Once you’ve made the decision to bring a puppy into your life, the decision of which breed to choose can cause arguments within many households! With hundreds of breeds, coming in many different shapes, sizes and temperaments, it is important to ensure that you do thorough research into whether or not you will be able to consistently provide the behavioural and health needs of your chosen breed throughout its lifetime.

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) splits pedigree breeds into 10 distinct groups, as used by the IKC based upon breed and characteristics. These groups, alongside brief descriptions and breed examples can be found here; https://www.ikc.ie/dog-ownership/types-of-dog/fci-groups/

Alongside the pedigree breeds there are those that do not fit into the above groups as they are created by combining one or more pedigree dogs to produce what we would broadly categorise as cross/ mixed breeds.

So where does your prospective dog fit in? As with everything there are varying opinions on what constitutes to a purebred, pedigree and mixed breed puppy, below are some recognised definitions.

  • Pedigree – A pedigree dog is born from the mating of two dogs of the same breed and is registered with a recognised registration body such as the Kennel Club or Irish Kennel Club IKC.
  • Purebred Dog – Results from the breeding of two dogs of the same breed, but offspring is not registered with the IKC or associated organisations.
  • Cross Breed – Result from the breeding of two different breeds.
  • Mixed breed – Parents are of three or more different breeds.

It is important to point out that there are both advantages and disadvantages to owning both pedigree/ purebred and non-pedigree/ mixed breed dogs, so you may wish to do further research to learn as much as possible about the breeds you are interested in. Things to consider when searching for your perfect breed include;

  • Size
    • Do you have sufficient space to care for a dog the size you are considering e.g., home and car?
    • Can you physically manage the size of the dog?
    • Can you afford the size of dog you would like? Larger dogs often come with higher veterinary and feeding bills etc.
    • Larger dogs often require more planning regarding holidays to ensure kennels have the space
  • Exercise/ Training
    • Does the breed you want come from a working background and require more exercise
    • How much stimulation, training and walking will this breed require, and can you provide it?
  • Grooming
    • Will the dog moult?
    • Will the dog require grooming at regular intervals?
    • Will my dog need to be clipped and require professional grooming regularly?
    • Will my dog require daily nasal fold cleaning?
  • Temperament
    • Personality
    • Family friendly etc.
    • Pet friendly
  • Colours
    • Pedigrees will be within breed standards
  • Health
    • Does this dog have the recommended health screening for their breed?
      • g. Hip Scoring, Elbow Scoring, Heart Screening, Respiratory Function, Eye screening etc.
    • Does this breed have any predisposition to certain conditions or complaints?
    • Can I financially commit to the dog’s insurance premiums and/or veterinary bills for the entirety of its life?

Development of breeds began when we started to select dogs and breeds that made them suitable to carry out a particular job e.g., retrieve birds or guard properties. The best puppies of the litters would have been chosen to breed again however, it wasn’t until the 19th century that selective breeding for showing gained popularity and breed standards reflecting specific appearance and temperament began to be adopted (Lynn Buzhart). Pedigree dogs will usually display the characteristics of the breed, whereas crossbreeds will likely have several traits from each breed, but these traits can differ between each individual within a litter.

From the old “Heinz 57” saying referring to dogs of uncertain ancestry we have come a long way in the way of crossbreeds. Over the last 10 years there has been a significant trend towards ‘designer cross breeds’, where two usually well documented pedigree breed dogs are deliberately crossed. The most notable of the designer dogs is the Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel/ Poodle mix) and the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever/ Poodle mix) initially engineered to be a long living companion with the inherited coat benefits of the poodle who can help those with allergies due to their very reduced shedding, these highly intelligent bouncing bundles of fur have become a firm favourites worldwide. Other notable cross breeds are; Jug, Cavachon, Cavapoo, Sprocker, Maltipoo, Puggle and Golden doodle.

Whilst any dog will go on to lead happy and healthy lives and every dog has the potential to develop health problems, certain breeds have a predisposition to certain hereditary conditions. This is something to be aware of when choosing any breed. In more recent years safe breeding practices have begun to become normality for good breeders, to help safeguard the integrity of breeding bloodlines and avoid inherited medical problems within the pedigree sphere. Genetic testing, health screening schemes and subsequent results are now widely available within pedigree lines and it is not possible to check whether the bitch and sire have had any relevant genetic testing relating to their breed and known predispositions.

It has long been discussed that cross breeds were healthier than their pedigree counterparts due to an increase in genetic diversity and subsequent larger variation of genetics due to the mixing of two completely separate gene pools making the prevalence of problems lower, however, pedigree gene pools by contrast are usually more concentrated making disorders theoretically more likely. A recent study by the Royal Veterinary College in 2019 concluded that whilst on average cross breeds live 1.2years longer than pure breeds the answers are not clear, with breed lifespan varying wildly (O’Neil et al 2013).

Whether you are looking for a phenomenal pedigree or a charming cross breed remember to always do your research into your potential breeder and dog.