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What’s the Difference Between a Crossbreed, Mixed, and Pedigree Dog?

a rottweiler mix with another mixed dog

Welp, we are guessing that you’re on this page either because you’re looking for a dog and trying to understand the various breeds, mixes, and crosses … or you’re having a drink with friends and looking to settle a bet. Either way, we can answer your questions: What is the difference between crossbreed dogs, mixed breed dogs and pedigrees? How do you define purebred dogs? What’s the difference between pedigree and purebred dogs?

If you find all the words to describe dog breeds confusing, join the crowd because they can be difficult to sort out. Let’s start with purebred and then move into the mixes and crosses.

What is a Pedigree Dog? What’s the Difference between Pedigree and Pure Breeds?

Pedigree defined

People often use pedigree and purebred interchangeably; however, they are different. The meaning of pedigree dog suggests you can trace the dog’s lineage through its family tree. Information about a dog typically includes: 

  • The dog’s date of birth
  • Physical characteristics such as color, height, coat type
  • Breeder and kennel name
  • The dog’s lineage (typically four or more generations back)
  • Special obedience titles or show awards in the family history. You may see these listed as abbreviations like CH (champion), CGC (canine good citizen), MC (master courser), for example
  • Genetic testing performed on the parents (sire/dad, dam/mom) and may include a DNA number
  • A unique registration number

A valid pedigree should have an official seal from the registration organization such as the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Purebred defined

A purebred, on the other hand, refers to a dog born to parents that belong to the same breed. So, the AKC officially recognizes breeds, but that doesn’t mean a breed is a breed. For example, the American pitbull terrier is not a breed that the AKC recognizes, likely because no American pitbull clubs have applied for membership.  

If you want to buy a purebred dog through a breeder, do your homework. First and foremost, research the breed so you understand what genetic disorders or behavioral traits come with your new pet. Other steps you might take include:

  • Visit the breeder to meet your puppy’s parents and see firsthand what conditions their dogs are living in.
  • Visit the breeder a few times as a way to get to know your puppy.
  • Verify medical care information provided by the breeder through their veterinarian.
  • Make an appointment with your vet to evaluate your new pet’s health. 

>>Related: Adopting vs Buying a Pet — Are Purebred Dogs Better Than Mixed Breeds?

What is a Crossbreed Dog?

The golden doodle is a popular cross breed of the golden retriever and the poodle — a potentially perfect mix of low-shedding, intelligence, and lovability!

By definition, crossbreed dogs, often referred to as designer dogs, are the offspring of two intentionally bred recognized breeds. For centuries, people have manipulated the genes of dogs with the purpose of creating a dog that possesses a combination of desirable traits that meet a specific need like hunting or herding. Today’s crossbreeds, or designer dogs, began in 1989 when Wally Coonron created the Labradoodle by breeding a Labrador retriever with a poodle

The thing with crossbreeds is, even though you know what the parents look like and how they behave … “Ya never know what you’re gonna get!”

There are no guarantees for what traits such as appearance, demeanor, and temperament the offspring will possess. In addition to making unique-looking dogs, crossbreeding may reduce the number of some congenital conditions that pass down from generation to generation in purebreds.

Some of the most popular cross breeds include:

What is a Mixed Breed Dog?

Although people often confuse mixed dog breeds with crossbreeds they are different. Mixed breeds, also called mutts, or mongrels, are dogs that typically result from natural mating (without human intervention) leaving the offspring with unknown parentage. It’s almost impossible to predict what mixed breed puppies will look like or how they’ll act. Unfortunately, most dogs in shelters and rescues across the country fall into the mixed breeds category. While these dogs have unknown ancestry, they still make great pets. In fact, several real-life and animated mutts like Spike from “Old Yeller,” Higgins from “Benji,” Mickey Mouse’s pet Pluto, and Clifford the Big Red Dog have brought joy to people for generations.  

Some research supports the argument that mixed breeds are often healthier than purebred dogs. The reason? Gene diversity. A 2013 UC Davis study demonstrated that purebred dogs were more likely than mixed breeds to have 10 genetic disorders including hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia, dilated cardiomyopathy, and cataracts.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to the health of any dog; however, studies like this one highlight whether human intervention in an otherwise natural process is a good idea. No matter what you call them, mixed breeds are equally lovable and invaluable as pets as those with a pedigree. 

Whether you welcome a mixed breed, purebred, or crossbreed, into your home, a new dog is an exciting adventure you’ll want to take over and over.