As promised, I’m back to continue our look at crossbreeds and their behavioural traits.
The flying dog depicted at the top of the page is Ziva, an approximately 5 year old Malinois cross. She is a rescue; so of course, we’re not 100% sure what she is, but she certainly shows a lot of behavioural traits of a working type Malinois: very high drive, very athletic, very little impulse control (boy have we worked hard on that), almost endless energy, strong guarding instinct, huge ball drive with a touch of possessiveness (all toys are her’s especially if someone else wants it) and she is so strong when tugging. She is also very very persistent when trying to get a toy that she wants.
We did have her DNA tested to see what breeds were in her make-up. It came back that she was a Boxer cross GSD. Really? I think not. Why do I think this? Well Boxers are clowns, are very playful, very athletic and do tend to have a lot of energy when they are younger, and can lack impulse control, but Ziva is much more extreme than any Boxer I have met which is why I don’t think she has Boxer in her genes.
GSDs can have a strong guarding instinct (they really do like their family to be together), can be a bit suspicious, bark a far bit. Yes, the working types can be high drive, can have plenty of ball drive and can lack impulse control, but generally, they are pretty level headed dogs. They can be athletic for their size, but do tend to be trotters rather than runners when it comes to day to day activities. Ziva is a runner and rarely trots. Again her behavioural traits are so much more extreme than GSDs I have owned or met, although, some of the really high drive ones are similar.
She is also quite small (smaller than either a GSD or a Boxer) and doesn’t really have the body shape of either. Colouring is a bit GSD like. So all in all, looking at just her behavioural traits and having lived with her for 4 years, she is more like a Malinois than a GSD or a Boxer.
Below is a sequence of photos showing Ziva trying to get the tennis ball that I placed on a fence post that is around 5ft 6inches high. It took her about 30 minutes to get the ball down (which indicates how persistent she is, as well as how athletic and how fit she is)
The point that I am trying to make is not to just look at the cute appearance of a puppy (after all, all puppies are cute), but to research the breeds that go into making that particular crossbreed.
Let’s have a look at the main behavioural traits of some popular breeds;
Shih Tzus were bred to alert Tibetan monks to the presence of visitors; so yes, they are going to bark a fair bit.
German Shepherds are a guarding breed, so yes, they will bark at that leaf falling four streets away and may be a bit wary of people and dogs (they also, like so many guarding breeds, need socialising with people and dogs until they are at least 2 years old; but that’s a topic for another blog).
Shetland sheepdogs were bred to herd, so don’t be surprised if they try to herd the children up *or chase bikes, joggers etc.) They may be small, but they do tend to bark a lot, so be warned.
Siberian Huskies were bred to live in groups, be able to fend for themselves and to run/trot over great distances. Don;t be surprised if they prefer being outside to inside, or that they like to dig themselves a sleeping hollow (this might be in your garden or your sofa), they like canine company, are fully capable of looking after themselves (very independent), have a high prey drive (so likely to go chasing rabbits, deer etc.) and will run and run.
Border collies are very intelligent dogs that love a job of work to do and if not given something to do, they will invent their own way of occupying themselves. They need to be able to use their brains as well as needing physical exercise. People think that they need to walk a collie for hours to tired it out. All that does is give you a very fit collie. They need brain games to really wear them out (scent games, puzzles etc.) and are well suited to a wide range of dogs sports. However, they do tend to herd, many will want to chase joggers, cyclists and even cars due to this herding instinct, and they can be a bit obsessive and some will show OCD tendencies. These traits will come out in Collie crosses.
Staffordshire bull terriers are fabulous dogs in the right hands. They adore people and especially children. They can be very excitable and can lack impulse control. They are very strong for their size, and although they won’t usually start a fight with another dog, if another dog starts a fight with them, they will finish the fight. They are bred to be very tenacious and should never be aggressive (if bred and reared correctly). Huge stamina. They can be very vocal (the staffie witter as well as the staffie scream). They do like their home comforts (so expect a staffie to want to be on your lap) and dislike getting wet (often not wanting to go out if it is raining) and dislike being cold. There are some cracking staffie crosses out there that make super pets and are fab for dog sports.
Jack Russell Terriers were originally bred to be ratters and some are still used for that purpose today. They are likely to get very excited when they hear squeaking noises (whether it is from a toy or a child) as that what their prey would sound like. Very tenacious, are likely to dig, are highly likely to destroy and de-stuff any toys (particularly squeaky ones) and may well go off rabbiting when on a walk. If you want one to live with small furry animals (rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits etc.), then do not get one off a farm or that is working bred as they are likely to do what they are bred to do. They can be yappers, can lack impulse control and can be nippers. They are bright little dogs and do love to learn tricks, do puzzles etc. I love them to bits and have three here that are just fabulous.
Cavaliers were bred to be companion dogs and are generally fab pets. However, they do need to use their brains and love being taught tricks and playing nosework games. they also excel at agility.
Bichon Frise. Another breed that is popular in ‘designer’ cross breeds. Lovely dogs and behind that white fluffy coat is a very intelligent dog that needs to use its brain. These are not just a couch potato or a pretty dog; they do need to do something. Very trainable.
I could go on for pages, but lets just do a few generalizations.
Retrievers (Labradors, Goldies, Flatcoats etc.) are generally good natured breeds that like to greet you with a ‘pheasant’ in their mouths. So expect them to pick things up and carry them (and teach them to give it up when asked) but this does tend to make them a little possessive over some toys/items, so be aware of this.They are likely to love water and getting muddy.
Spaniels (Cockers, Springers etc.) are again generally good natured, were bred to hunt so are likely to cover large distances and may range at quite a distance from you are may chase birds, bunnies etc. They may also liable to resource guard. They can be a bit obsessive, so you may see some OCD traits in some individuals. Again, they are likely to love water and mud!
Guarding breeds (GSDs, Rottweilers, Dobermanns, Mastiffs, etc.) are likely to bark, may be suspicious of people they don’t know, may like to keep their family together and may get stressed if they aren’t and do need a lot of socialising.
Northern breeds (huskies, Malemutes etc) are likely to be independent dogs that can cover huge distances. They are likely to be diggers and can be escape artists (minmum 6ft fence required) and can howl (s tolerant neighbours are needed). They generally have a high prey drive.
Scenthounds (Beagles, Bassets, PBGV etc.) are likely to go off following their nose and will be deaf to your calls. Generally sociable dogs. Recall will need a lot of work.
Sighthounds (Greyhounds, Whippets, Lurchers, Salukis etc.) These tend to be sprinters. They are likely to chase anything that crosses their line of sight (so need to be taught a chase recall). They can be escapologists. They do need to run, but generally a short blast is all they will do before gong back to a leisurely walk. They can be couch potatoes, are likely to feel the cold and may dislike going out when it is raining or cold. I’ll just caution about the ‘scream of death’ that sounds like they are being killed and is usually given when they have been injured slightly.
I hope this has given you a bit of an insight as to why your crossbreed acts the way it does. If you are considering buying a crossbreed, please research the breeds that are making up that cross and ask yourself whether you can live with those traits. Assume that you will get the worst of both breeds; can you live with a dog showing those traits. If yes, go a head and buy that dogs (assuming that both parents have been health tested, are friendly and that the mother is present with the puppies). If no; then walk away and consider another cross or a pure breed. Don’t ever assume that you will only get the ‘good’ traits of both breeds in a cross; you may be lucky, you may not be. Don’t just by a crossbred pup because it looks cute. Do your research, don’t just rely on what the breeder tells you.
Although this article is about behavioural traits, please also check out the grooming requirements/problems with your favoured crossbreed. Ask your local groomer what problems they see, how often a dog should be brushed and/or clipped. Breeders will often say that a dog doesn’t need a lot of grooming when in actual fact they do. Cockerpoos need grooming on a daily basis and not just brushing the top coat, but brushing right down to the skin, otherwise they will mat (meaning your dog gets clipped off really short when they go to the groomers) and this will cause discomfort which may show itself as a dog growling when touched or being wary of people.
Also check with your vet as to what breed specific diseases are common in the breeds that make up the cross you are interested in and what common ailments they see is breeds such as cockerpoos, labradoodle, Cavachons, Pomskis etc.