Pet column: Is every dog a mutt? |

Pet column: Is every dog a mutt?

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

July 31 is national Mutts Day. Since every dog shares the same single ancient ancestor, and since every dog evolved naturally and/or through human manipulation, is Mutts Day every dog’s day? “Humph!” status-conscious purists might argue. Humph indeed. The canine is the most varied mammal species on Earth due to human intervention to create a dog for every task and for every human need, including ego. From search and rescue to cancer detection to show dog pretty, the generic natural dog has been formed and reformed by humans.

With affection or derision, mixed ancestry dogs are called mutts, Heinz 57 hounds, mongrels, street dogs, village dogs, pariah dogs, or by specific regional names related to what they scrounge for food or a humorous reference to their accidental parentage. While these are naturally breeding dogs, cross breeds and pure breeds are not. They are the product of human intervention. Purpose-bred dogs are a category of dogs who were bred for specific tasks, such as huskies were bred for pulling sleds.

Some, including scientists, believe the world’s mutts genetically are the healthiest and from surveys, the most long-lived dogs. As purebred gene pools have shrunk through the ages and “designer dogs” have evolved from necessarily inbred dogs, significant, virtually predictable health hazards have been bred into new generations of flat-nose breeds, wrinkle breeds, athletic breeds, tiny breeds and so on. Still, humans just can’t leave dog evolution to Mother Nature. More than 25 percent of shelter orphans are abandoned purebred dogs. Many have temperament or health issues, or were the victim of whim. Puppy mills are thriving online, supported by consumers who send thousands of dollars to an unknown source and may or may not receive any dog, let alone a legitimate registered purebred pedigreed dog in return.

In fact, every dog has a pedigree, which simply is a family tree. Do-it-yourself DNA testing has become affordable and readily available so that Mutt owners can get a fairly reliable report on what Rover’s unique makeup is. This can be helpful to determine how to deal with physical traits and habits — desired and not desired — that are part of Rover’s innate character. Some doubt the validity of the results since the tests reveal genes common to specific breeds, not “breed purity.” However, serious purebred enthusiasts long have used DNA tests to determine if in fact their pricey pooch was pure as presented by the breeder. One popular DIY DNA test is offered by the MARS Veterinary company. They conducted a National Mutt Census in an online survey plus an analysis of 36,000 DNA test results and found that the top 10 mixes are what were the most popular purebred dogs of the past, in this order: German shepherd, Labrador retriever, chow chow, Boxer, rottweiler, poodle, American Staffordshire terrier, golden retriever, cocker spaniel and Siberian husky.

Mutts appear as leading characters in literature, and many shelter adoptees have become celebrity actors, athletic champions and military heroes as well as loyal, loving, intelligent, and priceless family members. Since they were excluded from American Kennel Club competitions, the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry and the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America were created to provide a performance platform for mutts. In England, the Kennel Club created Scruffts to match for mutts the internationally respected Crufts purebred-only show event. While the concept of pure breeding is that the offspring will have predictable temperament, looks and size, as with humans, this is not always the case. Again, genetic diversity is an issue and recessive genes are ever ready to come forward and stump the most experienced and careful breeder.

In the end, yes, all dogs are mutts by ancestry. True all-American mutts each offer a combination of the best of the purebreds in one unique package. Visit a shelter and find the perfect mutt match today.

— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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