- Often tested for health or genetic defects
- Have predictable temperaments
- Have predictable physical characteristics
- Choosing a purebred is great if you’re looking for a dog for a specific function, for example, a guard dog, a hunting dog, a dog to herd sheep, pull a sled, or even dig for truffles
- Generally much more expensive than mixed breeds
- Popular, trendy, breeds attract bad breeders and puppy mills
- Tend to suffer from genetic and health diseases due to limited genetic diversity
- Getting a purebred does not guarantee physical characteristics, health, or behavior, because some purebreds may not grow up to be typical of the breed — always see the parents!
- Tend to have much more exaggerated behavior and personality than mixed breed dogs
- Tend to be less adaptable and flexible than mixed breed dogs
One of the key advantages of purebreds is that their basic physical characteristics, such as size, weight, color, and coat are fairly fixed. For example, Golden Retrievers are known for their long, golden coat and size. If you want a purebred Golden Retriever puppy, you can be quite certain that she won’t be 20 pounds, with a short, spotted coat.
A purebred is a great choice if you want a dog that is a specific size, or has a specific type of coat (for example, a short or non-shedding coat).
The temperament of purebreds is often largely determined by their genetic makeup. In fact, many purebreds have been bred for generations to have a specific type of temperament. A purebred is a great choice if you want a dog with a specific personality (high energy or friendly, for example). You can’t say with a
100% certainty that a purebred will have a specific type of temperament, but you are much more likely to be able to predict a purebred puppy’s temperament than a mixed breed dog’s temperament.
Purebreds and Working Behaviors
Purebreds are a great choice if you’re looking for a dog for a specific function, for example, a guard dog, a hunting dog, a dog to herd sheep, pull a sled, or even a dog to dig for truffles.
The downside of purebred working behaviors is that many of these working behaviors can be a huge negative for a family pet. For example, herding dogs like Border Collies and Australian shepherds tend to have herding behaviors like chasing things that move, and nipping after things that don’t move where the dog wants them to.
The problem often comes in when the herding dog tries to herd a child, and ends up barking and nipping at their heels (or, worse, biting them), when the child won’t let the dog herd it to a specific location. If you want a purebred that was meant to be a working dog, be prepared for some potential behavioral issues.
Purebred health problems
One of the biggest disadvantages of purebreds is the fact that many purebred breeds are prone to health problems. Larger purebreds are often prone to joint and hip problems, and other breeds are susceptible to blindness, skin and neurological diseases, cancers, and bleeding disorders. Carefully research specific a breed to
determine what health problems the breed may be inclined to have.
When you talk to a breeder, ask if the breeder has done any genetic and health testing — a breeder with the dogs’ best interests at heart will have tested prospective parents. Health tests now available can tell if a dog currently has hip and elbow dysplasia, which can cripple a dog early in life, or tell if the dog has cataracts or some heart diseases.
Genetic tests search for an abnormality in the genetic makeup of a dog. A number of genetic tests are available, including those for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Labrador Retrievers. However, genetic testing is limited to only a few breeds and a few diseases.
Good breeders know that good breeding practices can reduce the frequency of inherited (genetic) disorders. These good breeding practices include testing all prospective breeding dogs, and only breeding those that are free of genes for genetic disorders.
Dogs with an increased risk for a genetic disease are said to have a breed predisposition for the disease. Good breeders try to avoid breeding dogs (and their close relatives) with a breed predisposition for a disease. Good breeders also try to limit the amount of inbreeding (breeding closely related dogs together).
A caution about health testing!
Just because a dog tests negative for a health disorder (for example, a negative x-ray for hip dysplasia), does not mean that she won’t develop it in the future. In contrast, genetic tests are highly accurate at predicting the probability that a dog will develop a specific disease at some future time.
Why do purebreds have more health problems?
Purebreds often come from a limited original gene pool, while mixed breed dogs come from a diverse gene pool. Even highly popular and common breeds were originally developed from just a few originating dogs.
Rare breeds and breeds that are registered with the AKC often originate from a limited number of breeding dogs, because the AKC requires the parents of a registered purebred puppy be registered with the AKC, therefore severely limiting the gene pool. The same champion dogs are also often used to breed purebred puppies. This means that any possible genetic problems in the original dog population are intensified in succeeding litters of puppies. If you want a purebred, consider that you may get some genetic issues.
Why does inbreeding cause health problems?
Most dogs, even healthy ones, have defective genes in their DNA. For the most part, these defective genes are recessive, meaning that the dog needs two of the defective genes for the defective characteristic to appear.
A dog with only one defective gene can pass on the defective gene to its offspring, but the dog’s offspring does not have the characteristic, because the healthy gene takes over.
When the same small pool of dogs are repeatedly bred (as often happens with purebreds), the defective genes become more common, increasing the chance that an individual dog will have two of the defective gene.
As soon as a dog has two copies of the defective gene (possibly one from its mother and one from its father) it will develop the defective characteristic. Choosing a purebred dog can mean choosing to deal with some inbred health issues.
Usually, purebred dogs are expensive. You can easily pay from $400 to $1,000, or more, for a good quality pet purebred from a reputable breeder. Choosing a purebred dog is not a cheap option. One way to reduce this cost is to get a purebred from a rescue organization, but rescue dogs likely aren’t tested for health disorders.
Getting a purebred does not absolutely guarantee, in stone, the physical characteristics, health, or behavior of a puppy. This is because some purebreds may not grow up to be typical of the breed.
This can mean that a specific purebred dog does not have the temperament expected, or even that the individual dog’s size is much larger or smaller than is typical. For example, you could choose a purebred Golden Retriever puppy hoping for a typically social, friendly, dog that loves kids, but end up with a Golden Retriever that grows up to be an aggressive and anti-social dog. Choosing a purebred dog is no absolute guarantee of temperament.
Meet the parents!
Overall, the individual puppy’s parents are the best indicator of the type of dog the puppy will grow up to be. If one of the puppy’s parents is not typical of the breed, there is a far greater chance that the puppy is not typical. You should try to see both parents of any puppy (purebred or not) that you’re considering buying. Choosing a purebred based on the dog’s parents is an excellent bet.