The term "mutt" refers to a mixed-breed dog. It derives from the word "muttonhead," suggesting stupidity. The term may be used in a derogatory fashion, or in an affectionate way. A mixed-breed dog might also be called a mongrel, and it is typically the result of random breeding rather than being specifically created from purebred dogs.
A mutt is usually the result of generations of mixed-breed dogs or the unplanned breeding between purebreds. Some people believe that breed is very important, and there find it important to identify the ancestors of a dog that's mixed-breed. Deliberate crosses, such as the labradoodle, a poodle-labrador cross, and a peek-a-poo, a poodle-pekinese cross, are usually not considered mutts, although they are mixed-breed dogs.
Some maintain that mutts tend to be hardier dogs than purebreds because the genetic pool is much bigger and may eliminate some traits that can develop with inbreeding. This is highly dependent upon the breeding cross, however, and breeding two dogs that have the same predilection for a certain type of disease is likely to result in puppies with the same risks for that disease, no matter the breed of the parents. Mutts that do not have purebred parents may be less likely to have inbred characteristics for disease, however, and may be less prone to certain conditions than their distant progenitors.
Adopting a young mutt of unknown parentage can be a little risky. Some breeds of dogs are known for certain character traits, and it is hard to tell in the first few months what types of behavior a dog might show when its ancestors aren't known. For example, if the dog comes from two breeds that are more likely to be aggressive, it may show this tendency as well. It is also hard to tell what the dog will ultimately end up looking like, or how big it might grow.
For people who want a predictable outcome in appearance or size in an older dog, it may be better to adopt an older dog, whose behavior, size, and appearance is already known. Usually, these types of dogs are the least likely to be adopted, since so many favor a particular breed.
Those who own one mutt or more usually praise them. Unknown parentage does not stand in the way of the loving and faithful nature of most dogs. In fact, many people find they prefer a mixed-breed to a purebred, since it may have a unique look and not have some of the health issues found in certain breeds.
Most dogs that are now recognized as pure breeds would once have been thought mutts. Since most breeds developed from one or two sources, variations in appearance and behavior are due to crossbreeding and selection of desirable characteristics. Theoretically, anyone who owns a purebred dog owns a mutt, or at least the distant ancestor of one.