Mutt, mix or mongrel–whatever you call them, they're one of a kind. And that unique blend is what makes each one so special–the snowflakes of dogdom.


In the beginning, there were no pure breeds. Eventually families of dogs emerged that specialized in different tasks, and after that, restricted breeding created pure breeds. But there still exist indigenous dogs that evolved free from human direction. And of course there exist crosses between pure breeds, or blends of many breeds and indigenous dogs. For simplicity, we call them All-American, but in truth, they are dogs of the world.

Some may have a greater smattering of hound; they're the ones who take off in pursuit of a rabbit. Others more than a dash of terrier; they're the ones who have to dig or investigate. The herders have a tendency to nip at heels or bark in excitement; the guardians to protect; the retrievers to fetch. And those with all can do it all.

In the late 1800s, purebreds started to be favored in Europe, a practice that spread to America. But mongrels and mixes held their own, until in the 1990s, a reversal occurred: purebred popularity began to decline, with All-Americans taking over as the status- symbol dog. The AKC has even opened its doors to All-Americans in its all-breed dog sports.

Health and Upkeep

Your dog may be an All-American, but he shares certain trait-related health concerns with all dogs. If he's a puppy destined to be large or heavy, he's more prone to develop joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia as an adult. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size–just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also vital for protecting joint health throughout life.

If he's a puppy destined to stay tiny, he should eat a puppy food designed for toy dogs. Tiny puppies should be fed small amounts often–more than larger dogs–because they can't store glucose efficiently. They can easily develop hypoglycemia if they are active and have gone without food for too long. Puppy food for toy dogs combats hypoglycemia because it is high in protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. If your puppy becomes sleepy to the point of being hard to rouse, or unresponsive, it's an emergency. Rub syrup on his gums and get him to the veterinarian immediately. Most small puppies outgrow the danger by a few months of age. But even as adults, a food designed for toy dogs is the best choice.

Tiny dogs are prone to knee problems. If you see your small dog skipping for a step or two, he may have a condition your veterinarian needs to check. He may also eventually develop arthritic changes in his knees. To combat this, add a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement to his diet as soon as he shows any signs of hopping or lameness.

As an adult, you must be careful to keep any dog at a lean weight. Too much weight stresses the joints, and can worsen arthritic changes. You may need to feed a low-calorie food. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.

Flat-faced dogs are prone to gas. Large deep-chested dogs are predisposed to a potentially fatal condition called bloat or gastric torsion. Both types should receive an anti-gas pill with meals.

Wrinkled dogs need special attention because the folds of skin can harbor moisture and set up an ideal location for infections. To combat this you must clean and dry any recessed skin areas, especially those around the face, between the eyes and nose, and sometimes, at the union of the tail and back. Clean the folds with an antibacterial wipe and dry thoroughly. For some dogs, once a week will suffice; for others, once a day.

Short coats require weekly brushing.

Long coats require brushing or combing several times a week. Brush the coat in layers so you get all the way to the skin. Spritzing these areas with a mixture of water and conditioner will prevent static electricity and hair breakage as your brush. If you find a mat, carefully work it apart after spritzing it.

For thick coats, use a shedding tool to remove the thick undercoat during shedding season. Brushing right after bathing, when the hair is still slightly damp, will usually remove the most coat.

For the best results, use a shampoo that builds body for thick coats; one that has a conditioner for long silky coats; one with a deodorizer for most coats or for dogs that drool; or one with avocado oil or oatmeal for itchy or dry skin. You may also wish to use color-enhancing shampoos, or an after-shampoo conditioner.

Keep the ears dry. Ear cleansers have a drying agent that can dry deep into the canal, so it's a good idea to clean the ear after swimming, or once a week in dry conditions. Any time they get goopy, clean with an ear-cleanser. If the goop comes back, see your veterinarian.

Brush the teeth daily. Tiny dogs have a problem with tooth loss, so pay special attention to their teeth.

Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a dog nail clipper.

As your dog ages, he may experience age-related physical changes, such as arthritis. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.