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Which Dog Breeds Make Up the Most Popular Mutt?

Pet Mutt Standing on a MountainAccording to the first National Mutt Census results just released, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is the most common breed found in America’s mutts.

Per Veterinary Practice News:

While German Shepherds prove popular as both a pure breed and mixed breed, the most common breeds registered by the American Kennel Club are not necessarily the most common breeds found in mixed breed dogs, according to Mars Veterinary.

A little over half of all pet dogs in the U.S. are of blended heritage. According to the census, 46 percent of mixed breed dogs are adopted from shelters, and another 18 percent are acquired from friends, neighbors and relatives.

Dr. Becker's Comments:

According to the Mars Veterinary 'National Mutt Census,' the 10 most popular breeds found in U.S. mixed breed dogs are:

Breed Mixed Breed Popularity AKC Popularity
German Shepherd #1 #2
Labrador Retriever #2 #1
Chow Chow #3 #63
Boxer #4 #6
Rottweiler #5 #13
Poodle #6 #9
American Staffordshire Terrier #7 #70
Golden Retriever #8 #4
Cocker Spaniel #9 #23
Siberian Husky #10 #22

You might have noticed this list shows that not all the most popular AKC-registered purebred dogs are found in the most popular mixed breeds.

In fact, out of the AKC's most registered breeds for 2010, six of the top 10 are not found in the most popular mutts. They are: Yorkies, Beagles, Bulldogs, Doxies, Poodles and Shih Tzus.

Rounding out the AKC's top 10 are the Labrador Retriever, the German Shepherd, the Golden Retriever, and the Boxer -- all four of which are found in the most popular mutts list.

Categories of Mixed Breeds

Mixed breed dogs actually fall into a few distinct groups, including:

  • Dogs with attributes of two or more breeds. There might be a purebred in the lineage, or the dog might come from several generations of mutts. These dogs are usually identified by the breed or breeds they most closely resemble, for example a 'Husky mix' or a 'Dachshund-Terrier.'
  • Wild or feral dogs. These dogs are products of non-selective breeding over several generations. An example of a dog in this category is the pariah dog.  Pariah dogs are generally yellow to light brown in color, with medium size height and weight.
  • Functional breeds. These dogs are bred for a specific purpose based on their ability to perform certain tasks. Examples include the Alaskan Husky and the Greyster, a Greyhound/Pointer mix popular in Europe.
  • Crossbreeds. These dogs are a mix of two established breeds – generally their parents are two different purebreds. Examples: the Puggle (Pug and Beagle cross) and any number of purebred dogs crossed with the Poodle.

Why Are Mutts Favored by a Majority of Dog Owners?

There are probably as many answers to this question as there are dog owners, but mixed breed dogs do have some clear advantages over purebreds.

  • Each mutt is truly unique. A purebred dog tends to be somewhat predictable in looks and temperament as a result of the specific genetic characteristics of his breed. A mixed-breed pup, on the other hand, is the product of a lineage of different breeds – maybe two breeds, maybe several. Mutts often look and behave like no other dog you've ever had the pleasure of knowing!
  • Mixed breeds are often healthier than purebreds. Studies in Europe and North America have found the average mixed breed dog is less prone to disease and has a longer lifespan than the average purebred dog. This is in part due to the theory of hybrid vigor, which holds that as a group, dogs of varied ancestry will be healthier than their purebred counterparts.

A genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia, for example, or certain forms of canine cancer is less likely to express itself in a dog that is a product of a variety of breeds. Interestingly, interbreeding mixed breed dogs (breeding similar types of mutts, or two labradoodles together) can produce weak, poor doers that never thrive, probably due to expression of recessive genes.

  • Mutts tend to be easy-going. Mixed breed dogs often do not exhibit the extremes in temperament and behavior that purebreds do. The vast majority of mixed breeds score better than many purebreds in areas such as stability, friendliness, shyness, aggression and protectiveness.
  • A wide selection of mixed breed dogs of every size, shape, age, gender and temperament is available from animal shelters and rescue organizations across the U.S. Wonderful, deserving mixed breeds make up the vast majority of adoptable dogs at animal shelters, humane societies and rescue facilities across the nation. When a shelter dog is adopted by a loving, responsible owner, that's one less dog institutionalized and/or euthanized. Everyone wins. Many adoptive pet owners of shelter dogs would never think of acquiring a dog any other way.

Tips for Finding Your Perfect Mutt

  1. Do your homework. If you've never owned a dog, you'll need to do lots of research to understand which breeds are best suited for your activity level and lifestyle. The dog's age will also be a factor – puppies and young dogs generally require more effort than older dogs.
  2. Not all small breeds are lap dogs. Some small dogs are very high energy and require lots of daily exercise. Some large breed dogs have low exercise requirements and can be content living in relatively small quarters. That's why research is so important. Especially since dogs found in animal shelters will have characteristics and temperaments that cross a variety of different breeds.

  3. Once your research is done and you're at the animal shelter or rescue facility, choose wisely, not impulsively. I realize how difficult it is to enter a shelter and let your brain, not your heart, lead the way. And it's true some adoptive parents know the minute they lay eyes on a certain dog that she belongs with them.
  4. But I recommend you talk first with knowledgeable shelter employees about what kind of pup best suits you, especially in terms of temperament. Allow them to point you in a direction. If you're an animal lover, every set of eyes looking at you through bars will tug at your heart. Keep your brain engaged as well so that you make the best choice for both you and the dog you adopt.

  5. Be aware that well over half the dogs at any shelter have behavior problems that caused their previous owners to give them up. This isn't the fault of the dogs. They depended on humans for their socialization and training, and someone along the way let them down. Some perfectly behaved dogs do wind up in shelters, but don't count on finding one.
  6. Because your prospective canine companion will come to you with issues, you should be prepared to put in the time and effort required to help him overcome them. Behavior modification using a positive reward system is the key to encouraging good behavior and extinguishing undesired behavior.

    You may be able to accomplish this on your own, or you may need the help of your vet or an animal behavior specialist (American College of Veterinary Behaviorists; Animal Behavior Society). Just please commit to do it. Be the one human in your dog's life who doesn't let him down.

Secrets of Successful Dogs

Healthy, balanced, well-mannered dogs, mixed breed or purebred, have some very important things in common:

  • They eat well. The best diet you can provide your canine companion is one that is species specific and includes raw ingredients, appropriate fatty acids and other nutrients essential for optimal health.

To learn everything you need to know about the best food for your pet and how to prepare simple, nutritious homemade meals, I recommend my book, Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats.

  • They are well-socialized. It's best to socialize a dog between the ages of eight weeks and three months, so if you're planning to add a puppy to your family, you'll want to start the process on his first day home.

If your dog is older and wasn't properly socialized, you should discuss any troubling tendencies he exhibits with your veterinarian or a qualified specialist in canine behavior to determine the best approach for rehabilitation.

Behavior problems in dogs over the age of three months require knowledge, patience and consistency to correct. As tough as the going may get, this can be a tremendously worthwhile and rewarding undertaking for you, and can literally save the life of your dog.

  • They get adequate exercise. And I'm not talking about playtime, though dogs need that as well. By exercise, I mean aerobic exercise sustained for at least 20 minutes on a consistent basis (a minimum of three times a week). This can be a challenge if you come home exhausted after a long day at work. But I can't stress enough how important this is.

And remember that your dog's exercise requirements will not diminish with age -- even geriatric pets need to move consistently. However, you will want to just adjust the duration and intensity for your pet's level of endurance and agility as she ages.

  • They are well-groomed. Your dog's health begins in his mouth with the food you feed him and the dental care he receives.

Your dog may need to be bathed frequently – probably more often than you've been led to believe. Regular baths rid your pet of allergens and potential toxins he's exposed to outdoors that cling to his fur and paws when he comes inside. And a clean, fresh smelling dog is just easier to be around for the whole family.

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