You have made the decision to invite a dog into your life, and I couldn’t be happier for you! Adding a dog to your life is like putting a cherry on top of a sundae, adding gravy to your fries, getting the “loaded” package for your new car, planting flowers in that crack in the sidewalk….well, you get the idea. It’s super-sizing your happiness!
So now, what kind of dog? You have probably heard “dog snobs” tell you that you have to have a purebred. You have also heard people tell you that you can’t do better than a mixed breed. Who is right?
The truth is, there are arguments that can be made on both sides. But if you are considering a purebred, let’s talk about the pros and cons.
Choosing a Purebred Dog
Perhaps you have fallen in love with a neighbor’s Doberman or Yorkie or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and you think you know which breed is right for you. Then, you visit breeder sites, all of which extoll the virtues of their particular breed.
You won’t learn about any of the negatives this way, and there are negatives. First, though, let’s talk about the positives.
1. You Know What Your Dog Will Look Like
Color variations notwithstanding, purebred dogs look much the same. Sometimes, there isn’t even a color variation – a Rottweiler, for instance, is always black and tan. If there is any other color in the dog, then it is not a pure Rottweiler. A Golden Retriever can come in varying shades from nearly white to nearly red, and of course golden, but it will always conform in shape and weight to the breed standard for Golden Retrievers. You will never mistake a toy poodle for a Yorkshire terrier, or a Bichon Frise for a Shih Tzu. A breed looks like what it is supposed to look like.
2. You Will Know a Great Deal About Breed History and Temperament
This is where breeder sites will give you true information. A Rottweiler breeder will, for instance, tell you that Rotts were originally bred for herding, and that they are highly protective and intelligent. A breeder of Standard Poodles will tell you that they are very strong dogs, calm, confident, and among the most intelligent dog breeds. A Chihuahua breeder will tell you that although these dogs are delicate in terms of bone structure and do not like the cold, they are very brave.
This is where it is up to you to determine the purebred dog that best suits you and your family.
Now, the Negatives
1. What is in the Breed Stays in the Breed
What this means, is simply that if a breed of dog is prone to certain problems, your dog is not likely to be the exception. Rottweilers, for instance, are very prone to cancer, and you are likely only to be able to own and love a Rott for about nine years. Boxers are also prone to various types of cancer. Golden Retrievers have a predisposition to hip dysplasia. None of these problems can be bred out, no matter how hard a breeder tries to breed for the best possible characteristics – the problems are inherent.
If you grew up in the 1970s, you probably remember when German Shepherds were considered to be vicious. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Rottweilers had their turn. Today, it is pit bull mixes. You will not change the way people view your dog. You may even find yourself living in a community where your breed of choice is banned, and if you are lucky, you might be “grandfathered” in and be allowed to keep your dog.
Who knows where this ends up? Next year, it might be German Shorthaired Pointers that, because of a bite or two somewhere, end up being flagged as dangerous. The truth is that there is no such thing as a breed that is inherently dangerous. But that doesn’t help when they come for the breed you love.
3. No Two Dogs are the Same
If you are considering a purebred dog, remember that there is no guarantee that it will develop the breed traits that you want. Sure, I’ve talked about commonalities, but the fact is, dogs will not all act the same. You might choose a breed for protection, for instance, and find that you do more protecting than he does. He’s like “I know I look like a 240 pound English Mastiff, but I feel like a Teacup Mastiff!” Good luck expecting him to protect you.
So here comes the other shoe dropping….
Purebred dogs can also be prone to joint and bone disorders, eye diseases, hormonal problems, skin diseases, heart diseases, liver and kidney diseases, epilepsy and cancer. This is simply because they are bred, and bred, and bred again for specific characteristics, not all of which are health-related.
The Final Word
Should you buy a purebred puppy? By all means, yes, if you love the breed and are willing to deal with the issues that could occur. I would never say “Yeah, but…” to someone who loves a certain breed of dog and knows the ups and downs of the breed.
Find a breeder you trust, and get the dog you love. Be prepared, though, to deal with health issues. For that matter, if you go with a mixed breed, you might find that a lot of problems are “bred out,” but problems could still occur. A mix will not necessarily mean that you will never have a health problem.
There’s a great book available at Amazon.com. It’s called “The Dog Selector: How to Choose the Right Dog for You” It’s full of questions, answers and breed information that can help you choose the right dog. Remember, it’s a lifetime commitment, so you want to be sure you get it right.