When identifying a mixed dog breed, use its size, ears, coat and color to help determine its origins. In general, mixed breeds fall somewhere in between the weight of both parents. If a dog weighs 80 pounds, only a handful of breeds are big enough to pass on that type of bulk.
Observe the dog’s build. If it’s stocky, it may indicate breeds such as Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, American pit bulls or bloodhounds. A dog with a lean build can indicate Doberman pincher, fox hound, whippet or greyhound bloodlines.
Look at the dog’s ears. Erect, pointed ears may mean the dog contains some German shepherd, husky or Chihuahua. Floppy ears are found in hounds or spaniels. A dog’s coat is also a visual clue. If it is one layer, the dog is single-coated and reflect breeds such as poodles, boxers or terriers. If the coat is long, it points to breeds such as golden retrievers, setters, border collies or Australian shepherds.
Coat color is another tip that helps with identification. Tri-colored dogs such as corgis, Australian shepherds and border collies are usually a mix of black, tan and white. Solid colors are found in Labs, golden retrievers, dachshunds and Pomeranians. Coats with a mix of black and tan can indicate coonhounds, German shepherds, Doberman pinschers and miniature pinschers. Fawn colors are commonly found in pugs, great Danes and boxers.
Mixed breeds generally have no more than 50 percent of any one breed in their DNA, and most may have more than two breeds in that half. Most DNA tests reveal a combination of three major breeds with variations. Size, color and coat, as well as behavior, are the best identifying clues as to a dog's bloodline.