By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Happy National Mutt Day, also known as National Mixed Breed Dog Day! The goal for today is to raise awareness of homeless mixed breed dogs, and it was launched in 2005. There are actually two days set aside each year to celebrate the wonderfulness of mutts — July 31st and December 2nd.
The purpose of National Mutt Day is to embrace, celebrate and help save the lives of mixed breed dogs. It’s to raise awareness of the plight of lovable mutts waiting in shelters across the U.S. for a family to take them home.
How to Find the Perfect Mutt for Your Family
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.
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.
Once you're at the animal shelter or rescue facility, choose wisely, not impulsively. This is the ultimate challenge for dog lovers, because you have to let your brain and not just your heart lead the way. And while it's true some adoptive parents know the minute they lay eyes on a certain dog that she belongs with them, 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.
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.
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 undesirable 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. There's also a wonderful program I recommend to all new parents of adopted or rescued dogs that helps them adjust to a new home in the least stressful manner. You can find it at A Sound Beginning, and you can immediately begin using the book's tips and tricks and the calming music CD on your dog's first day home.
Top 8 Reasons to Adopt a Mixed Breed Dog
You can find a mixed breed to fit your lifestyle. You might be looking for a very friendly dog, or one who's security conscious. Perhaps you want a four-legged workout partner or a snuggler who enjoys long naps on the couch. Whatever your lifestyle, there's a dog out there who will fit right in.
You can pick your favorite size and color. Mutts come in small, medium, large and XL sizes. They come with short, long, curly or wiry coats in every color. They have small ears that stand up, or big floppy, droopy ears. They come with long or short legs, and big fluffy tails, or no tail at all. Whatever look you're looking for in a canine companion, you can find in a mixed breed dog.
Mixed breeds are 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!
Mutts can be 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.
Many mutts are active, agile athletes. If your mixed breed dog is healthy and active, he can compete and earn titles in agility, dock diving, flyball, canine disc, freestyle, lure coursing, obedience, rally and more.
Mutts tend to be easygoing. Mixed breed dogs often do not exhibit the extremes in temperament and behavior that purebreds do. Mixed breeds also typically score better than many purebreds in terms of stability, friendliness, shyness, aggression and protectiveness.
You can discover which breeds make up your mutt. Doggy DNA tests are growing in popularity as more pet owners realize the value of learning something about the breeds that make up their furry friend.
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 — about 75 percent — 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!
If you’re not in a position right now to adopt a shelter dog, in honor of National Mutt Day, consider making a financial donation — no matter how small — to your local animal shelter. Every dollar counts! You can also call your local shelter to learn what supplies they’re running short on and make a donation of food or other necessities.