Lab Mix or Pit Bull Mix? – What Shelters Aren’t Telling Adopters

When scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see probably a hundred homeless dogs posted on various shelter and rescue pages a week. Most of the time the dogs are mislabelled as more popular breeds, like Labs or Golden Retrievers. It is impossible for a shelter or rescue to know the origin of most of these dogs, but the general public holds their opinion in high esteem.

The general public relies on shelter workers and rescues to be “experts” on all dog breeds, but the honest truth, is most of them have little to no education on the hundreds of dog breeds out there. That goes for almost every dog “expert” out there though, even us dog trainers. No one makes us sit down and learn about each dog breed in order for us to work with dogs.

In fact, I personally believe individual personality of the dog is much more important than its breeds.

However, a dangerous fad has started where shelters and rescues are purposely mislabelling “Pit Bull type” dogs as Lab mixes instead. The dog could even come in on intake labelled as a “Pit Bull” by the past owner and some (not all) shelters or rescues will re-label the dog as a Lab mix or another breed instead.


Because they want the dog to be adopted faster and are hoping to evade breed ban laws. However, that is not how these laws work. The breed identification is often left up to the responding police officer – not what your shelter labelled your dog as.

This, however, is only the beginning of the problems purposefully mislabeling can cause. Here is just a small list I came up with:

1. The adopter looking for a Labrador Retriever mix, is often not the correct type of adopter for an American Pit Bull Terrier or other bully breed mix.

American Pit Bull Terriers are strong dogs with high prey drive that often do not do well with other dogs. They need owners willing to give them lots of exercise and they are terriers, which are vastly different than retriever breeds. A person looking for a Labrador is often looking for that classic family dog that is easily trainable for a beginner and they want the classic Labrador Retriever friendliness.

It isn’t that American Pit Bull Terriers or other bully breeds cannot be these things, it is that their breed standard is completely different than the Labrador. It is unfair to give someone a completely different dog than what they are searching for because you feel like pushing it off on the first person who believes it is a Labrador.

2. Which brings me to my next conclusion, a person who believes a bully breed mix is a Labrador mix, doesn’t need a dog.

If one of your adopters is believing your nonsense, then there is a problem! They are uneducated about the breed they are hoping to adopt to begin with.

This is typically a red flag in cases where shelters and rescues are adopting out purebred dogs. They will only let them go to homes with experience with the breed, but sometimes if that dog is a bully breed mix, we let it fly under the radar because we just want someone to take them? That isn’t fair to adopting family, the bully breeds, or the dog.

3. You are mudding the water.

Everyone is already confused about what a “Pit Bull” is to begin with. Mainly because they are so grossly mislabelled in our shelter system and now everyone and their cousin thinks they have a “pit bull”, which is not the case. We should not label every dog with a block head a “pit bull” because that means more and more dogs will be euthanized under the breed ban in the future and we hear more and more about “Pit Bulls” biting people, which are not even “Pit Bulls”.

In the same right, we also shouldn’t start calling every dog with a block head a “Lab mix” to evade the breed bans either. We should be placing these dogs in suitable homes that can afford the proper home insurance, follow the laws, and have a good knowledge of the bully breeds. Just like any other dog, they deserve a responsible and educated home.

Picture by MariposaVet from