Are mutts really more healthy/sane than purebred dogs?

Inspired by this thread.

I’ve heard this many times over the years: Mutts are more healthy/sane/better dogs than purebreds.

Is there any truth to the statement?

I’ve had both, and have had friends who’ve had both, and I honestly can’t tell the difference. I’ve seen mutts with a plethora of health issues, and I’ve seen well-adjusted healthy purebred dogs. I’ve talked to a couple vets about the issue, and other than a caveat against badly-bred dogs they’ve told me they don’t see much of a difference.

I tend towards purebred nowadays, but only because I’ve been assimiliated by the pugs, and will never ever ever have anything but pugs.

My mother has five basset hounds.

We had one when I was growing up, and that dog was quirky but in a nice way, and basically sane (but stubborn! Oy, stubborn.).

Her latest lot are uniformly a pain in the ass. So, as far as I’m concerned, Basset Hounds have at least a 5:1 strikeout rate.

Someone should blow those dogs up*, but that’s a rant for the Pit one day. :smiley:

  • Peace, people. I’m referencing an old Aussie sitcom “Kingswood Country”, not advocating the bombing of pooches. At least not on a wide scale. :smiley:

The difference is that, in general, you’re dealing with less genetic diversity in a purebred than with a mix. So when a problem crops up in a purebred, it can be magnified by bad breeding practices.

Of course, many purebred breeders keep track of genetic defects so there is a record of hip dysplasia, PRA, cataracts, etc… People point to this as proof that purebreds have more issues than mixes. Since there is no data tracking health issues in mixed breeds, it can’t be refuted easily. However, this study suggests that there is no significant difference in the prevalence of hip dysplasia in mixes vs. purebreds: (warning .pdf) OFA Study

The latest fad is “designer” dogs - mixed breeds, sold for outrageous prices, under the guise of “hybrid vigor”. They claim that if you cross a beagle with a pug, you get the best of both worlds. What they fail to admit is that it also works the other way. Most of the breeders are cashing in on the craze and don’t do any health checks at all. They’ll breed a dog with bad hips to one with bad eyes and a nasty temper. Remember - “hybrid vigor” makes all those genetic disorders disappear like magic! :dubious: When these dogs fail to live up to the claims, they get dumped at the pound, lose their designer label and just become a pug/beagle cross. Now it’s a mutt, but it’s no healthier than it was before.

Most of these dogs are level 1 crosses - they took a beagle and a pug and stuck them together. The resulting offspring generally don’t have much uniformity - it’s a crap shoot what you will get. A true mutt, one bred from generations of animals outside of human control, probably is healthier - but we humans have our hands in everything.

So here’s my opinion, I will take a purebred dog from a good breeder because I know what I’m getting. It’s not a guarantee, but I’m pretty sure that the puppy I get is going to be free of health issues. I have a good idea what its energy level and personality will be like. I’m also pretty confident what I’m getting temperament wise because I’ve seen the parents and grandparents. A good breeder has generations of evidence backing this up. Of course, this takes a bit of homework and we all know we live in a society of instant gratification. People who don’t do their homework allow bad breeding practices to exist and create an environment where health issues flourish. People who are just out to make a buck know these people will buy their dogs from the pet store so they keep producing badly bred puppies year after year.
And just so no one thinks I’m a “show dog snob”, I believe that people who breed for fads in the show ring are just as guilty.
So all this “purebreds are bad. just bad” stuff in the other thread kinda pissed me off. I did my research and I got a healthy dog with a great temperament - it’s a Shiba Inu btw.
There are good breeders out there producing healthy wonderful purebreds. They’re just overshadowed by the bad ones making a quick buck on our throwaway attitudes and trend following.

To add to what velveeta said, when breeders choose to focus solely on breed conformation problems can arise from the inbreeding and overbreeding used to achieve that conformation. Because nobody is breeding mutt fathers to daughters to get the perfect coat pattern mixed breeds are generally at less risk of genetic problems facing purebreds. They also tend to be pretty average dogs, not incredibly large or small, solid or skinny, faces don’t tend to be incredibly long or flat and so on, so they don’t tend to suffer from conditions aggravated by physical extremes like breathing problems or hip dysplasia. Now factor in the backyard breeders who care nothing about the health of their dogs and just want money.

However, just being a mixed breed doesn’t magically make health problems go away. For example, cocker spaniels and poodles share a lot of health problems. The irresponsible backyard breeders pumping out cockapoos with no knowledge of their dogs’ genetic history aren’t creating fine canine specimens imbued with hybrid vigour, they’re making mutts predisposed to hip, knee and eye problems :smack: No responsible breeder will sacrifice a dog’s health for conformation, and so the whole purebreds-are-unhealthy thing is only really a problem up at the tippy top of the show ring where things can get really cutthroat, and in very rare breeds like the Bernese mountain dog which is prone to a host of health problems and has such a small gene pool that breeders can’t breed them out and as a result don’t tend to live past ten. So while it’s true that mutts usually aren’t the bag o’ medical bills that a badly-bred purebred can be, you’re probably still better off with a purebred from a responsible breeder.

I agree with this. With a mutt, you’ve kinda got a crapshoot. You may get a good mix of genes, and you may not. With a purebred from a GOOD, CONSCIENTIOUS BREEDER, you’ve got a genetic history you can look at, and some health guarantees. This wouldn’t keep me from adopting a mutt, mind you, but I know what I might be getting into with one.

Ditto, amen, and all that.

I’ve had 2 cocker spaniels and one golden retriever. In all 3 cases, the breeders were praiseworthy in their concern for only producing healthy pups from dogs with no health problems and the appropriate testing for issues the breed is prone to. I got dogs that, while not show quality, were a credit to their breed for temperament, were handsome in appearance, and were healthy. No eye problems, no ear problems, no hip problems, no digestive problems, no skin problems, no inappropriate house soiling problems (at least, once we got wise to crate-training), no aggressive behavior, no incessant barking, no nipping or biting or leg-humping, etc. We’re talking about great family pets, each one.

I won’t let anyone tell me not to buy a purebred or support breeding. On the other hand, I’m against the idea of people just breeding their dog without being extremely well educated about what’s involved, and acknowledging their responsibilities to the breed, the dogs owned, the puppies produced, the potential owners, etc. But one way to help curtail irresponsible breeding is to not buy dogs irresponsibly.

Exactly. Not that there is anything wrong with that; it pays the rent, dontchaknow.:wink:

Anecdotally, it seems like the dogs I know who get cancer one day and die within months tend to be the pure breds.

From my 10 years of interacting with literally thousands of dogs at my dog parks, I can cite cases of early cancer in border collies, basset hounds (leukemia), shepherds, great danes, huskies, labs. That’s not to mention some blindness/deafness/hip problems that also seem more prominent in the pure breds.

I really can’t bring to mind a mutt right now that I know of who died of cancer at a young age (and by cancer, I typically mean tumor too).

The mutts seem to just keep right on ticking through their 12’s, and 13’s and 14’s…

Maybe I’ve got that bias reinforcement going on, but I really don’t think so.

Just my .02. I’d be interested if someone really had statistics about these things.

FYI, Trunk: the dog breeds you mention are all on the larger side. General rule of thumb regarding dog breeds and average lifespan: smaller live longer, bigger die younger. A Great Dane that lives more than 6 years has beat the average. A toy poodle can easily go past 15.

Another general rule of thumb about dog breeds: the more popular the breed, the more “bad” breeding that occurs. People with a profit motive are going to try to cash in on what sells. Labs, shepherds, border collies - pretty popular.

Third general rule of thumb about dog breeds: the more the breed deviates from the “norm” (wild canines), the more likely to have breed-related genetic disorders. Basset hound - wow, how far from a wild canine can you get? Extremely short, stubby legs. Long, droopy ears. Long, stretched out torso. Big, fleshy, jowly muzzle. Droopy, sad eyes. Even a very specific color pattern.

Just sayin.’

The fact that the dogs are purebred means that folks that are interested can use the pedigree statistics to find out if there are some lines that are more prone to cancer than others. In my breed (Australian Shepherd), there are research surveys going on about cancer and epilepsy. If you can identify lines with problems, you can (at least theoretically) take those genes out of the gene pool.

You can’t do that with mutts.

This is a slight highjack, but I think it’s incredibly interesting:

All dogs (and cats and rats and elephants … and humans) have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc. – the number of progenitors doubles with each generation going back in time, to the point where a dog (or any other animal produced by the union of one female and one male animal) has more than 33.6 million great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents (that’s 25 generations, for those keeping score).

In part because of linebreeding and inbreeding, a perfectly sound and healthy dog can become so popular that it reduces the diversity within a breed. I recently heard a canine geneticist (PhD) say that with one dog’s 25-generation pedigree, he found that one extremely popular stud dog, heavily used for a number of years in that particular breed, didn’t show up until the 16th generation back; thereafter, it showed up more than a **million ** times. A lot of people are happy with a purebred animals three-generation pedigree – but that sometimes fails to tell any fraction of the whole story behind an animal.

Perhaps more to the point of the OP:

In some cases, when a breed becomes incredibly popular following movie appearances (the Dalmatian following 101 Dalmatians or the Brussels Griffon following As Good As It Gets, for instance), or whichever breed has won the Westminster Kennel Club for a particular year, irresponsible breeders will leap upon the opportunity to make a lot of money quickly by breeding any dogs together, no matter their genetic background and with no real thought to the health of the animals being produced by that breeding, just as long as it’s a male of (Breed A) and a female of (Breed A). Responsible breeders cringe (and more) at this practice, but it happens – a lot.

Kind of a followup on what Gordon Urquhart said - the way a dog is pictured in a movie may be worlds away from the way that breed of dog actually behaves in real life. 101 Dalmations saw loads of kids clamoring for Dalmations, which really aren’t dogs for small children. The sitcom Fraiser induced a lot of little old ladies to adopt Jack Russells, which are very intelligent dogs who can destroy a home if they don’t get the attention and exercise they need.

I have nothing against purebreds - but unless a person really has their heart set on a certain breed of dog, and is willing to do the research to find a reputable breeder, it is much more rewarding to get a pound puppy/dog. It is a nice feeling to know you have saved a life and gotten a friend in the bargain!

If someone wants a purebred, the worst place to get it is in a pet store (in most cases). A lot of those dogs come from puppy mills, and there is no way you will ever be sure of the genetic health of the parents. Additionally, being raised in a cage is not really good for socialization of the pups.

Working for vets, I have seen a lot more health problems in purebreds. Cockers tend to ear problems, German Shepards can have bad hips, English Bulldogs can have breathing problems…the list goes on. It doesn’t mean all dogs of that breed will have a problem, it just means you have to do your research to find a breeder who doesn’t just look for the fast buck.

I have 8 cats. One is a purebred Siamese my husband bought from a breeder. Valentino is as beautiful as a sunrise, but as dumb as a sack of carrots. I’ve decided I will probably never get another purebred cat - there are too many homeless cats for me to feel good about buying one! (However, if I ever win the lottery, I want a Bengal or a Savannah!)

And there’s always the good ol’ Bernese Mountain Dog, aka Walking Vet Bill. That breed on average has more genetically transmitted problems then any other breed. I would never ever own one, even though they are beautiful dogs. And fyi, Boxers have the highest rate of cancer. >.>

And did you know, they can’t even -mate- without assistance? I kid you not. They have to be helped into position and supported while they do their duty.

Hmmm. I think this applies to humans as well.

If you cross a beagle and a pug, you get a bug. Stands to reason that’d be a problem. :smiley:

The thing about hybrid vigour, as I’ve heard it explained, is that the ‘vigour’ only appears after all the recessive combinations have been allowed to appear, and have been selected against.