regardless of genealogy
The line between mixed breeds and pure breds is actually rather fine. It's limited to the preferences of a few people. Even today, with overpopulation at insulting levels, some people are striving to develop breeds for some "purpose" that seems clear to only them. This seems even more difficult to fathom as the vast majority of dogs (mixes and pure bred) live their lives purely as companions. Many breeds that once had very specific purposes have even been bred so as to be better accomodated in today's society. For example, the original Irish Wolfhound of several hundred years ago, would have been fierce as well as very large, today, they are among the most easy going and pleasant of temperaments.
So someone sees a characteristic they want and they commence to breeding to "set" that trait (all the offspring or progeny have the trait as well). Once someone starts recording the breeding history or pedigrees of the dogs involved, a breed is created. Getting recognized by a registry like the AKC or UKC is generally a process of more documentation and numbers. The question marks start swirling because it takes alot of breeding to set characteristics, and to find individuals to continue the process. Those puppies that aren't "true to type" go somewhere. Taking homes that other dogs in the shelters might have a shot at or being euthanized (culled) because they didn't measure up. The process is simply not sensible in this day and age.
Once one understands that, then the concept of a purebred becomes one of social standing. It is fun to meet people who have the same breed and discuss the specific idiosyncratic behaviors that your pets share. No question! For those who would adore having a purebred, who love the color of an Irish Setter or the attitude of a Scottie, that opportunity exists because someone established the breed and now, those dogs appear in rescue and shelters as well as with responsible (and unfortunately irresponsible) breeders.
Beyond this, there are many myths and theories surrounding mixes. One is that due to hybrid vigor, they are healthier. Well a mixed breed dog is NOT (repeat NOT) a hybrid. A hybrid is the offspring of two different SPECIES (not just the offspring of two different breeds). So a mule (donkey sire and horse dam) is a hybrid whereas an Appaloosa stallion bred to a Quarter Horse mare would produce another horse. This example, of the App bred to the Quarter Horse, is what a mixed breed dog would essentially be. Nature determines species (donkey vs horse), man has determined breeds (as described above).
So with hybrid vigor out as an advantage, the stuff that is said about the disadvantages, that shelter dogs are damaged goods that people dumped there cause they were aggressive, sick and had problems must be true, right? Very wrong again. Many people feel that if they pay alot for a puppy (whatever alot may be to them) that they shouldn't ever have to train or work with the dog or even learn how to train a dog. That by paying alot of money, the dog shows up already knowing it all. The vast majority of dogs in shelters are there out of no fault of their own (owner moved, had baby, decided they couldn't keep), in other words, the owner lacked commitment or due to behavioral traits that are easily rectified but the owner couldn't be bothered.
Let's also keep in mind that some people feel assured by Health Guarantees offered by breeders. Certainly, all responsible breeders strive to produce healthy puppies. They will go to great lengths and expense in having the most up to date testing and documentation to insure the best outcome, but even with that, it's not just possible but likely that some puppies will be afflicted. Irresponsible breeders won't even bother with the testing but will still offer a guarantee. Feel assured? You shouldn't. The Health Guarantee offered by the majority of breeders only reimburses for expenses or the purchase price if the puppy is returned to the breeder. Most new owners, even facing daunting health issues, will pause before giving up the new member of the family.
So while we should seek some sort of health guarantee and be clear on it's definition, much greater assurance can be purchased through pet insurance. With such coverage, the new owner (though it is available to all dog owners not just those with puppies) have real financial assistance with any veterinary care that may be needed. If your goal is to have a healthy dog, whether a purebred or mixed dog or whether you adopted it from a shelter or from a breeder, pet insurance is worth some serious consideration.
Healthwise, mixed breeds have some advantages and disadvantages. A well bred purebred dog will be the result of a breeding between two HEALTHY parents who have been as thoroughly screened for health problems as modern science will allow. This does offer some advantage clearly! The poorly bred purebred is much more likely to be a harbinger of various health problems common to its breed. The mixed breed, will, on average, fall somewhere in the middle. The thing to keep in mind, is that you are adopting one dog, not the average of the type. So definitely, unless you are willing to risk heartache, adopting from a rescue that has at least a recent history of the dog's health, adopting an older dog (not a puppy) and definitely adopting a dog that is in good health when you adopt it are all going to up your chances of a having a healthy dog. With purebreds, keep your selections limited again to rescues that can provide some history (even if only a few weeks and thus you know they are vaccinated and protected), healthy at the time of adoption and perhaps a bit older (this helps insure problems that only show up when a dog is older would have already been detected).
Mixed breeds are essentially one of a kind, with all the benefits and drawbacks that can allow. By being unique, you may have a bit tougher of a time figuring out certain unique behaviors. A good behaviorist can help you fill in that potential gap. With the mixed breed, you might also potentially run into health problems that might be common to a certain breed in their ancestry but no one picks up on because that ancestor may not be obvious in the phenotype (appearance) of your dog. On the other hand, with a mixed breed, you have the true designer original! Odds are that even the other littermates didn't turn out looking and acting just like your dog! No question that a mystique exists whether of a bohemian or upscale variety, in having a dog that is out of the ordinary in your life. It definitely makes it tougher for people to peg who you are and what you are about in contrast to what a toy Poodle or majestic Afghan Hound might say just by their presence.
To offer some help though, mixed breeds do tend to have the personality type of one of the dominant parent types. So a herding dog mix will likely have a herding dog personality. A cross of a Sporting Dog and Herding Dog will likely have a temperament more like the Sporting Dog parent OR the Herding Dog parent (not a mixture of both). Which is why the idea of breeding Golden Retrievers (easily trained, intelligent dogs) with Border Collies (another easily trained, intelligent breed) doesn't really buy much in the way of benefit. So if you should fall in love with some scruffy little Terrier-esque sort of fellow, definitely read what you can of Terrier temperament and attitude. It will be helpful!
Finally, the tables are turning. As dog lovers everywhere become more aware of the issues surrounding our society's treatment of dogs, mixed breeds are chosen as much for their exceptional and varied qualities as for the social statement they offer. Try it on for size, life is more interesting with a mixed breed dog!
More questions about mixed breeds? Comments on what we've said here? Feel free to write us at DigitalDog@DigitalDog.com.