Crossbred or Purebred LGD? 

Why choose a purebred dog instead of a crossbred dog?  Aren’t all the livestock guardian dogs the same?  Aren’t cross bred dogs healthier?  These are common questions people ask when making the search for a livestock guardian dog. 

Purebred dogs have been bred for many generations following a specific breed standard in order to produce a dog with reliable, predictable traits, both physical (the way they look) and behavioral (barking, wandering).  Crossbred dogs don’t have predictable traits because they are a blend and do not follow a breed standard.  Not all crossbreds are F1 hybrids, some are just mutts. The breeder of crossbreds should be using registered purebreds to create their crossbred, if they aren’t, then there’s no telling what you are getting.  Hence, the old saying, “crossbreds don’t breed true”.

Great Pyrenees have a strong desire to wander great distances. Wandering and excessive barking are the two common complaints with this breed. They are dog friendly and have a thick coat which doesn’t shed easily.  They are heavier in proportion to their height and tend to be less active in the heat.  Maremma sheepdogs and Komondors are more active in hot climates but have a tendency to be people aggressive.  Anatolian Shepherds were shown in a USDA research trial to have a very high rate (78%) of mauling and even killing their livestock when compared to other livestock guardian breeds. Both Komondors and Anatolian Shepherds were described as late-maturing, meaning the problem of play-chasing livestock persisted longer than in other breeds.  Kangal Dogs tend to be the “romanticized” lgd breed of the moment.  However, more than one Kangal Dog has been so seriously “dog-unfriendly” that it has pursued a dog onto its own property and killed it.  Large and powerful, that breed is seldom responsive to a human command if it is intent on some sort of action.

What does the buyer of a ¼ Pyr, ¼ Kom, ½ Anatolian get?  Maybe a dog that matures early (like the Pyr); maybe a dog that tends to stay home (like the Kom); maybe a dog that tolerates heat (like the Anatolian). OR maybe the buyer gets a “traveling” dog that chases and injures his own livestock and then starts on the neighbor’s and threatens to bite if disciplined. Or maybe that ¼ Pyr was just a guess and the long coat came from someone’s collie – a herding dog that by nature chases livestock and bites readily.

What is the problem with crossbred lgds?  Not all livestock guard dogs share the same traits.  Some were bred with bite inhibition; others were valued for keeping human predators at bay! Some tend to be active only in the cool of the day/night.  Some were developed in areas where it was usual to have a herder present that could reprimand a playful or unruly dog.  With crossbred dogs, the mix is a potential pandora’s box of traits!

Because crossbred dogs and dogs of uncertain backgrounds are the most common lgds today, we see lectures on Facebook about keeping a dog tied or isolated from livestock until it is 2 or even 3 years of age!  We even have heard researchers whose only experience has been with crossbred dogs (including some Airedale thrown in for “grit?”) say that a young lgd killing some lambs is just the cost of business!  The source of bad advice is bad experience with bad dogs! 

That is exactly why people have developed breeds – families of dogs with predictable traits.   If you consider any of these to be negative traits, then you need to get a purebred dog that does not have them genetically hard-wired into their behavior.

The Akbash Dog, once it learns where its boundaries are,  does not have a strong desire to roam.  Akbash Dogs are the result of generations of sheep guarding dogs raised in villages in Turkey, where ABSOLUTELY NO BITING DOGS are tolerated. This lack of instinct to nip or snap at people AND livestock is referred to as bite inhibition. They will bark, growl, and fiercely “posture” when a human intruder appears --- but they are not people aggressive nor stock aggressive dogs.  Akbash Dogs in various studies have proved to be very protective of and attentive to their livestock. While not as early maturing as the shorter, heavier built Great Pyrenees, the Akbash Dog matures more quickly than the Komondor or the Anatolian Shepherd.  

Purebred dog breeders have chosen to breed a dog whose genetic traits they value.  They have an obligation to their registry and breed club to produce healthy dogs.  This is often outlined in a Code of Ethics that the breeder is to follow.  Many purebred breeders offer health guarantees with the purchase of their dogs. 

Cross bred breeders rarely feel such an obligation to evaluate the health of their dogs, let alone attempt to predict what tendencies their mixed pups might have.  Few if any breeders of mixed breed pups test their breeding dogs for genetic issues like hip dysplasia. If they are not using dogs that are healthy and free of genetic issues, then they could actually be compounding health problems.

 Recent studies have shown that many crossbreds are often times very unhealthy.  A recent study published in American Veterinary Medical Association showed that in mixed breed dog populations 40 out of 100 were carriers for at least one of the most common genetic diseases found in dogs whereas in the purebred population there were only 28 carriers out of 100.  Notably a crippling condition that is more common among crossed or  “hybrid” dogs  is ruptured cruciate ligament.  This condition is common among large breeds with certain structural issues in the hindlegs. The result of ACL issues is to be crippled or to have expensive reconstructive surgery.  This new research on purebred vs “hybrid” crosses illustrates the dedication that most purebred breeders have and their willingness to pay for and benefit from genetic testing, health screening, and then neutering problem animals. This dedication is rarely shared by cross bred puppy producers.

Sources:
https://www.avma.org/javma-news/2018-06-15/study-reveals-genetic-diseases-mixed-breed-purebred-dogs  Downloaded April 28, 2020

https://pubs.nal.usda.gov/sites/pubs.nal.usda.gov/files/LivestockGuardingDogs.pdf  Downloaded April 28, 2020

Personal communication from Roger Woodruff to Tamara Taylor, 1996.

Additional reading:
https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Truth-About-Hybrid-Vigor-in-Dogs-Breeders-Dont-Want-You-to-Know

https://news.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=210&Id=6005608&useobjecttypeid=10&fromVINNEWSASPX=1