There are a lot of names for dogs of unknown heritage, mutt and mongrel are some of the most common terms for mixed breed dogs. Some pet owners do not want to call their beloved pet a mutt, or perhaps they are interested in finding out what genetic diseases their dog is predisposed to. This guide is here to help you, but you should be advised that legally any unregistered dog cannot be referred to as a “Purebred”. In fact even if you know the dogs parentage, without registration papers the dog legally is still not to be considered as a purebred dog. So let us begin.
The best place to start is by looking around your area, what breeds of dogs are common? This is a regional thing, the breeds that are common in Australia, may not be as common in Germany or Northern Canada. Remembering that your dog may be a mix of more than two breeds. Take into account physical appearance, hair type, and behavior. Note to how the ears are set on the head, and the texture of the coat. Without full DNA blood tests, your conclusions are only guesses.
I will run through some of the most common dogs in the world and you will see what to look for to best determine what breeds your mongrel might be. I will work up from smallest to largest.
The Yorkshire Terrier
This is a small non-shedding dog, their hair grows long, and is usually brown, or tan, and grey, or black. Yorkies have refined muzzles, and are smart, active dogs. Like most terriers, they are prone to be nippy if not trained right at an early age. They may dislike children.
The Shih Tzu
A very popular house pet, Shih Tzus are often crossed with other breeds. They are a bit larger than Yorkshire Terriers, and are not as active. Their backs may be a bit long in proportion to their legs, and their muzzle is not long. Often they have white in combination with black, grey,or brown. They are considered great family, or seniors, pets because they are lower intelligence, and therefore require less mental simulation.
Poodles actually come in many sizes, from the toy, to the standard. Poodles are intelligent dogs, who are also considered to be non-shedding, but their hair will not be as straight as the other breeds mentioned. They come in a variety of colors, from solid white, to apricot, to black.
The Border Collie
Border Collies are very smart, very active dogs. They tend to be on the thin side, and will not be happy sitting home alone with nothing to do. A border collie has a very intelligent look on its face, and will often be keen on watching its’ owner or anything that catches its’ attention. They are dogs who, if not given a job, will find one. They are generally black and white, but can also be brown and white, or tri-colored. These dogs have a coat that sheds, the hair is medium length and typically wavy.
The German Shepherd Dog
Another smart breed of dog, used originally for herding, they were more recently introduced as a security dog for guarding. In many parts of the world they are falling out of favor for this use, and being replaced by Rottweilers. These dogs do shed and have thicker, courser coats than a Border Collie. Their hair being generally brown and black, but other variations, including white, are sometimes seen. They have large solid chests.
A misunderstood breed, thanks in part to the media, and owners who perpetuate bad behavior through poor training, or none at all. Rotties are very handsome shedding dogs, in some countries their tails are generally docked. They are typically black and tan, and are built very solid. There are many types of Rottweilers depending on their country of origin, some being more boxy, and others, more refined.
The Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers are respected as pets and working dogs, noted for their “soft mouth”. They have a short coat, which sheds. They come in three color varieties, black, chocolate, and yellow, the black being the most common. These dogs are generally patient and loving, and often kept as family pets.
If none of these characteristics are present in your dog, then get to know the prevalent breeds in your area. Your veterinarian may be able to give you a guess, or if there is a local dog club, one of their experienced members might caution a guess. Attend a dog show or pick up a breed magazine to become more familiar with some of the other breeds. Again, note that your dog may be a combination of several breeds, a true heinz 57, which is not a negative point against your dog.
Unregistered dogs can still compete in obedience classes, some shows also have “pet” categories. Intentional breeding of these dogs is shunned though, since they have not proven themselves in conformation classes to prove they are worthy of passing on their genetics.
DNA testing can be done on dogs to determine their breed.