“What is your favorite breed?”
That is one of my favorite questions. I have no answer, which is why I love the question. Once upon a time, I was a philosophy major, after all.
Each breed has benefits, and each has shortcomings. Some of my favorite breeds have horrible predispositions.
I love beagles. When I meet a beagle’s human for the first time in an exam room, I often tell them I speak beagle. Few dog breeds appreciate ear rubs, rump rubs or food more than they do. And although their tendency toward dramatic self-pity is legendary, I find it a bit endearing.
However, beagles get cancer. Not all of them do, but as a breed they are more predisposed than the average dog.
Beagles have disk problems in their spine. They get fat. They get epilepsy. They have a hundred pound voice in a 25-pound body. They are not huge but still get arthritis. So I can’t really say they are my favorite.
So what kind of dog would I recommend, all things being equal?
Get yourself a hybrid. Not a dog that runs on food or electricity, but a dog with a mixed genetic background such as a “mix,” “mutt” or “cur.”
Some people seem to have a mistaken idea that those terms are negative, but only if you allow them to be.
In the past, they may have been used as derogatory references for subpar backgrounds, but consider the science. Hybrid organisms, be they animals or plants, have what is called “hybrid vigor.” This means they do better than nonhybrids. Hybrid corn grows with less water. Hybrid tomatoes are less vulnerable to parasites. Hybrid dogs get fewer health problems. They live longer and are smarter.
All of these are generalities and some hybrids are sickly, but overall, the generalities hold true.
Thinking of a hybrid dog as a “cur” and looking down your nose out of some mistaken mentality of breed superiority smacks of the same thought process that yields racism. It says nothing about the dog, but instead reveals something about the human.
Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.