What Is a Purebred Dog?

A purebred dog is one born to two dogs of the same breed.


While we always encourage people looking for a dog or puppy to check shelters and rescues, a purebred dog may be the way to go if you’re looking for specific looks,  personality traits, or athletic abilities.

To better understand what a purebred dog is, we spoke with Dr. Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biology expert in Colorado who specializes in dogs.

What Is a Purebred Dog?

Simply put, the term “purebred” describes pups born to two dogs of the same breed.

“Biologically, a breed is just a genetic mix with traits we like, such as a behavior and/or a look, with looks being a major force directing breeding,” Dr. Bekoff says.

The difference between a purebred dog and a mutt or mixed breed dog is the number of breeds involved.

“Mixed breeds simply are mixing the gene pool from two different breeds,” Dr. Bekoff says.

Purebred dogs come from parents of the same breed. Mixed breed dogs come from parents of two different breeds.

Some people question if purebred dogs are bred to maintain the desired traits in a dog breed. The answer, Dr. Bekoff says, is yes. This practice helps concentrate the DNA so parents can pass on the favored traits to future dog generations.

How Many Breeds Are There?

Over time, selective breeding of dogs with distinct qualities (phenotypes) created an estimated 360 dog breeds worldwide, says Dr. Bekoff. To find a list of dog breeds, check out national dog registries, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC).

If you get your purebred dog from a reputable breeder, registration papers come with your pooch. These documents indicate your purebred dog’s pedigree and shows that both parents were registered and of the same breed. Papers are needed mostly to register your own dog and to breed or show your purebred dog.

Popular Purebreds

The most recent list of popular purebred breeds, according to the AKC, are:

  1. French Bulldog
  2. Labrador Retriever
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. German Shepherd Dog
  5. Poodle

Cost of Purebreds

While rescue and shelter dogs – and oops litters – can be adopted for free to low-cost amounts, purebred puppies can cost thousands of dollars. Reputable breeders work hard to preserve the breed standard and avoid breeding dogs with genetic problems. The AKC “recognizes Breeders of Merit for their dedication to breeding purebred dogs with the appearance, temperament, and abilities that are true to their breed standard, and for their commitment to health screening and 100 percent puppy registration.”

If you’re shopping for a purebred dog, be wary of “puppy mill” breeders and websites who produce large numbers of purebred dogs, whether quality or not, with the sole purpose of making money.


  1. According to this article my Golden Doodle should be recognized as a breed since both of her parents are first generation Golden Doodles. Yet the AKC does not recognize them as a breed so even the veterinarian’s office list her as a mixed breed. She is spayed so it really doesn’t make a big difference, but there’s really a lot of Golden Doodles out there so I think they should get recognized as a full breed at some point