Published: December 1, 2017  

Last updated: July 18, 2024  

The divide is strong with one side of people who believe adopting is the only option and the other side of people who think mutts are damaged and would only buy a purebred dog from a breeder.

I think I may be rare breed that thinks both mutts and purebreds are great dogs.

What is the difference between a mutt and a purebred?

A purebred dog consists of ONE single breed. With a reputable breeder, you should be able to trace a purebred dog’s family tree which will be of all ONE breed. 

A mutt dog is mixed with two or more dog breeds.

As defined by dictionary.com: 

Purebred: “of or relating to an animal, all of whose ancestors derive over many generations from a recognized breed.”

Mutt: a dog, especially a mongrel.

Mongrel: “a dog of mixed or indeterminate breed.”

two dogs running with a orange frisbee in mouths
Our purebred yellow lab (Bear) and our mutt (Ginger) playing.

Which is better, a mixed-breed dog or a purebred dog?

Both mutts and purebreds can be great dogs, each with its own set of pros and cons. With a purebred dog, you are getting more predictability versus adopting a mutt can be full of surprises. 

There are many variables in play, so let’s try to compare apples to apples.

If we compare an 8-week-old mixed breed puppy from a reputable rescue to an 8-week-old purebred from a reputable breeder, the biggest difference will be predicting the dogs’ genetics.

Getting a purebred puppy brings a certain level of predictability. For instance, if you get a Labrador retriever, the likelihood of that puppy becoming a happy-go-lucky, ball-loving, swimming expert that is about the same size as its parents is high… it’s in the puppy’s genetics. 

But there is never a guarantee of course. Purebred dogs can become aggressive and have a host of health issues just as a mutt can. Certain breeds are predisposed to certain health issues, such as hip dysplasia and epilepsy.

With a mixed-bred mutt puppy, unless you know both parents and the family history, you have no clue what that puppy will grow up to be like. The size, personality, and temperament are all a guess. 

Should I adopt a mutt or buy a purebred dog?

This is a very personal decision that I cannot answer for you. Weigh the pros and cons for both mutts and purebred dogs. And note that you can adopt a purebred dog from shelters and breed-specific rescues. 

To be upfront and honest with you, I never thought I’d get a puppy from a breeder until a few years ago. Read Our Heartbreaking, Gut-Wrenching Adoption Story.

Pros for getting a purebred dog

Purebred puppies are all about predictability. If you want a dog to perform a specific job for you or set on a particular type of dog, then purchasing a purebred puppy may be the right choice for you.

If you find a reputable breeder, you have a higher probability of getting a well-balanced and healthy puppy.

You will know how big that tiny puppy will become, you won’t be surprised when your puppy grows up to become an 80 lb. dog.

Reduce health risks, as a good breeder should not be breeding a dog with any genetic health issues. 

Read Is it OK to get a dog from a breeder?

Pros for adopting a mix-breed dog

The biggest downside of adopting a young mixed-breed puppy is not knowing what it will look like when they become an adult. 

If you want certain characteristics and more predictability, then maybe consider adopting a mutt that is 1 year or older.

Read why adopting a senior dog may be a perfect choice!

If you want the experience of raising a puppy and if knowing how big your puppy will be or what he will look like as an adult isn’t important to you, then adopting a mixed-breed puppy may be a good option. 

mutt dog smiling

9 reasons to adopt a mutt

Why mutts are better dogs? You may have heard mutts are healthier or love you more because you rescued them. Many factors make mutts great dogs, here are nine reasons to adopt a mixed-breed dog:

1. Save a dog’s life

When you adopt a mutt, you are saving a dog’s life. Shelters are jam-packed with mixed-breed dogs that need a home. Purebred dogs usually get adopted quickly, giving the mutt a disadvantage.

2. Unique and one-of-a-kind dog

Even mutt puppies from the same litter will look different. Just like children in the same family! Each puppy will pick up different genes from the mother and father, making them each unique.

Mix breeds bring the element of surprise, each having unique characteristics from the mix of breeds that make up their DNA.

3. Save money on adoption fees

Adopting a dog from a shelter is less expensive than purebred dogs from a breeder. Buying a dog from a breeder can run into the thousands. While adoption fees for shelter dogs average $50-$500.

4. Save money on medical expenses

Adopting a rescue dog will (should) come to you up to date on all its vaccines and already spayed or neutered. Spay and neutering can cost several hundred dollars.

5. Mix-breed dogs can be healthier than purebred dogs

Studies have shown that mutts are generally healthier than purebred dogs. I go deeper into details on the health of mutts below. 

In my experience, my mutts have been healthier and have lived longer than my purebred dogs. 4 out of 7 of our dogs have been mutts. Our first purebred dog was a yellow lab named Abby. She had terrible health issues and passed away much too young. Now, this could have been because of bad breeding or just bad luck. 

6. Mutts have a lot of love to give

A rescue dog knows you saved them and will love you for it. Okay, I admit all dogs, purebred or mixed breed will love you to death, but there’s something special about the love of a mutt that is unexplainable until you experience it yourself.

7. DNA testing 

DNA tests are fun to get on your mutt! For around $100 you can send in for a DNA test and explore what breeds created your special one-of-a-kind mongrel.

We had a DNA test done on our Ginger simply for the fun of it. It doesn’t matter to us what her genetics are, we love her the same, but it’s fun when people ask what she is and we can name all 5 breeds that created each of her features! Curious about what she is? Click here to find out.

8. Mutts are great conversation starters

Our mutt, Ginger, is always a conversation starter. We have met so many people just by them asking “what kind of dog” is she?

9. Mutts are great teachers

If we didn’t adopt our mutt, Ginger, Rescue Dogs 101 would never have been born. She was my inspiration to create this resource for others looking to adopt a rescue dog. 

Because of their unique disposition and personalities, they have a lot to teach us about resilience and life in general. 

While it is true that some rescues have problematic behavior issues such as separation anxiety or reactivity problems, these can all be overcome with some patience, training, and love. 

dog being examined by a vet

Are Mutts healthier than purebred dogs?

Is it a myth that mutts are healthier than purebred dogs? I found research studies to back the fact that mutts can be healthier than purebred dogs.

Unfortunately, all dogs can get sick and have genetic disorders.

In a 2013 study of 27,254 dogs that had an inherited disorder:

“Researchers looked at data for 24 genetic disorders. For 13 of these, incidence in purebreds was not different from that in mixed-breed dogs. For 10 of the disorders (42%), purebreds were significantly more likely to be affected. Only for the incidence of ruptured cranial cruciate ligament were mixed breed dogs more affected than purebreds.”

In each of the bar charts, mixed-breed dogs were the least affected.

42 genetic disorders pure breed vs mutt graphic

Wisdom Panel published a research article, concluding that mutts are generally healthier than purebred dogs. Stating that “In our study, mixed breeds were less likely to have the most common disease-causing mutations that we tested for compared to purebred dogs.”

Of course, any dog can become sick and have health issues. There are no guarantees in life. A mutt or a purebred dog can get cancer, and have allergies or seizures. 

Purebred vs Mutt Health Stats

If you are interested in digging deeper into the stats and science behind why mutts are generally healthier than purebreds here are several sources:

National Mutt Day – July 31 and December 2

While I’m not big into celebrating random “national” days, National Mutt Day was started to raise awareness of all the mixed breeds that are in shelters and rescues that need loving homes. 

So I do recognize the need to promote adopting mutts from shelters and rescues. Yes, purebred dogs can also be found in shelters or breed-specific rescues, but according to the National Mutt Day website, “approximately 80% of dogs in shelters are mixed breeds”.

Mutt vs. Purebred Conclusion

It’s up to you to choose what is right for your family and situation. Weigh out the pros and cons and make an informed decision on whether a mutt or purebred dog is the best fit.

Mutts are beautiful dogs, and my next dog will most likely be a rescue. 

Saving a dog’s life is very important to me, and we have helped save many dogs by adopting, fostering, and volunteering. 

We currently have three dogs. A mutt, Ginger, that we foster-to-adopted. A purebred yellow lab, Bear, was adopted from a family that found themselves over their head with a big dog. And Thunder, a purebred border collie, aka agility star, we purchased from a reputable breeder. 

When first writing this article in 2018, I wasn’t against dog breeders, but would never have thought I’d buy a puppy from one. It was Our Heartbreaking, Gut-Wrenching Adoption Story that changed my mind and led us to purchase a purebred border collie, Thunder, from a breeder. So yes, I believe reputable breeders have their place in the dog world.

What’s Next?

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. Love that you shared research that showed that mutts are healthier. I have three mutts, and have always rescued mutts from the shelter. One additional benefit of having a mixed-breed dog: they are always conversation starters. Everyone asks, “What kind of dog is that?” and then you can have an entire discussion on what you think and what they think. I’ve always enjoyed that.
    —Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  2. I have a mutt and a pure bred. Linus is 13 years old and supposedly an Australian Shepherd mix although we’re not certain because we never had him genetically tested. Our career changed guide dog, Stetson is an 11 year old purebred black Labrador Retriever. You make a good point about predictability and as you might have guessed something we want when trying to find puppies suitable for guide dog work. By the way, Stetson hates the water…some water dog he is… 🙂

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