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Mixed breed or pure breed?

This decision is a personal choice that only you can make. The most obvious difference is that pure breeds are more predictable in terms of looks and behavior, whereas each mixed breed is utterly unique — one of a kind.

Regardless of your personal preference for attractiveness, attentiveness, and activity, you would do well to consider general health and life expectancy. By and large, due to lack of inbreeding, mixed breeds are healthier genetic stock; they tend to live longer and have fewer health problems. On the other hand, at a pure-breed kennel, it is possible to check out the friendliness, basic manners, general health, and life expectancy of several generations of your prospective puppy's forebears.

Which Breed?

Recommending specific breeds may sound like helpful and harmless advice, but it is insidiously dangerous and not in the best interests of dogs or of dog-owning families. Advice either for or against specific breeds often leads owners to believe that training is either unnecessary or impossible. Thus many poor dogs grow up without an education.

Breed recommendations often lead unsuspecting owners to believe that once they have selected the right breed, there is nothing more to do. Thinking they have the best possible breed, many owners suffer the misconception that training is unnecessary and so don't bother. This, of course, is when things start to go downhill.

Breed is a very personal choice. Choose the breed you like, investigate breed-specific qualities and problems, and then research the best way to raise and train your pup. If you select what others consider an easy breed to raise and train, train your pup so that he becomes the very best individual — an ambassador — of that breed. And if you select a breed that some people consider difficult to raise and train, train him, train him, and train him, so that he becomes the very best example — an ambassador — of that breed.

Regardless of your eventual choice, and certainly once you have made it, success or failure is now entirely in your hands. Your puppy's behavior and temperament now depend completely on good husbandry and training.

When evaluating different breeds, the good points are obvious. What you need to find out are the breed's bad points. You need to investigate potential breed-specific (or line-specific) problems and to know how to deal with them.

Learn what to expect, because when your eight-week-old puppy comes home, he will grow up with frightening speed. Indeed, in just four month’s time, your pup will develop into a six-month-old adolescent that has gained almost adult size, strength, and speed, while at the same time retaining many puppy constraints on learning. Your puppy has so much to learn before he collides with impending adolescence.

In terms of personality, behavior, and temperament, please be aware that dogs of the same breed may show considerable variation. If you have siblings or more than one child you probably appreciate the incredible range of temperaments and personalities of children from the same parents. Dogs are similar. Indeed, there may be as much variation of behavior among individuals of the same litter as there is among dogs of different breeds.

Environmental influences (socialization and training) exert a far greater impact on desired domestic behavior and temperament than genetic heredity. For example, the temperamental differences between a good (educated) Alaskan Malamute and a bad (uneducated) Alaskan Malamute or between a good Golden Retriever and a bad Golden Retriever are much greater than temperamental differences between a Golden and a Malamute with an equivalent experiential and educational history. A dog's education is always the biggest factor determining his future behavior and temperament.

Please make sure you fully understand the above paragraph. I am not saying training necessarily has a greater effect on dog behavior than genetic heredity. Rather, I am stating quite categorically that attaining a desired domestic dog behavior is almost entirely dependent on socialization and training. For example, dogs bark, bite, urine mark, and wag their tails largely for genetic reasons — because they are dogs. The frequency of their barks, however, the severity of their bites, the location of their urine marks, and the enthusiasm of their tail wags depends pretty much on the nature of their socialization and training. Your dog's domestic success is in your hands.

Adapted from BEFORE You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar

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