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February 24, 2012 > How to choose your new best friend

How to choose your new best friend

Submitted By Ginny Grimsley

Are mutts smarter than purebred dogs?

Among the biggest victims of the economic recession are the once beloved family pets surrendered to shelters as their owners deal with extended joblessness. The U.S. Humane Society estimates six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year - three to four million of these are euthanized.

"We don't have firm numbers but we know anecdotally that the communities that have been hardest hit by the economic downturn are seeing that reflected in their shelter intake numbers," says Inga Fricke, director of sheltering issues for the U.S. Humane Society. "Unfortunately, while the majority of the public is in favor of adopting pets from shelters, very few - usually about 20 percent - actually do. That has recently gone up slightly to the mid-20s."

Retired police officer and dog-lover Irvin Cannon gives voice to man's best friend in his new book, For the Love of Dog Tales. Fricke and Cannon hope people getting back on their feet will consider adopting a shelter dog.

"You won't find a better companion, whether you bring home a mystery mixed-breed or a purebred Labrador," Cannon says. "Everyone thinks mutts are smarter and generally healthier, but really, it all depends on their mix of breeds and which breed strain is dominant."

Border collies and Rottweilers are two of the smartest breeds, Cannon says. But they have other traits, too, which are just as important to consider when choosing what dog best suits your lifestyle. Remember: dogs are as individual as people. A dog's breed, or breed mix, is no guarantee that it will have certain traits.

That said, border collies tend to need lots of room to run and lots of attention - they are high-maintenance, Cannon says. If you cannot spend a lot of active time with them, they will be unhappy and you will have problems.

Rottweilers are fast learners and loveable family animals, but they also tend to have bold personalities associated with pack leaders. If you do not think you can assert your authority, or if you have young or shy children, you might want to consider a more submissive breed. Dominant dogs that are allowed to bully their family members can become dangerously aggressive.

Here are some other tidbits regarding breeds:

*Other dog breeds known for intelligence: Shetland sheepdogs, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, poodles, Australian cattle dogs, Papillons and Doberman pinschers.

*Bulldogs, beagles and Basset hounds all start with "B" but get much lower grades for smarts.

*It is a myth that mutts have fewer health issues than purebred dogs. Although some breeds have tendencies toward problems such as deafness, blindness or hip dysplasia, it is important to remember that these are genetic issues that are inherited. So, if your mixed-breed includes some German shepherd, it may also have hip dysplasia (a problem with joint bone structure).

*If you are in the market for a purebred dog, you have a 25 percent chance of finding one - although maybe not the breed you want - at a shelter. If your heart is set on a specific breed, check your area for a rescue group specializing in that breed.

For more information about Irvin Cannon's book, visit

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