The American Shelter Dog

Think you’ve never heard of this awesome “breed”? Think again. The American Shelter Dog is a proud, affectionate breed labeling for the mixed-breed dog that is waiting for a home every day in city and county shelters nationwide. You may already unknowingly call The American Shelter Dog a mutt, Heinz 57, or rescue dog in conversation.

This breed is defined by personality traits (not looks): thankful, loving, capable, and intuitive. This breed encourages adopters to look at who a dog is in front of them, not who they may be based on traditional breed traits. This can have a two-fold benefit: adopters do not have unrealistic expectations of their new family member, and dogs of unknown genetic origin are seen as having the same potential as their purebred Canis lupis familiaris relatives.

For shelters or rescue groups, there can also be an advantage to dubbing a dog an American Shelter Dog when they really are not sure of a dog’s genetic heritage and physical traits are not determinable one way or the other – dogs are paired with people based on personality and lifestyle, which is the most promising recipe for a successful lifetime placement, and not cookie cutter breed standards.

This can also be the safest marketing route for shelters when they really aren’t sure about a dog’s heritage. With the growing popularity of canine DNA testing, by companies such as Wisdom Panel Canine Genetics, adopters have the power to learn the truth about their dog’s genetic makeup. And, animal welfare professionals don’t exactly have the best track record for accurately identifying a dog’s breed based on appearance only. As Dr. Victoria Voith’s 2009 study “A comparison of visual and DNA identification of breeds of dogs” told us, 87.5 percent of the time adoption agencies misidentify a dog’s breed. Ouch!

The moral of the story is simple: if you are open to adoption, open your heart and mind a little wider when evaluating the significance of a breed label. The mixed-breed American Shelter Dog is a perfectly solid companion who will fill your home with love and gratitude, just like any other dog who has a fancy breed at the end of their résumé.

Jessi Freud is a dog advocate who has been volunteering with rescues and shelters for nearly 10 years. Most recently, she was a volunteer news writer for Best Friends Animal Society and an active volunteer with Texas-based shelter Austin Pets Alive! This fall, Jessi will begin her first year in law school where she plans to get involved in the world of animal law. Follow her on Twitter.

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