There are currently 202 recognized dog breeds in the American Kennel Club. The Kennel Club (UK) recognizes 219. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the international governing body of dog breeds, recognizes 344 different breeds! Everything from your neighbor’s black lab to the exotic xoloitzcuintli.
But why do we have breeds? What’s the point?
I was recently reading the comments below a very “adopt don’t shop” Facebook post, and came across a few variations on the following opinion:
“All purebred dogs originally came from other breeds mixed together so “dog breeds” and “purebreds” are just man made concepts. Why can’t we all just enjoy our dogs and not care about the breed?”
To a certain degree, this is correct. A St. Bernard has no concept of being a St. Bernard. They would gladly mate with any available dog regardless of breed. Technically, a Chihuahua could mate with a Golden Retriever. They’re all dogs. So why have breeds?
Well, let’s take a step back for a moment. I used to have a very small car. But since then, my lifestyle changed and now I need a vehicle that can fit my family, large dogs and cargo so I got a medium sized SUV.
Imagine if someone was to say, “Cars are cars. I don’t know why everyone is so worked up about the make and model. Just be happy you can get around!”
If you need a vehicle to transport your three kids to soccer practice every day, a Lamborghini may not be the car for you. You may be a bit happier with a minivan. And if you’re a single person with a 3 hour commute in the Bay Area, you may prefer a small, gas efficient vehicle.
I know people swear by Ford and others who say “FORD?! More like ‘Found On Road Dead’….Am I right?!” Every one has a different lifestyle and a car that is the perfect fit for one person may not be a good choice for the next.
Some people drive a car because it gets them from point a to point b, and others are fanatics and spend their extra time, money and energy on their automotive hobby.
The thing about dog breeds is that each breed has a set standard for size, coat type, energy level, and temperament. Most dog breeds were created either intentionally or out of necessity to serve a specific function. You may be able to teach a Bullmastiff how to herd sheep, but I highly doubt you will have the same success rate with a litter of Bullmastiff puppies as you would with a litter of Border Collies.
Dogs do what they’re bred to do, and a well bred dog fits their breed’s standard. If you’re an apartment dweller with children, you may want a smaller dog that was bred specifically for companionship. If you’re an avid hiker you need a dog that can keep up with you and isn’t likely to be injured on a long trip. I personally am drawn to large breed dogs but a good friend and coworker of mine loves little dogs. If dogs were all just a homogeneous blend of “dog” we would have a harder time finding companions who were likely to fit into our lives.
Choosing a purebred dog has nothing to do with bragging rights or being a snob. Choosing a purebred dog has everything to do with finding the right dog to fit your lifestyle. A contributing factor to dogs ending up in the shelter is a lack of preparation and training on the part of the owner. When I used to train, many people would start the evaluation by telling me things like, “We had no idea he would get so big” or “He just has too much energy for us!”
If dog owners took the time to educate themselves on which breed may fit their needs, we would have fewer dogs being rehomed. I know many a Cane Corso breeder who spends more time convincing prospective buyers that the breed might not be a good fit for them, than advertising their litters.
Having different breeds of dog to choose from is an intrinsic part of being a responsible dog owner. You may choose to buy a mix breed dog from a shelter, but the key is that you had a choice. You weighed your options and decided that specific dog was the best choice at that time.
I have absolutely nothing against mix breed dogs. I’m currently fostering a small puppy from the shelter. She’s likely a Chihuahua Dachshund mix, but honestly, I’m not completely sure. I have no idea really how old she is, and while I don’t foresee her getting very big, I can’t say whether she’ll end up at 12 lb or 25 lb.
What I can tell you is that she’s an adorable, sweet little thing, and she grows on me every moment I spend with her. But there is an unpredictability that makes it hard to know what home will be the best fit for her.
Papers and pedigrees have no bearing on whether a dog deserves to be happy and loved. And to be honest, there are plenty of purebred dogs out there with kennel club registration that are not in an ideal situation. But wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where every dog was chosen and wanted? Where every dog was bred intentionally with care and devotion by a breeder who was passionate and educated? Where they went to homes who chose them as opposed to ending up somewhere.
Breeds are important. And responsible, educated breeders and owners are crucial to the well being of dogs and their place in the world. Get the dog that is the best fit for your lifestyle, and defend the right to choose.