The Difference Between Mutts, Purebred Dogs, and Designer Dogs

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Many people do not know what is the difference between a purebred dog, a mutt, and a designer dog. Further more we explain why it is unethical to intentionally breed anything but purebred dogs. What is a designer dog? What is a mutt? What is a purebre

Mutts are often looked down upon as being inferior. Some people would never own anything other than a purebred. It should be noted that “Purebred” does not mean “quality”. There are probably more low quality purebred dogs than there are good quality ones. Some people breed their dogs because are were purebreds, and for no other reason than making a profit selling the pups, or because they didn't know any different.

What is a Purebred Dog?

A purebred is an animal with registration papers stating who its parents are, and recognizing that they are of the same breed. Nothing more. It is not a recognition of quality.   Proof of qualty is only after the dog goes to shows and earns championship titles.

What is Mutt?

A mutt is anything, and everything else. A mutt can have two registered parents, but if it is not registered itself it cannot be referred to as a purebred. In fact in many areas it is illegal to represent a dog as purebred unless it has registration papers available at no additional charge.

What is a Designer Dog?

A designer dog is a mutt with a high price tag and fancy name. Designer dogs are not registered, and typically the parents are low quality examples of a breed. Generally anyone with a top quality dog would be using it to breed purebreds. Some examples of designer dogs are Puggles, Pomchi, Golden Doodles (although Goldendoodles have recently been accepted as a breed in Australia), and so forth. Designer dogs are generally sold with inflated price tags that do not represent their quality.

cute spotted mutt

What is Hybrid Vigor?

While true hybrids are animals who are not of the same species, such as a cross between a donkey and a horse, the term has been applied to the crossing of different breeds of dogs,cats, and horses. In other words it covers mixed breed dogs, domestic cats, and grade horses.

When dogs of one breed are bred together it can form a shrinking gene pool. The shrinking gene pool is one of the reasons purebred dogs often have genetic health problems and concerns. One way of dealing with this is by breeding two very unrelated animals together to give the offspring a different mix of genes. This is best accomplished by breeding animals of two different breeds.

The result is that dogs of mixed gene pools often have fewer genetic health problems and typically have a longer lifespan.  This is called hybrid vigor.

How is Quality Determined in a Dog?

The most common way of determining if a dog is a top quality animal is by taking it to dog shows and competing against other dogs. The dog is examined on the basis of conformation according to breed standards, as such these classes are for registered purebreds only. Other types of shows, including obedience and agility are open to mutts. Field trials for hunting dogs may be exclusive to registered dogs only or open to mixed breeds.

Veterinarians can also offer assessments of a dog, they can check their mouth, ears, eyes, and hips, for problems. If a vet suggests a dog is a poor quality animal, there is no point in having it go to a conformational type show or considering it worthy of being bred.

Temperament should also be considered, a dog who is in any way aggressive to people or other animals should not be considered to be a quality dog. This not only has a genetic component, but female dogs often teach their puppies their temperaments.

The Breeding Contraction...

A lot of people become confused as to why if hybrid vigor is good, should a person not intentionally breed mutts or designer dogs. The problem is two-fold. Generally speaking those who are allowing their dogs to breed and create mutts, or designer dogs, are those with lower quality dogs to begin with. As mentioned earlier, a breeder with top dogs would presumably be showing and breeding purebreds only. The other problems is that with millions of mutts euthanized in shelters yearly in the USA alone, there is no reason to intentionally create more. 

As another kicker, many designer dogs are sold with inflated price tags that do not represent the quality of the dog in as much as they represent the greed of the breeder.

cute mutt in the snow

Getting a Dog?

  • If you are considering buying a dog, you will wish to consider if you want a purebred or a mutt.
  • A purebred is suited to somebody who may wish to show or be competitive. The advantage of a purebred is you generally know what traits, and health problems, that dog is likely to have. Of course it must be remembered that not all purebreds are quality, or come from quality parents. A reputable breeder will have show records of both parents, and veterinarian certificates, proving their worth as breeding animals.  Always ask to see the parent dogs, their genetic health certificates, and their show records. Pet stores do NOT sell quality purebreds.
  • Designer dogs should be avoided, their inflated price tags are not worth it.
  • Mutts can be found at animal shelters or often in newspaper ads. Never pay for a dog or pup that has not been seen by a veterinarian and come with some sort of health guarantees. Never accept a free pet unless you intend to get the medical, vaccinations, worming, etc, done immediately.   Mutts can make excellent pets, but are unsuitable for breeding. 
  • Adopting from animal shelters has a huge advantage in that they have lots of selection, and you are truly saving a life. Although typically shelters are associated with mutts, they do get purebreds from time to time. Shelters are non-profit. The price you pay is the minimum. All in all if you are only looking for a companion animal, looking at a shelter offers lots of options.
  • A mutt is not an inferior dog, even a dog with two quality, purebred, registered, parents, but who was not registered itself, is technically a mutt. 


Good breeders of purebred dogs invest so much time and money into showing their dogs and proving their worth as breeding animals that they do NOT make a profit. People who breed simply for the sake of producing pups to sell are inflating their prices because they realize that the public is unaware of how to determine a good breeder from a bad one.

Mutts do not always have “hybrid vigor” if you do not know who the parents are, the parents might be brother and sister.

Related Doggy Links

11 Questions to Ask yourself Before Getting a Dog or Pup

How to Select the Right Dog for Me

How to Socialize a New Dog or Puppy

How to Help Your Dog Live a Healthy and Long Life


Posted on Dec 11, 2011
Pat Bartels
Posted on Feb 16, 2010