Dog breeds are created by humans, through “selective breeding” for phenotypic traits such as size, coat color, structure, and behavior. Most modern dog breeds are the products of the controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era. Therefore, the majority of dog breeds we know are in fact only 100-150 years old or less. So while purebreds have their purposes (and I own purebred dogs myself), the “snobbery” surrounding them seems uncalled for, as they were created from mixed breeds themselves.
The FCI recognizes 400 dog breeds. There are modern breeds, older types (type is more general than breed), and more ancient or primitive breeds. A 2004 study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern ones: Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, Chow Chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. These more ancient breeds tend to have different temperament, as they were not all bred to work alongside humans and take human direction. This doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent– intelligence isn’t the same as “trainability.” All dogs can be trained, but some breeds tend to have a higher “trainability” than others.
Neither a purebred or a mixed-breed or cross-breed is “better.” It depends on the individual dog, and the purposes the dog is to fulfill. There are traits and qualities that may be prevalent in certain purebreds, but it’s also important to keep in mind that dogs within one breed do not always have as much in common as one may assume. For example, within Labrador Retrievers, there are dogs who are extremely high-energy and bred for field hunting, and there are Labs who are calm and lazy, and pretty low-key. Anyone who has owned or trained multiple dogs of the same breed can tell you, they are not all the same. If you want a family companion, your choices are wide- think about the traits that are important to you in not only appearance, but temperament aka personality. Don’t get a terrier and be surprised that it has high energy and a tough attitude with other animals. Don’t get a Shepherd and be surprised it acts territorial in the home. Don’t get an English Bulldog if you want an athletic jogging partner. Don’t get any dog just based on looks. As far as health… Nothing is a guarantee. There are purebreds who are unhealthy, and there are mixed-breeds who have health problems as well. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder with health-tested stock is better than purchasing a puppy from an unknown source, but no matter what, there is no “guarantee” on health or lifespan, that’s just the way genetics work. Getting a dog as a puppy and raising it yourself is also no guarantee on behavior, and sometimes adopting an adult dog can be a good fit for a family.
I have no particular agenda, other than helping people find the best fit for their lifestyle, and helping them train the dog they choose. I support animal rescue and have been volunteering my efforts for many years, however, I don’t subscribe to the “adopt, don’t shop” agenda pushed by animal-rights activists. Why? 1) Because consumers have the right to choose the dog they will be living with for the next 10-15 years, and we all have preferences. You cannot force or guilt people into getting a certain dog, they should have freedom of choice for what is best for them. 2) Statistically, the number of homes in the USA getting a new dog each year far outnumber (by millions) the amount of dogs in shelters, so without purposeful breeding, there would be a huge shortage of dogs, and a lack of purebreds. Nationwide, based on statistics, there is no “overpopulation” of dogs, that is a myth. Demand dictates supply. Many high-volume shelters are successfully lowering euthanasia numbers by transferring dogs out to private rescues, and transporting them to different geographical locations that have a higher demand. In fact, many rescues have imported dogs from other countries, yet some are still claiming “overpopulation” here. Get the dog that is best for you. If getting a purebred from a reputable breeder is good for you, great… if getting a shelter dog is suitable for you, that’s great, too. I can help you select and train the best dog for your family regardless.