purebred dogs - a corgi and a yorkshire terrier - running on a road towards camera

Purebred Dogs: Yay or Nay?


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Purebred dogs, from Labradors to Poodles, have come a long way from their common wolf ancestor. To say the least!

Selective breeding has yielded the purebred dogs we love and know today. It’s this which allows reputable breeders to produce particular traits and abilities in specific dogs. However, this breeding process has both pros and cons.

While some purebred dogs are perfectly created for the purpose they’re bred for, others might have health or physical problems as a result of selective breeding. This is something all purebred dog buyers and owners should be aware of.

Here, we explore both the benefits and drawbacks of purebred dogs. Aside from the love you’ll share – that’s a given…

Purebred dogs vs mixed breed dogs

Whether Dachshund or Great Dane, Rottweiler or Terrier, dogs share 99.9% DNA with wolves. If there’s such little variation, what’s the difference between purebred dogs and any other dog of unknown origin? And how can you tell if a dog is purebred?

It’s all down to selective breeding within specific gene pools.

Official breed standards

Dogs Victoria defines breed standards as “guidelines which describe the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function with soundness essential.”

Of course, breed standards have to be regulated somewhere – or you could start a new purebred tomorrow with whatever standards you wanted. Breed standards are owned by the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council), AKC (American Kennel Council), Kennel Club (UK) or the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI.)

So, how do new purebred dog breeds become registered? For example, how did these 25 newest dog breeds (including the Boerboel and Chinook) become registered with the American Kennel Council?

To make a new pure breed takes years. Or even decades. The breeder needs to establish a set of breed standards. Then over many, many generations, breeders will need to mate dogs carefully and strategically. Over time, the puppies will display consistent physical and behavioural characteristics.

As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time and careful documentation. Eventually, if you meet the criteria for a new set of breed standards, you may be able to register your dog breed with one of the relevant organisations as mentioned above. But this isn’t a quick process – it happens through generations of very careful breeding.

So if you’re looking to add an Australian pedigreed dog to your family, make sure the breeder is registered as a member of the ANKC. This is the official ‘administrative body for pure breed canine affairs in Australia’.

group of purebred dogs on leashes including shepherd and husky

Purebred dogs in Australia

The ANKC currently recognises 215 breeds of purebred dogs.

These are divided into seven categories, which are listed below with some examples of purebred dog breeds within each.

  • Toys
    Chihuahua, Italian Greyhound, Maltese
  • Terriers
    Bull Terrier, Airedale Terrier, Fox Terrier
  • Gundogs
    Cocker Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Pointer
  • Hounds
    Basset Hound, Beagle, Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Working Dogs
    Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Welsh Corgi
  • Utility
    Akita, Boxer, Rottweiler
  • Non-Sporting
    Boston Terrier, Great Dane, Shar Pei

Read more about different breed traits in our article on National Purebred Dog Day.

Some benefits of purebred dogs

Originally, purebred dogs were bred for specific (mostly working) purposes. The Labrador Retriever was meant to help fisherman drag their nets from the water, whereas Border Collies were bred for herding. As a result, they have characteristics which help with this.

For example, Border Collies are highly intelligent and have incredible stamina, whereas Labrador Retrievers have webbed toes to help them swim.

However, these inherent traits and abilities often make them suitable for certain families or circumstances in today’s era too.

For instance, Border Collies usually do well in competitive agility – and in active families – because they’re clever, fast, and require lots of mental stimulation. Fox Terriers, who were bred to hunt, are often kept on farms or with people who have horses because they’re excellent at keeping mice at bay.

Highly intelligent and trainable German Shepherds are regularly found as police dogs, whereas Beagles’ sense of smell is put to good use as sniffer dogs at airports and during search and rescue.

And of course, an even and workmanlike temperament was important for many of these dogs back in the day. That’s why so many purebred dogs, such as Labradors and Beagles, are great family pets too. They were bred to be kind, easy to work with, and able to get along with other dogs and people.

These two beagles dogs are loving having pet company.

Knowing what you’re in for

All of this, though not a guarantee, can help you predict the type of dog you’ll be getting. You can, to some degree, tailor your choice of dog breed to suit your circumstances.

So if you’re looking at purebred dogs, a little time spent researching will uncover what type of dog might suit you.

Maybe that means you need a dog who can join you on hikes and runs, so you’d opt for something high energy like a Weimeraner or Border Collie. Or perhaps you need one of the kindest dog breeds as a first family dog, so you opt for a Beagle.

Don’t think you can’t get a dog because you’re unable to walk it? If you need to exercise your dog without walking, you might pick a low-energy breed like a Bulldog or Chow.

It’s not guaranteed that your dog will have all the characteristics you’re banking on. You might end up with a fearful, aggressive Labrador or a highly energetic Chow. But, the chances are minimsed by picking a reputable breeder and ensuring you meet the parent/s of the puppy you’re interested in.

Spoilt for choice? Find out Australia’s five most popular dog breeds here.

Drawbacks of purebred dogs

There are definitely benefits to choosing a specific purebred dog to suit your family or lifestyle. However, there are drawbacks to consider too.

1. Price

The first drawback of a purebred dog is the price point. You’re paying for generations of selective, careful breeding so will often have to cough up a pretty penny. The same goes for designer dogs.

For some people, this isn’t a problem. For others, it might be enough of a deterrent for them to choose a different dog.

2. Ethical concerns

Sadly, the high price point and desirability of purebred dogs has led to a rise in puppy scams, as well as unethical “backyard” breeders who breed without regard for health and safety. That’s why it’s always important to go through the correct channels when adopting a purebred dog.

If you’re looking for a purebred dog, first read our advice on avoiding puppy mills and finding a reputable breeder to help identify any red flags. You don’t want to get caught in a scam, and you certainly don’t want to support an unethical breeder. Read more about how to buy a puppy safely to avoid scams and unethical breeders.

Many people also prefer the idea of adopting a dog, rather than supporting breeders and possibly contributing to overbreeding. This is completely a personal choice. Some people settle on a breed, and first look to see if there are any for adoption before going to a breeder.

3. Hereditary problems

Another common problem with some purebred dogs is they’re often more prone to congenital health problems. Some examples you may have heard of include hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and ear issues in French Bulldogs, or IVDD in Dachshunds. You can read more about this in our article on common dog health problems by breed.

This is sometimes due to a lack of variety in the breeder’s gene pool. You can circumvent it to some degree by choosing a reputable breeder. However, some health problems are more prevalent than others.

two black mixed bred dogs walking

Is a purebred dog right for you?

The best thing to do is make sure you understand a dog’s breed and their needs before you commit.

Consider how much time, exercise, and attention you can give a dog. Think about your family’s needs and your lifestyle. Do you have young children or elderly parents? Other pets? All of this will influence your choice of dog.

Be sure to do that all-important research around common health issues too, so you have an idea of what might crop up. And by that we mean what those vet bills (and pet parenting concern) could amount to.

Whether you go for a pedigreed puppy, an older rescue from a breed-specific animal shelter, or an adorable little mongrel with Daschund legs, a Collie body and Spaniel ears, the important thing is that you choose the dog who is right for you.

Pet insurance for all kinds of dogs

Whether your pooch is a papered pedigree or not, you love them just the same. And they’ll all have their own health needs throughout their lives. Consider a dog insurance plan to reduce financial pressure around vet treatments for accidents, illnesses, allergies, infections and more. Not sure whether it’s worth the hassle? Find out how we make pet cover claims easy.

Even better if you can get cover before any pre-existing conditions emerge!

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