What’s The Difference Between A Hybrid Dog & A Mutt?

When I was young, there was pretty much two types of dogs: purebred, registered dogs that were sold by breeders for high prices, or the “mutt,” who was sold in the paper for $50, or even given away for free. And it wasn’t a big deal. Your dog was purebred or just a good ‘ol mutt. Mutts, of course, were looked down upon by breeders of “purebred dogs,” but it certainly wasn’t anything people would actually stand around to argue about.

Times have changed and the connotation and emotions surrounding the use of these words is heavy. You can easily start an argument among a group of dog lovers by simply saying calling someone’s labradoodle a mutt or saying mixes are better than purebreds for whatever reason you choose.

If you are new to the dog world you may be miffed by this – what exactly do all these words mean and why the emotions surrounding them? Is one better than the other?

What is a Purebred Dog?

A purebred dog comes from two parents of the same breed (Lab and Lab). Usually, but not always, the parents are registered with an association and have pedigrees that prove they are genuinely purebred. Due to puppy mills and pet stores (which often sell purebreds more than other types of dogs), the purebred dog has lost a bit of the prestige it once had. And of course, “adopt don’t shop” campaigns that lump all breeders in with puppy mills have furthered the downfall.

Because of this, many reputable breeders have become guarded about their breed.

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What is a Mixed-breed Dog?

A mix is a dog that is exactly what the name implies – a mix of dog breeds. Usually they are the results of accidental breedings or stray dogs – with no intentional mixing. While technically a mix could be made of up two dog breeds, like a lab and a pit bull for example, they usually are made up of several breeds – often both parents were mixes as well.

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These would be the dogs that were formerly known as mutts. And why is that word not used anymore? Because of the connotation! Back when the choice was basically purebred or mutt, many saw the mutt as the “inferior” dog. This is, of course, not true, but nevertheless this word has become charged with a negative meaning and so you won’t hear it used much anymore. In addition, they were never considered a breed.

However now, people who rescue mixed dogs from shelters think very highly of them. They are an up and coming new “breed” in their mind – the rescue.  And they are PROUD of it.

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What is a Hybrid?

Well, technically it’s a mix. But, I wouldn’t say that around an owner of a hybrid unless you want a fight on your hands!

While a hybrid is a mix, a mix is not a hybrid.

Why?

Because a hybrid is the intentional breeding of two purebred dogs to create a “hybrid” – for example the Labradoodle (purebred Lab with purebred Poodle). The key words here are intentional and purebred. The breeding wasn’t an accident and the parents aren’t mixes of other breeds.

Once you have established breeding, then you are breeding hybrids to hybrids to get more “hybrids” – and usually they are denoted by generations. So a F1 (first generation) Labradoodle has a Lab parent and a Poodle parent. An F2 has two Labradoodle parents, but purebred Lab and Poodle grandparents, etc.

A Labradododle
A Labradododle

While many people believe the concept of a hybrid is fairly new – from the past decade when the first “labradoodle” made an appearance – this is actually not true.

The first hybrid dog was indeed the “cockapoo” – a cross between a Poodle and a Cocker Spaniel – that has been around since the 1960s. (www.cockapoocrazy.com)

Image source: @NitinShah via Flickr  
Image source: @NitinShah via Flickr

Hybrid owners are very passionate about their breed as well – yup, to a hybrid owner, there dog is NOT a mix, but a new breed that’s being developed. This is a very different perspective from the mixed breed dog (you don’t breed a mixed breed dog to another mixed breed dog).  In fact, Cockapoo breeders have been working on establishing the breed since the 60s, even though the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not recognize them as a breed.

So – Does It Matter?

You will run into dedicated dog fanciers who will tell you the purebred is the only dog to have. And you will meet others who will only have the adorable mixed dog from the shelter in their house. Finally, you will meet passionate hybrid owners who say their dog is the “best of two worlds,” and that is the only way to go.

So… The Truth?

Every single person who loves their dog is passionate about them – and they should be! Many people have a favorite breed or type – I love herding dogs, and in particular the Sheltie has captured my heart. But that’s no reason to not appreciate all the other breeds and types out there, nor is it a reason to not work towards the end of puppy mills (no one wants them!), sales in pet stores (no reputable breeder sells to them anyway), and adoption (you can adopt purebred dogs too, if that’s why you are looking for).

In the end – all dogs are wonderful and they all have different traits and skills. What’s important is that the dog fits into your lifestyle and what you want to do. The type of dog – be it purebred, mixed, or hybrid – doesn’t matter as much.

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It used to be that if you wanted to compete in a dog competition you had to own a purebred dog. However, now that the AKC allows any type of dog to compete in their performance events, like rally and agility, and with other organizations out there allowing all dogs as well, you are not limited to purebreds if you want to compete (conformation still requires a purebred dog because that is the point of the show – to be judged against breed standards).

I’ve trained many of all three types: they are all smart and all of them can have the same behavioral problems.

So don’t be put off by the “type” of dog, or the opinions you hear. Choose the dog that fits you and you will both be happy. Just don’t buy from a pet store or a puppy mill! These are the only types of dogs we can all agree – regardless of what of our passions – should not exist.

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