Did you know that National Mutt Day — recognizing the joy of mixed breed dogs — is celebrated not once but twice a year?
It’s been said that every dog has his day, but one-of-a-kind canines with intriguing ancestries have TWO days dedicated to celebrating their diverse DNA. Observed both on July 31st and December 2nd, National Mutt Day (also referred to as National Mixed Breed Day) has helped to shine a spotlight on our mixed breed dogs who may not have a pedigree, but who would be an integral part of a forever pet parent’s family tree.
What Is National Mutt Day? When Is It?
National Mutt Day is a pet holiday launched in 2005 by celebrity pet and lifestyle expert Colleen Paige. It raises awareness of the many mixed breed dogs waiting for adoption in shelters and rescues. It is celebrated two times every year: July 31 and December 2.
Reasons to Adopt a Mixed Breed Dog
An estimated 80 percent of dogs who find themselves in the shelter system are not pure bred, but they are ready to give pure love to their special someone. Following are just a few of the many reasons to adopt a mixed breed dog.
If you opt to adopt a dog with an unknown lineage you are helping to end the plight of puppy mill dogs, who are forced by backyard breeders to live in nightmarish conditions as they give birth to litter after litter of puppies, many of whom are burdened with medical problems due to their sad start in life.
Adopting a mixed breed dog might mean fewer visits to the veterinarian! Many believe that dogs who are bred for specific traits are more likely to inherit a genetic disorder, while dogs with a complex gene pool are less likely to develop illnesses which target specific breeds.
The cost to welcome a mixed breed dog from a shelter or rescue into your heart and home is much less than that of a purebred dog. Shelter fees are much lower than those of breeders or pet stores, and many mixed breed dogs from shelters or rescue organizations are up to date on their vaccinations, spayed or neutered, and may even be microchipped.
The pet parent who chooses to adopt a mixed breed dog from a shelter may be saving their new barking buddy’s life and either buying time for another shelter animal by freeing a space in a kill facility or saving another life by emptying a cage at a no-kill shelter or rescue that will go to a dog in need. Each year 7.6 million companion animals enter the US shelter system, where 2.7 million face their fate.
Famous Mixed Breed Dogs
Did you know that many “Heinz 57” dogs have become stars on the big and small screen? The long list of dogs who have made the leap from shelter to stardom include:
- Spike, a Mastiff/Labrador Retriever mix who moved movie audiences in the title role of Old Yeller.
- Higgins, a terrier mix who wowed canine-loving movie crowds as Benji.
- Aleister, a former shelter dog who starred as Sorry alongside Keira Knightley and Steve Carell in the 2012 feature film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
- Barley, a Lurcher mix from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home who acts as Demelza’s canine companion Garrick in the BBC adaptation of author Winston Graham’s Poldark novels.
- Marti, whose “Hard Knock Life” in a shelter later led to stardom as Sandy in the 2014 cinematic retelling of Annie.
- Peanut, a Border Terrier mix who portrayed Baxter, the barking buddy of Ron Burgundy in the comedy Anchorman.
- Bo, Chip, Kelly, Stella, Topsy and Zelda, all mixed breed dogs who together took on the role of The Grinch’s sidekick Max in the big screen retelling of the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
- Ned, a mixed breed originally from a rural Mississippi shelter who got his big break playing Martin in the ABC series Downward Dog after he was “discovered” at PAWS Chicago.
Dogs who are an amalgam of breeds can be highly intelligent, and today mixed breed dogs from shelters are often chosen to train for vital roles as service dogs, search and rescue dogs and therapy dogs.
Even Purebred Dog Lovers Love Mutts!
Recently before the annual National Dog Show we had the chance to talk with David Frei and couldn’t resist talking to him about one of our favorite topics: mixed breed dogs. (We had no choice in the matter…our two mixes of mixes were sitting on the couch with us during the phone interview!)
David Frei, who along with announcing the National Dog Show for many years served as the voice of the Westminster Dog Show, said:
Every mixed breed dog has purebred dog behind him. There are a lot of purebred dogs that started as mixed breed dogs when hundreds of years ago someone decided they liked the way this dog hunted or that one retrieved. There are so many great mixed breed dogs.
While this purebred expert explains, “the best thing about purebred dogs is the predictability,” Frei’s own history with dogs began with those without a pedigree. “I never had a dog really as a kid growing up; I got a mixed breed dog when I was in college.”
Why We Love Mixed Breed Dogs
Mixed breed dog adoption is a subject very near and dear to our hearts.
We’ve long shared our love with several purebreds, starting with Paris’ childhood dog, a purebred Dachshund named Peanut, all the way to Alby, a stray dog who turned out to be a purebred Australian Cattle Dog. Alby passed away just before we adopted Irie.
And we spent 15 great years with sweet Hershey, from a litter than resulted when an acquaintance’s purebred Springer Spaniel got a little too friendly with her neighbor’s purebred Newfoundland, making Hershey a hybrid or “designer dog” before the name was even coined.
But mixed breeds–real mixes of mixes–have a special charm all their own. Maybe it’s the wonder of having a truly one-of-a-kind dog, one that’s not going to be confused with anyone else’s dog.
Maybe it’s the mystery of wondering just what breeds lie in your dog’s family tree. Or perhaps it’s looking in that young dog’s face and wondering just what he’ll look like when he grows up.
Breed-specific rescues perform a wonderful service matching potential adopters to a dog that matches the breed they’re seeking. But there are far fewer groups out there specializing in mixed breed dogs and sadly they don’t receive as much attention as some of the breed-specific rescues.
With fewer rescue groups to pull them, mixed breed dogs make up the bulk of shelter populations, with purebreds accounting for only around 25 percent.
Sometimes mixed breed dogs are overlooked because they’re not a recognizable breed. Other times, the shelters guess at the breed incorrectly and potential adopters, searching for a certain type of dog, completely miss the dog’s listing.
And other times, shelters take their best guess at a dog’s breed and it’s wrong…but that incorrect guess might turn off potential adopters. This was almost the case with our Tiki. The shelter guessed she was a border collie mix. We checked through our local shelter’s listings on Petfinder and, seeing that she was a border collie mix, decided against her since, at the time, we also had our 14-year-old Yoda (he was also a mix of mixes). We decided that a potentially high-energy six-month-old border collie would be too much for an elderly dog (although then year-old Irie would have loved it.)
But then we visited the shelter and looked at all the dogs…and just fell in love with Tiki. She was happy and outgoing but, even at such a young age, not high energy. She turned out to be the perfect companion both for Irie and for Yoda…and for us. (And the next year, a DNA test revealed that Tiki wasn’t part border collie but a mix of Doberman, Poodle, Shetland sheepdog, Bulldog, and other breeds too faint to detect.)
Mixed breed dogs remind us that we’re all individuals. Although behavior might be more predictable in purebreds, remember that even within a purebred litter you’ll find variety. (Just think: are you just like your own siblings? Probably not.)
Meet the individual dogs. Take the time to access their behavior, their energy level, and their needs then make the decision based on how those factors match your own lifestyle. You just might find a true match in a mixed breed dog that can offer you the pedigree that’s most important of all: pure love.
Adopting a Mixed Breed Dog
If you are pondering the possibility of adopting a mixed breed dog, a good starting point in your search is one of the many websites which list adoptable animals from animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country including: