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Mutts are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. In 2017, around half of all U.S. households with dogs own mutts or mixed breed dogs and that number has only increased. According to the Humane Society, this number was 51% according to a 2017-2018 survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association and increased to 54% in a 2021-2022 survey by the American Pet Products Association. It's no wonder they're so popular, given they offer a lot of positives when it comes to dog ownership. Here are 10 reasons to rescue a mutt or mixed breed dog.
One of the best reasons to adopt a mutt is that it saves lives. This is because the majority of dogs in shelters and rescue organizations are mutts (75% as of 2019, according to The Zebra, which accumulated statistics from ASPCA, the Humane Society, Bestfriends.org, Orvis, and PetPedia). The ASPCA states that approximately 390,000 U.S. shelter dogs were euthanized in 2019, which would amount to nearly 300,000 mutts. Fortunately, this number has declined annually from approximately 2.6 million in 2011. The ASPCA explains that this decline is, in part, due to an increase in the percentage of animals adopted and in the number of stray animals successfully returned to owners. So adopting rescue dogs, most of whom are mutts, can help save lives and decrease the number euthanized each year. In addition, adopting a rescue dog opens a space for another dog who may not survive otherwise.
Dog overpopulation is caused by several factors: lack of spaying and neutering, reproduction with little to no chance of offspring finding homes, owners giving up their pets to shelters, irresponsible pet owners and breeders, etc. Adopting a rescue dog, which as aforementioned 75% of the time will be a mutt, can help reduce overpopulation. Not only does it open space for another dog who can then find a home with responsible owners, but it also increases the number of spayed or neutered dogs (as many shelters will perform the procedure). Other ways to combat pet overpopulation:
Dogs are usually great conversation starters and each time you talk to someone about your rescue dog is an opportunity to promote pet adoption. You and your rescue may make such a good impression that you inspire someone to adopt their next dog! Bonus: the same goes for if you've adopted a purebred from a breed-specific rescue.
Puppy mills breed puppies to sell. Profit is most important to them, which results in an intensive breeding program and inhumane conditions that deprioritize the well-being of the puppies. By adopting from a legitimate rescue or shelter, you are not supporting establishments like puppy mills. In an ideal world, lower demand for puppies from puppy mills would lower supply, eventually making them inoperable.
In general, mutts tend to have better overall health. This is because they come from a larger gene pool and are thus less likely to develop genetic diseases and defects from inbreeding. According to a study in Biomed Central's Canine Medicine and Genetics, these diseases include:
Inbreeding can also cause some dogs to have reduced intelligence, which can make dogs more difficult to train. It's important to note that this does not guarantee that mutts will have perfect health or high intelligence. It just means the chances of disease and reduced intelligence are a good bit lower.
On a related note, mutts tend to have longer life expectancies, which may be unsurprising given their better general health. A study in Biomed Central's Canine Medicine and Genetics found that purebred dogs with less inbreeding had a median survival time three to six months longer than those with more inbreeding. This indicates that genetic diversity can affect lifespan, which would give mutts a greater chance of living longer on average.
Pro Tip: Body size was the most correlated to lifespan, with the largest dogs not living as long as the smallest dogs on average.
Dogs were bred over the years for a variety of specific reasons - from herding livestock on farms to guarding property to hunting rats to retrieving game on land or in water. Because of this, many purebred dogs still exhibit breed instincts today. Some of these tendencies may not be an issue (like a collie herding family members in the yard), while others may become problematic (like a rat terrier hunting critters). But because mutts are made up of multiple breeds, these instincts may be less intense and more manageable. This can also help make it easier to train.
A new study published in Science found that breed is a poor predictor of a dog's behavior and temperament, outside of breed instincts. They sequenced the DNA of over 2,000 dogs (purebred and mixed-breed) and surveyed the owners about their personalities and behaviors. The results found that behavior and temperament were quite variable among individual dogs, even those of the same breed. 78 breeds were analyzed and the research showed that breed only accounted for 9% of variability in behavior. Certain behaviors (such as barking and sociability) were more correlated to breed and breed group, especially the behaviors they were bred to do (e.g. herding, retrieving, running, hunting, swimming, etc.).
There are several reasons why mutts generally cost less than purebred dogs. For starters, they aren't as expensive to acquire. While breeders charge several hundreds to thousands of dollars (and that's before any spaying or neutering), rescues and shelters typically charge $50 to $350 (and many include spaying or neutering in the cost). Moreover, there's a higher chance you'll be paying more in vet bills and medical costs, given purebred dogs tend to have more health issues. Mutts do tend to live longer, though, which means you may be paying for your dog for more years.
One of the best things about mutts is that they are unique individuals, thanks to their genetic makeup which is specific to them and them alone. Even mutts from the same litter won't necessarily have identical genes - they'll have the same breeds but not the same percentage in them. For example, we DNA tested our younger dog Luna has seven siblings, all with unique looks. She has a variety of breeds in her, including Pit Bull, Australian Cattle Dog, Labrador Retriever, Husky, Golden and a bunch of others. She looked most like one brother, but the two are still unique from one another. Luna has less speckling and spots on her legs and nose. She also has a strip of white fur that splits the black around her face and ears, while her brother's white strip stops just above his eyes. Also, her coat has brown accents on the black fur and is much smaller than her brother. So even though they come from the same breeds - and maybe even similar percentages of those breeds in them - they don't have identical DNA. All of this is to say that mutts are truly one of a kind!
Because mutts are made up of multiple breeds, it's hard to know exactly what they'll turn out to be when mature. How tall will they be and how much will they weigh? Of course, this won't be the case if you adopt a full-grown or senior dog. But those dogs also offer fun surprises along with mutt puppies. For example, what breed instincts will be most prominent? If you want a better idea, you can always DNA test, though that won't predict exactly what will happen with your dog. For instance, our older dog Brody's DNA test says he may have reduced shedding and an 82-128 pound weight range. But Brody is a heavy shedder and is on the low end of his weight range. Luna, on the other hand, states she's a heavy shedder and a 35-57 weight range. She isn't much of a shedder and is on the high end of her weight range. So it's not an exact science even with the DNA test. But that's just part of the beauty of mutts!