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What Do You Call a Mixed Breed Dog?

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Our dogs are mixes of mixes–so I always have a bit of a delay when people ask what do you call a mixed breed dog. There are several terms with slightly different meanings: which is the best to use?

What Do You Call a Mixed Breed Dog?

Mixed Breed Dogs

I’m always trying to figure out how to get more people to adopt dogs…and I’m wondering if one reason they don’t is because of the term “mixed breed.”

Since so many shelter and rescue dogs are mixed breeds (but not all by any means), are people turned off the adoption experience because the term “mixed breed” is, well, boring?


As pet parents to two former shelter dogs, both mixes of mixes, we feel that the word “mutt” carries with it a derogatory undercurrent.

Well, there’s a reason for that: the word is actually a shortened form of the word “muttonhead.” And the first definition that Merriam-Webster lists for the word mutt harks back to that original word, one that described “a stupid or insignificant person.”

We know that “mutt” is often used in a fun way (as in National Mutt Day) but it’s not a word we use to describe our dogs.


Merriam-Webster lists “cur” as a synonym for mutt and things really turn downhill with that definition of “a mongrel or inferior dog.”

OK, now we’re getting very touchy since we’d never consider mixed breed dogs in any way inferior.

(And it goes without saying that, as shamelessly proud pet parents, we consider our Irie and Tiki brilliant in every way and perhaps just a bit superior, rather than inferior.)


The term mongrel started out with good intentions; this mixed breed term comes from the Middle English word mong or “mixed.”

That all started off well but somewhere along the line things went downhill. Currently one definition of mongrel is now “an inferior dog or one of mixed breed.”

In the US, mongrel is not used as a kind term but this isn’t the case everywhere; in the UK, mongrel is used to define a mixed breed dog.


Tyke, or less commonly tike, originated in Scandinavia with the Old Norse tik or “bitch.” By the days of Middle English, it was being used to refer to a lazy man (although tyke isn’t just used to refer to male dogs these days.)

Today Merriam-Webster defines tyke as “an inferior or mongrel dog.”

OK, let’s keep trying…

Designer Dogs

We have to admit that when the “designer dog” craze swept the pet world, we hoped more attention would be turned to the mixed breed dog–although this isn’t a term that’s used to describe mixed breed dogs like ours.

Purposeful cross breeding of two purebreds result in what’s called “designer dogs,” like the many types of Doodles or poodle mixes.

Some people call these purposeful mixes “hybrids” but they’re not really hybrids; a hybrid is the result of breeding two different species (like a Wolf-Dog Hybrid).

These purposeful mixes often have cute names like Boxador and Chiweenie. Unfortunately, this simply created a new demand for the purposeful mix rather than the one-of-a-kind random mix that our dogs, like so many shelter and rescue dogs, offer lucky adopters.

Names for Mixed Breed Dogs in Other Countries

Other parts of the world have some colorful terms for mixed breeds.

  • Australia: bitsa or bitzer, short for “bits of this and that.”
  • Bahamas & the Turks and Caicos islands: potcakes since they’re often fed the bits that stick to the pans.
  • Brazil: vira-lata, literally “he knocks over trash can”
  • Chile: quiltro or street dog
  • Puerto Rico: sato
  • Serbia: prekoplotski avlijaner which means over-the-fence yard-dweller
  • Trinidad and Tobago: pot hound

In the US, the only slang term we can think of is “Heinz 57” in reference to the 57 Varieties slogan of the Heinz company but that seems so commercial.

For AKC registration (such as for trick dog or therapy dog titles), mixed breed dogs are called “All American Dogs.”

two mixed breed dogs in field of wildflowers

What do you call mixed breed dogs? Do you have any ideas for other terms? (I thought of “unique dogs”–which they are since each is often a real combination of breeds like our Tiki, above, a mix of doberman/poodle/Sheltie/bulldog and Irie, a mix of lab/coonhound/GSP. Maybe people would like the idea of mixed breed adoption more if they realized they were getting a dog that’s a unique blend!)

What do you think? What do YOU call a mixed breed dog?

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Paris Permenter
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