Now don’t get me wrong, I love crossbreeds. I own a cockerpoo (or cocker spaniel cross poodle if you prefer), but there are some crossbreeds that are just a disaster waiting to happen when you consider the behavioural traits and some that possess remarkable abilities; if you believe the breeder.
Avoiding the arguments regarding hybrid vigour and whether crossbreeds are actually any healthier than either of their parents; let’s look at the important behavioural traits as these are the traits that make a dog suitable for a pet home or make it more suited for an active home.
It is important to do your research on the behaviour traits of all of the breeds that make up your crossbreed, and look at all the traits, not just the ones you like but the ones that aren’t so desirable.
Take cockerpoos…mine is from a cocker mother and a miniature poodle dad, both similar sizes, so I knew I was going to get a small/medium sized dog. Cockers tend to be very active, are very driven by scent (they were bred to hunt game remember) and this can lead them to wander quite a way away from you on walks unless trained to stay close, they can be chase orientated, generally like to retrieve but they can be resource guarders (food and toys). They can also be water lovers (usually the filthiest, smelliest water they can find). They are generally quiet dogs but I have met some that are serious barkers. They are also generally people sociable and dog sociable (if they have been socialised correctly). They may have a heavy coat and will need regular grooming.
Poodles don’t shed and will need regular clipping and grooming. They are ‘people’ dogs and just love to be around people and don’t do quite so well if they are left home alone. They tend to be yappers (always the exception to the rule) and they do tend to jump up and seem to like standing up on their back legs. They were originally water dogs and were bred to hunt game, although this does seem to have been diluted down. They are active dogs and need something to do.
I’ve ended up with exactly the dog I wanted – an active dog that is very toy orientated and roughly cocker sized. Luckily for me, she isn’t particularly vocal (although we sometimes get the cocker wooohooo) and she isn’t a resource guarder, although she does show some possessive traits. Yes she jumps up, yes she loves all people and all dogs. She has a heavy wavey coat that needs regular grooming and clipping. I’m lucky, because she is exactly what I was expecting. Many pet owners are not prepared for how active this cross can be, and those that are from working cockers are even more active. These dogs need a job to do; we’ve crossed to active, intelligent breeds and expect them to be content to have a 20 minute walk, twice a day. Sorry folks, they need a lot more mental stimulation than that. These dogs need to use their brains. They love scent work, love retrieve games, love activities such as flyball and agility and can be easily taught to help out around the home. They are not couch potatoes!
The same can be said of Labradoodles (labrador cross poodle). Again you have crossed two active, intelligent breeds that need to be doing something and many are not going to be content with just a short bumble around the park. The males may go through a real teenage phase and can be a bit rude with other dogs once they hit 7 months or so, and if this isn’t handled correctly, they can end up being bullies or end up dog aggressive. The males also tend to be much taller than a labrador if a standard poodle is used in the cross and can have a variety of coats (some of which moult quite badly).
Sprockers (cocker cross springer) tend to be happy go lucky, active, intelligent dogs and the cross has been around for ages…they do make a very good gundog. However, they can be resource guarders, can have a high chase drive and can be hunting machines that will find themselves several fields away from you if you don’t train them to stay close.
Husky crosses can look very pretty, but you need to consider the breed traits of the husky. These are bred to be independent dogs (let’s face it, they can survive without humans in a very harsh climate) and they are bred to run. They also have a very strong prey drive and often disappear chasing something. Couple this drive with something like a lurcher, or sighthound and you have a dog that is bred to run and to hunt and to be very independent and there is a whole host of trouble just waiting to happen.
Collie crosses are very common and many seem to be fab dogs in the right hands, but consider a collie’s traits. They have a strong instinct to herd (whether it is people, other dogs, cyclists, cars etc.), they are very intelligent and active and due to their herding heritage, they may well nip at ankles. Other dogs can find them hard to deal with due to the herding behaviour and due to the collie stare (also known as eye). Collies can be chasers (cars, cyclists, children, other dogs etc) and need a job of work to do. Taking a collie out for a long walk will just make it fitter and fitter and you will find that you’ll need to walk further and further each day in order to tire your collie out if you are just relying on physical exercise. They have incredible stamina.
Couple this stamina and speed with a spaniel and you’ve got a dog that is likely to be triggered to chased birds, rabbits, squirrels etc and has the stamina to run for miles. As collies can be very movement sensitive, the slightest movement and they can be off. Yes, they are some fabulous collie crosses out there that are fabulous family pets and you may well be lucky enough to find one that is a laid back couch potato, but be prepared that you may get the tireless workaholic side.
We’ll take a look at some other crosses in the next blog.
I’m not against crossbreeding as long as it is done responsibly and the behavioural traits of each breed are taken into consideration. Being unprepared for what you might get is why so many of these dogs end up being rehomed.
Check back for part 2