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Special Blend Dogs

Original Publication Date: January 19, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

It disturbs me when someone refers to a dog as a mutt, a cur, or a mongrel. These are rather derogatory terms for a mixed-breed dog. Most human pedigrees are a combination of a few to several nationalities. Folks from all over the world were blended in the big melting pot of our country that fused nationalities, cultures and ethnicities into Americans. The pedigree of a typical American is similar to that of a mixed-breed dog. I'm part Irish, English, and who knows what else. Am I a mixed-breed person? Special Blend is the term I prefer for dogs and people of mixed heritages.

Historians tell us that dogs share an ancestry with the wolf. Unlike the wolf, about 15,000 years ago, dogs were domesticated by hunter-gatherers. There were benefits for both to coexist. Dogs got food by eating people left overs. This benefited the hunter-gathers because it kept their campsites clean and discouraged rats and insects. Living and hunting together was a good deal for both.

Wolves are pack hunters with body language skills, social awareness, and communication that allow them to work together to achieve a common goal of acquiring their prey. These same abilities probably made dogs easy for early man to train. The value of dogs as partners was recognized by many cultures. Realizing that dogs could perform various roles, people bred them selectively to assist with hunting, herding, pulling loads, and protection. Some dogs were bred for less strenuous duties. For example, Pekinese were bred for companionship and to warm the laps of Chinese emperors.

People began to breed dogs that were very good for a specific purpose to others that excelled at the job. Through the years, dogs of very different sizes, abilities, and characteristics were developed to fit the needs and wishes of humans. Dogs, however, are of common stock. Purebred lines with differences in size and abilities arose only because of the intervention of human breeding practices to produce dogs to suit human purposes. At some point, the appearance of dogs became important and breeders began to select for that.

Pugs, for example, were bred for a brachiocephlic skull or one lacking an elongated muzzle. These dogs generally have difficulty breathing. Some German Shepherds were bred so their hind limbs supported them only in a crouched position and hip dysplasia became a medical problem for these dogs. Many other purebred lines were produced for appearances that created medical problems.

People do not meddle in the breeding of mixed-breed dogs. As a result, they generally have fewer human generated health problems. A National Mutt Day is recognized each year to honor our dogs of mixed heritage. Mixed-breed dogs are similar to mixed-heritage Americans. I prefer to think we are not mutts but are unique. Our distinct backgrounds make both dogs and humans Special Blends.

Sue Furman, Ph.D., has published two books and a DVD about canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at