Crossbreed vs Purebreed

Alright, let’s do this.

Why do people crossbreed LGD x LGD?

(Because outcrossing is a whole different topic for another day. Maybe later in the day. Past 5 PM when drinking is socially acceptable.)

1. “Availability”
This was more of an issue 10 years ago when I was searching for a working line LGD around Montana and simply couldn’t find one. Now, there are many, many options here for purebred LGDs, so unless you are in Hawaii or Alaska, I no longer buy this excuse.

2. “Hybrid Vigor”
This goes back to the old, old wives tale of “But a mix is always healthier than a purebred dog because reasons!” – Not to get all sciency up in here, but “heterosis” or the state of having varied genes on a given chromosome, is not the GOAL of crossbreeding LGDs.

Why you may ask? Well, because relative to other breeds, LGDs are already quite genetically similar. The Ottoman Empire really got around in its day, and that’s why the Sarplaninac has a karabash (tan with black mask) color option you likely associate with the Kangal/Anatolian Shepherd Dog.

Breeders concerned with HEALTH and LONGEVITY test and track these qualities through generations. They do not depend on mixing breeds to do all the work for them. Nor do they “create” new breeds where there already exist many for an identical purpose.

3. “Cost”
Initial investment in a LGD cross is less than a purebred, generally speaking. Of course, you can get a $200 Great Pyrenees from craigslist, and I get $1500 for my crosses, but GENERALLY, cheaper. I see this excuse a lot. “I can’t afford a fancy dog to live out with the goats” – alright, you do you.

3a. Then you might go ahead and get two, because efficiency! And you realize “Oh, I can BREED them and then make my money back! Plus some!” Oh yeah! Because after feed, vet, dewormer, vaccines, more feed, and some stress (not to mention health screening), without anything going wrong at all you’ll find that breeding working LGDs isn’t a great way to make money. You’re much better off breeding and selling your goats/other stock animals. The level of responsibility associated with breeding dogs is exponentially higher than with livestock.

4. Priorities
Not in quotes, because this is an actual reason. Some people like to claim that their priorities are working performance rather than breed. However, once you ask enough/the right questions, you will glean whether or not this is a legitimate rationalization for crossbreeding. Usually, the people are just following 3a with more fancy terminology thrown in from point 2 for good measure. Fact is, nothing about being purebred makes a dog any less likely to be a good worker. Every dog has its own lineage and instincts. If your purebred dogs do not perform as well as your crossbred dogs – it is likely due to selection of less working lines in your purebred dogs, NOT because crosses are superior.

5. “Whoopsies!”
This is, I think, the most common HONEST answer for the origination of LGDxLGD crosses. Breeder has a purebred X and a purebred Y. They either don’t understand how heat cycles work, a bitch has a silent or split heat, they don’t have proper containment for their bitch, OR just don’t care to separate or alter their dogs.

No one really owns up to this one, but it does happen. The risk here is that they almost always have a Border Collie male, too. #fun!

6. Sentiment
This is the trap I fell into! Since my first LGD was a cross, I have a soft spot for his cross still. And yes, it’s ASD/Pyr. So I spent the time, sourced females to compliment him from the midwest (same cross. Again, sentimental over logical), and worked towards building my program in 2013-2015. THEN HE DIED. Work accident, long story short, he was hit by a yak, paralyzed, and had to be put down after 2 weeks of extensive therapy to try to bring him back. So that’s when I shifted towards purebred dogs, rather than replacing him with another cross.

I still have the female I bought for him in 2015 right before he got injured, and she is my heart dog. Infi is one of those ‘never needed any formal training, she just does her job’ dogs. So that is why she is still in my breeding program. And she is my only cross now.

People have all kinds of reasons for crossbreeding, but this one is by FAR the least reasonable. I also find it’s the most common, whether people admit it or not.

7. Project
Sometimes a breed has an issue, usually health or temperament related, that a breeder or club of breeders will hope to address through purposeful outcrossing. For example- The Spanish Mastiff breed has one of the highest incidences of hip dysplasia in all LGD breeds. If a few breeders got together to get the SMs back on track, working functional/healthy dogs into the lines over time and crossing back to selected healthy SMs, they *could* likely make a difference in the breed long term. That’s a GOOD reason to crossbreed. Again, sticking in the same subtype of breed (LGD).

All this said, owning an LGDxLGD cross doesn’t make you or anyone else a bad person. Producing them doesn’t either. But at some point, the crosses in F4+ generations are a mystery pot of “Yeah, there could be a non LGD breed or 5 in there somewhere” and THAT is where the risk comes in. You don’t need to be half herder to behave like one under certain circumstances.

It really comes down to the key question – Can you trust the breeder you got that crossbred LGD from? And the people they purchased their dogs from? How do you know for sure?

The reasons I am moving towards purebred Livestock Guardian dogs by 2025 are:

1. Predictability
IF you are selective about your breeder, lines, and specifically see the working parents, you’re more likely to be successful with your puppy.

2. Contribution
Done right, breeding should contribute to something larger than your ego or bank account. Crossbreeding doesn’t really have a mechanism to do this.

3. Bullshit Avoidance
Honestly, the people looking for crossbreeds don’t want to pay my price, listen my advice, or really follow through on their end of my client expectations. I’m tired of the BS. I will always back my pups for life, but when Infi is done, so am I with the crosses. And yeah, purebred buyers can supply their own kinds of BS, but they are usually a little different. Buyer screening does help with the BS mitigation. Also, lots of purebred people hate you when you crossbreed. It’s not a huge component, but it is a factor when trying to preserve working dogs takes a village. You don’t want to piss off half the village.

4. Health Testing
Submitting PennHIP/OFAs on a crossbreed dog is rough- you basically have to pick a breed, there aren’t two slots. And since I was the ONLY ONE bothering to do the work to screen my crosses- we’re back to point 2, not contributing to anything. At some point, that gets old.

There you have it, the longest answer to a simple question. There are more points, but for now enough is enough lol. If anyone has questions, I’m happy to do my best to answer them. I don’t offend easy.