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All About Mixed Breed Dogs

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terrier mixed dog looking directly into the camera

No matter their size, shape, weight, color, age, coat length, and activity level, there truly is the perfect dog out there for everyone. And when the time comes for you to begin your search of finding a new dog to add to your family, you may discover that you are having difficulty deciding on a breed. If you find yourself with this particular dilemma, then perhaps a mixed breed dog (a dog with traits from multiple breeds) is the perfect choice.

Purebred vs. Designer Dog vs. Mixed Breed

Chances are when it comes to a dog’s breed, ancestry, or genetic makeup, you’ve probably heard the terms purebred, designer, or mixed dog thrown into conversation, but what exactly do these terms mean?


A purebred dog is one that has a documented pedigree, and their ancestry can, typically, easily be traced. When it comes to purebreds, dogs of the same breed are always bred with another dog of the same breed. These dogs also have certain, predictable breed standards for their appearance, health, and personality.

For instance, if you decide to adopt a purebred Golden Retriever, this means that both of your dog’s parents are Goldens, and their parents were Goldens, and so on. This also means that without ever having met your new dog, since it is a Golden, you can easily look at other dogs of this breed and make a fairly accurate prediction as to what your dog will look like and how he or she will act.

Designer Dog

Designer dogs are dogs that have two purebred parents from different breeds. These dogs are purposely bred, and they have become increasingly popular over the past few decades. Although both parents are purebreds, their puppies are not considered purebred, as few breed standards or consistencies exist from one generation to the next.

In some instances, a designer dog may have two of the same designer dog parents, but in this case, their offspring are still not considered purebred—in other words, there is no such thing as a “purebred designer dog.” For instance, a Goldendoodle could have a Poodle parent and a Golden Retriever parent, or a Goldendoodle could have two Doodle parents.

In the designer category, one of the most popular dogs to appear are Poodle mixes. Some common designer dogs you may have heard of include Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, Maltipoos, Puggles, Yorkipoos, Chiweenies, and Pomskies.

Mixed Breed

Mixed breed dogs are often the result of nature taking its own course. The breed combinations can be endless, and oftentimes there are so many various types of dogs in one dog’s history. They can simply be described as not having any breed at all. Mixed dogs can appear in any size, shape, color, or pattern. Unfortunately, this category of dogs makes up a large portion of the dogs that end up in shelters, humane societies, and rescues.

black Labrador pit bull mix dog with a purple collar blue tag and black leash smiling on a hike

Getting to Know Mixed Breed Dogs

Due to the fact that every year there are thousands of mixed breed dogs that need a new home, it comes as no surprise that so many people choose to adopt their own unique pup. Before finding the perfect dog, though, many pet parents have questions that they want to be answered. Here are some of the most common questions from new mixed breed dog parents.

How do you identify your dog breed mix?

Any dog parent of a mixed breed pup is sure to get asked the age-old question, “What kind of dog is that?” Ironically enough, many dog moms and dog dads aren’t even sure of this answer themselves! When it comes to identifying your mixed dog’s breed (or more accurately breeds), you will have multiple avenues to explore.

First and foremost, whenever you are adopting a dog, you can ask the individuals at the shelter what their guess is as to the breed. Another option is to make your own calculated guess. This can be done by first observing your dog’s physical characteristics. The next step is to examine not quite as obvious characteristics, such as temperament, energy level, and vocal tendencies, among other items.

Another option that many pet parents have now opted for is a dog DNA test. If you are interested in this option, you will need to order a kit, which will be delivered to your house. Just like human ancestry tests, most dog kits will have you take a swab of the inside of your dog’s cheek, send the samples out for testing, and then results will be sent back to you in a few months time.

Are mixed breed dogs healthier than purebred dogs?

Although every dog’s health is unique to themselves, over the years, many people have discovered that mixed breed dogs are often healthier than purebred dogs. Because purebred dogs have a limited gene pool, genetic disorders that arise continue from generation to generation.

A prime example of an inherited disorder among dogs is Brachycephalic Syndrome, which occurs in dogs that have shorter, smooshed up faces, such as Boxers, English Bulldogs, and Pugs.

Mixed breed dogs have a much more diverse genetic pool, so even if one dog has a health issue, chances are it will disappear even within the next generation.

Do mix breed dogs live longer?

On average, it has been discovered that many mixed breed dog’s life expectancies are longer than that of a purebred dog. However, a mixed breed dog’s lifespan can be affected by a long list of items, including overall health, preexisting medical conditions, living and environmental situations, and their play, food, and exercise routine.

What are common mixed breed dogs?

It is difficult to pinpoint the most common mixed breed dogs, mainly because it is often difficult to identify what dog breeds exist in an individual dog’s history. That being said, you may notice that in many shelters a large portion of the dogs are labeled as Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix.

What breed mix is my dog?

What a fun question to answer when you have a mixed breed, but looks can be quite deceiving when it comes to mixes! A prime example is my dog, Kiser, who, at first glance, is a Collie through and through. However, upon closer inspection of his ears and facial markings, not to mention his high energy levels and tendency to talk back, you can’t help but notice that he is also part Siberian Husky.

Pit Bulls: A Mixed Dog Breed

Believe it or not, the name Pit Bull does not refer to one specific breed of dog, but instead, it pertains to a wide range of bully breeds. Some common bully breeds include American Bulldogs, Boxers, and Bull Mastiffs, among many others.

When visiting a dog shelter, you’ll surely notice the large percentage of dogs classified as a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix. While a portion of these dogs may genuinely be in the Pit Bull category, most dogs labeled as such are, in fact, not a Pit at all. Most shelters are unsure of a dog’s breed history, thus leaving the workers and volunteers to make the best, educated guess they can about a dog’s breed.

This, unfortunately, can have many negative repercussions. Dogs labeled as “Pit Bulls” are typically less likely to get adopted due to their bad rap of being aggressive. Not to mention, many apartments and housing areas do not even allow Pits to live on the properties.

Breed-specific legislation is something with which our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) strongly disagrees. Laws that ban specific breeds are often unfair and are created from an unjust assumption that particular dogs are more aggressive than others. In fact, a dog’s temperament is mainly affected by their living situation and how they are raised.

scruffy puppy with a rainbow collar and a gold tag being held by a woman

Caring for a Mixed Breed Dog

When it comes to mixed breed dogs, each one is unique (both in personality and appearance). Although some dogs do require certain diets or medicines, or exercise routines tailored to them specifically, most mixed dogs are easy to care for and train—therefore making them a great choice for first-time dog parents.


If there’s one thing that is for certain about any type of dog, it’s that they all require regular grooming. Not only does a grooming routine help keep your dog beautiful on the outside, but it can help keep your dog happy and healthy on the inside as well. Although each dog may vary slightly in their grooming needs, there are still certain grooming items that will affect every dog.


Dogs will require a bath anywhere from every four to eight weeks. This timeframe mainly depends on how dirty (and stinky) your dog gets and how prone their coat is to becoming oily. If you choose to bathe your dog yourself instead of taking them to a groomer, make sure to use dog-specific shampoo and conditioner since human products can irritate their skin.


This is in reference to both nail trimming and hair trimming. Dog’s nails will often need trimming around the same time that they will need a bath, but the best rule of thumb for knowing when the nails are getting too long is when you can hear them ticking and clicking on the floor.

Certain dogs who are mixed with breeds such as Poodle hybrids may require coat trimmings every few months. Typically the dog’s face will require more trims to help keep hair out of the eyes, and a full-body trim or shave can be done a few times throughout the year.


Dogs’ ears should be checked about once a month for any irregular redness or bad odors, which are both signs of an ear infection. Using a dog appropriate ear cleaning solution, you can gently use a cotton ball to clean out your dog’s ears.

For recommendations on cleaning solutions and how to clean your dog’s ears carefully, talk to your veterinarian. Another option is to speak with your groomer and have him/her clean your dog’s ears after each grooming session. Don’t forget! Depending on if your dog has pointed ears or floppy ears, you may need to check, clean, or dry out their ears more often.


Many dogs are prone to get eye goopies, which appear in the corners of their eyes and can sometimes create unwanted tear stains on the fur. To help avoid this problem, use a damp, soft cloth and gently wipe away from the eyes. Be sure to use a different section of the cloth or a different cloth all together when switching to the other eye—this will help reduce the risk of spreading an infection from one eye to the next.


Your dog’s dental hygiene is just as important as yours. To help keep those pearly whites in tip-top shape, a quick brushing a few times a week will do the job. If you are unsure which dog toothpaste is the right choice for your dog, check with your veterinarian on their recommendations.


How often your dog will need brushed will largely depend on your dog’s coat length and thickness, and how much they shed. Even if your dog does not shed often, brushing is still a great step to include in your dog’s grooming routine. Brushing your dog regularly can help keep their coat healthy and reduce the amount of dog hair in your home. Before buying a brush, be sure to check which type of brush is best for your dog’s coat.

Whenever you adopt a new dog, no matter their age, it is important to begin a grooming routine as soon as possible. Not only will this help keep your dog healthy, but it will also acclimate your dog to each of these items. Repetition over time will help your dog become comfortable with each item. In the meantime, try to make each experience a positive one, have patience, and reward your dog after every hygiene session.


Taking the time to train your dog is perhaps one of the most rewarding activities you can do for your four-legged friend. Training can help keep your dog safe and out of trouble, allow your dog to interact with other people and other dogs, and provide both mental and physical exercise. Just like grooming, it is essential to begin training your dog as soon as possible. Even if you adopt an older dog, it will still be useful to teach them various commands.

Besides patience, repetition, and providing rewards, one of the other most vital items to include when training your dog is socialization opportunities. This can consist of taking your dog to dog parks, walking them in new neighborhoods, visiting pet stores, or having guests over frequently. Providing your dog with various opportunities to interact with new people, animals, and objects will encourage further positive interactions.

Adding a Mixed Breed Dog to Your Family

Adopting a mixed breed dog could perhaps be one of the best and most rewarding decisions you ever make. Not only are you rescuing and providing a home to a dog in need, but you are, in turn, helping to create an open space in the shelter for another dog who also needs a home.

Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper stickers that read, “Who rescued who?” It’s almost ironic that most of the time people adopt a dog simply because they would like a companion, but they almost always get more than what they bargained for. Dogs can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. They can encourage exercise, socialization, and playfulness. And on top of being wonderful companions, dogs, more often than not, become our best friends.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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