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Dog breeds: An essential guide

Updated on April 8, 2015

Dog breeds can vary drastically and wildly, from their temperament to their vital statistics, and as dog breeders for the most part remain focused upon increasingly pronounced features the choice of dog breed arguably becomes ever more important.

Due to the sheer number of dog breeds, even if we only consider the most popular types, equate to more than two hundred, I’ve split a series of guides into Dog breeds, beginning with this, an essential introduction to the topic, covering things such as the important defining differences behind dog breeds, as well as the importance of choosing a reputable and responsible dog breeder when purchasing a dog.


Dog breeds: Pedigrees, Crossbreeds and Mongrels

A dog may be one of three forms: pedigree, crossbreed or a mongrel.


A pedigree dog breed is that which has a pure heritage, which has been bred with a lineage of other purebred dogs of the same pedigree.


A crossbreed dog is that which has been bred from two pedigree breeds. Crossbreeds have become popular in overcoming the perceived shortfalls of certain breeds. As a perfect example there is a labradoodle, which makes for a popular choice for those seeking a dog that is allergen-free.


A mongrel dog is one that has not been the direct result of breeding; it is of mixed heritage and has no definitive breed to which it belongs.

Why mongrel or crossbreed dogs are arguably healthier than pedigree dogs

Whilst pedigree dogs are, by far, considered as more in demand and are consequently more expensive as when compared to cross breed and mongrel dogs the latter two can very often lead longer and healthier lives than their more prestigious canine counterparts.

This is because of the nature of pedigrees, and the fact that breeding them purely with a restricted genetic lineage means that health issues, just as features, become more and more pronounced over time.


Popular pedigree dog breeds and specific health issues

The perfect (or rather sadly altogether too imperfect) breed that demonstrates just how problematic over breeding has become is that of the Chinese Shar-Pei. This breed, it is often said, is perfect for would be pet owners who wish to provide a living for their local vets. They can have a tendency to suffer from: swollen hock syndrome, general respiratory problems owing to excess skin, Demodectic Mange, Elbow dysplasia, Cancer, Pyoderma, Patellar luxation, Hip dysplasia, Seborrhea, Osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD), Glaucoma, Entropion and Cutaneous mucinosis.

Popular dog breeds and associated common health issues

Dog Breed
Health Issue
Alsatian (also known as a German Shepherd)
Hip dysplasia, Epilepsy, CDRM, Haemophilia A, Pancreatic insurance and Bloat
Border Terrier
Hip dysplasia, Seizure, Perthes disease, Various heart defects, Juvenile cataracts and Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS)
Cardiomyopathy, Hypothyroidism, Hip dysplasia, Degenerative myelopathy and Epilepsy
Cocker Spaniel
Canine hip dysplasia, Patellar luxation, Canine dilated cardiomyopathy and Heart murmurs
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Hip dysplasia, Brachycephalic airway, Heart murmurs, Cerebellar strokes and deafness
Golden Retriever
Cancer, Hip dysplasia, Elbow definites, Heart disease, Epilepsy, Ear infections, Skin infections and Hypothyroidism
Tendency towards obesity, Arthritis, Diabetes and Cancer
Cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Distichiasis, Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Dry eye), Entropion, Exposure keratopathy syndrome, Pannus and Corneal Ulcer
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD), L-2 Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria, Hereditary Juvenile Cataracts, Skin Allergies and Demodectic Mange

Dog breeds that insurers won’t insure

Being fully aware of potential health issues and future treatments is an essential first step for being a responsible dog owner and ensuring that you'll be able to care for your dog come what may. As a part of this potential owners may well look to insurance to finance future treatment if and when it is required. However there are some breeds that certain insurers either place a significant premium upon, or in some instances, refuse to insure at all. This can frequently include: Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Akitas, Chows Chows, Wolf-hybrids, Presa Canarios, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and Cane Corsos.

Which is more of an influence on a dog's propensitiy to attack?

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Key characteristics of Dog breeds

The key characteristics between dog breeds can differ significantly; from the size of the Great dane through to the double coat and curled tail of a japanese Akita, however when assessing which dog breed may be suitable for you, your family and your home you should consider also the temperament and behavioral characteristics, namely: adaptability, trainability, health and grooming needs, general friendliness and exercise needs.

Key characteristics of dog breeds and the kennel club

The Kennel Club is the UK’s largest organisation that focuses on, it says, dog’s health, welfare and training. It is responsible for the overseeing of official documentation for those seeking to confirm the pedigree heritage of their dog.

Dog breeds: A - Z

Dog breeds and a tendency towards attack

One debate that sees not a day away from the media spotlight is the controversy that surrounds certain dogs that were previously bred for fighting or for other tasks such as bear baiting. These include dog breeds such as:the Japanese Akita, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Doberman Pinscher and Rottweiler. However whilst size and power must be considered when choosing a dog breed, the importance of training and proper upbringing far and away outweighs any potential implications of a dog’s breeding history.

Additionally there are dog breeds that are equally as regarded as dangerous by some, whilst maintaining a reputation for affectionate and reliable qualities by others, with the perfect example of this being the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This breed is known to many as the Nanny Dog, as they are particularly protective and nurturing of children within their family.

Some of the most widely


Breeding dogs

Breeding dogs is an often underestimated job, with many untrained and uninitiated dog lovers, or would be entrepreneurs attempting it with sometimes disastrous consequences. It requires extensive knowledge and expertise, as well as a steadfast dedication to the well being of animals. Whilst not all untrained dog breeders then deliberately attempt to mistreat dogs, the consequences of being ill-prepared and ill-informed can mean that the pups that they produce have both physical issues, as well as potential for a whole host of behavioural problems. This becomes ever more drastic a problem when you may be purchasing a dog breed with a strong build and the associated power and muscular strength.

The growing movement against dog breeders

Whilst there is a growing movement and general belief that dog breeding is continuing to increase the seriousness and pronunciation of breed defects as has been outlined in the health problems earlier in this article, this method of purchasing a dog remains popular. This is particularly the case for homes purchasing a dog that may have children, as rescue dogs are consistently seen as somewhat if an unknown quantity.

Steps to choosing a good dog breeder

If you’re opting to purchase a puppy from a dog breeder then you’ll need to be informed as to what to look for to ensure that the dog breeder that you’re dealing with is both responsible and a holder of the necessary expertise to breed dogs safely.

1. Decide upon your breed

Breeders tend, or should tend, to specialise in a certain breed. So consider carefully which dog breed is going to be suitable for you, your home and your family.

2. Start searching

Refer to your local Kennel Club as a starting point as this will be a source of officially registered breeders. You should however bear in mind that for lesser bred breeds you’ll likely need to look outside of your local area.

3. Talk at length with the breeder in question and ask key questions

Talk with the breeder and get a feel for their approach to dog breeding. You should ask the following key questions:

  • What health guarantees can you provide for the pup?

  • How long have you been in business?

  • Are you able to provide a vet reference to whom I can talk?

  • Am I able to visit the pup in its current environment?

  • Do you also sell pups onto pet stores and if so to whom?

  • How much is the pup?

4. Inspect the kennel

If your dog breeder doesn’t allow for kennel visits then you shouldn't purchase from him/her. If they do, pay particular attention to how clean the kennels are and whether they are very crowded. Also look at the various dogs to see if they look well nourished and well fed.

5. Check the pup over and interact with it

Check the pup in question over, looking at their general over all health (paying attention to the eyes and condition of their coat). You should interact with the puppy to see how they respond to you and assess their general temperament. Pups are however generally energetic and often appear overenthusiastic.

6. Check the mother and father over and interact with them

Once you’re happy with the pup you should pay the same attention to the parents.

How to find a dog breeder: A visual guide


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