Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Dog is a What? [Survey Says!]

Today is a significant milestone. Barron, among the best friends I've had in my lifetime, turns fifteen years old today - Happy Birthday, good buddy!

I recently gave an overview of his personality where I wondered about his lineage. I didn't know his parents, so I've only been able to wonder what breeds co-mingled to create such a mild-mannered but energetic, mellow but attentive, focused but aware, loyal but social companion.

Recently we sent a vial of blood to the Wisdom Panel lab for a DNA test. And now the results are in.

The picture below shows the breeds detected in Barron. The relative size of the breed image shows the amount of each breed detected in our analysis. There are also signals from other breeds which are not strong enough to identify with confidence. How can these faint signals occur? There are two possibilities. First, your dog could have mixed-breed ancestors beyond three generations back. A second reason is that our test may not yet cover one of the breeds in your dog’s ancestry.

When reading your report, keep in mind that all physical traits of the breeds found may not always be apparent in your dog. Why? Because a mixed-breed dog’s appearance varies depending on the overall mix of breeds found. When dominant and recessive genes combine from the different breeds across the generations, unique and unpredictable combinations can occur. This is a big reason why your dog may not exhibit the physical traits of each breed we found.

  • Significant Breed - At least 50% of your dog’s DNA comes from this breed, so you are likely to see some physical and behavioral traits from this breed represented unless some of the genes are recessive.
  • Intermediate Breed - At least 25% of your dog’s DNA comes from this breed, so you may see some physical and behavioral traits represented in your dog.
  • Minor Breed - At least 12.5% of your dog’s DNA comes from this breed, so it is unlikely that this breed’s physical traits are visually represented unless some of the genes are dominant.

The vast majority of folks trying to identify him by phenotype alone picked Chow Chow, and if you guessed Chow, pat yourself on the back! He's got blue-black pigment on his mostly-pink tongue, he's got the lion-like ruff of fur, he's got the very straight rear legs and the stilted gait of a Chow. But, clearly, he's not pure Chow. The real guessing game began with German Shepard Dog or another of the Chow-like spitz types, Akita, Elkhound, and Keeshond, topping the list.

Those guesses were obviously (in the 20/20 hindsight kind of way) wrong, wrong, and wrong. No one ever, ever, suspected a representative from the mountain dog group. Let alone one called a . . . a what? Entlebucher Mountain Dog? Turns out, if you're not from Switzerland you have no chance of saying that properly.

Regarding the classification into "Significant Breed" and "Intermediate Breed," I simplify it this way: one of Bear's parents was a Chow Chow, descended from Chow Chows. The other parent was a mix, the offspring of an Entlebucher Mountain Dog and another that was either a mix itself, or a breed not yet entered in Wisdom Panel's database. I hope they kept some blood on ice for a retest in a few years.

Chows are fairly well known. The report gives a brief summary that reads,

The Chow Chow is a venerable breed dating back at least two thousand years. Many believe that the breed originated in China, but there is some evidence that indicates the Chow Chow actually migrated to China from Mongolia and Manchuria. While no one can say for sure from which breeds the Chow Chow has descended, it is believed that the breed has Tibetan mastiff and Samoyed in its bloodline. The Chow Chow served a dual purpose in China. Some were used for hunting while others were used to guard the sacred temples from evil entities. The East Indian Company brought the Chow Chow to England in 1781 and Queen Victoria received Chow Chows as a gift in 1865. During the 1880’s, the numbers of Chow Chows imported increased drastically. The Chow Chow is one of the oldest known breeds, recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1903.

The report asks, "Do you recognize any of these Chow Chow traits in Barron?"

  • Reputation as a loyal family dog. -- Most definitely.
  • Independent spirit, but responds to reward-based obedience training. -- Not really. I wouldn't call him an independent spirit, but he certainly responds to reward-based obedience training.
  • Reserved and wary with strangers. -- Nope, not even close.
  • May require socialization to reduce defensive aggressive tendencies. There have been reported incidents of Chow Chows being aggressive with other pets or people. -- Nope, friendly with anyone/everyone, though he snaps at the cats once in a while. When they're too close to his food.

And what about an Entlebucher Mountain Dog? (Gallery of images)

The Entlebucher Mountain dog, also known as the Entlebucher Sennenhund or Entlebucher Cattle dog, is the smallest of the four Swiss Mountain dogs. It is a dog native to the Entlebuch district in Switzerland, near the city of Lucerne. The breed originated from the large Molosser breed that was introduced into Switzerland by the Romans during the 1st century BC. The Entlebucher was first recognized as a separate breed in 1869 and the first breed club was founded in 1926. The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is extremely popular in Switzerland but is rarely seen in other countries. At one point, they were in danger of becoming extinct. The first Entlebuchers were kept for their herding and guarding skills. However, nowadays they are kept as family dogs. The breed has been a member of the American Kennel Club’s Foundation stock service since 2000.

These are the traits typical of Entlebuchers:

  • Requires regular physical activity and training, excelling in competitive sports. It is intelligent and responds well to obedience training using a reward based system. -- Definitely intelligent and food-motivated as a reward system. He never minded physical activity and training, though panosteitis, arthritis, and hip dysplasia limited what we did.
  • Large, active, gentle, loyal, working dogs. -- Most definitely.
  • This breed is loyal and protective of its family and property. -- Loyal, for sure. Protective, not really. I always thought if someone broke in our home, rather than chase them off he'd help them carry stuff out to the van.
  • Requires early socialization with other dogs and people. -- I don't know about this, but if he required it, he must have had it.
  • May be wary of strangers. -- Again with the wariness? Nope. And the Entlebucher Sennenhund WWW site claims the opposite: "Friendly, with pleasant personalities, Entlebuchers enjoy being around people, and other dogs." I suppose this is where he gets his, "I never met a stranger" attitude.

Now, having read up on Entlebucher Mountain Dogs, I see him differently. Some things he does we just look and say, "What an Entlebucher!" And physically we can see some mountain dog features, from his coloring to his muscular build. But many features appear to be intermediate between Chow and Mountain Dogs, such as his muzzle, which is shorter than the Entlebucher but not as short as a Chow. His ears are longer than a Chow but shorter than a Entlebucher, and his tail is fuzzy and set high like a Chow, but not held close to the back. It's longer and carried higher than a Chow, I presume like an Entlebucher.

Though I wonder what the "Intermediate Breed" might be and how that is expressed in his physical traits and behavior, I am excited to have a mostly complete picture of his ancestry and watch him in that context.

Barron, it's great to re-meet you!

More images in my previous post.



Laura K said...

I've been on the edge of my seat for WEEKS. Thanks for finally revealing Barron's genetic identity. I see I was totally wrong about Aikido!

Anonymous said...

I mean Akita, of course.

A Jackie Chan movie was on...:)


noflickster said...

@Laura - Sorry I kept you in suspense for so long. And I didn't even register "Aikido" as the martial art when I read your comment. Funny!

Anonymous said...

Rather interesting place you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Truly yours

Hilke Breder said...

I finally caught up with your post. What a rare and distinguished background! Am familiar with Bernese Mountain Dogs, never heard of this breed. Now I am curious about my dog: part Blue Tick Coonhound... or German Shorthair Pointer...? I am tempted to have him tested.

noflickster said...

Hi Hilke,

I was very impressed to discover Barron's true heritage, especially given how off all of my early guesses were. The vet finally updated his lineage from whatever I guessed at during his first vet visit in 1995. Testing him was very exciting, wish I knew when he was puppy so I would have understood his behaviors more accurately!

Anonymous said...

Great mini-series on Barron. I too have a beloved once-stray mutt who inspires an on-going guessing game about his origins. Maybe, just maybe, I'll follow your lead & have him tested. Hmmm.

Your dog is a big beauty, and I wish you more good time with me. My last wondermutt lived to be around 17 (she was a young full-grown when we took her in & we had her 15 years.) Hoping the same with my current!

Out walking the dog said...

Great mini-series on Barron. I too have a beloved once-stray mutt who inspires an on-going guessing game about his origins. Maybe, just maybe, I'll follow your lead & have him tested. Hmmm.

Your dog is a big beauty, and I wish you more good time with me. My last wondermutt lived to be around 17 (she was a young full-grown when we took her in & we had her 15 years.) Hoping the same with my current!

noflickster said...

Hi Outwalkingthedog - great screen name! And thank you for your comments. It seems the testing is marketed towards "getting to know your puppy" so you can provide and care for that (those) breed(s), and understand behaviors they may exhibit.

I raised Barron thinking he was at least part German Shepard Dog which seems to have worked out pretty well, but I wonder how my approach would have differed had I known to focus on Chow Chow and Mountain Dog.

He's doing well into his 15th year, especially now that the snow is gone. But that's a trade off: he thrives in cold weather, which is disappearing fast!

Javis Lounsbury said...

Wow, very interesting. So you can actually read a dog's personality by examining his DNA. This is very good for those pet lovers who want to learn more about their pet's behavior. Most importantly, kudos to Barron for living an incredible 15 years and still counting! Truly, a milestone for any dog.

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