Don’t Judge A Dog By Its Cover

Posted on April 5, 2019

An estimated 75% of dogs in shelters are considered “mixed breed,” meaning their personality, looks and behavior are constructed from an open and varied gene pool. Oddly enough, the most noticeable trait – visual identification – is hardly a reliable indicator of breed. That’s because only 50 of a dog’s nearly 20,000 genes are associated with physical appearance. In other words, just one quarter of one percent of a dog’s entire genome affects looks. Multiple studies also show that a dog’s appearance does not necessarily determine breed. For example, in one study conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida, a group of self-declared “dog experts” made up of veterinarians, trainers, and breeders correctly identified the predominate breed of a dog only 27% of the time.

Because visual identification has been proven to be highly inaccurate, we at AWLA are no longer going to speculate on a dog’s breed. That isn’t to say that breeds or breed traits don’t exist. Certainly, they do. But, guessing at a dog’s breed, and how it may or may not manifest itself, is not nearly as reliable as the information our expert staff and volunteers gather daily while observing the dogs in our care. The behavior of all dogs is influenced by many outside factors and there is no guarantee a dog will act a specific way based on its appearance.

So, we are reframing how we represent our adoptable dogs and only providing information that we know for certain, or observe firsthand, like weight, age (often an educated guess), and personality. Viewing each dog as an individual will allow adopters to make the best choice for their family and living situation, rather than encouraging inaccurate assumptions based only on appearance.


Sam Wolbert, President & CEO

*Statistical information provided by Animal Farm Foundation
**For more information on the breed studies noted above, visit