Are Mutts Smarter than Purebreds?

Four Minutes
May 03, 2022

There are varying opinions on purebreds vs. mutts. Some people even think it’s “wrong” to cross-breed and create mixed breed dogs. This is why many people go to breeders for expensive purebred dogs. Meanwhile, mixed breed dogs linger in shelters, where 95% of all dogs are mutts.1

Let’s break down both mutts and purebreds to see how these dogs compare.

Breeders vs. Shelters

There are several accredited organizations that recognize purebred dogs. These include:

  • American Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Kennel Club
  • Irish Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • Japan Kennel Club

These organizations are excellent resources for education and community. However, the fact that only purebreds are recognized may help perpetuate the idea that purebred dogs are better or somehow “cleaner” than mutts, when in reality mixed breed dogs have just as much to offer.

If you decide to get a purebred dog, it’s essential to find a reputable breeder. Buying from a responsible breeder can help ensure you’ll get what you’re looking for— a healthy and happy puppy who will grow up to be a healthy and happy dog. Look for a breeder that breeds for quality, not profit. Many good breeders will also remain involved post-adoption, helping you adjust to life with a puppy, or asking for pictures and videos of the pup in their new home.

Getting a shelter dog is also an excellent option. You can also adopt a puppy or adult dog right away without having to be on a waiting list. Select an animal shelter that keeps its animals healthy (spaying, neutering, and providing proof of vaccinations) and that has employees or volunteers who are friendly and informative, spending ample time with you as you search for a new pet. Before you choose a dog, look for signs of trauma such as fear of noises, people, or animals; growling or excessive barking; or separation anxiety

Health Issues in Purebreds vs. Mutts

When it comes to the question of purebred vs. mutt, the most important thing to remember is that all dogs can get injured or sick. Whether they contract an infectious disease, break a leg, or eat something that doesn’t agree with them, there is no dog breed that’s guaranteed to be 100% healthy throughout its life. All dogs are susceptible to illness regardless of their genetic makeup. 

Since any and every dog can get sick, it’s important for pet owners to be aware of how to take care of their dog. Pet insurance can be a great option to help offset the cost of vet bills on approved expenses covered by your policy. You might feel like a pet insurance plan isn’t necessary. However, options such as a pet “emergency fund” or savings account may not be enough. Bottom line: it can be a smart decision to get a pet insurance plan for your dog, whether he or she is purebred or a mutt.

Let’s take a look at some of the medical conditions that might affect your mutt or purebred.

Genetic Conditions

Purebred dogs may be more prone to inherited conditions than mutts.2

The most common hereditary diseases in dogs are:3

Breeding dogs to attain a certain aesthetic look can also result in health problems. Think about flat-faced dogs like pugs or French bulldogs. These brachycephalic breeds may develop respiratory issues, dental problems, and skin infections — all because they were bred to look a certain way.4

Infectious Diseases

Are mutts healthier than purebreds? Not necessarily. Infectious diseases affect all dogs, regardless of their breed. Examples of infectious diseases in dogs include:5

Dogs can pick up these diseases virtually anywhere. Kennel cough can spread from dog to dog via shared brushes or bedding.6 A tick can bite your dog during a walk outside.

Diseases like these can be harmful to dogs that are already immunocompromised due to genetic conditions . However, all dogs can catch something — especially if they aren’t properly vaccinated

It’s also important to note that any dog can eat something toxic; get injured by another dog or from playing too hard; or fall prey to heatstroke. Take steps to mitigate these issues as much as possible by creating a safe environment where your dog can live and play. If an accident does happen, pet insurance may be able to help with the cost. 

Intelligence in Dogs

Some people insist purebred dogs are more intelligent than mutts, or vice versa. But what does intelligence mean? Many sources mention “instinctive” intelligence (natural ability that’s inherent to a certain breed) and “adoptive” or “adaptive” intelligence (a dog’s ability to learn).7 Obedience also plays a role. And emotional intelligence is important to assess, too. It’s clear that intelligence in dogs can mean a variety of different things. Let’s break down each of these aspects a little further.


Chances are, it’s not difficult for you to gauge your dog’s obedience. You already know if your dog sits and stays when told, or if they’re more likely to lunge forward toward the food on the floor or the stranger coming down the street. 

One study that looked at intelligence in dogs asked dog obedience trial judges to rank different breeds based on their performance in obedience. Breeds in the top ten included the Border collie, poodle, German shepherd, Rottweiler, and Labrador. Breeds such as the bulldog, Chow Chow, mastiff, beagle, and Basset were at the bottom.8

You can help improve your dog’s obedience through training. However, keep in mind that different breeds respond differently to certain training techniques. The age, size, and past experiences of the dog can also affect training capabilities. 

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence refers to how well a dog can learn from and adapt to its environment. Think of this type of intelligence as problem solving skills.9 Some studies have indicated that working dogs might have better adaptive intelligence.10 Adaptive intelligence can vary, however, even among dogs of the same breed. 

Maybe you notice that every time you open a plastic bag of cheese, your dog comes running into the kitchen. Your dog wasn’t bred to know that the crinkle of plastic equals cheese shreds falling on the floor. And this isn’t something you taught your dog. So this is a sign of adaptive intelligence. 

Emotional Intelligence

The final way we measure intelligence in dogs is through emotional intelligence. Dogs are very sensitive to our emotions and emotional needs.11

For example, if you are crying or visibly upset, your dog might come over to you and treat you gently. This is a sign of emotional intelligence. 

Purebred vs. Mutt: The Verdict

It’s clear there are many factors that go into the question of purebred vs. mutt. Both types of dog can have varying health issues and levels of intelligence. 

The bottom line is this: Regardless of whether your dog is a purebred or a mutt, your pet is still susceptible to illness. And that means it’s your responsibility to know how to prepare. 

Dog insurance is the best way to provide your dog with the medical attention they may need. Covering unexpected accidents or illnesses, diagnostic testing, and treatments as well as routine care, dog insurance is designed to keep your dog healthy, and your wallet happy. Get a free quote today.


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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

1 5 Things Data Can Tell us about Mutts, WALTHAM Pet Care Science Institute

2 Mutts and Purebreds: Is One Healthier Than the Other?, Northeast Animal Hospital

3 Making Sense of Genetic Disease in Dogs and Cats, American Veterinary Medical Association 

4 Brachycephalic Breeds and Their Health, Premier Veterinary Hospital 

5 Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Settings, American Veterinary Medical Association  

6 Thinking Of Kenneling Your Pet?, MetLife Pet Insurance

7 The 3 Different Types of Smart Dog Breeds, Rover

8  8 Signs Your Dog Is Smarter Than Average, VetHelpDirect  

9 Dog IQ Test: How Smart Is Your Dog?, Outward Hound

10  8 Signs Your Dog Is Smarter Than Average, VetHelpDirect 

11  Dog’s Emotional Intelligence, Crown Vets

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