Feature Story - Myths about Mongrels

Medium build (15-25 kg), short coat, erect ears, coat colour ranging from sandy to cinnamon (often with black – although they can have more variety) – I’m sure you must be familiar with mongrel dogs, as they can be found anywhere in Hong Kong. You see them often, but do you really know them? Here are a few myths and misunderstandings about them. Let’s see how much you know about our beloved mongrels!


1. Are mongrels less intelligent than pedigree dogs?

You might expect pedigrees to be more intelligent than mongrels in terms of genes, but it’s totally opposite when it comes to IQ. Researchers at Aberdeen University in the UK who have tested dozens of dogs found that mongrels have superior spatial awareness and are better at problem solving. While traditional pedigree dogs such a Labradors, German Shepherds and Border Collies work as guide dogs, police dogs and sheep dogs respectively, it is now increasingly recognised that mongrels are also well suited to this line of work.


2. Are mongrels hard to train?

Many people consider mongrels to be untamable and disobedient comparing to pedigrees like Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Poodles. But did you know that training is actually highly dependent on environment and conditioning? Dr. Fiona Woodhouse from the SPCA says that the training ability of an adult dog is the same whether it’s a mongrel or a pedigree dog. “Even if you have a completely feral dog that hasn’t had any exposure to people, all you need to do is to spend some more time with the dog in order to train it. Of course, it’s even better to get a young mongrel and begin correct training techniques from an early age.


3. Are mongrels aggressive and dangerous?

Constant barking might be one of the characteristics of mongrels. They tend to bark a lot when strangers come near, which people may find irritating and leads them to believe mongrels are aggressive and dangerous. The reason behind the excessive barking is that mongrels are territorial. They are cautious when strangers enter their territories, and barking is the only way to alert their owners or family members about intruders. All these actually make mongrels excellent watchdogs. They are trying to protect their owners, which also proves that mongrels are super loyal as well.


4. Can mongrels eat everything?

It is true that mongrels, as mixed breeds, are generally healthier than pure-breeds due to a phenomenon known as “hybrid vigor”, where the best of genes from their varied parentage survive. Mongrels are often healthier and more resistant to disease, especially inherited diseases, than their pure-bred counterparts. However, the reduced chance of becoming ill does not mean that mongrels can eat whatever they want or whatever you feed them. For example, the oil content in human food is far too high, and it is unacceptable to feed mongrels with leftovers. Although there might be certain kinds of food that dogs are allowed to eat, it’s better to consult veterinarians before feeding them.


All They Need Is Love

All dogs have one thing in common – they are all foodies in Jacqui’s perspective, despite the fact that they have different backgrounds. There is even a cupboard in Jacqui’s house storing all sorts of snacks!

Faye and her babies were all fostered by Jacqui. All of the babies found forever homes, yet Faye stayed and joined Jacqui’s family.

Tess is a very loving and affectionate dog.

Many people find the idea of having a pedigree dog more appealing than a mongrel. However, we are seeing more people appreciating a mixed breed dog, and Jacqui is one of them.

“Mongrels are by far the best breed!” says Jacqui, Chairman of the SPCA. “They are easy to teach, they don’t have as many medical issues and inborn genetic problems as many of the pure breeds.” Coming from Jacqui who is currently taking very good care of 12 dogs, a combination of mongrels and pure breeds, this sounds pretty convincing.

Among Jacqui’s pack, there are four mongrels - Faye, Jordan, Tess and George. Each of them have experienced different types of hardship but none of this matters anymore, as they have found their forever loving home with Jacqui and her family.

Faye was rescued from a country park when she was heavily pregnant and unable to move. She was rescued by SPCA inspectors and gave birth to 8 puppies. All her babies and Faye were fostered by Jacqui. Once they were old enough the babies found their forever homes. However, Faye stayed with Jacqui to live a happy and contented life with her other dogs. Having once been a stray dog, Faye’s instincts have not changed – she is independent and likes having her own space. She likes to wander around outside the house to discover the latest events taking place, but like every other pet, she loves her treats as well.

Jordan was abandoned by her previous owner and wandered down to the Jordan MTR station in the heat of summer to enjoy the air-conditioning. She was found to have a problem with her hip at the time of rescue. SPCA’s vet team performed the needed surgery and after rehabilitation, she was then sent to Jacqui for fostering while recovering from the surgery. With some tender loving care from Jacqui and her family, Jordan is now enjoying her life as a senior dog as one of 12 doggies in this family. She likes to hang out near the entrance of the house, greeting every visitor in a friendly manner.

Tess and her sibling was also surrendered by her owner to the AFCD. She was unable to focus properly, has some deformity in her limbs and her paws consistently have sores. Jacqui doesn’t know what the problem is even though she has seen multiple vet specialists. Although her issue needs to be taken care of constantly, she doesn’t seem to mind at all as long as she can receive the affection she’s come to expect from Jacqui and her family any time she likes. Jacqui says she is a biggest ‘cuddlebug’ you’ve ever seen.

George was caught by Jacqui and TNR volunteers near the Shenzhen border. Jacqui and her family were supposed to foster and socialise him until he was fit for adoption, but in the process the family fell in love with him and he is now a permanent member of this big family.

“Mongrels are stereotyped as being untrainable because they have not been given a chance to live as a domestic pet,” says Jacqui. “If, for years, they only know how to live in the streets, they will never know and understand what human love feels like. Many people only associate mongrels with stray dogs, and the only reason why they are stray is because humans have allowed them to populate without control and not given them a proper home.”

Reading the stories of Jacqui’s dogs, it is quite obvious that mongrels can be as loving and affectionate as any purebred dog. All they need is the right environment and conditioning, as well as love and care.

Accident Survivor Taxi Wong

Rebecca understands the value of mongrels, and is very glad to have found this pair of loyal friends. Taxi Wong and King can always be seen sitting quietly next to Rebecca at work.

Taxi Wong and King are both quiet dogs but Rebecca would bring them for a swim sometimes too.

Taxi Wong was hit by a taxi in 2014 and his right front leg was amputated. Yet, nothing can stop him from being a friendly and loving dog.

Rebecca Ngan from the SPCA is an experienced mongrel dog owner. She has kept three mongrels since 2005 – King and Taxi Wong, plus Dede who recently passed away. She describes mongrels as dogs who are really obedient and easy to take care of, especially for new dog owners who have no prior experience of keeping pets. For example, Taxi Wong is the most trainable and polite dog in Rebecca’s family, especially with other dogs. It is probably related to his experience as a stray dog and the accident he encountered.

Back in December 2014, when Taxi Wong was still a stray dog wandering around the city, he was hit accidentally by a taxi. The driver and the passengers checked on the dog immediately. Fortunately, only the right front leg of Taxi Wong was injured. He was taken to the SPCA for inspection and treatment. However, sadly, his injured leg had to be amputated.

Losing a leg might be a hard hit for humans, but not for Taxi Wong. “People often praise him for being so brave after knowing his story and his condition. But for Taxi Wong, he is just accepting his fate,” Rebecca says. He is always calm and relaxed, as if everything is not a big deal to him, except for Rebecca’s love and care.

Rebecca emphasized that mongrels are easy to train, as long as their personalities match with their owners. “You really have to understand the character of your dogs. Take myself as an example, I’m a quiet person and I enjoy the silence. Taxi Wong happens to be the perfect dog for me as he doesn’t bark much,” she says.

In addition to the personality of mongrels, providing a proper environment and communication are also important. “You have to let them know what they can do, and what they can’t. If you have made the rules clear, they are happy to follow them,” says Rebecca. “I know there are cases of dogs destroying the furniture and even biting people. But for my mongrels, they are doing fine, and I have never experienced such incidents.”

Just like any other dogs, mongrels also deserve love. Unlike the stereotypes, they can be obedient, trainable and affectionate. If you are willing to give them a chance, they are always ready to be your most loyal and friendly companion.

Over the years, the SPCA has tried to change the perception of mongrels, who are precious to Hong Kong, through different programmes and education campaigns. The Mongrel Desexing Programme (MDP) also helps create a better quality of life and a better environment for all the stray mongrels in Hong Kong. So why not give a chance to these affectionate dogs and provide a forever home for them? They are wagging their tails and waiting for you to come!