What gives so many mutts their wonderful charm? Their ability to learn tricks?
I’ve always known that there’s something about mixed breeds that causes them to be smarter, low maintenance, and fun to be around. Pure bred dogs tend to not learn as fast, do goofy things, and, most commonly, have physical or mental problems. For example, health issues such as hip dysplasiadisappear one or two generations away from the original, pure-bred line.
My new theory was recently inspired by Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation. Here it goes. To get a good, social, smart, and healthy line of any species, it’s vital not to breed the animals that don’t have the characteristics you want. You don’t breed the aggressive dog with the one who has fear issues. But you do breed the dog who has great health with the incredibly smart dog.
So when people buy mutts, this process naturally happens. If someone picks up a mutt from the pound, and the dog is aggressive or has other issues, the human will usually turn right around and bring the dog back, or put him down. Not so for pure-breds.
If you were to pay thousands of dollars for a dog, you’re more likely to hesitate to bring him or her to the pound, let alone put her down. That’s how this cycle begins. All the good mutts stay in homes, perhaps breed, and stay alive. All the pure-bred dogs will have owners that put up with a lot of aggression and behavioral or physical issues, because they paid so much money.
The person with the pure-bred dog probably wants to breed the dog, and ignores the behavioral and mental issues, because the dog has the right coat color or bone structure that they’ve been looking for. Breeding selectively like this can be an issue, though, because selective breeding for physical traits leads to neurological problems. Many studies have shown that pure-bred dogs are the most responsible for fatal dog bites and attacks.
I’m focusing on dogs in this post, but I’d guess this is relevant to most mammal species. The same principle is seen everywhere selective breeding is at work. When superficial motivation (the price you paid for the blood line, markings, certain looks) interfere with common sense and holistic assessment, breeding more often than not produces disaster.