by Alicia Carr | on August 31st, 2010 | in Features, Training
This week, Mike Stewart takes us on a short hike with trail dogs Indian, Deke, Opus, and Drake. Follow along.
by Alicia Carr | on November 9th, 2009 | in Features, Swag the Dog
The wait was long. Four to six weeks for lab results drags on until you nearly forget about them. Then, one day, they arrive in your mailbox and everything you’ve been waiting for, like the results of the Canine Heritage Breed Test, is right there in your hand, sealed. Will the word “saluki” grace Rio’s Certificate of DNA Breed Analysis? And American staffordshire terrier (aka pit bull) be printed on Odin’s?
Well, as it turns out, no. No, no, and more no. Apparently, we were only right about one thing. But before I let you in on that, here are a couple more pictures so you can gather your final guesses.
Odin, the “pit bull”
Rio, the “saluki”
Within the results of a Canine Heritage Breed Test there are three groups in their analysis–primary breed, secondary, and “in the mix.” Dogs like Rio and Odin, who are mixed breed, will only have something listed under primary if one of their parents is purebred. Primary also indicates that a dog is mainly made up of a specific breed. Unfortunately, “primary” was left blank for both of my dogs, meaning neither hailed from a purebred. Had there been something listed, I would have been able to attribute my dogs’ characteristics more significantly to that certain breed.
Secondary breeds are those that “might be easily recognizable within your dog.” Here’s where I would guess rhodesian ridgeback for Rio because of her golden coloring, floppy ears, and large chest. The last category, “in the mix,” is made up of breeds that affect a dog’s composition in very small amounts, but are recognizable as markers in a dog’s DNA.
I present Rio:
Primary Breed: Nada
Secondary Breed: German Shorthaired Pointer
In the Mix: Australian Shepherd (thus, the furry tail and petite stature)
Rhodesian Ridgeback (ding, ding, ding!)
And now, Odin:
Primary Breed: Nope.
Secondary Breed: Sorry, my friend.
In the Mix: Boxer (the source of his brindled coat, white chest, and cat-like boxing moves)
Collie (also possibly the culprit behind the white chest)
Shetland Sheepdog (why he rounds up cattle)
Pembroke Welsh Corgi (wtf?)
According to the breakdown of the analysis, when a dog only has breeds listed “in the mix,” it is likely that only small traces of these breeds will be noticeable in the animal. Perhaps that’s why Odin isn’t “10 to 12 inches tall at the shoulder” like a corgi and doesn’t hold down a Tina Turner-like mane like his ancestors, the collie and Shetland sheepdog, but why he does have high-perched ears, a high-pitched bark, and a high-velocity ability to wrangle cattle.
Was I surprised about Rio? Nah. She might not have the brown-and-white spots of a German shorthaired pointer, but she’s got the moves to prove it; She chases down rabbits like it’s nobody’s business.
In the end, it’s nice to know Odin is not a pit bull (for home owners’ insurance purposes) and to be able to attribute his boxing habits (I swear, they exist) to something and not the idea that he was raised by a cat before coming into our home. Besides that, we didn’t learn much about our dogs that we didn’t already know. They won’t change because we know sort of who their grandparents were. But, it does fill that little thing inside called curiosity.
Are you surprised by my dogs’ results? Would you test your dog based on my experience?
by Alicia Carr | on November 2nd, 2009 | in Features, Swag the Dog
I’ve never been sure about what breed my two, raucous dogs are. I’ve been close to sure. I’ve had vets make suggestions and the dog-obsessed hint at a trace of this or that breed, but every time I almost have it nailed down, someone tells me otherwise or the dog pulls a stunt I’ve never seen. For instance, my mostly-black brindle dog, Odin, is quite possibly 90% pit bull. The shelter “sold” him to us as a lab mix, of course, but there’s no questioning his box-shaped melon and the marble-like coloring of his fur. Until, that is, we were out hiking and came across a scattered group of cattle. Never before have I seen him round up cattle. All it took was some high-pitched barking and nipping at their heels and he had them all in a small herd in the corner of the field. Um, border collie? Australian shepherd? General nuisance?
I don’t know why I’m so eager to find out what breeds actually inhabit their floppy ears and droopy eyes. It won’t change anything. They’ll still be the same pooches that they’ve always been. But knowing that there is a test out there that can reveal this piece of information makes me curious. When I first came across the Canine Heritage Breed Test, the process that is able to break down a dogs DNA to find its primary, secondary, and tertiary breeds, the company was only able to define roughly 68 breeds. That may sound like a lot but, when it comes to the hundreds of dog breed that exist, that’s just a pinprick in what should be a gaping hole. I was further deterred because someone had suggested my red dog, Rio, is part saluki—the oldest domesticated dog known to man—and that breed (which I’d never even heard of) did not grace the Canine Heritage Breed Test’s list.
Today, however, the test is able to detect over 100 breeds including said saluki as well as other rarities like wirehaired pointing griffon, a hunting dog that resembles an even longer-haired version of a wirehaired German pointer, or keeshonden, what looks like a mix between a chow chow and an Alaskan malamute. One hundred breeds is definitely not the gamut but saluki now exists on their list, so I figured that was my cue.
At first, I questioned the validity of it, but then I came across this:
“The Canine Heritage Breed Test began with the search for a set of unique DNA markers, known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms), which could identify the breed of a purebred dog. We started by testing over 400 different DNA markers on over 100 [AKC-recognized] purebred breeds to identify the unique combination of markers that describe each breed. After testing thousands of purebred dogs, a unique breed DNA profile was developed using over 400 DNA markers per breed. From these initial markers we identified a smaller subset of markers used for the Canine Heritage Breed Test. This final marker set, based on a blind study using thousands of dogs that have been verified to be purebred by AKC certification, was able to successfully assign the correct breed over 99% of the time when testing purebred dogs that are among our identifiable breeds. These markers were then applied and validated on mixed breed dog populations.”
How it works: You order a test kit from canineheritage.com ($120) which includes a cheek swab brush which you’ll use to collect cells from the inside of your dog’s cheek. You stick the swab into the data collection envelope they send, stamp it, mail it, and sit back for four- to six-weeks twiddling your thumbs. Collecting the cells is easier than you think. It’s simply like brushing the inside of the dog’s cheek for 30 seconds with what looks like a mascara brush.
When submitting the test, they ask for a voluntary photograph of your dog. I opted not to send one. While I’m sure the labs at the testing facility aren’t cooing at dog photos and going, “I don’t know, he looks more cocker spaniel than miniature pinscher,” I didn’t want to sway them one way or the other.
Give it your best shot. What breed do you think my dogs are?
What’s your best guess?