Another reason raised for not labeling shelter dogs as “Shepherd/Collie” or “Lab mix” is the claim that there is no identifiable breed in the typical mixed breed. Some purebred aficionados have put forward the assertion that in most mixes, no purebred dog was involved for at least three generations back, if at all.
What would this look like? There would have to be mixed breeds breeding with mixed breeds repeatedly. That would necessitate some form of pack running free, or a whole group of outrageously irresponsible owners in the same area. You can find these conditions on many reservations (whose dogs are referred to by rescue as “rez dogs”), but not generally in the larger population.
One other place you can find these conditions, to the ultimate degree, is in aboriginal societies. There, pariah or village dogs roam, either unowned or “owned” in a manner unlike our concept. The dogs roam freely, are intact, and mate at will. So, according to the “no purebreds in mixed breeds” theory, these dogs and the dogs found in shelters across the country should look pretty much the same. But they don’t.
Log on to Petfinder.com, type in the name of a shelter, and look at the dogs there. You will likely see some that arre or look like Pit Bulls, some that look sort of like a Lab, maybe a Golden Retriever type or two, perhaps a Border Collie wannabe, and for the smaller dogs, perhaps terrier of some sort and Chihuahua.
In the village, however, you will find dogs averaging 35 to 40 pounds, short-haired, with prick ears and a square build. They will be mostly shades of tan, with maybe some black individuals. This appears to be the ancestral type of dog, for dogs around the world left to interbreed eventually show this same form and color. There’s no reason to think this wouldn’t happen in America, too, and the fact that it hasn’t argues against the claim.
Personal experience with a wide variety of mixed breeds and their owners also argues against the “no purebreds” claim. The dog pictured with this column, Joe Cool, had an Australian Shepherd for a father. The mixed breeds profiled here for their agility competition are both crossbreeds — Tucker a Rat Terrier/Boston Terrier and Tangle a Papillon/Parson Russel Terrier cross. Another mixed breed owner has two Collie/English Shepherd crosses. Another mix has obvious Cardigan Welsh Corgi, right down to the east-west front.
There are of course plenty of mixes more mixed than these examples, but a majority with no purebred great-grandparents? It seems unlikely.
Next time — Why do people label mixed breeds?