Growing up all of our family dogs were purebreds. Dotto – the Dalmatian, Beau – the miniature poodle, and then two Shetland Sheepdogs, or “Shelties” – Muffet and Punkin.
Muffet & Punkin
The Shelties were often mistakenly referred to as Miniature Collies. I took great pains to explain to anyone who would listen that they were NOT Collies!! Yes, even as a child I was obsessed with talking about dogs (just ask my family).
My first dog, Stickie, was also a purebred. Whippets are not very common, and I was often asked “What kind of dog is that?” Frequently people assumed he was a Greyhound puppy and had never heard of a Whippet. I was always happy to explain the differences between the two breeds.
I added a second dog when Stickie was seven, a purebred Border Terrier. At the time Border Terriers were quite popular in England, but unusual in this country. Once again I was often asked, “What kind of dog is that?” Most people assumed Chaucer was some sort of terrier mix, or misunderstood me, and thought I said Border Collie. Once again, I found myself having conversations about breed differences.
I have always been fascinated by dogs… purebreds and mixed breeds alike. The more time I spend with dogs, and the more I learn about dogs, the more fascinated I am. There seems to always be new information being published in the fields of veterinary medicine, training and behavior. We are always discovering new and exciting things about our favorite companions. Personally, even after decades of working with dogs of all types and breeds, I never tire of talking about dogs (just ask my family.) One thing that I’ve learned is regardless of breed, when choosing a dog, it really does come down to the individual dog. I suppose that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. We are after all talking about living beings, so of course there are a multitude of variables involved in making up an individual. Breed traits can be helpful, but there are always exceptions to the norm. Even in a litter of purebred puppies there are noticeable differences in size, and temperament, and in some cases coloring.
Let’s be honest, most of us choose dogs based on looks. Unfortunately that’s one of the reasons so many dogs end up in shelters. I really wish people would spend just a little bit of time researching breed traits to figure out if the breed they are attracted to is really a good match for their lifestyle. It seems like people spend more time researching appliances than they do a living creature!
Sometimes people choose a breed because we’ve met one, and want a dog “just like him.” That can be a bit of a trap too, believe me, I know from personal experience. Chaucer was a great little dog. By nature Border Terriers do not have a typical “terrier temperament”. Basically they’re not quite as feisty or vocal as other terriers. Several people, including two veterinarians I worked with, fell in love with Chaucer and decided that they wanted a Border Terrier too. What they wanted was a dog just like Chaucer. What none of us realized at the time was that Chaucer was not in fact a typical Border Terrier, he was an exceptional Border Terrier. My second and third Border Terriers were fun little dogs, but they weren’t anything like Chaucer. Turns out not only was he an exceptional BT, he was an exceptional dog.
The dogs I currently live with include purebreds and mixed breeds. The only thing they have in common is that they are all rescue dogs. The Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes are pretty easy for most people to figure out. The more unusual breeds and mixed breeds still often beg the question “What kind of dog is that?” Take Spencer for example. He is a purebred PowderPuff Chinese Crested dog, and often mistaken for a mixed breed. People usually think he’s some sort of Poodle mix (of course Spencer doesn’t take offense, he’s a pretty easy going guy).
The likely heritage of some of my mixed breed dogs is fairly evident based on their appearance.
Nemo (Hound mix) & Rudy (Boxer mix)
Rex’s likely heritage was a bit more of difficult to pin down. When I adopted Rex, the rescue had his litter listed as Australian Shepherd Mix. That seemed about right. He was fluffy, and primarily white with a big black patch on the side of his head. Much to everyone’s surprise, when he was about 4 months old, suddenly smaller black spots appeared all over his body. His head was always kind of big and blocky, and out of proportion to his body, (which prompted my sister to suggested his name should be T-Rex instead of just Rex). His coat also started to look and feel more silky and he started to get “feathering” on his legs and tail.
Baby Rex T-Rex
Here come the spots!
Grown up Rex (he finally grew into his head)
His DNA test revealed he is in fact, two thirds “herding” breeds, with the only specific breed marker being, not Australian Shepherd, but Australian Cattle Dog. Still not sure where his coat length and texture comes from – possibly one of the other herding breeds, maybe Border Collie? He definitely has herding breed personality traits. He notices everything and alerts me to any changes around the house or yard, he learns lightning fast, and he can be a bit of control freak with the other dogs (we call him the fun police). The big surprise was that he is one third American Staffordshire Terrier. Once I knew this piece of the puzzle I could see it as well… his big blocky T-Rex head, his eyes, his loyalty, and best of all his silly, sweetness. When people ask me what kind of dog Rex is, I usually say “He’s the best kind, a perfect dog.”
Now we have little Ferris…”What kind of dog is he???” The rescue listed his litter as Australian Cattle Dog mix. I suppose that’s possible, but I don’t see it, other than the ticking (speckles) on his feet. Honestly, this time I have NO clue. I have never had such a hard time guessing at possible heritage. I usually have some idea based on size, coloring, head shape, ear set, tail, and personality traits. Oh sure, I have a some of guesses… maybe part Sheltie, Basenji, Rat Terrier, Feist, Miniature Pinscher????? However nothing stands out. My vet and I agree that he will most likely be on the smaller side (probably around 20 lbs), he’s mostly reddish brown, and so far his ears do something different every few days. What I know for sure is that he is mellow, sweet, wicked smart, loves other dogs, and doesn’t bark much (except when food is on the horizon.) I am really curious about his DNA results, but for now I am officially calling him a “Quandary Hound”.
The drifting ear
Whoa! What’s up with that EAR?!
Today the ear returned to the factory setting
Stay tuned for his DNA results!