Who Are The Dogs In Shelters Really and why does it matter?


November, 2018

One of the core questions we want everyone to ask themselves about a dog is “Who is this dog?” Not, “What breed is this dog?” or “What does this dog look like?” or “Where did this dog come from?” Those last three questions don’t necessarily tell you any relevant information about the dog. 

When you focus on guessing a dog’s breed or breed mix, you’re more than likely to be incorrect and, consequently, you’ll take away a lot of false assumptions about a dog’s potential behavior.  Not only that, assumptions based on appearance disregard the genetic complexity of dogs and all other influences that make up the individual dog.

A study by ASU’s Canine Science Collaboratory researchers Lisa Gunter and Clive Wynne showed that for the shelter dogs they studied most of the mixed breed dogs (95% of the sample) had, on average, three different breeds in their heritage. This means that they aren’t a member of any breed. They are simply a dog.

Going back to what we said earlier about genetics being complicated, Wynne puts it best:

“Genetics are not paint colors. If you take a few drops of labrador retreiver and a few drops of border collie, you do not get a dog that loves to jump into the water and herd fish.”


And we’re not even going to get into the fact that, in this study, people only guessed a dog’s breed mix correctly one in 20 times – We’ll let Wynne get into that.

Watch the short video below for information about the study and what it means for companion animals.

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