How to Determine a Mutt's Breeds

by Jane Tyne Google
It takes a bit of detective work to make an educated guess about your dog's heritage.

It takes a bit of detective work to make an educated guess about your dog's heritage.

Dog image by Kavita from Fotolia.com

One of the fun things about having a mutt is trying to guess the breeds of its parents and other ancestors. With some dogs, this can be easily done, but others have a history that can never be known. Either way, your dog will have all the loyalty, love and other wonderful traits of all dogs, so nothing is lost. But if you have a good idea about the heritage of your dog, it may help you in discussing and preparing for potential health problems that are common to specific breeds.

Step 1

Look at pictures of purebred dogs to get an idea of the look of certain breeds. For example, if your dog has long hair, look for pictures of breeds with long hair to get ideas. Also, there are many fur color combinations that are specific to certain breeds, so a tricolored, brindle or blue merle pooch is showing you a definite clue into its heritage. The same is true of mixed-breed dogs with one or two blue eyes.

Step 2

Read descriptions of each breed group, such as terriers, hounds, working breeds or toy breeds. A good place to start would be the website of the American Kennel Club; the link is in the resources section. You can find information about all the dog groups as well as information and pictures of all AKC-recognized breeds. The breed description will give you a good idea of how dogs in each group behave and a little about how they generally look.

Step 3

Ask a veterinarian's opinion, but keep in mind that discerning the possible breed mix of a dog is a bit of an art as well as a science. Ask a dog trainer's opinion as well as a dog groomer's opinion, since they also have extensive experience with many different purebreds as well as with mixed breeds and can often provide educated guesses. You may receive widely varying responses, even among professionals; however, veterinarians, groomers and trainers tend to have more insight into both the physical and behavioral traits of many breeds.

Step 4

Watch your dog play and note its general behavior for more clues to its background. Certain breeds are known for certain behaviors, such as the rumbly growl sound that both rottweilers and golden retrievers make when they are greeting someone to whom they are close. Terriers have a tenacity all their own, and retrievers of all kinds usually like to carry things in their mouths.

Step 5

Take your dog to the veterinarian for genetic testing. This is the only way to know almost for certain what breeds are in your dog's past. Have the veterinarian draw blood for the blood test (the mouth swab does not identify as many breeds). The veterinarian can better inform you of the parameters and limitations of the particular test that will be used. The results are not always complete, as there are limitations depending on the particular test used, as well as the specific breeds each test can look for.

Warning

  • Dogs are individuals, so don't try to pigeonhole your dog too tightly. Accept your dog as is and encourage its best traits.

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About the Author

Jane Tyne began writing professionally in 2000. She has a varied background, from experience as a veterinary technician and behavioral trainer to training in art. Her writing focuses on animals, pet health, human health and nutrition, and decorating. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in electrical engineering technology.

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