So, you’ve decided you’re ready for a dog. But which one? The process can be more overwhelming than finding exactly the right pair of charcoal suede wedge booties online. (And you know how hard that can be.) As you get started, you should have a general idea of preferred size, temperament and general activity level (hint: something equal to or less than your own) that’s a good fit for you, your living arrangement and your lifestyle.
Whether you’re looking for a purebred or a mutt, it’s always smart to go by an “adopt don’t shop” rule of thumb.
There are all sorts of shelters and rescue organizations for all different types of dogs, including purebreds. (Yeah, things have changed a lot since the days of the local dog catcher rounding up the strays and carting them to doggy jail.) So even if the goal is to forego your current career and dedicate the rest of your life to obtaining Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club with your new dog, you can still begin the journey at a shelter. A simple Google search will help you find and narrow down local options. And by adopting, you’ll be completely bypassing sketchy puppy mills, not to mention saving a life!
But the question of purebred versus mutt is a good one and there are good points to consider if you’re on the fence. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most important pros and cons to take into account:
- If allergies are a concern, a low-shedding, short-haired breed might be a good fit. However, keep in mind that animal scientists agree there is no “hypoallergenic” breed. (Sorry, Obamas, but technically Bo can still make you sneeze.)
- Some specific breeds like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are euthanized at higher rates simply because they have a harder time being placed in adoptive homes, regardless of the animal’s specific history. Ugh, right?
- Purebreds tend to be more predictable in their characteristics and personalities. You know, the same way you have the same nose and dark sense of humor as your Aunt Rita. However, just as with you and Rita, there is also wide variance among breeds. The word is “predictable,” not “precise.”
- In general, purebreds have more health problems and live shorter lives. A five-year study at UC Davis found that purebred dogs and even cross-bred dogs tend to have higher rates of genetic mutations and inherited diseases than mixed breeds. (P.S. Designer mixes such as Labradoodles, also fall into the purebreed category.) Think bone, joint, heart, vision, digestive, respiratory and/or endocrine problems. For example, hip dysplasia (HD) also known as coxofemoral subluxation is a developmental malformation in the hip joint and one of the most common abnormalities that highly correlates with the genetics of many large dogs. Remember learning about all the inbreeding in various monarchies and dynasties throughout history that led to lots of royally problematic health problems? Yeah, that.
- Those “predictable” characteristics and personality traits mentioned earlier? People tend to highlight the positive aspects of what that means and gloss over the negative. Since historically dogs were bred for specific types of “work” like hunting, herding, guarding, etc., these instincts run deep in the DNA, particularly if that DNA hasn’t been diluted with other breeds. So don’t be surprised if your purebred hunting dog tends to root out underwear from the hamper or bring you buried treasures from the backyard. He can’t help it.
- They live longer, healthier lives. It’s true--mutts have an evolutionary advantage over their purebred counterparts and tend to live years longer because of all that beautifully complex DNA running through their veins. Diversity is as good for a dog’s genes as it is for your 401K portfolio.
- They are unique--literally! In appearance, in personality, in every way. And because they don’t have to overcome such ingrained breed-specific behaviors, they tend to be more adaptable in different circumstances and lifestyles.
- Mutts are more affordable. You’ll generally spend less adopting a mutt and, as mentioned, her medical expenses are likely to be lower over a lifetime. That means more money for charcoal wedge booties.
- If allergies are a concern, it can be harder to determine compatibility with a mutt. Consider fostering a potential adoptive mutt to test it out. Feel free to refer to yourself as Daddy Warbucks and throw in a few musical numbers just for fun.
- Mutts are generally harder to adopt as newborn puppies, which means you might miss out on posting thousands of adorable pictures of your sleepy-eyed week-old pup on Instagram. (Your friends may argue this a good thing.)
- If you have your heart set on a specific breed and it has always been your dream to own, say, a poodle, then a mutt--no matter how finely groomed and adorned--may not ever be poodle enough for you. The heart wants what it wants. Sigh.