My friends and family adored her too; she was an exceptional pet and people often asked what breed she was. I suspected she was part yellow Labrador but the other parts were a mystery at that time.
During her lifetime, countless people commented that they’d like to have a dog just like her. Heck, I’d like to have another dog just like her! Of course, I had no idea of her true heritage; a Good Samaritan found her alone, weak and malnourished, in an abandoned warehouse. Through a circuitous route involving several shelters, she finally found a forever home with me.
Then, when I wrote a breed profile about the Expressive Norwegian Lundehund, I came to believe that my mystery dog was part yellow Lab and part Lundehund. At the time when I had this dog, there were no tests to determine a mixed breed dog’s ancestry.
Within the last several years, however, DNA tests have been developed to genetically determine a dog’s breed composition. And if you don’t want to get all technical, there are other, less scientific methods to identify a dog’s heritage. Linda Cole recommends a practical approach to breed determination in How to Tell Which Breeds are in Your Mutt.
Because I am an animal rescuer, I’ve had many dogs come in and out of my life. Out of the all of them, only two have been purebred dogs. That’s been my choice; I take in the dogs that are hard to place, which usually means mutts. (As an aside, shelters usually have plenty of purebred animals if that’s what you’re looking for.) Interestingly, more than half of the dogs in the U.S. are mutts.
For decades, only purebred dogs could be registered. Now, kennel clubs around the country are opening up their doors to mutts, giving every dog his chance to shine and show off. A mixed breed dog may not have papers, but he can still run, jump, sit and run a trail with the best of them. Is there an advantage to registering a dog with mixed lineage, and what are the benefits to the dog and its owner?
Every dog lover who shares their home with a mixed breed can picture their furry friend standing in the winner’s circle at a dog competition. However, the purebred dogs strutting their stuff are well trained dogs, and their trainers spent hours working with them. You can also have a well trained dog, and that’s one of the benefits to registering your mixed breed dog. In order to join in on the fun, your dog has to mind his manners and it’s up to you to make sure he’s properly trained. All of the organizations promote responsible dog ownership to help teach owners how unique and special their mutt is. Read More »
It can be hard trying to determine the pedigree of some mixed breed dogs. Even dog experts have a hard time identifying some “Heinz 57” pups. A lot of times, it comes down to guesswork. But knowing which combination of dog breeds they might be can make a difference when you’re trying to decide if a mixed breed is one that would be suitable for your family.
Because mixed breed dogs have a variety of breeds in their lineage, it’s difficult to know all the dog breeds making up their DNA. Which breed temperament will be the strongest may be noticeable when they’re pups, but it can change as they grow.
Until 2007, there were no tests to determine the heritage of mixed breeds. Scientists have developed a DNA test for about 100 or so specific dogs breeds and have recently been testing mixed breeds for an average cost to dog owners of around $100. Since it doesn’t cover all known dog breeds, a complete evaluation for most mutts is still in the future. Each year, more breeds are added to the list, but until a complete list is compiled, that leaves most of us wondering which breeds are in our mixed breed dog.
A cross breed mixed dog comes from two different purebred dogs. A Labrador and Poodle bred together produce a Labradoodle. It’s considered a mixed breed dog, but there’s a difference between a dog with first generation parents and one whose mixed breed lineage goes back three or more generations.
Trying to figure out specific dog breeds in some mixed breeds becomes more difficult, if not impossible, because specific breeds become more jumbled with each generation that’s born. Even with DNA testing it can be a complicated question to answer the more mixed a dog’s lineage is.
True mixed breed dogs are more run of the mill types with a medium build and light or medium brown or black coats with white on their chest and possibly in other places on their coat. They’re usually of medium weight around 40 pounds. These are dogs with so many generations of mixed breed ancestry that any resemblance of specific dog breeds has been lost.
Not all mixed breed dogs are true Heinz 57’s. You can determine specific breeds in many mixed dogs. My Beagle/Terrier mix, Alex, looks like a Beagle in her face, with ears that resemble that part of her heritage, but the ears are shorter and not as wide as a purebred Beagle. She has a Terrier body, except in the chest which is more like a Beagle. Her disposition is more Beagle like, and she loves to bark. She’s stubborn and likes to do things when she’s ready, but she’s more laid back than a typical Terrier and not as snappy.
Check the shape of their head and muzzle. Does the dog have floppy ears or do they stand erect? Is their tail short or stubby, long and thin or bushy? You can get an idea of how big your puppy will be by looking at his feet. If he has small feet, he’ll remain small. If his feet seem to be oversized for his body, watch out if you aren’t looking for a big dog.
Coat color can give you some indications as well. A black and tan colored coat with a saddle type of pattern may tell you he has German Shepherd in him, especially if he shows other characteristics of a Shepherd like a long wedge-shaped nose and erect ears. If he has webbed feet, then you can assume he probably has some type of water dog in his DNA, like a Spaniel or even a Newfoundland.
If the structure of the dog’s face, ears, eyes and muzzle point toward a specific breed, you know at least one breed. If it looks like a Lab, that means it has Lab in its DNA. The body may be smaller or larger which then becomes another guessing game for other possible dog breeds.
Having a general idea what the genetic makeup of a mixed breed dog is helps you decide if it’s a dog that would fit in with your lifestyle. If you’re looking for an active dog but end up with a couch potato, you may not be happy with the dog. Being able to determine the main breeds in a mixed breed dog can give you an idea what temperament that dog might have. You can take some of the mystery out of adopting a mixed breed dog by doing a few careful, but simple observations before you adopt.
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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.