Mutt, Mixed Breed or Designer Dog? What's the Difference?

Learn the Definition and Difference Between These Dogs

Children Trying To Pull Labradoodle In Wagon
This Labradoodle (Labrador-Poodle cross) can make a wonderful pet. LWA/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Mixed breed dogs—also called designer dogs—come in a variety of coat types and colors, shapes, and sizes that rival any purebred. Also referred to as random-bred or mutt dogs, they result from breeding different purebreds or other mixed-breed dogs together.

Mixed breed dogs have no pedigree, and usually are the result of accidental matings. They’re usually not registered, although there are mixed breed registries that may offer some sort of documentation.

Mixed breed dogs often superficially resemble a purebred. They can inherit all the best—or the worst—traits of their parents. It’s difficult if not impossible to predict what a mixed-breed dog’s puppies will look like or how they’ll behave.

Mixed breed dogs make wonderful pets, though. They are a popular choice for pets all over the world.

What’s A Designer Dog?

The term “designer dog” refers to a hybrid. Hybrids are created by combining existing breeds to form new ones. Most existing dog breeds were created in this way and likely are hybrids. Many are so ancient, though, their origin is obscure.

A recent example of a designer dog is the Labradoodle, purposely bred to create low-shedding dog (Poodle) with the temperament for a guide dog (Labrador). Because Poodles come in three sizes, Labradoodle pups also vary in size and may be more like the Poodle or Labrador side of the family. Breeders dedicated to establishing the variety as a true breed work to establish a predictable type, working with generations of dogs.

The designer dog label today is used to market hybrid dogs, which may (or may not) be more healthy, cute, trainable or other fill-in-the-blank claim. Shelters sometimes label mixed breeds as a designer breed to promote adoptions. Puppy mills jumped on the designer dog bandwagon to create boatloads of interesting mixes they sell for high prices.

The health and temperament of a puppy trumps cute factor and marketing ploys every day. Don’t let a designer label or popular puppy fads get in the way of choosing a healthy companion—whether pedigree, mutt or designer breed, listen to your head as well as your heart.