Why is it wrong to cross-breed

By: Romana ("Rona") Paszkowska

What makes the difference between the Czechoslovakian Vlcak (CSV for short) dog breed and what the Americans call wolfdog/wolf hybrid/ is the level of predictability of the animal's appearance, character and behaviour.

In case of CSV an extremely tough and fast process of controlled selection for specific features took place for several years. It was completed with a detailed breed standard and the registry of the breed at FCI. In case of wolf/dog hybrids - there has been no such targeted selection. This means that when getting a pedigree CSV from a reliable kennel, where the parents are carefully selected according to the rules of good breeding practice, pups are well socialised and used to interacting with the "human pack" from their early days, the owner knows what kind of animal he might expect. When buying a wolf/dog hybrid of any wolf blood content either 98% or 5%- one may expect anything - a wolf, a dog or any combination of these...

The same principle refers to mixing Czechoslovakian vlcaks with dogs of other wolf-looking breeds: Northern Inuits, German Shepherd Dogs, Saarlos wolfdogs, huskies, malamutes, etc. This practice has been common in the UK, but by doing that, people who call themselves breeders gradually dilute the features of CSV which have been so clearly described in the breed standard.

Sixty years ago in the Pohranicny Straze Military Kennel methodical work was carried out towards selection of CSVs that would be as doggish, trainable and work-loving as GSDs, and as healthy, strong and with as sharp senses as wolves. Only four Carpathian wolves were used in the creation of the breed and the last crossing took place in 1980. The full pedigree of each registered CSV can be traced back to the crossing with the wolves and the names and kennels of the GSD are also known. There were no random matchings! The first hybrids (F1, F2, F3) were trained for work and later tested. Those, that did not pass extremely tough working tests were eliminated, unfortunately also physically, from breeding. Just like animals of the strongest 'wolfish' nature, most independent and shy were NOT used for further breeding simply because they were useless for military service. Still, some of their genes remained in the population and their remote "echoes" now contribute to the differences among particular CSV individuals. That's why it's not an easy breed and requires much time, effort and knowledge on the part of the owners, especially when raising very smart and ingenuous pups.

People who know the breed well put great emphasis on the need to train CSVs and give them opportunity to work - whether it's obedience, sport tracking, mantrailing, defence, endurance runs by the bike (40, 70, 100 km), agility, etc. 'Work drive' especially towards tracking is the most basic selected element of their nature and at the same time the most valuable trait of their character, which shouldn't be wasted if the dogs are to match the standard and not be turned into a pure 'show breed' or litter machines. Providing them with enclosed running space which is so often boasted on websites, is a nice addition to their welfare, but it's not the most important factor. Not being wild wolves only dogs, vlcaks are happy only when able to closely interact with their human pack and have a clear set of obligations and rights. Positive training brings the best out them, aggressive 'corrections' - teach them aggression, leaving them on their own – makes them bored, indifferent to humans and prone to act on their own – escape and look for adventures.

I personally think, as the majority of reasonable CSV owners and breeders from Europe, that mix-breeding CSVs with other animals is morally wrong, since it would eventually lead to the destruction of the breed, which is still in the phase of development. Honest and solid breed lovers and breeders have been trying now to cooperate internationally in order to breed smart, friendly, typical and healthy CSVs, more and more balanced as far as the appearance and especially the character is concerned, according to he initial assumption of the breed creators: a Czech, ing Hartl, and a Slovak, Maj Rosik. This means that such people are ready to accept the fact that however loveable some of their dogs are, if they don't meet the breeding standards, e.g. are too shy, have atypical bodies or reactions or carry genetically conditioned unwanted features, such as "broken tail" or poor HD or ED, they are withdrawn from the breeding programme and become just pets. By producing accidental mixes with other breeds and wolves, work and efforts of devoted breeders would be easily damaged and the deaths of many beautiful animals that did not pass the tests in the Military Kennel would be wasted, not to mention the suffering of the people who were involved in this very controversial "experiment", which in my opinion should not be judged now, after so many years.

The gene pool of the breed is rather limited and that's why the breeders carry great responsibility for wise and knowledgeable breeding, to strengthen the positive features, to avoid hereditary illnesses and keep the separate genetic lines. People who mix-breed often argue that CSV gene pool is too narrow and that's why they need to add wolf to it. New addition of Carpathian wolf's blood (the scientist argue that this was the key to success – Carpathian wolves are shy, but their crosses turned more oriented towards cooperation with humans than those with American wolves) might theoretically help enrich it, but it would be a very risky step. Hardly anyone can imagine in modern 'humane' times, in civilian conditions such fast, tough and.... cruel selection process like the one that took place in the Czechoslovakian Army. If carried out fairly, such project would cost a fortune, involve many people - breeders, trainers and still without a strict targeted selection the balance and stability of the breed would be put at great risk. Not to mention the fact that some countries would again ban the breed, since their law does not allow importing dogs closer than certain number of generations away from the wolf. That's why it might be safer to open new lines on the basis of single positive mutations or even slight inbreed on particularly good studs. Such undertakings, however, require a lot of knowledge, experience and good international contacts among major breeders. But above all trust, conviction of common responsibility and willingness to compromise for the sake of the breed welfare.

I keep asking myself how could one define the term "breeder"?

  • Definitely it's not a businessman who makes litters to raise money and treats animals like machines for producing pups.
  • It's not somebody who dares to take the risk to ruin the work of other breeders – somebody calling himself a breeder should first of all be a guardian of a breed he's chosen to work with and protect it as much as he can!.
  • Neither will I call a breeder somebody who lacks knowledge on how to improve the features of his dogs by wise matchings, only takes shortcuts by irresponsibly adding genes of other breeds to produce mongrels with unpredictable characteristics, that often land in rescue centres.
  • For a breeder good veterinary care and provision of decent living conditions for the dogs should be so obvious that I can't help finding suspicious when somebody is boasting about them on their sites
  • A breeder should have enough knowledge of the breed(s) as not to write incorrect information about it on his/her site. Breeding is a collectivist issue – no good breeder is able to breed without close contact and cooperation with other breeders, without having his dogs shown at dog shows, taking them to training camps and other meetings and gatherings. Such activities at least show if the dogs have characters that enable them function outside their kennels and enclosures.

For all the reasons stated above I fully agree with the FCI rule, that if any registered breeder is found mixbreeding and selling the pups, he is banned from any FCI affiliated kennel club for good and is persona non grata in FCI.

Whatever the origin of the breed was, these beautiful, smart and healthy animals now live by us. They're lovely and loyal... I think it was W. Churchill who said that he liked neither dogs nor cats, because dogs looked up to man and cats down on him. I bet he would like CSV since they are man's partners, they love their pack, but definitely are not slaves. It's just a matter of imagination & ethics to protect them, and keep the way they are...