From Morkis to Puggles, the recent explosion of crossbreeds over the last ten years has certainly given birth to some pretty amusing portmanteau names. Regular readers of Gilbertson & Page’s breed profiles will know that the profiles tend to concentrate on pure breeds. We thought we’d give a little space to some of the amazing crossbreeds, the reasons they have been created and how best to cater for their nutritional needs.
Firstly, let’s confirm exactly what is meant by the term ‘crossbreed’. A crossbreed is intentionally bred from two or more recognised dog breeds. If the dog and bitch used for breeding have non-purebred ancestors, the resulting puppies are classed as mixed breed dogs. A crossbreed becomes a new breed when the breeding is far enough down the line to be consistent, or ‘breed true’.
Crossbreeds have been created for a variety of reasons:
- To breed out behavioural and temperament issues, such as the Bull Boxer. The laidback Boxer combines with the less sociable Staffordshire Bull Terrier to create a crossbreed with the combined strength of both breeds, but a more easy going nature.
- To breed out genetic health problems, such as the Cavapoochon. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed famed for its genetic health issues, crossed with the Miniature Poodle and Bichon Frise.
- To create hypoallergenic coats for those who suffer from pet hair allergies, such as the Labradoodle, which combines the hypoallergenic coat of the Poodle with the Labrador.
- To create a certain look that combines characteristics from two breeds, such as the Puggle, Bichon Yorkie or Muggins.
Some examples of crossbreeds include:
- Cockerpoos (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle)
- Labradoodles (Labrador x Poodle)
- Puggles (Pug x Beagle)
- Cavapoochons (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Miniature Poodle x Bichon Frise)
- Muggins (Miniature Schnauzer x Pug)
- Gollis (Golden Retriever x Collie)
- Pomchis (Pomeranian x Chihuahua)
- Schnoodle (Schnauzer x Poodle)
- German Chusky (German Shepherd x Husky x Chow Chow)
- Dorgi (Dachshund x Corgi)
- Dobernauzer (Doberman x Schnauzer)
- Wollie (Collie x Whippet)
- Patterjack (Patterdale x Jack Russell)
- Morki (Maltese x Yorkshire Terrier)
- Westiepoo (West Highland White Terrier x Poodle)
Increasing the gene pool is a great way to make breeds more resilient and live longer. However, this does rely on breeders being conscientious in choosing the right parents to breed from. In fact, choosing a responsible dog breeder, who has carried out any necessary genetic testing, is the first place to start for anyone wishing to own a crossbreed. A good dog breeder will not breed from a bitch too frequently. Nor will they remove the puppies from their mother too soon. Furthermore, they will also offer helpful advice on the combination of temperaments, behaviours and physical attributes in their crossbreed.
Knowing which generational cross a new puppy is can also be very helpful. Typically these are indicated as F1 which is the first cross, i.e. Poodle x Cocker Spaniel, F2, a second generational cross, i.e. a F1 Cockerpoo x F1 Cockerpoo and so on. The most stable crosses are F3 onwards where a generalised form starts to emerge. However the healthiest cross is the F1, which benefits from hybrid vigour. To avoid a particular health deficit the F1 would be the better crosses to look for.
In terms of feeding a crossbreed, deciding when to move from one food to another can be tricky. It is hard to tell when a puppy becomes a junior dog and a junior dog becomes an adult when there are unknown factors. Feeding a good balanced growth diet, like Dr John Puppy, for the first couple of months is a great start. A good time to change to a junior dog food is when a puppy resembles a leggy adolescent but is definitely still growing. Growth is slowing down but there is still a requirement for more protein, energy and minerals to aid correct skeletal development and growth. Dr John Puppy or Dr John Titanium provide all the necessary protein and energy at this stage. Making changes to food as gradually as possible in order to assess digestion of the new diet is important.
With most breeds there are guidelines as to when they reach final maturity. Typically for a toy dog this is at 6-9 months of age, a small dog at 9-12 months of age, a large breed dog at 18-22 months of age and a giant breed dog at 22-24 months of age. Skeletal maturity usually occurs a couple of months earlier than these guidelines. A growth diet can stop once a dog reaches skeletal maturity. A good indication of this for crossbreeds is when the dog has stopped gaining height, weight gain is minimal and what appears to be a final mature shape is achieved. Staying on the Junior diet for a couple of months longer than necessary is unlikely to cause any harm. However, it is important to work out whether a dog is growing or gaining excess fat and feed the appropriate amount.
Generally it’s a good idea to match a food to a dog’s size, activity, temperament and any special breed requirements. However, with a crossbreed, this poses its own challenges. It is easy to confuse the activity levels of a young adolescent with the high energy of a adult Springer Spaniel or Dalmation type of dog. A dog that digs and chews could have behavioural issues linked to boredom or could be displaying terrier tendencies. Although inheriting genetic diseases is less likely for crossbreeds, it can still be a possibility. Knowing and understanding the parent breeds can help pinpoint health issues to watch out for.
The best course of action is to choose a complete dog food that is nutritionally-balanced and size-sensitive (ie, the biscuit size matches the dog’s mouth size). Then the owner should monitor the dog’s health carefully and adjust the diet accordingly should any problems arise. Things to look out for include coat condition, digestive problems, weight gain, behaviour and general health. Other factors, such as seasonal temperature variations, holidays and supplementary foods, can also influence general health. It is inadvisable to make frequent changes to diet as this can become a problem in itself and confuse the issue.
Crossbreeds tend to live longer than purebreeds, 1.22 years on average according to a recent study, so choosing a good senior food for the later years will be important. An older dog is less active and therefore more likely to gain weight. This can exacerbate ill health, including joint problems. Good senior foods include Dr John Silver Chicken and Gilpa Slimline. They are lighter to account for the reduced activity, but still palatable to maintain appetite. It should also include supplements such as New Zealand green-lipped mussel extract. This is a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin to help keep joints supple for longer in later life.
Whilst crossbreeds may be unpredictable in some ways, this only serves to provide nice surprises in terms of looks, intelligence, general good health and longevity.
There is a full list of dog crossbreeds here. This article uses information from Gilbertson & Page’s nutritionist.