How to Visually Determine the Breed Mix of a Dog

By Pamela Vanden Bos

You do not have to be a member of the American Kennel Club to recognize the standard guidelines of purebred dogs. You already know more than you think. Check out these purebreds: Scooby-Doo is a Great Dane; "Frasier's" Eddie is a Jack Russell terrier; and Lassie is a collie. To determine the breeds in a mixed dog, look for something exclusive to a purebred. Although you might not be 100 percent correct without a DNA test, you can get close.

Mastiffs look like they are  frowning.

neapolitan mastiff image by pixelcarpenter from

Judge the overall body size. A Mastiff and Saint Bernard are both big dogs that weigh more than 100 pounds. A Mastiff has a short snout, a smooth, colored coat and large hanging jowls. Saint Bernards looks similar, but their fur is longer with large patches of color. The Bernard has a huge, wide head that blends right into a thick neck, and its jowls only slightly overhang. Toy breeds, which can weigh less than 10 pounds, include Chihuahuas, poodles and Yorkshire terriers.

A corgi has short legs.

corgi image by Cindy Haggerty from

Look at the dog’s legs. Corgi legs are short and sturdy with a normal size body and ears that stand up. The dachshund has short legs, but the body is overly long and so are their droopy ears and noses. Greyhounds have long legs, a very thin body, a small head, small eyes and long, pointed noses. Great Danes have long legs, large wide heads, and when they stand on their back legs, they can rest their paws on your shoulders.

A Great Dane has a long tail.

dog image by AGphotographer from

Inspect the tail. Tails that flip up or curl at the end belong to Shar Peis, Chihuahuas, Afghans and Pomeranians. Long, thin tails are common to the Irish water spaniel, greyhounds, Great Dane and whippet.

A West Highland terrier's ears stand up.

Westi image by GuidoK from

Examine the ears. German shepherd and West Highland and Yorkshire terrier all have ears that stand up. Spaniel, hound and Maltese ears lie down.

Poodles have curly hair.

standard poodle with ball image by MichMac from

Feel the texture of the fur and look at the length. Poodles have soft, curly hair. Labradors have short, silky hair. Golden retrievers have feathers—long hair of a lighter shade—on their legs and tails. A Jack Russell’s fur is bristly.

Yorkshire terriers are small dogs that are prone to barking.

yorkshire image by Karine Macchi from

Observe the personality. Dalmatians and boxers have lots of energy, while Labradors are known for their sweet dispositions. Jack Russell and Yorkshire terriers, as well as Malteses, tend to bark. Greyhounds are timid, and beagles howl.