How to Identify Breeds in a Mixed-Breed Dog

Mixed-Breed Dog

What Breed Is My Dog?

Having decided to become a caretaker of a dog that is man and woman’s best friend is already a great endeavor.

Many people want to possess only a designer dog and are not eager to take care of mixed-breed dogs.

However, they really deserve our attention so we have decided to glorify their uniqueness in our article.

Hen mixed dogs are in question, the ancestry of the dog is sometimes difficult to be identified.

You can always do a canine DNA test to find out, but before spending much money on this, let’s go over some dog characteristics that are unique to different breeds and identifiable in mixed-breed dogs.

So as to determine whether your dog has some similarities with various breeds you can take a look at muzzle shape, tail style, ear type, coat type (color and pattern), body type, and behavior.

We will discuss what classifies a purebred or a crossbred dog and provide you with the answer to the question: “How do I know what breed my dog is?”

Topics That We Will Cover

  • How to determine a dog’s ancestry?
  • Breed-specific behaviors
  • Searching the internet for your dog’s ancestry
  • Stumped? More resources
  • Purebred vs. crossbred dogs
  • Are mixed-breed dogs healthier than purebreds?

How to Determine Your Mixed-Breed Dog’s Ancestry

The first thing you need to do is to find out your dog’s physical traits.

Once you have made a list, you can do an internet search.

Muzzle Shape

Three types of canine head shapes are known.

Starting from shortest to longest muzzle, they can be brachycephalics, mesocephalics, and dolichocephalics.

Brachycephalics have short muzzles, mesocephalics have standard Labrador Retriever-shaped skull, and dolichocephalics have narrow eyes and elongated muzzles.

Tail Style

There is a difference in the shape, length, and thickness of a dog’s tail.

These distinctions can offer a dog owner quite information about the dog’s lineage.

However, you need to distinguish between a naturally bobbed tail and a docked tail.

Breeds like Dobermans, Boxers, and English Pointers, have their tails docked at an early age.

Some dog breeds have a bobtail genetic mutation, such as the Australian Shepherd, Brittany Spaniel, and the Jack Russell Terrier.

On the other hand, there are dog breeds that do not possess this mutation but naturally have bobtails including Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, King Charles Spaniels, Minature Schnauzers, and Rottweilers.

Some other kinds of tails are the following:

  • A ringtail –  it is full and arches over the back of the dog.
  • A sickle tail –  also arches over the dog’s back but points towards the head.
  • A screw tail – looks like a corkscrew (characteristic of Pugs)
  • An otter tail – it is thick and full (like the Labrador Retriever).
  • A whiptail – it is long, thin, and straight.

Glossary of Canine Physical Traits

Trait Observation Varieties
Muzzle Shape Whether it is short, average, or long Brachycephalics (short), mesocephalics (medium), dolichocephalic (narrow eyes, long).
Tail Style Whether your dog’s tail is docked or naturally bobbed, a ring, a sickle, a screw, an otter, or a whiptail A bobtail is close to the body and short. A ringtail curves around the back, while a sickle tail points towards the head. A screw tail is like a corkscrew, an otter tail is similar to a thick rudder, while a whiptail is thin and long.
Ear Type Whether dog’s ears erect or droopy, short or long Ears can be – prick ears, cropped, blunt or round, bat-eared, hooded, candle flame, drop or pendant, folded, v-shaped, filbert-shaped, cocked or semi-pricked, button-eared, or rose-eared.
Coat Type The type of coat that your dog has Smooth and short-coated, medium-coated, wire-coated, curly-coated, hairless.
Coat Color and Pattern The dominant color and patterning of your dog’s coat? White, cream, gold, red, brown, blue, gray, black. Patterns may be bicolor, tricolor, merle, harlequin, brindle, saddle, sable.
Body Type The height of your dog, as well as its bone structure Thick and boxy or slender and long, tall and long-legged or short and short-legged, slender and deep-chested or muscular and athletic
Miscellaneous Certain unique traits that are particular to your dog Ridgeback, webbed paws, spotted tongue, heterochromia, double dewclaws, chondrodysplasia

Ear Types

We have already mentioned that many types of dog ears exist that are typical to one or the other breed.

In our text, we will provide a description of just some common ear shapes.

  • Pricked: An upright ear that is considered very common in dogs, pointed and erect (Husky).
  • Cropped: Surgically erect ears that are not natural (Great Dane).
  • Blunt or round: Sharply erect ears with a smooth curve (French Bulldog).
  • Drop or pendant: Classic hanging ears (Basset Hound).
  • V-shaped: V-shaped ear hanging down.
  • Cocked or semi-pricked: Neither fully erect nor pendant (pit bull breeds).

Coat Type

It is not at all difficult to identify your dog’s coat type.

Short-haired dogs’ fur is close to the body, while medium coats are typically an inch long.

If you possess a medium coat dog, you will need to provide moderate grooming so as to prevent tangles and matting.

Long-coated dog fur hangs to the floor and they require daily heavy grooming.

Other kinds of coats are wire-coated dogs that are bristly to the touch, and curly-coated dogs that have soft ringlets or waves similar to human hair.

You also have hairless dogs without any hair.

Coat Color and Pattern


There are distinctions in the color of the dog’s coat.

If you possess a brown dog, it can be classified as liver or chocolate brown.

Those dogs with red coats are classified as orange, rust, cinnamon, and ruby.

When gold color is in question, it can be defined as pale yellow, blonde, honey, and apricot.

Cream coats are nearly white, while black and white coats are easy to understand.

There can be blue dog coats that appear as off-gray when compared to standard gray.


  • Bicolor coats – two color coats also known as patched or tuxedo. Frequent color combinations are black and tan or white and black (German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Border Collies).
  • Tricolor coats – three colors included which are often contrasted with a standard white chest and underbelly, and another coloration around the dog’s dorsum, face, and down the limbs and tail.
  • Merle coats – patches or marbling of color on all parts of the dog, except the stomach.
  • Harlequin coats – uneven spotting across the body, usually black and white (Great Danes) as opposed to standard spotting that can be seen on the Dalmatian.
  • Brindle – tiger stripe (black, brown, and gold).
  • Saddle patterns are commonly seen on German Shepherds, black coloring on the back, and a gradual fade.
  • Sable – black-tipped hairs on the top of other lighter colorations.

Body Type

When determining the body type of your dog you should be able to answer the following questions so as to determine its mixed-breed ancestry:

  • The average weight of your dog after one year of age?
  • Short or tall?
  • Thick and boxy or slender and long?
  • Long-legged or short-legged?
  • Slender and deep-chested or muscular and athletic?

Miscellaneous Characteristics

  • Ridgeback: The main characteristic of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the ridgeback, that is, a ridge of hair along a dog’s back that is running in the opposite direction of the coat. Mixed-breed dogs can sometimes possess this characteristic.
  • Webbed Paws and Dewclaws: Your dog’s feet can be webbed or your dog may have dewclaws, otherwise known as vestigial digits between the inner wrist and elbow or inner ankle and knee. In some cases, dogs even have double dewclaws which are characteristic of large breeds.
  • Spotted Tongue: Your dog’s tongue can be bubblegum pink or spotted. It is not true that only the Chow Chow breed possesses a spotted tongue, as there are more than 35 breeds that display this trait.
  • Heterochromia: This is related to your dog’s eyes—whether one is blue and the other is brown. This is a characteristic usually related to Huskies, Australian Shepherds, and Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs.
  • Chondrodysplasia: This characteristic is typically related to Bassett Hounds, Dachshunds, and Corgis. These breeds have short legs, long bodies, and sometimes bowed legs.

Your Dog’s Behavior Says a Lot About Their Breed

It is a fact that your dog’s behavior can say a lot about their breed, as besides being well nurtured, the majority of canines will act out on their natural instincts.

The two most common dog behaviors include herding breeds and pointers.

These behaviors are hard to miss.


Herding breeds tend to herd so you can frequently see them stalking moving objects such as people, small animals, or moving objects such as skateboards, bikes, etc.

They can also be seen around crawling babies and running children.

On the other hand, besides their herding instincts, a high prey drive is also typical of these dogs.

They can frequently go after small animals.

In the majority of cases, this prey drive reveals what your dog is mixed with.


The classic pointing stance can also reveal if your dog originates from a hunting breed.

This dog will sniff out birds, freeze, and then “point” towards the prey.

Many people call these breeds a “soft mouth,” due to the fact that they get back prey without killing it, unlike terriers and ratters who will shake prey in their mouth and kill them immediately.

Water Dogs

Depending on whether or not your dog loves water you can determine its ancestry.

For example, Newfoundlands are known to adore water and you cannot compete against these natural instincts.

Using the Internet to Determine Your Dog’s DNA

All of these clues can help you determine your dog’s ancestry.

Once you gather the list of them all, you enter them into the internet search engine and it may turn out to be an English Springer Spaniel.

So as to narrow your search, you can research Spaniel breeds further on.

After this, you may find out that our mixed-breed dog mostly resembles a Working Spaniel, for example.

You can easily cross-compare breed types on websites like the AKC’s dog-breed database.

Stumped? Consider a Dog DNA Kit

If none of these clues help, you should ask your veterinarian and veterinary team to help you.

They will definitely have a good idea of what your dog is, as they see hundreds of dogs weekly.

At first, they may be able to narrow down your dog’s breeds, but if this is not a good solution, you can ask them to do a dog DNA test.

Embark DNA and Wisdom Panel are recommended dog DNA test kits, but even though they are highly suggested, errors may occur and results are not always conclusive.

What’s the Difference Between Purebred and Crossbred Dogs?

If you are wondering what the difference is between purebred and crossbred dogs, we are here to answer your question.

In case you acquired your dog from a certified registry and source, such as an American Kennel Club breeder or a breed-specific rescue, you have to be provided with appropriate documentation of your dog’s pedigree.

This proves that your dog is purebred.

Crossbred Dogs Get All the Cool Names

The majority of people are already familiar with a designer dog or hybrid canine, the Goldendoodle.

Its name is a combination of “golden” + “(d)oodle” = Golden Retriever and Poodle.

Actually, what they have done is combining two standardized purebred parents to produce a 50/50 blend.

A  Goldendoodle should be affectionate, intelligent, and sociable if it inherits the best traits of both parents.

Funny Crossbreed Dog Names

Portmanteau naming at its finest.
Crossbreed Parent Parent
Beaglier Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Beagle
Bichpoo Bichon Frise Poodle
Papihuahua Papillon Chihuahua
Doxiepoo Dachschund Poodle
Longdog Sighthound Sighthound
Pekeapoo Pekingese Poodle
Yorkiepoo Yorkshire Terrier Poodle

What Are the Best Crossbred Dogs?

It is impossible to provide the best answer to the question of what the best-crossbred dogs are.

We just can say that certain crossbreds are well-established so that they are often informally identified as purebreds.

Some of these crossbreeds are:

  • American Bully (American Pit Bull Terrier + Staffordshire Bull Terrier)
  • Black and Tan Coonhound (Bloodhound + Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound)
  • Bull Terrier (Old English Bulldog + Old English Terrier)
  • Eurasier (Chow Chow + Keeshond or Samoyed)
  • Miniature Pinscher (German Pinscher + Italian Greyhound or Dachshund)
  • Vizsla (Weimeriner + German Shorthaired Pointer)

You need to bear in mind the fact that not all purebreds or crossbreeds will exhibit the desired traits.

They may have a different temperament than their parents.

Plus, breeding runs the risk of inherited breed-specific health issues.

So, certain characteristics including aggression and genetic malformations can be more common in intentionally bred dogs.

Are Mixed-Breed Dogs Healthier Than Purebreds?

According to the Institute of Canine Biology’s study, it can be concluded that a mixed-breed dog is less likely to develop dilated cardiomyopathy, elbow dysplasia, cataracts, and hypothyroidism, making them less prone to health issues that are typical of purebred dogs.

On the other hand, mixed-breed dogs are more likely to rupture a cranial cruciate ligament.

Responsible Ownership

No matter whether they are purebred or crossbred, all dogs deserve to have the best care possible

As you are reading this article, you love dogs and would like to make sure that your dog will live a happy, healthy life, with proper exercise and nutrition.

So as to keep your dog at a healthy weight, our suggestion is to avoid synthetic foods, keep your dog current on vaccinations.

If you are still looking for either a purebred or crossbreed, you should seek out responsible, licensed breeders, or visit your local shelters.

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