“Mixed” feelings about mutts

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Mutts get a bad rap. Everyone who wants to add a dog to the family often overlook mutts in favor of a pure breed dog. But is that necessarily the best choice?

Those who prefer to bring a pure breed home do so for the status symbol a purebreed dog represents. They boast about their dog’s pedigree and may even know their dog’s lineage three or four generations back.

With a mutt, you don’t get the same status. You don’t know the lineage and the pedigree isn’t even there.

But here are a couple of ways mutts are better than pure breeds.


Mutts, also known as mixed-breed dogs, have a diverse genetic makeup derived from two or more genetic crosses. Pure breeds most always have an element of inbreeding associated with developing the breed. Because of inbreeding, pure breeds often have genetic disorders.

For example, brachycephalic dogs (that is, dogs with short snouts) like pugs have a malformed skull. The shape of the skull inhibits breathing and makes high intensity exercise difficult and deadly for these types of dogs.

German Shepherd Dogs are often predisposed to hip dysplasia due to breeding that favors form over function. The hips and lower back swoop down instead of having a good posture.

Mutts, on the other hand, benefit from a diverse gene pool. The problems found in pure breeds are reduced or absent in mutts.


Mutts tend to live longer than pure breeds. This again can be attributed to having good genes. In his book Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, author Ted Kerasote reported that “mixed-breed dogs live, on average, a year longer than purebred dogs” (Kerasote, 2013) as relayed by Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy. Further research led Kerasote (2013) to five studies that showed “mixed-breeds suffer from fewer genetic diseases and live up to 1.8 years longer than purebred dogs of equivalent weight.”

For those of us who have faced the loss of a pet at an early age, it would seem that a mutt would live longer and we would get to enjoy its companionship much longer than a purebred dog.

The “problem” with mutts

Everything I’ve read suggests there are more benefits to owning a mixed breed dog. So what exactly is the problem with mutts?

To find out, I asked Julia Springsteen, president of Friends of Hardin County Animal Shelter (FOHCAS).

Julia said the biggest misunderstanding people have about mutts is, “They think shelter dogs or mutts are broken in some way.”

“The only thing wrong with a shelter dog is they got a rough start in life and didn’t have the right owners to begin with,” Springsteen said.

Hardin County Animal Care and Control takes in many dogs every day, from strays to owner surrenders. Many animals that pass through the doors of the shelter are mixed breed dogs.

Although the facility was upgraded in 2013, there are many people who don’t realize that Hardin County Animal Care and Control is not a no-kill shelter.

As tragic as that sounds, the new facility has helped facilitate the adoption rate. Hardin County Animal Care and Control does it’s best to ensure that all of the animals have a fair shot at adoption.

As National Mutt Day approaches, I asked Springsteen if the shelter has any specials planned. She advised me that because the shelter is currently at full capacity (meaning every kennel is full), a community sponsor has stepped up to help “Empty the Kennels.”

“We just happen to be having an ‘Empty the Kennels’ Special with $0 adoption fees the week of July 25-30,” Springsteen said. Rafferty’s in Elizabethtown is sponsoring the event. Springsteen added, “On National Mutt Day, we are hoping to be empty!”

Hardin County Animal Care and Control is located in Elizabethtown at 220 Peterson Drive. Visit the shelter to adopt a dog Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Contact the receptionist at 270-769-3428.



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