Analyzing the Analysis: Wisdom Panel DNA Tests & Mixed-Breed Dogs

We started a  “Guess the Breed Background” contest this week after sending in a DNA sample of Katie’s dog, Leo to the Mars Wisdom Panel lab. Here’s a photo of Leo if you missed it:

Leo 2

Over 292 people sent in their guesses, and congratulations are due to Robin S!  Of all the 290+ guesses on the blog, you came closest of anyone to guessing Leo’s genetic background, as analyzed by the Wisdom Panel (Professional), by guessing (in order of genetic representation), Boxer/Shih Tzu/Sheltie . But then, no one actually came very close to guessing what came back on the Wisdom Panel, which was:

One parent was half Boxer and half American Staffordshire Terrier (so Leo is 1/4 of each). (No one guessed both breeds as part of the mix, which is understandable if you think about it, but a good reminder to us all when guessing breed backgrounds.) This result appears to be definitive, in that there is a very high confidence level that one of Leo’s parents was indeed a Boxer/Am Staff cross.

The other parent came back as “Mixed Breed,” as did Leo’s grandparents and great grandparents. The top 5 breeds comprising that ‘mixed breed’ were German Spitz 21.86% , Shuh Tzu 8.5%, Belgian Tervuren 6.35%, Parson Russell Terrier 4.88% and Mastiff 4.49%.

Reports like this have generated a veritable stew of questions, confusions and in some cases, if I may be so blunt, snorts of derision. A cursory look at articles and comments about the results that others have received are full of skepticism about reports that include extremely rare breeds like Dandi Diamont Terriers, Jindos, Cane Corso & Scottish Deerhounds as part of the mixed-breed analysis. Look, for example, at some of the analyses that came up in a study being done by Dr. Julie Levy. I can understand the questions: Exactly how many Salukis or Brussels  Griffons are out running the streets breeding willy nilly with someone’s mutt down the road?

In Leo’s case, Katie and I were 100% on board with the Boxer/Am Staff results. We always thought he had some pit-type breeding in him, and Leo behaves as much like a Boxer as, well, a Boxer. He is high energy and clownish and most importantly, uses his paws like a Boxer all the time. In Katie’s words “He thinks any problem can be solved by throwing a paw at it.”

Then we looked at the breeds listed under “Mixed-Breed.” German Spitz? Hummm. Seems possible, but certainly not a breed that comes to mind looking at Leo. (At least not to us.) However, look up German Spitz and you’ll find that it is both a breed and a type, which includes  American Eskimo and Pomeranian. And 8.50% Shih Tzu? Seems possible. 4.49% Mastiff? Hmm, what might that mean?

This is when it is wise to actually pay attention to what the good people at Mars are telling you. Here’s the text at the top of the page titled “What does the Mixed Breed Analysis mean for my dog?” It began by saying “We have identified for you the next 5 best breed matches which appeared in the analysis of your dog’s DNA. One or more of these breeds could [my emphasis] have contributed to the genetic makeup of the ancestors indicated by the mixed breed icon.” It goes on to say that there may be a breed or breeds that they can’t detect with their current data base of purebred dogs. In other words, they are confident that one of Leo’s parents is a half Boxer/half Am Staff, and are making likely predictions of the other parent. In other words, the ‘mixed breed’ analyses are guesses. Good ones, but still, just guesses based on probability statements. Neither are they saying that Leo is, for example, exactly 21.86% German Spitz, but rather, “…the relative strength of each result in our analysis with the most likely at the top of the list.” Exactly, then, what the percentages mean were unclear to me, until I spoke to several people at Mars itself.

After networking through just a few channels I was able to speak with two of the top people at Mars Veterinary, Alan Martin, PhD and Senior Bioinformatics Scientist, and Angela Hughes,  DVM & PhD and Veterinary Genetics Research Manager. They know more about genetics in their sleep than I do wide awake–I don’t even know what “bioinformatics” is for heavens sake. Happily, after almost an hour and a half speaking to the two of them, I knew a heck of a lot more than I did before we spoke. (Don’t be jealous; anyone who would like to talk about the result they obtained is more than welcome to call and speak to an expert at the company.)

Here are some of the things I learned: First off, the test done by Mars is best described as a pattern recognition test. The computers (each dog’s analysis requires 7 million runs) look at 321 “markers” on the chromosomes in the sample, looking for patterns of base-pairs in the strands of DNA. The computer program is looking for patterns consistent with both different ancestral breed types (“Guard breeds” like mastiffs, Am Staffs, etc, “Ancient breeds” like Chows and Siberian Huskys or “European breeds” like hounds and retrievers), and individual breeds, each of which has its own distinctive pattern of arrangement of base-pairs. (Here’s a good Genetics 101 refresher for anyone who would like the review.) Some breeds have more definitive patterns than others, especially those that have been closely bred as purebreds for a long time. Dr. Hughes reported that breeds like Catahoulas, Jack Rusell Terriers and Rat Terriers, who were bred more for function and less for form for so long, are more varied genetically and thus a bit harder to pin down. (It also explains why some of these breeds show up as false positives, when the computer searches can’t find a match and in some electronic version of desperation, settles on a Catahoula.

Speaking of Rare Breeds:  That was my primary question to both scientists at Mars. What do those low percentage breeds really mean? That somewhere way back in time Leo really did have a purebred Tervuren ancestor, or not? The answer is maybe. It could be that Leo simply has some patterns of base-pairs on his chromosomes that just happen to be very much like a similar sequence in Tervs or more likely, a related breed in a similar group. It could be that indeed, somewhere back in time a purebred Terv bred with someone’s purebred Whatchamacallit. Mars has done extensive testing of their computer models and found that their “Mixed-Breed” analysis is about 90% accurate. Given the complexity of genetics, that is impressive. It also means that 10% of the time, it is flat wrong.  Thus, an analysis could come up with several very likely breeds and one outlier.  Rather than dismissing the results as a whole, the surprising outlier simply deserves more attention, or to be taken with a grain of salt.

If you’ve scrolled ahead you’ve just seen a photo of Leo’s mother.  She came into the shelter pregnant, and so half of Leo’s parentage is definitive, if not to breed at least to an individual. Katie did not send the photo in with the DNA sample (she sent in a blood sample; do be careful of cheek samples, they can be easily compromised although it costs less to do). However, I sent the photo in this morning to Dr. Hughes at Mars and she immediately said “Oh, that explains the breed that came up just under our reporting criteria, Miniature Wire-Haired Dachshund.” (I thought PBGV when I first saw her. Shows what I know… which is enough, I would add, to keep my mouth shut whenever anyone asks me to guess a breed.) Based on looking at all the details of the data (only the top 5 breeds making up a “mixed-breed” are reported unless you call and ask), there is a suggestion that Leo’s mom has a lot of Min WH Dachshund and Shih Tzu in her. I also learned that wire hair (or “furnishings” as they as so delightfully called) and short legs are dominant traits, so it is not surprising that they show up in Mom.




Overall, after all this, I have a much more nuanced understanding of what the results of the Wisdom Panel tests actually mean, and find the results to be extremely interesting. Much of the time I would argue that the motivation for the tests is to satisfy our curiosity, a trait I find to be one of humankind’s most useful and endearing. However, there are other more practical applications: Once one knows if there are purebred lines well represented in one’s “mutt,” one can also ask for Genetic Mutation Tests to be done. For example, Terriers suffer from several diseases more often than other breeds (lens luxation for example), and Leo’s test shows that he is negative for the ADAMTS17 mutation that could cause that affliction. Good to know, especially if early treatment would make a difference in the case of some diseases.

But what if you get back a report that says “No Result”? I read several comments by angry or disappointed people who got back a report that said there was no particular breed that could be assigned to their dog.  They felt that they had wasted their money, and clearly wanted to get results that listed a breed, any breed, in the report. I asked Dr. Hughes about this, and she said first, reports are now sent even with low probability results, in the understanding that everyone wants to know something about what the analysis found. In addition, all “No Result” reports are now sent with a letter that describes the process that led to the finding, and offers a refund if the owner wants one. One could argue it is possible that a re-analysis would come up with a different result; even computers make mistakes, and sometimes, in Dr. Hughes’ words, “go down a tangent” and need to be redirected. I’m glad to hear it’s not just me that can be easily distracted.

However, in some cases one’s dog really contains such an amalgam of genes that it is truly impossible to associate any breed to it. If I got back such results I would be fascinated, because to me that’s not “No Result,” it’s an extremely interesting one. Biologically, such dogs are called “mongrels,” but many hesitate to use the word because it has negative connotations in other contexts. If my dog came back closer to a village dog than a Labrador, I’d be fascinated, not disappointed. I’m not sure that is, genetically, the correct analogy, but the point here is that “no breed detected” is a definite result to me, and an interesting one at that. My very-much-unsolicited advice would be to re-title “No Result” into “Unique and Special” or “All American” (the All American is actually a favorite phrase of Dr. Martin, who tells me that US dogs have much more genetic variance than dogs in the UK… many more strays and random matings for example). Dr. Hughes tells me that the most common questions they get are questions about breed ID: That black is dominant and so is black and white spotting, so not every all black dog has any labrador in it and not all black and white dog have a snippet of Border Collie.

In summary, I better understand now why some of these rare breeds pop up in the analysis, and have more confidence in the results. Next time I am curious about a dog I suspect I won’t be able to resist sending in a sample. Most importantly, blog reader Robin S came closest to the analysis, and wins the DVD of her choice.(Robin, email us at and tell us what DVD you’d like!)

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Beyond blogs, grading term papers, and trying to keep up with email (ha!), it’s pretty much all about lambing. Four ewes have lambed, with eight lambs total. Two sets of twins are doing well, but things have not gone so smoothly with the others. Rosebud (triplets) and her daughter Oreo (who delivered twins but one was found dead when I returned home from UW on Tuesday evening) both have dsyfunctional udders. It’s not typical mastitis, no fever, the little milk that comes out is fine. But their bags are hard as rocks, poor things, and they are giving almost no milk at all. The condition is called “hard bag” (not very creatively, but certainly descriptive) and isn’t well understood, there are several possible causes but no reliable cures. We’re working on it (vet visits, hot packs to the udders, reaching out to UW specialists) but right now the 4 lambs are being bottle fed as often as possible with goat milk from our good friend Donna H. (Bless you!)  I’d write more, but the lambs are way overdue for milk. And we have 3 ewes to lamb yet… if one has a single I might be able to graft a one of Rosebud’s triplets on to her. Rosebud has completely rejected one little lamb, so it would be good to graft her onto another ewe if she has enough milk. Solo looks like she might be thinking about having her lamb(s), I’m hoping for a single.

Here are Buttercup’s two contented, napping lambs, more lamb photos when I get a minute:

buttercup's 4-12


And for those of you in the Facebook “When will Spot lamb pool”…. she’s not saying.

spot cam 4-12


  1. Beth with the Corgis says

    Very interesting. While it’s fun trying to imagine what mixes might be included in a mixed breed, I always take it more as a parlor game. I notice you mentioned short legs are dominant. They are also a spontaneous mutation that can occur in any number of breeds. I have seen countless dogs listed as “Corgi mix” at our shelter, mostly because they are a medium dog with very short legs. In virtually all cases, I look at them and see no sign of Corgi anywhere, and I know there are hardly any intact Corgis in the general region so it’s unlikely. But it’s easier than saying that the dog is a dwarfed German Shepherd cross.

    Speaking of trying to identify breeds, I have seen two obvious cases of mis-identification around here. One guy has a lovely field-bred English Pointer. He got it as a rescue from somewhere well south of here and was told it was a lab/hound cross….. There is no way the dog was anything other than 100% pointer. She was white with liver spots, she had the ears and the head and the tummy tuck, and the tail, and she pointed. At everything.

    The other is a gorgeous black and tan coonhound that the owner is quite confident was a bloodhound. Again, it came from a rescue in the south. Oh, well. I know they mean well.

    We met a Corgi/German Shepherd cross (parentage known, accidental mating) that looked 100% like a coal-black Corgi. Corgi size, Corgi build, Corgi head. It would seem the the GSD contributed color and not much else in the looks department.

    Anyway, when you consider the fact that just a few generations of careless breeding can significantly alter the looks of a purebred dog with known parentage, it’s no wonder that we have such trouble identifying mixed breeds. Certain traits, like the use of the paws you mention for Leo, are sometimes a better giveaway than looks.

    And of course some dogs are mongrels from a long line of mongrels. We sometimes forget that all purebreds developed from village dogs, not the other way around.

  2. Stephanie Serson says

    Super interesting. Thanks for going in depth about the Lab work. Love genetics, even though I don’t understand a whole lot of it.

    Oh, and instead of “mongrel” I call my dog an Archetype : 1. the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.

  3. Rose C says

    First, congratulations Robin S! I was about to put the same answer like yours but I saw you did already so I had to change my answer 😉

    Secondly, lots of info here about DNA breed testing. Very informative. Thanks, Trisha!

    Third, this is my take on this whole breed DNA testing (not backed by any science but just by my own personal conviction). All dog breeds we have today came from crossing two, three, four, five, or however many dog breeds the experimenting breeder (of the past) wanted to select a specific trait from. It would not be a surprise if our already mixed breed dog would show to have a little bit of almost anything in his/her breed background. Also, is it not said that all breeds are 99.8% (or was that 98%) genetically similar to each other? This probably would be a reason why a DNA computer could get desperate and settle on any which breed comes closest to what it recognizes during its analysis.

    Last, I wouldn’t mind having a mongrel dog (which was all that I grew up with as a child in my home country). The larger the genetic pool, the ‘healthier’ the dog genetically. On a side note, I’ve learned that the Xoloitzquintli or ‘Mexican Hairless’ is the only natural breed, i.e., one that was not bred for any specific trait or purpose. As a result, it is the only breed that has no known genetic disease.

  4. EmilyS says

    I don’t know if it’s Wisdom characterizing Am Staffs as a “guardian” breed… they are NOT and never have been. They were never bred to guard anything. They are not related closely to the livestock guardian dogs, the mastiff/war dogs or any of the modern “protection” breeds. So if there’s some matching of AST DNA results with mastiffs or Rottweilers, it must show wrong results.

    I remain far more skeptical than you about the validity of these DNA “tests”… even aside from the wacky rare breeds that turn up or the dogs of known pedigree that have dogs that cannot possibly have been part of their makeup (like the purebred AST whose test came out as border collie mix. The dog, btw, is black and white.. hmmmmmmm).

    Where is the independent testing by scientists NOT connected with the companies with a product to sell? But at basis: all modern dog “breeds” were created using a variety of breeds and types of dogs. There are some ancient “breeds” that exist today, but most are concoctions of the mid 19th century and later. So of course, “DNA” will turn up all kinds of things.

    And there’s an agenda behind the way some people use of these tests.. which is to deny that “breeds” exist at all in any meaningful sense (that is, with dogs of a breed having some consistency in appearance/structure/behavior). After all, if the “science” shows that a dog is only partly the breed you think (or know… ) it is, than it’s not really a “purebred”, is it?

    What is a “purebred” dog, anyway? What is a “breed”?

  5. Mary K. says

    Leo’s mom is a true little cutie too! I can see the Shih Tzu in her eyes. This was alot of fun! Thanks Katie and Trish and Leo!

  6. Rose C says

    Lisa W, I read somewhere that all puppies of any breed are born ‘relatively of the same size’ with the exception of a few like the real smaller or toy or pocket breeds. It said that even a Great Dane puppy is born ‘small’ relative to its full grown breed size.

  7. says

    This is so interesting. I’ve wondered about the quality of the information one gets from these tests, and whether it’d be interesting or satisfying to run one on my mixed breed dog. This gives me a lot more information to use when making the decision.

  8. Trisha says

    To EmilyS: No one that I know of has ever suggested that Am Staffs were ever a guarding dog, so don’t worry. However, there are generally considered to be three very ancient types of dogs that are grouped by the titles Guarding, European and Ancient. Granted the titles aren’t particularly accurate, but I’m curious as to why you argue that there is no ancient genetic connection between Am Staffs and Mastiffs. The data, as I understand it, is that “mastiff-type” dogs eventually resulted in a mix of large, muscled breeds used for a variety of purposes, just as “European” dogs, vary from pointers to hounds.

    And thanks to Betsy for the cabbage idea for our ewes. I had heard of that last night, but didn’t know cooked or raw…? The trick is that one can’t really keep leavesof cabbage on a ewe’s udder. Hummmm, Jim and I will have to see what we can manage!

  9. Beth with the Corgis says

    EmilyS, do you have more information about the history of the AmStaff/ pit bull that I am not aware of? You say “They are not related closely to the livestock guardian dogs, the mastiff/war dogs or any of the modern “protection” breeds.”

    My understanding is the pit bull was a cross between the old-style English bulldog and one of the game terriers. The original bulldog itself was closely related to the Mastiff, and the Molosser-type is the parent dog of most of the guarding and war breeds (Rotties, the various countries’ mastiffs, and a handful of working breeds), including bulldogs.

    The modern-day show English Bulldog was possibly tempered with a fair amount of pug blood, but that was the show recreation and the original old pictures and descriptions show a clearly molosser-type dog. Since that dog is half or more of the background of the AmStaff (terriers were added for gameness, but the dogs have a more molosser than terrier look to them), I was wondering if you had a different breed history than the one with which I’m familiar.

    Just as spitz dogs have been used for sledge work, herding, hunting, guarding, so have the molossers been used for a variety of purposes, from war dog to guardian to butcher’s dog and draft dog.

  10. em says

    What a fun exercise this has been. I am sorry to hear about the trouble with the ewes and lambs, but thrilled to see the photos of Buttercup’s twins.

    On the relative size of puppies topic, my understanding is that it is true…to a point. A newborn great dane will be approximately two pounds, not significantly larger than a German Shepherd or Labrador, for instance, but MUCH bigger than a newborn Shih Tzu. Toy dog pups may be somewhat bigger relative to their adult size, while giants are relatively small but there is only so much equalizing that can be done when talking about dogs whose adult weights can differ by more than 30x.

  11. Pike says

    Intriguing! It does seem to make sense, especially with Leo’s Boxer pawing approach to life :) It would be fun to get Mama tested as well. Or maybe she was and I missed it.

    I found the genetic testing of my dogs (also Wisdom Panel) fascinating, though the results were rather puzzling:

    The tri-colored Beahound’s DNA (she looks like a Coonhound with somewhat shorter ears. According to the rescue, mom was a Beagle, so I made up the Greyhound to explain the long legs and her sight-houndness) came back as at least 25% Dachshund and 25% Brittany and no other significant (or minor) breeds. Hmmm…

    The Portuguese Waterdog’s DNA came back as at least 25% Springer Spaniel and 25% Border Collie and also no other significant (or minor) breeds. Possible, I guess. Though I stuck with the Portie because that’s exactly what he behaved and looked like – single coat, webbed tows and all.

    As you said, Trisha, they were extremely responsive when I voiced my puzzlement and I liked their detailed written explanation and felt the money was well spent – even if I stuck to my made-up breed descriptions in the end.

    A friend of mine got her two Aussie’s DNA tested and they came back as just that – with one of them having some Wolf Spitz mixed in. That we could totally see.

    Ok, now I want to do my Pom’s DNA test! Poor thing got left out here!

  12. says

    I have a new client who has a shelter dog who had been picked up as a stray. DNA testing was done (pretty sure it was inside the cheek) and it came back German Shepherd, Lab and dachshund as the major breeds. This sweet girl looks like a border collie-lab mix. Though she is still reserved in her new home, as I started working with her in the training ring, she moves and behaves much like the border collies I’ve worked with. Wish I could attach a photo for you. When she took her in for her first vet visit, the vet agreed he thought she was a bc mix. She has the same body proportions as a BC, similar coat and feathering, her head, muzzle shape and ear set are BC. She doesn’t have the familiar white face stripe, but has wonderful laser eye contact – even though she is not a very confident dog at the moment. I don’t know what laboratory did the DNA testing, but am not convinced of their accuracy.

  13. EmilyS says

    clarify about AmStaffs.
    They are the AKC version of the American pit bull terrier, so I’ll talk about that.
    The APBT derives from the Staffordshire bull terrier, an English breed which was one of several created from crossing the old version of the (English) bulldog (before it became a dwarfed, underbitten thing) to several terrier breeds (a white terrier and probably the Manchester terrier predominately). The bull terrier (as in the Target/Spuds McKenzie dog) is the other one still in existence and interestingly, I’m not aware of anyone calling the bull terrier a “guardian” or “mastiff” type dog, though its heritage is extremely close to that of the APBT (and indeed in the USA, APBTs were shown in AKC as “bull terriers” before 1930).

    Like all the bulldog and terrier crosses that became “breeds”, the APBT was created for dogfighting, rathunting (and ratpitting) and other kinds of vermin hunting. NEVER for guarding. Nothing changed when the AKC recognized the APBT with a different name. Though of course all those original functions have gone into the moral trashbin (though sadly still practiced)

    Yes for sure: the bulldog derives from the Molossers… and that’s the ONLY relationship the AST/APBT has to mastiffs. The APBT and AST are meant to be a balance between terrier and bulldog.. and they have none of the temperament of the mastiffs. There is a tendency among some breeders to create a “pit bull” that is VERY bulldogish (there’s a mutant called the “American bully”) but these are not AmStaffs or American pit bull terriers. Any more than “miniature Australian shepherds” are really just small Australian shepherds. ahem…

    I’m curious about those 3 groupings of dogs: Where’s the terrier? They’re not guardians, they’re not hunting/retrieving dogs and they’re not “ancient” (meaning Salukis’ etc?) Where are the toy/companion dogs? Are the northern breeds included in the “Ancient”?

  14. says

    As an American living in the UK, I find the “All American” breed observation fascinating, and very much true to my experience. I see far fewer mixed breeds here than in the US, and also I hear of fewer stray dogs. Most of the dogs at animal shelters, I’m told, are Staffies or Staffie mixes.

    My dog came from Ireland (where there are more strays, due to puppy farms/mills), and is a golden retriever/border collie mix, which seems like a likely mix given the popularity of the two breeds in the British Isles. But to the naked eye, he looks very much like a golden, albeit a slim golden!

  15. Sue Johnston says

    Interesting comments on the DNA testing. I had my dog tested, part curiosity, also wanted to know about potential health problems. I had fostered the mom and adopted one of the pups. Mom weighed about 50 pounds and “appeared’ to be a lab pit mix. My dog came back 25% flat coated retriever ( which he looks like), 25% golden retriever , 25% Sheltie ( which is hard to believe since he weighes 100 lbs.) and 25 % unknown. His littermate was tested and came back totally different with pointer, and a number of other breeds. We know they share at least 50% of their DNA , but their DNA testing doesn’t indicate any similarities. Would like to hear an explanation of that one. Anyway, it left me a little skeptical of the process.

  16. LisaW says

    I wonder how knowing the likelihood of breeds that make up our dogs impacts how we then view them or our expectations of/for them. I keep thinking that not knowing my dogs’ possible heritages allows me to see the dog and not the expectations of what I link to that breed or breeds (and we all have some expectations however subtle or overt or else there would be no “pure” breeds, which to me is a more spurious term than mongrel). Aside from possible proneness to certain diseases, what are the impacts of learning the results however probable those results might be? If I had a dog that I thought was a bloodhound/lab cross and it turned out there was a likelihood it was part mastiff/catahoula/fox terrier, what would that affect, if anything? Just pondering . . .

  17. Nic1 says

    I am intrigued but this would only be a useful exercise for me personally out of sheer curiosity, as Trisha mentioned. After all, pedigree dogs were ‘created’ by our meddling with the domestic dog’s gene pool and all lines ultimately derived from the village dog. Although, having read about this test a little it got me thinking about my own dog – people often ask what breed she is, even though she is a mutt, and I know nothing of her parentage. But I do tend to speculate that she is a collie/terrier mix due to both her looks but mostly behaviour. Of course I could be completely wrong and barking up the wrong tree, pardon the pun, and this test could be enlightening, but not exactly essential.

    I’d be thrilled if my dog was unclassifiable by breed – genetic diversity is the key to evolutionary success and health. From a behavioural perspective, a mutt simply has to be taken on her own terms and shouldn’t have any unrealistic expectations placed on her about how she should behave, according to type or breed. I really like that we honour the dog for the individual she is.

    There is a myth attached to pedigree dogs – that they are superior to mutts, by their selective breeding. In reality, most will be inferior, due to the lack of genetic variation and residual disease burden it entails. I am uncomfortable with a lot of what goes on at dog shows and believe that we need to breed for function not form. But again, some people love their breeds and won’t have a bad word said about them, despite the fact that some lines are dropping to bits. I guess my point is that perhaps less focus on breeds and types and more on health and behaviour is required. The usefulness of genetic screening would hopefully be more related to disease burden and risk in all dogs for future breeding programmes.

  18. Amy W. says

    I had my dog tested using the Canine Hertiage DNA Test in 2007. We bought him from a German Shepherd breeder and his parents are AKC registered as GSD’s. His mother was a standard looking black and tan shepherd, and his dad was a white shepherd with non-errect ears. My dog is black and tan/cream colored and has non-errect ears, like his dad. Also like his dad, he is quite tall for a shepherd.

    Over the years, I have had many people question what breed of dog is he, and when I respond GSD, they disagree with me. I had one man tell me he was positive my dog was a hound, positive. I am positive that this man does not know what a hound looks like. I had another woman laugh at me and say that he might be a shepherd cross, but he was definitely not a full shepherd, and then proceeded to list his faults. I walked away from this woman while she was in mid-sentence. So when the DNA breed testing became available a few years ago, I decided I would have him tested. As I suspected, the results came back as primary breed German Shepherd with no other breeds listed.

    Go figure. You breed one GSD to another GSD, and you get more GSD’s. Good news, the breeder did not lie to us. And even more important, my eyes that had been looking at my dog for years before the DNA test and seeing a German Shepherd were right.

  19. Rebecca Rice says

    Interesting question, LisaW. I will say that I got Pixie, a stray that I found roaming the streets, DNA tested, partly because I wanted to know whether she was a rat terrier, or a smooth-coated Jack Russell. Because those breeds look similar, especially when dealing with BYBs and mixes, but have extremely different personalities, especially with regards to dog aggression. JRTs rank up there with the pitties, while the rattie is described as “a non-sparring breed and generally friendly with other dogs”. That doesn’t mean that I have ignored signs of potential dog aggression in Pixie. She’s the kind of dog who, if she were a person, wouldn’t go around looking for fights, but would be the person at the bar who gets all up in someone’s face if they bump into her. She would react very negatively to other leash-reactive or barrier-aggressive dogs when out on walks. So that’s taken some work (yay for counter-conditoning!), but I would have been much more cautious in how I handled it if I had know that she was a JRT, and worked more consciously on it.

    So does it affect how we view them and what we expect? I would say that it does, just as much as, in your example, thinking that the dog was a bloodhound/lab cross based on how it looks. I remember reading an article, probably in either Bark or Whole Dog Journal, about breeds, assumptions, and whether that was a good or bad thing. The example, from a dog trainer, possibly even a behaviorist, was that she found herself mentally rolling her eyes at a border collie owner who came in with a dog with leash-reactive behaviors because “what did she expect when she got the breed”, while jumping in whole-heartedly to help a golden’s owner with similar behavior because “that’s not expected golden behavior”. And that got the author wondering about whether we should expect/accept certain behaviors as “normal for the breed” or not. If anyone has a link to the article I am thinking about, I would love to have it, since I think I didn’t get to finish the article, since I was at the vet at the time.

    Not so much a result of DNA testing for a particular dog, but of sequencing the dog genome in general, is how it affects breed histories. I own a greyhound, and everywhere you go you will see stories of how these are the descendants of the dogs seen in the tomb paintings of the Pharaohs. But, apparently, DNA analysis has shown that they are actually more likely to have descended from herding breeds, and, from what the ancient Romans and Greeks wrote, from Celtic tribes. Which is, in my opinion, a fascinating history in its own right, especially since I love all things Celtic. But to certain people who are enamored of the romance of a breed dating back to Pharaoh? Not so much. It would explain why they have some of the same drug sensitivities as the collies.

    So I wonder how that will play into things, as people can find out that a breed that is supposed to have been established in way X really came about in way Y. Like determining whether the long hair in the Long-Haired Whippet and Silken Windhound is really a result of a recessive gene being expressed, a sudden mutation, or an accidental breeding pretty recently with a neighbors sheltie. And does knowing that alter how a breed is perceived, if it is breeding true now? And, SHOULD it matter?

  20. Beth with the Corgis says

    EmilyS, I think perhaps that you are thinking of the historic function of a breed, while Trisha was talking about broad genetic groups. By your own breed history, AmStaffs indeed have Mastiff very close up in their genetic family tree and so would fall into that group.

    I’m not sure about terriers but I think they fall into the “European” group; Europe is where most of the sub-divisions of dogs that WE think about developed, since the European middle class developed specialist dogs for every purpose. These are generally more “modern” breeds, developed within the last few hundred years.

    LIsaW, interesting question about whether or not it matters to know the breed history. I think it makes more sense to try to find out with a puppy, so you can intercept any unwanted behaviors (and understand socialization needs) while they are young. With an adult whose behavior is already evident, that is perhaps not so important.

    For instance, obviously I have Corgis and they have a very strong instinctive tendency to chase and bite the legs of people. Growing up with gun dogs, I was not familiar with this behavior. Basically, the dog will develop a fixed focus on moving human legs, follow VERY closely (you can feel the nose bumping you) and nip, hard, if you stop moving or move to fast or move where the dog does not want you to move.

    In a puppy, this behavior is easy to stop. Basically I set up scenarios where the pup would intentionally start chasing and conditioned him to realize that the second he nipped me, I would stop play and ignore him completely (looking at the ceiling) til he wandered away, bored. As soon as he wandered away, I’d start the game of tag again. Since he had a short attention span (being a tiny puppy) he would get bored quickly as soon as I stood still.

    Had I waited til he was six months old to realize the behavior was a problem, his attention span would have been longer. Try ignoring an adult dog who has become fixed on something and see just how long it takes THEM to give up the chase and leave you alone. So a problem that is easy to fix in a puppy is very difficult to change in the adult dog.

    Similarly, if I had a puppy from any of the breeds that was known to be protective, I would want to socialize the heck out of it. Those behaviors don’t show up til adulthood— often social maturity, at 1 or 2 years of age— so it might come out of the blue if you didn’t know to expect it. I actively socialized Jack with other dogs much more than I would have socialized, say, a beagle. Socialization is important for all dogs, but we had learned that Corgis, especially males, tend to be dominant and territorial with dogs they don’t know. Since we live by a park, we wanted him to think of the entirety of dogdom as “dogs we know” and so when he was a puppy, we took him out multiple times every day and anytime we saw a person, or a person with a dog, we would explain we were socializing our pup and ask if it was ok to meet. I joke that we socialized him within an inch of his life, but I did this knowing that my happy-go-lucky puppy who loved everyone was likely to mature into an adult who was more discerning with other dogs. He does think every dog is his friend still, and now he’s six. He’s also deeply suspicious of anything “new” or “different” so I’m fairly sure he would not have been such a lover of dogs had we not made him think that meeting everyone was a social obligation that he had.

    If you have a puppy, you have to imagine the adult dog it will become— most well-raised puppies are friendly and love everyone, some breeds tend to keep that as adults and others don’t. But if your dog is already 4 years old when you get it, you are faced with dealing with the dog you have in front of you, and so knowing what genetics drive the behavior might not be quite as important.

  21. Annie Ramey says

    What a pleasure to see the cuteness of Leo’s mom! Has she found a home or is she with Leo with your friend?
    I think it’s cute that our county shelter describes many dogs as “American Shelter Dog” although I guess that wouldn’t work as well if your dog didn’t come from a shelter! Very fun contest!

  22. em says

    @ Beth,

    I understand that you feel that knowing about breed tendencies has positively impacted your choices as a dog owner, but I find myself somewhat confused by the examples you’ve given. Are you saying that you would not have corrected your puppies for nipping if they had been a traditionally “soft-mouthed” breed? Or that you would not have put forth the effort to heavily socialize dogs destined for life near a busy park if they had not been stereotypically territorial breed? I don’t mean to be flip, here. I appreciate the effort you’ve put in to make your dogs good canine citizens and I also appreciate that you may have had an advantage by already having a “game plan” to deal with behaviors (like nipping) that you anticipated having to deal with. But if you would have acted the same way with dogs of a different breed, what is the point of knowing about breed tendencies? If you would not have done the same, I must admit that I find that attitude slightly troubling.

    My concern is that too often, people are so fixed in their ideas about what breed behavior is, that they make mistakes in socialization, handling, and training or they fail to diagnose or take seriously problematic behavior in stereotypically “good”dogs — the golden who snaps at children, the great dane with the “strong-eye” and high prey-drive, the beagle who greets said great danes with a lunge and a serious bite to the face.

    The opposite is also a concern to me. As the owner of two very sensitive dogs (Otis is my mood-ring, Sandy is the appeaser supreme), I can assure you that when an owner feels fear, tension, apprehension, impatience, anxiety, or frustration it absolutely can generate different behavior in a dog than when an owner faces a situation feeling happy and relaxed. Anticipating a problem CAN create a problem, I’ve seen it happen. Some dogs are so happy-go-lucky that nothing short of a total catastrophe will alter that, and some dogs are so deeply neurotic that nothing short of an ideal situation and a minor miracle will help them, but many, many dogs fall in the middle.

    Sandy is as close to bombproof as any dog I’ve ever known, but I wonder how her personality would be different if she looked like strikingly like either of her two parents (a German Shepherd and a Rottweiler). I KNOW people would treat her differently, react to her differently. How and how much might that affect my sweet, super-friendly, sensitive dog? Would it make her more fearful and hostile to strangers if half the people she encountered showed fear or hostility to her? I hope not, but I guess we will never know, and I’m not ashamed to say that I am deeply grateful for the physical camoflage that allows people to see her as herself, not as a breed.

    I’ll freely admit to a lively interest in breed history and behavior. It’s fun for me to know about. But I guess I don’t feel like it is all that useful to me, really. It’s fun to joke that Otis is a big game hunting ‘throwback’ to the boarhounds in his ancestry, but it didn’t give me any insight into how to manage his prey drive or any reason to anticipate that behavior before I actually observed it. It was just an exericise in explaining after the fact, and as much about my own historical fantasy as anything else. (Likewise, there was no compelling reason NOT to anticipate his deer obsession. Dogs are predators. Some really like to chase deer. )

    It’s interesting to observe that he has traits like a “strong eye” (I call it his “librarian laser stare”) and a well-developed play-stalk, but it doesn’t make him less of a great dane because it’s not a trait mentioned in the breed standard. It certainly doesn’t make him a border collie because he’s showing “border collie behavior”. Breeds are fun to know about, but breed traits are first and foremost DOG traits, and most of them are found in some measure in a significant portion of all dog populations.

    I just feel like it is always better to be as clear-eyed as possible when we look at our dogs- we have to see the dog we have, not the idealized and stereotyped model of the dog that they are supposed to be.

  23. Kat says

    As an intellectual exercise–what dogs combined to make that dog’s mix–I find breed identification interesting. A friend told me about his intact Basset (show dog) bolting one evening on their walk and when he caught up with his dog he discovered the reason was a young Newfoundland bitch in heat being taken for a walk. We spent several minutes speculating on what a “newfoundasset” would look like. Of course since the owners were responsible no breeding took place but it was fun wondering what size the result would be, what ears, coat, coloring, etc. and imagining them. Growing up we had a Great Pyrenees bitch. The agreement when we purchased her was that she’d go through one cycle and then be brought back to the kennel to be bred to the dog of their choice, we’d keep our pick of the litter and they’d get the rest. During that first breeding cycle she proved herself to be an incredible houdini in canine clothing escaping everything we could devise. Her dog of choice (at that time in the country males were almost never neutered) was the Irish Setter down the road–about two miles away. We joked a lot about the possible pink puppies.

    I chose mixed breed dogs since so many purebred dogs have such huge potential health issues and I tend to think that purebred dogs that end up in shelters are not those who were purchased from carefully researched breeders but more likely to have been the product of puppy mills or backyard breeders. I like to believe that my mutts have hybrid vigor and will be less susceptible to the health issues that plague so many purebred dogs.

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying the guess what breeds went into Leo’s make up is an entertaining and intellectually interesting exercise. But at the end of the day Leo is himself which isn’t simply a collection of breed characteristics. My two dogs are mutts. I’ve never bothered to do a DNA panel on them because really, what’s the point? Ranger looks like an oversized English Shepherd and he matches the characteristics of the breed right down the line. However, lots of people see him and say Border Collie/Bernese Mountain Dog cross and you know what, I can pick and choose characteristics from those two breeds that absolutely match what he’s like. I don’t feel like knowing what breed or mix of breeds created him will tell me anything I haven’t learned about him by living with him. He’s calm, confident, high status, about as bomb proof as they come, smart, and a herder. He’s independent minded and does best if he has a clear understanding of what’s in it for him. He’s himself and that’s really all I need to know.

    Finna’s surrender paperwork said she was a Corgi/GSD, her vets both guessed cattle dog they first time they saw her. She looks like a pint sized, tailless GSD. I admit I did find it comforting when I talked to our trainer about the serious resource guarding of me that Finna had started exhibiting and our trainer assured me that this is absolutely typical phase for GSD bitches and went over how to deal with it. It was nice to hear that it could be breed related and typical. Hearing that, didn’t, however, change the behavior or mean that it didn’t need to be addressed and truthfully, I would have been just as reassured if our trainer had said, most dogs go through this phase or most bitches, or most fill in the blank. The comforting fact was that her behavior wasn’t unusual and our trainer knew how to deal with it not that it was a breed characteristic. Knowing that her purported mix is of two breeds that tend to be territorial is far less useful to me than observing territorial behavior and addressing it. Corgis are supposed to be nippy herders but I’ve seen none of that. Finna does like to dog my footsteps with her nose in the back of my knee but aside from a couple times when she’s pushed her nose into the back of my knee throwing me off balance and causing a stumble I’ve just regarded it as her own strange peculiarity not some breed generated behavior.

    I guess what I’m saying is that at the end of the day I think breed has more to do with looks than behavior in dogs of unplanned breeding. If I was looking for a dog for a specific job I think breed characteristics would be relevant, — I wouldn’t choose a Papillion for a pack dog although I know one that proudly carries two defunct cellphones in his hand crocheted pack — I’d be looking for a big sturdy dog and would prefer that there be a strong genetic contribution from a breed that originated as draft animals. But for a family pet, I picked dogs that looked attractive to me and I deal with any unwanted behaviors as they appear. Knowing what breeds make up my dogs isn’t important to me. Besides, if we knew what Ranger was it would diminish all the enjoyment people get from guessing. 😉

  24. Beth with the Corgis says

    em, when we got Jack it was the middle of the summer and exceptionally hot. Honestly we were not doing much running. We were working on keeping him cool. Outside, he would plop down in the shade and dig shallow scrapes in the dirt to find a cool spot. Inside we would play tug and stuff when it was cooler. We put him in the kiddie pool a lot. One thing I would NOT have been doing is running and playing chasing games. Honestly, I never was a big one to encourage puppies to chase. I pretty much guarantee you that if I was not already aware of the Corgi tendency to nip at things that run, I would not have noticed it until he was much older. Be honest, how often do YOU as an adult run in your own house? I don’t mean walk, I mean run. I don’t know about you, but I don’t run much. And it’s running (not walking) that tends to trigger the herding-type behavior.

    We don’t have kids. This is behavior we probably would not have noticed til he was loose and a jogger went by, or until the phone rang and someone sprinted for it.

    I set up a situation I would not otherwise have been in to eliminate behavior I knew was there and might not have seen. Basically, I took him down the basement where it was cool, and I would hop around to get his attention and then run the other way. Sure enough he would try to bite the back of my leg. But this is not a game we would normally have played, no. (and incidentally, Corgi puppies can run and corner and change direction with as much agility as an adult; this was a huge surprise to me, since all the gun dog pups I had been familiar with were a bit gawky and clumsy at that age).

    This is NOT normal puppy nipping. We had that too, and we modified that in a different way. What I am talking about is an instinctive need to closely follow, and often nip, anything that is moving quickly. Of all the puppies my family had in my whole life, I never saw another puppy do this. This is not a “dog” trait. It’s a heeler trait. Cattle dogs do it. Corgis do it. Aussies do it a bit. Corgi puppy buyers who DON’T anticipate this trait ignore it at their peril. Herding-type nipping is an entirely unrelated behavior to normal puppy mouthing.

    As far as socializing, there are different levels of socializing. I would socialize any puppy, yes. But I took extra steps to socialize him with other dogs, above and beyond what I would normally do. When I say that literally every person who so much as looked at us was met with “Would you mind petting the puppy, we are socializing him” and every dog we met led to me asking it’s owner how the dog was with other dogs, and meeting all but the meanest, I am not exaggerating. I am normally fairly reserved with strangers, and I went well outside my own comfort zone to make sure he met as many dogs as he possibly could.

    Conversely, since he was a Corgi and not a beagle, I was able to safely leave him off-leash at a fairly young age. He has some prey drive, but he has a stronger drive to keep us all in his sight. He got out of sight once as a puppy, and once as an adult, and it was distressing to him. I grew up with beagles (my grandfather’s). An off-leash beagle is liable to be in the next county by the time you realize he is gone. My grandfather came home with no beagles more than once from a hunt. They would eventually show up or be picked up by someone else. I needed to train my little herders to recall, of course, but they are extremely unlikely to follow a rabbit into the next town. They are excited by motion, but won’t continue to follow once the critter disappears. One of mine has a good nose and one doesn’t, but even the one with nose has absolutely no desire to run down rabbits (rabbit poop, yes. Rabbits, no). If they were beagles, I would have not worried so much about their dog-dog socialization (I would have socialized with other dogs, but not gone out of my way to approach literally every dog we met). On the other hand, I never would have unclipped the leash in an unfenced area, not even once.

    I could give countless other examples. Anyone who buys a Border Collie without a serious plan on dealing with all that energy well into the dog’s old age is headed for trouble, but one could forgive someone for getting a Basset and not expecting to have to spend two hours a day exercising the adult dog. I’ve met so many husky owners who bought for the looks and then were baffled that their escape artist dog kept roaming the neighborhood for miles. Labrador owners make it look so easy to teach a dog to fetch that owners of certain other breeds are shocked to learn that their dogs have to be trained to do so.

    Corgis get fat so easily that if we listened to the vet’s advice, most Corgi owners would have dogs that weighed 50 pounds instead of 25 or 30. My vet told me to give my puppy what he could eat in 15 minutes, 3x a day. The breeder and I had a really good laugh about that one. A corgi could eat most of a bag of dogfood in 15 minutes. Sure, I could have waited until after the fact to observe that the dog I had has a goal in life to weigh 70 pounds, but why start down a road that I know will cause a problem?

    Yes, it’s important to see the dog we have. I have two, very closely related. You can hug and squeeze Maddie and she loves it; Jack hates feeling restrained. Maddie has a strong prey drive and Jack does not, so she is more inclined to put critters to ground. Jack is bomb-proof with dogs and Maddie needs more care. Jack is bossy but sensitive, Maddie is a lover who doesn’t really pick up on feelings. Jack loves training and thrives on it, Maddie gets bored and just wants the treat. Madison is content to curl on the couch at night and Jack would prefer to play every waking minute. Jack is an obeyer of rules and Maddie only knows rules in relation to someone standing watching her. Jack can find anything with his nose, Maddie has more than once picked up a rock instead of a dropped treat. Maddie just wants love but Jack longs for respect. And so on. They are different dogs and I don’t treat them the same. Dogs are bred for certain traits, but many others are not bred for. Herding dogs are not bred one way or the other for nose, or cuddliness, or prey drive, and so these traits can’t really be predicted in them and vary tremendously from dog to dog.

    But they both chase and nip things that run (sometimes hard). They both get distressed if they can’t account for where everyone is. They both have high energy. They both have double coats that shed a ridiculous amount. They are both easy keepers who maintain weight on an unreasonably small amount of food. They both bark a lot. Since those are things that they ARE bred to be, those behaviors can be predicted by knowing their breed, and anticipated and dealt with before the behavior causes problems. I follow a Corgi forum, and a surprising number of people have posted that they live in apartments with “no barking dogs” rules and wonder what to do, and I have to wonder why they got a dog so inclined to bark.

    I appreciate that you are the type of owner who can deal with the dog you have, and it sounds like you have enough flexibility in your life to cope with different behaviors. But that’s not true of everyone, by a long shot. How many boxers get turned into rescue because they are bouncy and use those front paws, especially as adolescents? How many huskies get lost or turned in for roaming? How many border collies for obsessive behaviors due to lack of stimulation or confusing owner signals? Purebred rescues get plenty of dogs turned in for exhibiting behaviors that are totally normal for THEIR breed, and should have been predicted. There are very few people out there who would be equally happy with a Pug as they would be with an Australian Shepherd. Yes, you should deal with the dog you have. But it’s also true that a dog is likely to behave in certain ways based on what he was bred to do. Those two ideas are not in conflict with each other in any way whatsoever.

  25. Beth with the Corgis says

    This sentence “I’ll freely admit to a lively interest in breed history and behavior. It’s fun for me to know about. But I guess I don’t feel like it is all that useful to me, really” reminds me of a story Trisha relays in For the Love of a Dog, about a Husky who got loose at a herding event and took down one of the sheep.

    Breed behavior may not be useful to you. But to the person with horses who wants a dog who is likely to live peacefully with a prey animal and not try to run it down, it’s very important. For the person who needs a balance dog who will thrive in a situation where a lot of physical weight is placed on it (some dogs don’t like to be crowded, others love it) it helps. And for the person who has small children who like to rough-house, it helps.

    For the person who wants a dog to alert to strangers at the door, the person who wants a swimming buddy for the lake, the person who wants a jogging partner, the person who wants a good shop dog to greet clients, the person who wants to have a tracking dog to do search and rescue, it means a lot.

    To the pet owner who wants a cuddly lap dog it helps. To the person who can’t stand a messy house it helps. To the person who dreams of a house with two or three dogs who all live together in relative harmony, it helps. To the person who wants dogs and cats to live together it helps. And so on.

    Mixed breeds will be a bit more of a grab-bag of behaviors than purebreds, but for people who like the idea of rescuing but still want to avoid or find certain behavioral tendencies, accurate DNA testing might be a nice compromise, especially if you are adopting a very young dog or puppy who may not be exhibiting adult behavior yet.

  26. Beth with the Corgis says

    I thought of another area of usefulness in the test. Someone earlier mentioned the collie intolerance for ivermectin.

    My sister’s dog is a known cross: mother was a labrador, father a border collie/rough collie cross. You would never in a million years guess rough collie in just looking at her. However, having seen lots of labrador/collie crosses, most of which look like labs with finer features, you might come to recognize it over time.

    Knowing the cross, they avoid ivermectin-based wormers. Since the intolerance is genetic, it’s probably a wise move.

  27. em says

    @ Beth,

    This is obviously a topic about which you are very passionate, and I have no real argument with much of what you’ve said about it. I would never maintain that breed has no impact on behavior, nor would I underestimate the degree to which physical traits, more predictable in a single breed, make one dog better suited to a task or home than another. Nor would I recommend selecting a pure bred dog without knowing something about their likely traits. Knowning these tendencies may indeed “help”.

    But it’s no guarantee. And once you get into mixes, which most American dogs are, the waters of guesswork and assumption about what can be “expected” of a dog get really deep.

    What bothers me is when people become so convinced of what they just know their dogs “are like” that they DON’T bother to run or tug with their puppies to make sure that they don’t nip at fast movers or get snappy over toys (and yes, I absolutely did run, purposely, with both Sandy and Otis, despite the fact that Otis was a young adult of a stereotypically non-nippy breed and Sandy was a mature adult with no history of nipping at runners. Sandy’s a champ btw- Otis had a bad habit of jumping on people in play that it turned out we needed to address.

    I wouldn’t have found that out if I had taken it on faith that great danes “are low-key and gentle with people”, (even though that IS what I observed of him in the house) and assumed that would mean that he would be appropriate in every circumstance. I even played tug a few times with Otis despite the fact that I don’t believe it’s a good game to play with a very big dog, (too much potential for injury unless play is VERY inhibited) just to make sure he could do it without getting nasty or overstimulated).

    I guess all I’m trying to say about breed traits being dog traits is that breed tendencies may give you a heads up that your corgi likely will nip, but it’s no guarantee that a husky will not, and more importantly it’s NO EXCUSE for slacking off in socialization, training, abusing a dog’s “good nature”, or in failing to address a real problem just because it doesn’t match your imagined expectations. I’m not saying you personally would do these things, or that bad matches between people and the purebred dogs they didn’t bother to learn anything about don’t cause untold grief. I’m just trying to make a complementary point.

    If the beagle owner who lived around the corner from us, right next to a busy park, had gone the extra mile to socialize her stereotypically dog friendly dog, or even recognized the actual leash-reactive dog that she had, rather than relying on her assumption of what beagles “are like” maybe Otis wouldn’t have a lovely set of tiny scars on his muzzle (he’s not the only one this dog bit, either, but beagles are small and cute and everyone “just knows” they love everyone, so his owner shrugged it off and community pressure to do something about this chronically dangerous dog was minimal). I’m not suggesting that beagles are prone to leash aggression. I’m not even suggesting that the stereotype of the happy beagle is unfounded or unfair- most beagles I’ve met have been charming. But this one was not, and it is just one of many, many examples I can think of from my personal experience where excessive devotion to breed stereotyping skewed people’s perception enough to cause actual harm.

    By all means, we should do our best to know about the dogs we pick and if we are picking puppies, breed info may be the best info we have to go on. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t get so attached to the stereotype that we borrow trouble where it doesn’t exist, or fail to see it where it does.

  28. Margaret McLaughlin says

    Beth with the Corgis, well put. For those owners who are prepared to deal with any behaviors that come in those adorable rescue packages, more power to you. For those who are not, it IS a matter of finding the right dog, & I would argue that all information is potentially useful.
    And re potential health problems, breed knowledge can be invaluable. My first dog came from Keeshond Rescue, a wonderfully supportive group. This was in 1995, long before canine DNA testing. Cobie was a pet shop/puppy mill dog, who certainly looked like a Kees. However, he developed corneal dystrophy, common in Norwegian Elkhonds, & found only in a couple of puppy-mill lines of Kees’. I’d bet the farm he was at least 25% Elkhond (he was also very barky). Had my vet & I known that, he might have been diagnosed & treated without my needing to take him to a veterinary ophthomologist at Purdue.

  29. Selma says

    I’m not especially enamored of these guess-the-mutt DNA tests and consider them nothing more than a parlor game, a phrase I note another commenter used.

    Given how complex DNA analysis is, and how shallow breed differences actually are (they disappear with random breeding in very few generations) I suspect they are looking for markers for haircoat, colour, dwarfism, other pathologies that are breed-specific and coming up with likely matches. Much like we do with a visual guess.

    If Mars is now saying they are 90% accurate, I presume ONLY with F1 crosses, ie, the offspring of two purebreds which is all they have ever claimed any accuracy for, then they have apparently made some progress. I have no doubt that they are the most reputable company engaged in this business – and it most definitely is a business.

    I wish there were some evidence for the accuracy of these tests in the scientific literature but alas, there is none. I’m rather surprised that nobody has done any trial work on these products and published the results because if the tesst were anywhere near so accurate as they imply – but don’t claim – one would expect them to be shouting that from the rooftops.

    The fact that they don’t stand behind the results for use in court cases or to identify breeds where legislation ban them, and also won’t testify in court as experts speaks volumes.

    Most of what people believe about breeds in terms of behaviour and talents is about 30 years out of date. Most purebred dogs today are bred for looks, not function. The small minority of purpose-bred dog breeders are not selling their pups to pet households.

    Basically, what you have in front of you whether purebred or mixed is a dog. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. A wonderful dog of a certain shape and size that has the right person out there waiting to take him home.

  30. em says

    Oh, I just realized that part of my first comment may have been unclear. Great Danes were bred as boarhounds originally, but they haven’t been used for that purpose in centuries. The reason that the AKC puts them in the Working Group with their Mastiff ancestors rather than among the Hounds with the other half of their ancestry and as their original purpose would suggest is because of the stint they did as mainly guard and personal protection animals in the 1800-1900s.

    For the last hundred years, breed fanciers have attempted to adapt this breed, which used to have a truly nasty reputation for aggression, to fit into a less dangerous and more litigious world. They have mostly succeeded. Enough that Great Danes have earned the moniker “The Gentle Giant” and danes today are more likely to suffer from being “too soft” rather than too assertive. (This carries its own dangers, but that is a different topic altogether).

    When I say that it is “interesting” to know that danes come from a big game hunting background, I mean that from the perspective that the CURRENT breed description usually claims that danes are “low prey drive”, “low to medium energy level”, and “compatible with other animals”. Many people have danes that get along very well with horses and other large farm animals. My own dog does fine with cats and small animals, but seeing what I’ve seen re: Otis and deer, I personally feel that I would be ten stripes of horribly irresponsible if I ever let him off leash near a horse. My observations of him observing horses at a distance seems to bear that out—he is VERY interested, and not in a good way. If I had been looking for a dog to be good with horses, and gone by breed stereotype alone, Otis SHOULD be a good choice. But he’s not. With time and dedication, I probably could overcome that, but it doesn’t change the reality of his temperament and likely behavior. For the safety of everyone, I need to acknowlege the dog he is, not the dog he SHOULD be.

    Knowing the distant history of his breed is therefore interesting. It’s appealing to hang my hat on it and say, ‘see, this is WHY he is the way he is’. But that isn’t necessarily so. Breeds characteristics change and individuals vary, sometimes deliberately, often not, no matter how carefully “pure” a dog’s breeding is. Maybe Otis is a throwback- a dog in whom the traits of a medieval boarhound are miraculously preserved in the body of a modern companion animal. More likely, he’s showing a natural variation in behavior that nearly all populations of dogs contain. There is as much likelihood that his parents and grandparents, selected for breeding stock, do NOT have his prey drive as it is that they do.

    (I’d never be foolish enough to bring him to a sheep trial, either, since there is every chance he’d do the same as that husky, ‘gentle giant’ or not. Even dogs of pure herding lines sometimes have to be eliminated from the working population for savaging sheep. It may be less likely to see this behavior in herding dogs than in the general population, but a shepherd would be a blue-ribbon idiot to keep working a dog who showed those tendencies because he was “well-bred”. That’s all I’m trying to say.)

  31. Nic1 says

    My problem with all of that is that some types of dogs find themselves abandoned, ‘got rid of’ because they don’t fit the bill or fail to live up to the phenotypical behaviour profile that some people seem to think exists for breeds. There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to a dog’s behaviour, only tendencies.

    I read on a working cocker breeder’s blog recently about what he advises people to do with puppies who fail to make eye contact with their owners. ‘Get rid of it’. He failed to further explain how people are supposed to do this of course. Isn’t this where the importance of training and behavioural understanding comes into play? Teach the dog to enjoy eye contact through positive reinforcement surely! Dogs should not be treated as throw away items when they don’t live up to your expectations or fail to fit the behavioural type. It’s a matter of welfare.

  32. KGM says

    I think this is a wonderful article and explantion of the Wisdom DNA Panel. Several of my dogs gave blood samples, as did most of the entries at our and several other breed National Specialties, to aid in the development of the database. Wisdom has worked very hard to develop as acurate a test as possible and is constantly improving their process as science advances.

    That being said, the science will only ever be as good as the foundation. Since most registered puredreds are registered bases on only the certification in writing from the breeder that the litter was produced by any two dogs, there are definitely “purebreds” out there with less than purebred heritage, especially those purchased from commercial breeders via pet shop and internet. In turn, those dogs go on to produce more “purebreds”…consequently, it is actually not surprising to find a “suspect” breed in the distant past of some dogs, even supposed purebreds.

    In addition, it does not take long for badly bred purebreds to look remarkably different than their counterparts. I currently have a purebred chihuahua foster who is long and narrow of body, has ears at half-prick, and is (genetically) missing ten adult teeth (she has goat She is also sweet, fiesty, active, very smart, will make a great family member, and likes to watch TV (and growl at it) with her one remaining eye.

    Personally, I have done DNA panels on several dogs. In most the results were not too surprising, a 1/2 JRT-1/2 Chihuahua, a 1/4 JRT-1/4 Mini Bull -1/2 unknown, and a 1/4 Boxer-1/4 Golden-1/8 Boxer-3/8 uncertain, but with Dal highest confidence. Those all fit the dog’s personalities and some of their physical attributes.

    The one people have the most trouble believing is the one I know is accurate…. 1/2 Chihuahua-1/2 Australian Shepherd. She doesn’t look much like an aussie but finding out she is led me to her whole story (which I’d already heard, but didn’t realize was her) and to test her for the MDR1 gene mutation. Now we can keep her safe from drugs to which she may be sensitive. If you want more info, you can read her story here

    Many dogs may look nothing like their genetic makeup, since the most likely outcome of most crosses is black or brown color and short hair; and, genetic make-up is not the same as gene expression. All dogs have huge numbers og genes they don’t express (show on the outside). I was hugely surprised when the two tri dogs produced a red & white…a color not seen in the breed for many years. While they try, shelters/rescues guesses are rarely accurate (the JRT/Chi was listed as a Dachshund mix). With the addition of designer dogs, it gets even murkier. There was a 16 wk old litter of Irish Wolfhound/Dalmatian pups turned over by a breeder and they were the spitting image of German Wirehaired Pointers (even a longtime GWP breeder said so).

    I think the DNA test provides good information which can help with medical decisions. If you know your dog has a particular breed in its background, you can make yourself aware of problems common to that breed and be aware of these issues or test for their presence before your best friend is in a health crisis.

    In the end, what breed your dog is is not as important as remembering that every dog is an individual. They all need love, good nutrition, boundaries, and positive reinforcement.

  33. Nic1 says

    Of course, I failed to mention that the flip side is that when a Border Collie stalks and herds the kids and nips them,; the poorly socialised GSD attacks the visitors and the under stimulated cocker fetches and chews all your designer shoes then these dogs can also find themselves abandoned because they fit the breed type and the owner didn’t do their research!

    It all comes back to education and understanding the history of a breed and their behavioural characteristics is essential. But I think the fundamentals of where dogs can come into difficulty (prey drive, poor socialisation and training, lack of exercise and mental stimulation, poor nutrition) apply right across the breeds and of course include mutts. I would also mention that if you were o purchase a Corgi as a pet, would you be concerned if it didn’t want to nip or herd your legs?! Likewise for a Border Collie. Would you send it back to a breeder if it wasn’t exhibiting breed specific behaviour? Just curious!

  34. Beth with the Corgis says

    em, I don’t know much about Danes, but I’ve always heard that many still do have a strong prey drive? I have heard of Danes actually taking down deer, for instance. When you do a google search for Great Dane Prey Drive most of the sources indicate it’s variable, but at least some lines still have fairly strong prey drives.

    As far as the snappy beagle, the thing is there are many reasons people don’t socialize. The biggest reason I see is people are simply not aware of how important it is, and how small the window is. The other big reason I see is that people’s fear of disease risk makes for a very tough call on how much to get your puppy out before its last round of shots, especially in areas where Parvo is epidemic. Finally, a lot of people mean well and just don’t do it right; the next time I see a panicked puppy pancake itself in PetSmart while the smiling owners coo over it, I swear I will cry. And the number of people who read their dogs’ signals poorly outweighs those who read them well, by a long shot. It’s not an easy thing to do.

    I truly don’t think we have much disagreement, though. After all, I closed my post with “But if your dog is already 4 years old when you get it, you are faced with dealing with the dog you have in front of you, and so knowing what genetics drive the behavior might not be quite as important.” after opening it with “LIsaW, interesting question about whether or not it matters to know the breed history. I think it makes more sense to try to find out with a puppy, so you can intercept any unwanted behaviors (and understand socialization needs) while they are young. With an adult whose behavior is already evident, that is perhaps not so important.” I naturally assumed that everything contained within the middle would be read in that context, yes? :-)

  35. em says

    @Beth–I think you may have heard about Dane prey drive partly if not mostly from me, as I confess I have oft bemoaned my particular dane’s drive it here on the forum :-)

  36. Rose C says

    I agree with Beth. And actually, it had all along seemed to me that there wasn’t really a disagreement among all our views in the subject of breed stereotyping (from previous thread) and with breed behaviors here. The only difference is that we were looking at the subject from different perspectives, others feeling more strongly about specific aspects of it but all in all, no one is really denying that the next person’s position is valid as well.

  37. Beth says

    em I sometimes follow the blog of a Cardigan Corgi breeder who used to breed Danes. She also mentioned having pups go into homes and getting loose or living on acreage and bringing down deer. Obviously not something that was encouraged, but also not a rarity with Danes.

    The google search had a lot of boards and breeder pages talking about high prey drives in some lines. Honestly with my experience with Danes, the “gentle giant” monikor may apply to some lines but certainly the guarding background is readily apparent in other lines.

  38. Margaret McLaughlin says

    Met a woman once who found a ‘dumped’, tiny, 5wo puppy in a school window well, & named him “Darwin”, having NO idea what evolve into. I think he maxed out at 75 lbs.

  39. Trisha says

    One of the things about this issue that I find intriguing is how much passion is elicited by breed-related issues. I’m not sure why that might be, but I wonder if somehow it indicates that these categories (no matter one’s perspective on them) in some way tap into some primal … primal what? Perhaps some need to (or not to) find a way to put things into categories in order for us to understand them? That need is, of course, both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps the many differing viewpoints are a perfect example of yin/yang, day/night…. or the cookie part of an Oreo holding the gooey but-oh-so-important center together? Oh my, it is late and its been a long day so I don’t feel particularly articulate. Time to sleep on it.

  40. Nic1 says

    It does feel somewhat primal and almost impossible to explain. There is the human condition to defend something that we are emotionally attached to aswell- and let’s face it – people are very attached to certain types of breeds, which I think is perfectly understandable as we all feel that deep, emotional connection to our dogs. Perhaps that connection is misplaced sometimes – at a category or a cohort – as opposed to the individual dog. But then if you need to work with a dog, require a certain temperamant for a pet etc. then some traits or breeds are going to be more desirable than others .

    It’s like trying to explain why you love a certain piece or style or music perhaps. Almost impossible to define and articulate but there is some serious neurochemistry going on that’s for sure that you just can’t help but feel but perhaps not explain very well. (The amygdala, nucleus accumbens all have a part to play – dopamine!) Trisha explained about going all oxytociny when we see certain pictures of dogs, particularly those we have known and loved, aswell.

    I get soft focused over loads of different types of dogs, but I am very much more drawn to a type of behaviour than a certain look I think.

    Aren’t we also drawn to types of people more than others too? Who can explain that? Except there is some pheromone activity that we don’t pick up on consciously to do with our immune systems.

  41. Rebecca Rice says

    I will say that breed stereotyping delayed my adopting a beautiful dog for a good 6 months or more. I’d been looking into getting a greyhound, and there was one that drew my eye, a pretty black girl who had been at the rescue for several months already. The thing that stopped me: 164 races! I just assumed, especially since the website didn’t say any differently, that a dog that had been in that many races, AND used as a breeder, had to be high prey-drive. And since I had cats at home, that wasn’t going to work. After actually meeting the dog, and talking to the rescue some more, I was convinced to bring her home. And it turned out that she didn’t have the slightest amount of prey drive. She’d just blink if rabbits darted out from under her feet, and the alpha-cat could pin her in a room by doing the terribly threatening act of _sitting in the doorway_. So that’s a case of where breed stereotyping was not at all helpful, and probably kept some other people from considering this dog as well. I partly blame the rescue… when you have a breed with known issues, it’s nice to put whether, in your opinion, this dog displays those tendencies or not on the adoption site. But I do get that there is a liability risk if you do so.

  42. LisaW says

    I would not be so bold as to finish a Patricia McConnell sentence, but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

    “I’m not sure why that might be, but I wonder if somehow it indicates that these categories (no matter one’s perspective on them) in some way tap into some primal … ”

    Primal need to quickly asses the situation so we know what might be called for in a given situation (run away, advance toward, sit tight): prey, predator, friend, foe, us, them, competitor, compadre, etc. It’s how we make sense of our surroundings and assess levels of danger and need for action or if we can reserve our energy for other things. It’s also how we in a social context quickly asses who is in our group and who is an outsider.

    I wonder if it’s linked to what some call primal fear or memory.

  43. Beth says

    Trisha, I think that your observation is interesting and has to do with a lot of complex factors.

    One has to do with, I think, people’s individual experiences with what they see more of in their area: people who are blind to actual situations with their own dogs because when they look at their own dog, they see the embodiment of a breed rather than the dog they have; vs those who see people who buy a dog based on looks and then get frustrated when the dog displays behaviors that are typical of the breed. Since we are humans and have human brains, whichever we see more of (or interpret more of) naturally colors how we perceive future situations that we experience. More on this later but I’m in a bit of a rush because I’m on a lunch break at work.

    Another thing is some people have genuinely come to see discussion of breed traits as something akin to racism. This concerns me greatly. There is no benefit to dog nor owner from going down this road.

    Finally, I don’t think it is currently possible to separate breed discussions with people’s perception of the adopt vs buy debate. Over the past 20 years or so, there have been tremendous investments in campaigns encouraging people to get shelter dogs instead of buying a puppy. This has accomplished a lot of good. More dogs find homes, fewer are euthanized, and people are more inclined to broaden their scope in looking for a dog.

    The downside to this is that many of us who choose to buy puppies have experienced, directly or indirectly, a very large amount of judgement. I could give all sorts of sciencey reasons why the “only adopt” mantra is flawed (and there ARE plenty of people who feel you should only adopt). I could give numbers, statitistics, etc. But there is emotion in the “adopt” side. “If you buy a puppy, you are killing a shelter dog” is a belief that has grown and grown over the last decade. Once people believe this, it is hard to come armed with facts or statitistics that might make them rethink that heartfelt response.

    Encompassed in this movement is a push towards a way of thinking that states nature has a very small role in a dog’s personality and nurture is almost everything. The correlary to that is those who admit that nature DOES play a role, but say that nature is random and breeds don’t matter.

    And if breeds don’t matter, then why not adopt? An argument built on a false premise can still be very convincing if you believe the premise.

    I don’t think that all or even most people who argue that there is too strong an emphasis on breed are coming from this point of view. But there is enough of that out there that many of us who bought puppies start to look suspiciously at arguments that seem to imply that breed does not matter. I did not renew my subscription to a magazine that I won’t name (but that you had a relationship with) in large part because their pro-adoption slant had become not-so-subtle, to the point that they allowed letters to the editor to be printed that contained hugely inaccurate statistics that were allowed to go unanswered.

    We got Madison as a retired show dog. She was placed as carefully (probably more carefully) than a puppy would be placed. We were so surprised at the horror of people’s reaction to this (You mean they just didn’t WANT her any more???? So they GAVE HER AWAY????) that frankly I stopped telling people how we got her. Had a friend given her to us because they could not keep her, people would not have judged so harshly. But a breeder who wanted a retired dog to have a nice pet home? The shame of it all!

    When there is so much emotion involved, it becomes hard to have a conversation without that emotion creeping in.

  44. Beth says

    By the way, I think the huge majority of people who have a mixed-breed and do a breed test are just curious, and I think that’s wonderful.

    I think that Leo looks like a sweet, happy dog. And I think the fact that most people here thought he was part terrier (either JRT or fox terrier) and he is apparently neither at all is very interesting and a reminder that the breeds we know were developed by mixing other dogs and so the traits that define a breed can show up if you recreate the right mix of traits from other sources.

  45. Rose C says

    I get oxytociny everytime I see any dog. I admit I am at my happiest when I am around dogs.

  46. liz says

    Many aspects of breeds also involve storytelling.
    As stories in general have been central to human history, perhaps our breed stories overlap in serving similar purposes, including but not limited to: entertainment, preservation, education, manipulation, inspiration, etc.
    Whatever the purpose for the stories, people often indulge in them. Dog breeds could just be another outlet.

  47. Beth with the Corgis says

    I have a story to relate that has nothing to do with sweet Leo, but a lot to do with Trisha’s comment about how we feel about breeds.

    We were in the local big-box pet store this past weekend and I had a bookend set of experiences that perfectly captures how I feel about breed-based behavior observations. If I were a better writer I could write an ending that perfectly reflected my vaguer feelings, but I can’t so I’ll have to let the story speak for itself.

    Soon after we entered the store, we saw an older couple with a sweet, wagging (but perhaps just-a-little-too-confident) pit bull puppy. He was very blue, and oh-so-cute. He engaged and smiled and made eye contact. He had crowds of people (including us) cooing over him and loving him. His owners mentioned he came from the shelter. They also mentioned that “everyone thinks he’s so mean” and “it’s all in how you raise them, just like any other dog.”

    I’m not saying that no one ever thought he was mean. Perhaps they run into countless people who think that. But on THIS day, he had legions of adoring fans, none of whom even hesitated to walk right up to him. He’s a puppy, after all. I tucked away the “it’s all in how you raise them” comment, had my own thoughts but wisely chose not to share them. Reams of studies on the heritability of certain behaviors would have failed to change a heart already given over to love, so I can only hope that they are wise owners who train their pup and recognize behaviors for what they are, good and bad. Regardless of breed, this little guy was so cock-sure of himself that if he were my puppy, I would have him enrolled in a string of obedience classes and have my house under some modified version of NILIF– I’d call it “very few things in life are free” :-) And perhaps his owners have that plan, I can’t be sure, but if they did it would surprise me.

    We moved into the store and found some casual friends with their two Dogues de Bordeaux. Last we saw, they only had one so naturally we stopped to talk. We approached the dogs respectfully. They greeted us calmly. We cooed and complimented and I struck up a conversation. I asked some questions about the dog, who had some back end issues that I wanted to catch up on. We asked about the bitch, who is new to them and as it turns out is a littermate to the dog. Both are probably a little over a year old.

    The owners started talking about their similarities and differences. The dog is laid back, easy-going. The bitch is “always working.” This is relative, of course; the dog alerted at least two or three times in the few minutes we stood there, but immediately relaxed again. The bitch, indeed, was always working. She spent the entire time scanning the store, especially noting anyone who came in the door. She was not tense at all, but clearly watching and evaluating. She was clearly well within her comfort zone and exhibited very good self-control. She remained on a slack leash. Her owners were keenly aware of the surroundings. Both dogs were well-trained. Both had sturdy neckwear and leashes. Both were kept close to their handlers. I suppose it bears mentioning that I have seen countless dogs in this big pet store and never seen another exhibiting this particular behavior which can only be described as guarding behavior.

    These are very involved owners. They show, they put working titles on their dogs. They take pride in the fact that their dogs exhibit proper mastiff behavior. They also respect that behavior.

    While we stood there, several people came up to pet the dogs. All approached cautiously. All asked if it was ok to pet them. Several people looked very slightly nervous (they are very impressive looking dogs). Not once at any point did the owners seem put out that people were “afraid” of their dogs. These are not mean dogs, but they are guarding dogs with a reserved working temperament.

    From where I stood, I could easily see both the pit puppy in the shopping cart, and the big guys standing next to me. It seemed to encapsulate my interest, perplexity, and sometimes frustration in discussing breed-based behavior. Both pittie and Dogue are powerful dogs in their own right. Both have an inbred set of traits they are likely to exhibit that deserve respect and require an informed owner. But the reactions of the respective OWNERS to this information was like night and day.

    Here is where I wish I could put it better into words, because the differences struck a very deep nerve with me. But I’ll have to leave the story to stand in its own right.

  48. Kat says

    I’m wondering what the statistics are on dogs bred for work vs dogs bred for show. My impression is that there are far more purebred dogs bred for show than for work. If I’m right then the most important breed characteristic being selected for is the extent to which the dog matches the breed standard not for the ability of the dog to do the work for which its distant ancestors were bred. Of course form and function to go hand in hand to a large extent; you’ll be able to run faster if you’re built like a greyhound than if you are built like a Saint Bernard. And if you’re the size of a Chihuahua you probably won’t make a very effective sled dog.

    If you want a dog for a specific job you can increase your chances of getting that by looking at specific breeds and breeding but there are so many factors involved that to say breeding/nature is deterministic is to vastly oversimplify. I know four Australian Shepherds from the same breeder. In fact three of them are from the same breeding pair from separate litters two years apart. Three of the dogs are registered therapy dogs; two of those are from the same breeding pair the third from a different pair. The fourth Aussie was carefully researched and selected as a puppy to become a therapy dog, two of his siblings from different breedings but the same parents are great therapy dogs. The parents have wonderful friendly, outgoing, love everyone temperaments and yet this dog is never going to be a therapy dog. He is suspicious of strangers, very easily startled, and generally pretty hyper. He’s a great running companion, hiking buddy, playmate for the kids but not therapy dog material despite having been carefully chosen from a line that does produce a lot of Aussie therapy dogs, carefully socialized with everyone and everything, and generally raised with the goal that this would be his job. Fortunately, his people know their dog and recognize that obediently going up to people when directed to and allowing them to pet him is not at all the same thing as eagerly seeking out and soliciting attention from people. They are doing right by the dog they have and not expecting him to be what they wanted his genetics to make him.

    Certainly you can increase your chances of getting a dog that will behave in a specific way or do a certain job by choosing a dog breed that matches those characteristics or was bred to do that job but it isn’t a guarantee. At the end of the day all dogs are individuals and all dogs are going to do best with people who have a real understanding of dogs and dog behavior and a commitment to do their best by their dog. In Beth w/ Corgis description of two sets of dog people above I’d say that the breed of the dogs was irrelevant, one set of people clearly knew their dogs and had clear expectations about the appropriate behavior of their dogs and the other set didn’t. Whether the over-confident puppy is a Pibble or a Pomeranian allowing him to get away with things because he’s so cute is doing the dog no favors. Or, because to some extent size does matter, a Pibble or a Dalmatian puppy that’s getting away with murder because it’s cute is not being raised well. I suspect that the overly permissive pet parents would have been equally indulgent with any breed of puppy with potentially equally disastrous results.

  49. LisaW says

    @ Beth,

    I will assume you wrote your most recent longer post before you had a nutritious lunch. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, and I am one of the people who connect breed bias — when talking about pitbulls, amstaffs, bully breeds, whatever you want to call them — with racism. Breed trait is not what I’m talking about, breed perception/bias is. That is an important distinction.

    Breed bans have been created specifically for the bully-type breeds even though the statistics show that Rotweilers and GSD have a higher incidence of deaths and bites attributed to them statistically nationwide. Also, breed stereotyping has muddied the waters of clear identification of the actual breed of dog inflicting the bite and so on. In addition, it’s not always about our own personal experience, it is also about how we link A to B and so forth in our perceptions not actual experience.

    If you do enough reading and a little more research, the story becomes how dangerous these bully dogs are to everything we stand for as Americans. But you absolutely cannot ignore where we associate most of these dogs coming from — ghettos, gangs, thugs-of-color.

    To ignore this manufactured link is more harmful than breed bias, or even if you insist, breed type bias or blindness.

    There is nothing wrong in my opinion about someone wanting a particular type of dog. That’s between you and your dog. When I start to get a little bothered is when we mix too many apples and oranges to make a point that really leads back around to not looking at the entire picture or all of the ingredients that go into a bias or a discussion.

    And as a famous movie character said: “That’s all I have to say about that.”

  50. LisaW says

    Sorry, by the time I wrote my comment, Beth had written a most, most recent post, so the one I refer to is the one that says: “Another thing is some people have genuinely come to see discussion of breed traits as something akin to racism. This concerns me greatly. There is no benefit to dog nor owner from going down this road.”

    I’m just not quick enough!

  51. Mary K. says

    I honestly don’t get why the “breed debate” continues on. I just love dogs. Big, little, purebreed, mixed breed, yellow, brown, black, or white. I don’t care. I don’t care if you adopted your dog from a rescue; I don’t care if your pup came from a carefully researched breeder. I don’t care what breed or combined breed you have at the other end of your leash. I am going to greet you and your pet the same way regardless. Which means that I am going to observe and evaluate not only your dog but you as well. I will try to determine if it makes sense for me to approach or if it makes sense for me to avoid. I am not going to make my determination based on breed alone but on behavior observed. If I am unable to gather enough data to make a safe determination, then I will err on the side of caution and admire from a distance.

    I understand and respect and admire the many reputable breeders and owners who continue to passionately promote and advocate for their breed of choice. Just as I admire and have great respect for the many rescue organizations that work tirelessly to have good dogs adopted into good homes. I wish that people didn’t feel like they have to defend their choice whatever it might be. The only cautionary plea I would make regarding purebred dogs is that we don’t go to such extreme measures to have a breed conform to a certain appearance that it becomes a detriment to the actual health of the dog. Afterall, a dog doesn’t care what it looks like and it doesn’t have much control or say in the matter either. Other than that, the more wonderful, passionate, and educated people there are in the world caring about dogs, the better the welfare of our furry and all too adorable friends, will be!

  52. Trisha says

    To Beth with Corgis: Surely the primary factor in the difference in responses to the dogs in your story was that the pit-type was a puppy and the Dogues de Bordeaux were full-grown adult. I expect if the DdB’s came in as pups people would have reacted exactly the same way.

  53. Nic1 says

    @Mary K – what a lovely post and you are absolutely spot on with regard to breeding IMO. Pushing for looks and breed exaggeration has created enormous health problems for some breeds. Some breeders are so emotionally attached to their type of dogs; they simply cannot/will not see the wood for the trees regarding the obvious health benefits of outcrossing and genetic diversity….

    The breed standards by the kennel clubs really should be about health, not appearance IMO. Temperament is so important too of course, but behaviour is incredibly complex and I think that the nature vs. nurture debate isn’t really a debate anymore amongst scientists. Dogs are a product of their genes and environment.

    But, as we are responsible for them, we should use science to ensure we selectively breed for ethically sound reasons – not simply because we think they look cute, behave aggressively or feel we have ownership over a type of breed because we happen to breed them ourselves.

  54. Rose C says

    Thanks, Mary K. You summed up exactly how I feel about dogs, their humans, the people who advocate for their welfare and well-being, as well as those who end up ‘harming’ them either knowingly or unknowingly.

  55. Dawn C. says

    I find this fascinating since I have been on both sides of the coin, so to speak. For years I fostered and worked with mixed breed rescues from difficult backgrounds. It was greatly rewarding to see their confidence and social skills develop, until they became much loved companions. My current dogs are all registered bc’s though. I wanted companions who also had the right drive and physical ability to excel at agility. I wanted to know their backgrounds as far as hips and eyes and a lack of line breeding. Sadly, I know that means that many people in rescue will now look at me with derision. It is a shame that there is such a gap. I believe that as long as you treat your canine companions well and develop a relationship, it shouldn’t matter where you decided to get your dog (pet stores and mills being the obvious exception).

  56. Trisha says

    Mary K, I too love your comment, and Rose C, you summed up my feelings as well as anyone could. Yes, there are lots of interesting and often controversial issues in the world of dogs, but what is most important is that we love and respect them, treat people with the same respect we think we should give our dogs, and continue to advocate for responsible and benevolent interactions between these two species that have created one of the world’s most amazing relationships.

  57. Beth says

    Trisha, my observation was more about the owners of the respective dogs: the owners of the pup were commenting (unprompted) that everyone thought their dog was mean despite the obvious fact that everyone present thought their dog was adorable. I acknowledged that they may have had different reactions in the past, and were therefore just sort of speaking to what they saw as a friendly crowd.

    The mastiff owners, on the other hand, had clear evidence that people were a little nervous of their dogs and that did not seem to faze them. No matter how well behaved they are, they are clearly intimidating dogs and people were duly intimidated. Perhaps “cautious” is the better word.

  58. Beth with the Corgis says

    Kat, re: show vs work, there is not an easy answer to that. For quite a few breeds, the historical job no longer exists. For others, there is a total split between show and working lines. Still others pride themselves in the fact that they have a large number of dogs who excel at both showing and working.

    As far as dogs not being bred to work any more, I think that is an interesting topic for conversation. I think it helps to remember that historically, a lot of dogs had a primary “job” of being a companion and maybe barking if strangers arrived.

    As for defined work, I think we have seen a huge resurgence in working dogs. I live in area where a lot of people still hunt with dogs. I know plenty of people with lovely purpose-bred hunting dogs. A JRT that lives as a ratter at a horse stable is working just as much as the terrier of old who was a ratter on a sustenance farm. Guide dogs, service dogs, police dogs, bomb dogs are more and more common.

    Plenty of people keep guarding dogs at certain businesses and in residences.

    I know of a number of people who use Corgis on cattle ranches and feed lots, or to help with the stock on small hobby farms. Many people seem to dismiss this as not “real” work but remember the farmer of old who developed these dogs probably didn’t have 500 head of sheep. He had maybe a couple of cows and some fowl and a goat or two. And of course there are working Border Collies on sheep farms, and I believe the western states have an awful lot of working Aussies.

    And now there are a growing number of dogs being intentionally bred for any number of the newer dog sports, like fly ball and agility.

  59. Kat says

    @Beth, May I respectfully suggest that what you experienced may have been puppy owners who were astonished that anyone could think their puppy was mean and were still trying to process the idea that their puppy’s breed is so maligned that people see the stereotype rather than the dog no matter what the dog, or in this case puppy, is presenting? Some people are so deeply mired in their prejudiced against bully breeds that they can even see a cute, wiggle butt, grinning puppy and assume it is mean. I can easily imagine that if I were that puppy’s people and I was watching a lot of total strangers fawn and coo over him commenting, in disbelief, that some people say he’s mean simply because that reaction by some is so much at odds with what’s happening right in front of me.

    I know I was astonished recently when talking to friends and mentioned that the dog I had seriously been looking at before we adopted our psycho bitch was an AmStaff and received a very negative reaction. This from people who know me and my commitment to my animals and have repeatedly expressed their admiration for what I accomplish with my dogs. Yet these same people were prepared to hate this hypothetical addition to my family sight unseen simply because of his breed. That I think is the basis for the claims of breed racism, that simply assuming a dog is automatically vicious, dangerous, and unsafe based entirely on his breed is very much akin to judging someone by the color of their skin or their ethnic background.

  60. liz says

    Oh Beth… You have had a variety of uncomfortable and unfortunate experiences, and I feel your pain.
    The thing about sharing such experiences/stories is that the teller puts the audience in a tricky spot. (I say this from experience in many aspects of life, not just the dog world, though it is prevalent there as well.) Without going into too great of detail, there can be a lot of imposition on others when reliving painful experiences. Unless there is a sort of structure or expectation on behalf of the audience to be active receivers, then they are unprepared. When someone is unprepared, painful stories often more easily facilitate additional pain, either through empathy, severe disagreement with an individual’s personal experience, or other various forms of discomfort brought about by not knowing how to respond. Context is huge in gauging what is appropriate, and appropriateness can indeed be very difficult to ascertain. (I consider myself a rather weird person in many respects who works on such things… I don’t speak from a place of judgment, rather from a place of things that I think about…)
    There are many wonderful ways that humans can be like dogs. Language, stories, and a host of other things separate us from dogs and make our interactions diverse and complex. Highly complex- often the source of great beauty, as well as all things opposite of what we admire. Because of this duality, the grey area in between, and the energy it takes to navigate throughout, I would be remiss if I said more… though I think there is much to say…
    Deep appreciation for the extra work Trisha puts in sharing her insights here in posts and comments- like chocolate or flowers or an-umbrella-when-it’s-raining type appreciation.

  61. Beth with the Corgis says

    Kat, I will be honest: I tend not to be a fan of any of the big protection dogs and/or fighting dogs. If one of my friends or neighbors was getting one I would not be thrilled. I would keep my mouth shut unless they asked my opinion, but those types of dogs are not ones I prefer to spend time with (having been in this situation several times, I know how I would react from experience, not a hypothetical). I was ok with my acquaintances mastiffs because they were leashed, but I would not necessarily want to have just a four-foot fence between me and them with no owners in sight either.

    My problem with the racism analogy is that being afraid of a dog who has recently been, or currently is, intentionally bred to be intimidating is hardly the same as judging someone by their ethnicity. That is why I said it is not fair to dog or person. It is not fair to dogs to breed them to be guarding, protecting, or fighting breeds and then ignore that aspect. And it is not fair to people to use dogs as guarding, protecting, or fighting dogs and then get upset when people are scared of them. If someone purposely developed a breed to scare people, turning around and calling people doggie racists for being scared is in effect setting people up to fail, is it not?

  62. Nic1 says

    A lot of people clearly do love the big protection/fighting breeds and can handle them beautifully. Some people use them as they were intended and clearly they are fulfilling their function and doing their job if you are intimidated Beth! You are really questioning the appropriateness of these types of dogs in modern society as pets. I think it’s a valid point personally as there is no doubt about it, size matters when it comes to aggression. Large, predatory dogs and inexperienced human owners can be worrying when out and about. I fear for my dog, not myself, as she can be a bit foolish with he posturing at strange, large dog’s. But that’s up to me to manage. It’s just frustrating for people who love the breeds to have to keep sticking up for the dogs when it is not the dogs who are at fault.

    I am more ‘stunned in respectful awe’ when I see a GSD or an Akita out with a sensible owner/guardian. They are magnificent. However, there are plenty of occasions where I get an amygdala hijack when a GSD is off leash and is clearly disengaged from it’s owner. But I have also experienced the same adrenaline rush with out of control Goldens, JRTs and Choc Labs! Owner behaviour has a lot to be desired in a lit of cases. But BSL isn’t the answer IMO. I want to see dog behaviour and training in schools!

  63. Nic1 says

    Please excuse the grammatical and punctuation errors. iPad auto correct sucks! And the writing is teeny, tiny!

  64. Beth with the Corgis says

    Nic1, I agree with so much of what you have said. BSL is not the answer; I recall a story out of France about a decade ago where gangs, unable to get any of the macho dog breeds, turned to attack monkeys. Sounds funny unless you are confronted with this!

    I do question the breeding of aggression in modern society. Some of the traditional fierce breeds have had most of that bred out of them. Others haven’t. We live so close together that it’s just not safe.

  65. Mary K. says

    If you will bear with me I would like to share a story of my own. It is completely true and I have not embellished one word of it. The events I share have been transpiring over the course of the past two months.

    About two months ago a very close friend of mine called to share some good news with me. Knowing my affinity for all things dog, she wanted to tell me that her sister and brother in law had just adopted a dog to add to their family which already has a three year old child and a four and a half year old child.

    She told me she would like me to meet the dog and see what I thought. I quickly agreed because again there is that crazy dog lady thing. :) She walked the dog to my house and upon meeting him there were two things that struck me-the physically impressive size of this dog(immediately I visualized this huge dog navigating safely around two very young children). The other was that upon walking the dog, it became immediately clear that although very people oriented, the dog had some huge(and I mean HUGE) dog reactivity issues coupled with very poor leash manners. I spend a great deal of time volunteering at my local humane society(this is not the rescue organization where the family got the dog) and have walked and trained too many dogs to count. I had to use every amount of muscle memory in my body to walk this dog three blocks and when we encountered dogs? I was completely knocked off my feet-seriously. I expressed some concerns right away but I was assured that this was a dog saavy family with breed experience. OK.

    I recommended two things. First and foremost-a call to a very reputable dog training facility to work with a behaviorist and secondly, because they were using a prong collar to “control”the dog, a switch to an easy walk harness. The first suggestion I made because honestly the dog’s behaviors were pretty extreme and I didn’t feel that I have the expertise to work with a dog with the issue’s it had. The easy walk harness seemed to me a more humane way to walk the dog and I thought that perhaps everytime the dog encountered another dog it was already so stressed and that maybe it was associating the pinch and prick of the prong collar to seeing another dog.

    I was happy to receive reports from my friend that the easy walk harness was working to an extent. No more having your arm pulled out of your socket on walks but that the dog reactivity thing was still an enormous issue. She also shared something with me that literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She told me that the three year old child would climb into the dog’s crate with the dog. I wish you could have seen this dog. Huge, physically imposing, large for it’s breed. I explained to my friend all the reasons why this was not a good idea. 1-large dog with many unknowns. 2-three year old child with the limited self-control that most young children possess. 3-confined space with nowhere for the dog to retreat should it feel uncomfortable or threatened. Can you picture this scenario?

    The dog continued to be very people friendly and very dog reactive. And very unruly. I’m almost certain that the family never called the behaviorist. Because the dog was too difficult to walk and because it is a high energy type dog that requires lots of exercise and mental stimulation, it’s behavior went from bad to worse. I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the situation to the point where I sort of had to tell my friend that I didn’t want to hear anymore. I just felt in my gut that given the dog and the circumstances in which it found itself, that it was inevitable that something bad was going to happen. I know all the dog saavy people reading this are reading it with the same sense of foreboding I felt. Powerful, strong, undisciplined and untrained dog living with young, vunerable, impulsive children. Can you see it?

    Four days ago, my friend called me. My heart sank when she told me that the dog needed to be given up because it had bitten the four year old child. The mother was loading the dishwasher, the dog was helping itself to the remnants of food left on the plates from dinner, the child came up from behind and surprised the dog, and the dog responded with a bite to the face. Thank goodness, he did show some bite inhibition because what very likely could have been catastrophic, was in fact a surface bite that didn’t puncture.

    I share this sad story at this time because I am wondering what type of dog you were visualizing as you read it. It was large for its breed. Imposing. Unruly. Strong. “Needed” a prong collar to control it. And 100% Labrador Retriever.

    In my mind, this occurrence illuminates what I have been trying to convey all along. This was a family that had supposed dog and more specifically, breed experience. And most people don’t equate “family friendly” labs with bites. The perception that a lab’s behavior is so predictable that you shouldn’t have to take common sense precautions around them really backfired in a horrible way. At the end of the day a dog is a dog. They all have really sharp teeth and limited ways in which to “tell” us something. If we aren’t good at “listening” to those cues then we could end up in very big trouble. Which is precisely why I don’t care which breed is in front of me. I will observe, evaluate and decide based on each and every encounter I have with each and every dog. Small toy breed? Observe, evaluate, and decide. Terrier? Observe, evaluate, and decide. Large, mixed breed? Observe, evaluate, and decide. American Pitbull Terrier? Observe, evaluate, and decide. If any dog gives me any reason to be uncomfortable then the decision will be to move along.

    Finally, I am most happy to say that very, very few dogs have ever given me a reason to have to move along. That is why I love them so much. It is a marvel to me that such magnificent creatures have so fully integrated themselves into our human way of living in the world. I think it is extraordinary and truly remarkable and I am so grateful to them every day for having done so.

  66. Nic1 says

    Mary K – wow. A mean, just wow. That example has just about wrapped up this entire discussion in a nutshell. What a shame for your friend and the child. I would like to pick up on your post and I really hope you don’t mind me commenting on this as I am sensitive to the fact that this is a close friend of yours – this is not in any way meant as a judgement call, but as an intellectual exercise to try and further evaluate the ‘breedism’ debate.

    What was the root cause in that entirely preventable yet tragic scenario?

    The number one failure IMO was to place way too much expectation on the dog to behave in a manner according to breed type. I read this all the time on Gun Dog breeder’s websites – ‘the breed loves children’. It is irresponsible to expect this of ANY dog. Because you have experience of the breed, you can’t necessarily project that individual dog’s behaviour and character on to the next labrador you own. It’s a huge error of judgement to fail to take a dog on at face value. You are setting the dog up to fail. Rescue organisiations are ususally a lot more savvy with dog behaviour in mind. I wonder what this organisation had communicated to your friend with regard to this individual dog and breed/ type?

    Secondly, lack of appropriate environmental management – not supervising the kid adequately around the dog.

    Thirdly – lack of appropriate exercise and training and predatory outlets.

    Hopefully, one would manage any dog, regardless of breed, the same way? Environmental management; exercise; socialisation; training and appropriate outlets/activities.

    In these discussions it pays to get dog aggression into persepctive in society. Janis Bradley has written a book, ‘Dogs Bite But Balloons and Slippers Are More Dangerous’. In there she explains the frequency of fatal dogs bites realtive to the number of kitchen level dog bites (of which there are quite a lot) – you are five times more likely to get killed struck by lightening than you are to get killed by a dog. And if you are dog savvy, I would imagine your chances of getting struck by lightning goes up relatively..

    Bradley notes that ‘dogs, (or perhaps their irresponsible owners) might qualify as unambiguous villains that allow us to distance ourselves from responsibility for the real problems in our society’.
    With regard to ‘real problems’. I’d say that boils down to a lot of people failing their dogs by failing to educate themselves in order to understand their behaviour, what they are trying to communicate and placing unrealistic expectations on them.

  67. says

    Mary K,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend and their dog, and I’m even more sorry for the dog itself. Nick1 is absolutely right, in that breed typing and our expectations fail the dogs in this case. My first guide dog, Marlin, was a lab who looked like a plush toy. He adored other dogs and in fact it was our biggest issue when out working. He loved adults as well and was, at first, completely tolerant around children. I remember he was nestled between my two young cousins, contentedly lying there while they sat on either side of him, gently petting him. then, my young niece grew into a three-year-old and when I wasn’t around to stop it, began to chase Marlin about the house and pull his tail. Now, Marlin had always been grouchy about anyone touching his back feet and he had mumble-growled at me the first time i bumped into him from behind. I put a stop to that with training and he no longer grumbled when I was back there, but he growled at my niece and was very nervous around her. he would become very stiff, tense and watchful when she was around and I watched the two of them with as much hawk like vision as I could. Being blind, it meant I sat besideMarlin, with his leash on and made sure i was around when my niece was petting him. My brother pulled me aside and told me my dog was bad for growling at his daughter. i told him that he should keep a better eye on her and explain to her how to appropriately pet, and interact with, a dog. Things got better, especially as my niece got older, but my point in all of this is that, my well trained, friendly lab of a guide dog, could’ve bitten my niece for what she was doing and I wouldn’t have blamed him, but it shocked the rest of my family because he was supposed to be this sweet angel dog who was supposed to put up with anything because of his training and breed.

  68. Rebecca Rice says

    Just a general comment on the “show versus work” topic, with some segues based on other posts. This is, I think, at the crux of the divide between people in the dog world. On the one hand, you have people saying that too much emphasis is being put on looks in the breeding world, and that breeds are losing the working characteristics that they are meant to have. On the other hand, you have people saying that they are not thrilled with the neighbors getting a guarding, protective, or fighting breed of dog. So what do you do, if you are a breeder? I’ve seen people passionately argue that the American lines of GSD have been “destroyed” by breeding for those back legs. I’ve seen people argue just as passionately that American lines of dobies have been “destroyed” because people have been breeding for a dog that is friendlier and that fits in better in our modern world. Both groups want to see the breeds returned to “dogs able to do what they were meant to do”. But what does that mean in a modern society, where the jobs simply don’t exist anymore? Is it terrible to breed for a Yorkie with short hair, or a border collie that does not want to run for 12 hours a day? Sure, there are “other” jobs those dogs can do, but is it better to let the breed die out or to modify it to suit?

    And I speak as someone who has a dog from a breed where the divide between the “show” people and the “work” people is huge. So much that some of the “show” people wanted to make the working lines a separate breed! Which is what happens, I gather, when the number of working dogs outnumbers the show dogs by a hundredfold or more, and the breed standard is not very prescriptive. The show people seemed, from what I have read, to feel that the working people were breeding for a very specific ability, without regard for conformation, while the work people said “that’s the job the breed was meant to do”, so obviously their dogs, who were still doing it, were closer to the breed standard by definition. (This is the greyhound, where the debate is between the AKC lines, which are bred to be very tall, skinny, with long necks, and the NGA lines, where the only important issue is “is the dog fast enough to win”… NGA dogs are often shorter and stockier compared to the AKC ones. But not always.)

    My recent pit bull experience: One of my training classes was being held out at a park, and we were practicing “Sit for Petting” with some strangers that had wandered up. One woman was petting and cooing all over a very sweet, pretty, brown and white dog. Telling the owner what a lovely dog she was, and how well-behaved, and what kind of dog was she? When the owner said “pit bull”, the person who had just been loving all over this dog literally jumped back several feet with a look of horror and would only re-approach the dog after some discussion and coaxing/support from our trainer. She did eventually say that she had never realized that pitties could be good dogs. That’s what pittie owners have to put up with. That’s why they say things like “can you believe people think this is a mean dog?” Because people do NOT see the dog in front of them, they see the breed, or worse, the stereotype of the breed.

  69. Beth with the Corgis says

    Mary K, first of all that is a sad story and it’s fortunate that it wasn’t even sadder.

    Having been raised around “family-friendly” gun dogs I can assure you that we never would have been allowed to crawl in a crate with a dog, put our face near a dog who had food, take a dog’s bone, etc etc etc.

    Nor would we in a million years have ignored the apparent behavior of a dog just because it was “friendly.” We had an English Springer Spaniel who was sweet, sensitive, gentle, kind, and loving. She would also snap if you tried to put your hands on her when she had sequestered herself in her crate, and could not be trusted to let strangers pet her if she was on a stake-out. And no one ever thought that just because she was sweet meant she was perfect.


    I must add, though, that some behaviors “turn on” at a certain age, and can be sudden. And if your border collie ignores sheep at 8 months old you should not be ready to confidently announce that “this one doesn’t care about sheep.” And if your JRT at 18 months still loves other dogs, he does not need a bad experience to decide at 22 months that he wants to fight every dog of the same sex. And I suppose that is what I am talking about. Observable behavior is so very, very important. Ignoring observable behavior because you read that a dog “should” behave some way is foolish. But it’s also important not to ignore what a dog might do, just because he hasn’t done it before. A mastiff bred to protect might never cause you a problem until you get in a screaming match with your spouse; if the dog was previously immature, OR the behavior is not one he’s encountered, it may trigger something latent that was not displayed before at all. And that’s why any time someone has puppy from a a high prey-drive breed and coos that “it’s all in how you raise them” I shudder a little because I know I would not want to be the person impacted if the dog suddenly and without warning exhibits behavior at 2 years that is nothing like what it exhibited at 14 months. I had a family member who had an American Bulldog that he got as a puppy. The dog was raised with other dogs, socialized with other dogs, was human- and dog-submissive— until the day he climbed the fence to fight the dog next door, and the behavior escalated severely from there. The behavior you observed a month before the attack would not have indicated what was coming, because the dog had not yet matured to the point to exhibit the behavior.

    It’s two sides of the same coin. That’s why I don’t really see it as a debate. One point of view is not in any conflict with the other.

  70. Mary K. says

    Nic1-First of all, I appreciate your sensitivity regarding this painful experience.

    I am uncomfortable assigning blame to anyone regarding this experience because I don’t think that blame is a helpful response. The people involved already feel bad enough. The family is heartbroken because they had started to bond with the dog. I imagine the breed rescue is heartbroken as well because they probably feel like they failed not only the family but the dog as well. And they have the difficult decision about how to best serve the dog for the future. Not I decision I would personally want to have to be a part of.

    But I agree with what you are saying. The real failure here is that an unrealistic expectation was made(and I might add that I think the expectation was made in large part due to his being a “family friendly” breed) and the dog couldn’t live up to it. The dog was temperment tested but temperment testing can not possibly allow for every situation or circumstance a dog will be put in. He lived in a foster home with another dog but again he was off leash, in a home environment and I have no idea if the relationship between the two dogs was truly harmonious. Was he ever walked to determine his leash manners and manageability? Was he exposed to dogs in a variety of circumstances to determine his level of reactivity? Again, I don’t know but gauging how reactive he was when I saw him, I would have to guess not.

    He was temperment tested regarding children using a “dummy” doll and his response was fine. But we all know that real children smell, look, sound, and move much differently than a fake one. The kids in this home were very young and quite predictably, they were loud, rambunctious, and jumpy. That can be very stressful for many dogs regardless of breed. If he hadn’t been a Lab would the family have taken more precautions? Would they even have brought a dog of that size into their family if it was a different breed?

    I don’t have the anwers to those questions. All I know is that breed alone is not an accurate predictor of a dog’s behavior. Good behavior or bad behavior. And I think we set a dangerous precedent when we allow ourselves to believe otherwise.

  71. Rose C says

    @Rebecca Rice
    I find the incident with the woman during the ‘Sit for Petting’ training kind of funny. Sounded like the woman didn’t even know what a pit bull looks like. Not until the owner uttered the word ‘pit bull’ did she realize what exactly it was that she was petting and cooing on all over. Suddenly, the lovely and well-behaved dog becomes something else because of the things she must have heard about pit bulls.

    Similarly, a dog trainer who works with a doggy day care told me a story. She was playing with four Rottie puppies by the fence in the doggy day care letting the young dogs play in and out of a tub of water. A small crowd of people gathered by the wire fence to watch and adore the young dogs. One person asked what kind of dogs are they, when she said Rottweilers, she saw most of the people take a step back.

  72. Beth with the Corgis says

    I think it would be a very interesting subject for Trisha to discuss how people internalize others’ reactions to their dogs, and empathy towards people vs empathy towards dogs, etc. Because “our” park is a people-park, not a dog -park per se, we meet lots of people (mostly kids, some adults, especially those from countries where dogs are not kept as pets) who are afraid of dogs and a smaller number who are disgusted by dogs.

    My husband tends to wonder why the heck they are so afraid (his empathy lies with the dogs) and is perhaps not as good as he could be at making the people feel safe. My heart goes out to the people who are afraid, and I am especially happy to work with those who want to make an effort to overcome their fear. But I am very respectful of those who aren’t ready, or don’t wish, to take that step.

    I’ve also noticed that when someone’s dogs don’t like ours (this is usually directed towards poor Maddie) a large number of people are extremely apologetic. One we met the other day has a Chi who hates Madison with snarling passion. The woman was saying “I don’t know why, she usually likes everyone. You are such a nice family. Maddie is such a sweet dog.” My assurances that 1) I didn’t mind and 2) Maddie is not always liked by other dogs because she stares and many dogs find that off-putting, did little to ease her genuine bad feelings. From her point of view, we are nice and Maddie is nice and her own dog’s (justified) reaction was a source of emotional distress.

    So I think it would be a great topic for discussion. I think that’s a lot of what happens when you start talking about breed traits, and adoption, and mixes vs purebreds, etc. If I strongly personally identify with my dog and someone says “Oh, those dogs tend to not be good with small children” I will feel that on a very visceral level (I picked that example because Corgis tend not to be good with small children, for any number of reasons.)

    I should add that I’m coming from a state where BSL is thankfully illegal– people who live with BSL are of course operating from an entirely different viewpoint. The fear that someone is coming for their dogs is very real.

  73. Kat says

    I just discovered this blog post and it captured exactly what I’ve been trying to say all along. When we say “this dog is a Lab” to use Mary K.’s example, meaning this dog is a good family pet instead of saying this Lab lunges at other dogs, this Lab drags people on the leash, this Lab tenses up at noises, etc. we set everyone up for failure. By looking at Labs in general rather than that Lab in particular a dog was placed with a family and a child was bitten. We do far better to be looking at the specific behavior of the specific dog than to be looking at our interpretation of the behavior or breed.

  74. Beth with the Corgis says

    Kat, I really like the idea in the blog of describing behaviors instead of giving subjective descriptions of them. The one that always bugs me is when trainers, especially, say “that behavior is rude”. Better to say (in the case of Maddie) “That dog stares and some dogs react to it.” Or in the case of many bouncy young dogs like labs and boxers “This dog does not respect personal space and that can make other dogs feel threatened.” And so on. “Rude” is a statement of judgement, and implies an ignoring of etiquette.

    By the way, I don’t know of a single true fancier of any breed who would assume that all individuals of that breed are “good with kids” or whatever, just because they belong to that breed. That is perhaps something that not-so-savvy members of the public might assume, but breeders, breed-rescue, etc generally carefully evaluate the individual for placement, based on what the potential owner is looking for. Testing with children is standard issue for most rescues (and if they don’t have children they will find ways to line up other people’s). Using a doll as a stand-in is, thankfully, not. The situation outlined above left a lot of room for things to go wrong for an awful lot of reasons.

  75. Nic1 says

    Beth – Jean Donaldson is really trying to encourage people to do exactly as you suggest. Describe the exact behaviour the dog exhibits and for us all to quit labelling dogs as ‘rude’, ‘aggressive’, ‘friendly’. etc. Behaviour should always be taken in context too. After all, aggression in dogs is ‘normal’ behaviour, it’s just inappropriate for us in our society. Anthropomorphism is the dark side of empathy when it comes to dogs I feel. As for all breeders assuming that their dogs will not necessarily be good with kids? Well, this breeder’s website link below has it in black and White that ‘working cockers love children’.

  76. Mary K. says

    It is interesting to me that it is being said that true fanciers of a certain breed would never say that all individual dogs of that breed would “be good with kids.” When I do information gathering on breeds in books, websites, or even when watching televised dog shows such as Westminster, it is very often stated of certain breeds that the breed makes “wonderful family pets” or has a “natural affinity for children.” Hmmmmmm, I must be looking in all the wrong places.

    I don’t understand why it is okay to use breed stereotypes when you are defending your position on something such as dogs bred for fighting are not to be trusted and will turn on a dime when they reach maturity. But my example of a “positive” stereotype(i.e.-family friendly) doing equal damage, is negated. Do you see the discrepancy here?

    I will state my position one final time-breed stereotypes should be taken at face value and dogs should be evaluated and treated as individuals.

    And Beth-your extensive knowledge of how most rescue organizations temperment test dogs is astonishing. Kuddos to you.

  77. Kat says Once a trained academic always a trained academic I fear. Once I latch onto a question I tend to keep researching it until I’m either so saturated in information that I can’t absorb another bit or I’ve satisfied myself with an answer.

    I wish this was the actual study and not a report on it as I have some questions about how the qualities were measured and how the link between the qualities and the job was established but it struck me as another interesting facet of the puzzle so here it is.

  78. Beth with the Corgis says

    Mary K, breed descriptions will say that breeds are “good with kids” or “good with older children” etc, but that does not mean that people think that every individual dog will always be good in every situation. Reputable, knowledgeable breeders and breed rescue do temperament test their dogs. There are not-so-thorough breeders who do not. There are puppy mills and pet stores that do not. But good breeders who are active with their breeds do not assume that every dog of their breed will behave a certain way, no. They take temperament testing and puppy-matching very seriously; it is a significant part of what they do. If they felt all their dogs were interchangeable, those steps would not be necessary. Some breeds do have a natural tendency to be good with children, just as some breeds are naturally hunters or good with sheep, or nippy with small children, or barkers, or combative with other dogs. We would not be able to describe dog breeds at all if we were not allowed to make any generalizations. Each breed description would be a blank with a statement that said “All dogs are individuals. We really have nothing to say here.” I know some people would prefer if that’s what breed descriptions DID say, but that is not the nature of selective genetics.

    As far as “astonishing”, forgive me but that sounds like perhaps it is not meant to be taken at face value. I know a small number of people who do rescue personally, have had on-line discussions with several more, have read further information on the types of testing people do with dogs before placing them, and most are not going to say a dog is good with kids if they have never actually seen it with kids. A doll is clearly not a child. One can start with that test but should not end with it.

    As for the rest, I believe I have done a poor job communicating because your summary of what I have said does not match what I intended. I invite you to read this; I would propose it’s a neutral source and nothing I have said is not mentioned in this article. Indeed, most of what I have said about bully breeds being allowed loose with other dogs comes directly from reputable sources who are considered pro-bully advocates.

    When nearly every reputable pit bull source says they should not be in dog parks, yet people defend that and say it’s the equivalent of racism for anyone to suggest such a thing, there’s a huge disconnect between what breed experts are saying and what some of the general public is doing.

  79. Beth with the Corgis says

    Kat, if you read the actual study, it’s a very different perspective than the blog that discusses it would imply.

    I will quote briefly, to avoid copyright issues:

    “The results in this study suggest large behavioural differences between breeds in the traits playfulness, curiosity/fearlessness, sociability and aggressiveness in the Swedish dog population, even though within-breed variations were found. ”

    “Selection for use in Working dog trials is associated with high playfulness and aggressiveness, whereas selection for use in dog shows is related to low playfulness, low curiosity/fearlessness, low sociability and low aggressiveness. One interpretation of these results is that selection for what the breeds are used for today has created changes in breed-typical behaviour.”

    “The present results suggested large differences between breeds in all of the investigated traits, even though there were within-breed variations. No relationships between breed-characteristic behaviour and function in the breeds’ origins were found. Instead, there were correlations between breed scores and current use of the breeding stocks, which suggest that selection in the recent past has affected breed-typical behaviour.”

    “This is supported by Bradshaw et al. (1996), whose results suggested that Working dogs/guard dogs and Terriers are more aggressive than other breeds. Bradshaw et al. (1996)”

    The study differentiates between BREED differences (which it acknowledges exist) and broad lumping by breed GROUP (where there is more variation). It also says that the dog’s CURRENT function is important in breed-based behavior, more so than it’s historical function.

    It does not seem to reach the same conclusions as the blog you linked to, which claims to be based on the study. In fact, the study’s conclusion “It seems that the domestication of the dog is an ongoing process, which stresses the importance of behavioural considerations in dog breeding. ” would seem to somewhat oppose the blog you linked to, which says instead “If Svartberg’s finding is correct, that modern purebred dogs have maintained no detectable aptitude for the specialized work of their forebears, pet dog selection should clearly be made based on the personality of the individual dog, rather than on expectations about his behavior, based on ancestry”.

    When a study says something entirely different than the blog based on the study, my reaction is to question the motive behind the person quoting the study.

  80. Kat says

    @Beth w/ Corgis, Thank you for saving me the trouble of looking up a link to the actual study. I’ll read it later today when I have time to concentrate. It’s so often easy to pick and choose the parts of a study to quote when you have a specific agenda to defend something I should have kept in mind when linking to the blog rather than the study itself.

    If I may be so bold, this discussion seems to have come down to two basic positions; 1) people need to be familiar with the breed of their dog because hereditary traits within breeds are critically important in predicting behavior and 2) Breed is certainly a factor but the individual dog is the more relevant criteria in selecting a pet dog. I definitely tend toward the latter camp but then, I live with a couple of mutts.

    As for bully breeds and canine “racism” I don’t think that anyone here has claimed that expecting people to know their dog and whether or not that dog is going to behave appropriately at a dog park is racism nor have I seen a claim that saying certain breeds do not in general do well at dog parks is ‘racist.’ What I’ve seen is the argument that using the breed or the tendency within that breed to demonize all dogs of that type in such a way that it leads to breed specific legislation and people automatically assuming that the dog will be a danger to them and to society is a form of racism. I can certainly understand where that argument comes from. As an example, my brother-in-law’s Lab mix got into a dispute with another Lab and my brother-in-law thoughtlessly (cluelessly?) reached in to separate the dogs only to be bitten by the other dog. When he went to the doctor to get the wound cleaned the question wasn’t “do you know what kind of dog it was” or even “what kind of dog was it” the question he was asked was “was it a Pit Bull.” The automatic assumption that if two dogs were having a go at each other one was a Pit Bull and that that would be the dog that bit him is pretty clear evidence that there is a prejudicial association with that type of dog. I’m willing to bet that living with the constant fear that the government might choose to legislate against dogs like yours and where the majority of people you meet assume based on the fact that your dog looks a certain way your dog is a danger to them and to society feels pretty much like racial discrimination.

    Anyway, I need to leave this fascinating discussion and get on with some productive work.

  81. Nic1 says

    I have a huge problem with anyone saying that a particular breed/type can be good with kids, as it all depends on how the individual kids behave around the dog. If a gun dog chooses a passive defensive response, compared to a terrier’s active defensive response, the child suffers with the latter. But it doesn’t mean to say that the gun dog should put up with inappropriate behaviour from children (or be interpreted as being more child friendly perhaps) because it has a genetic predisposition to be more passive as opposed to aggressive. I still remember the picture in ‘For the Love of a Dog’ of the black Lab being cuddled by a child and it had the most wonderful example of whale eye!I just feel that we need to move away this type of labelling really to be safer all round.

    Quite honestly, I think it’s about time we stop red flagging particular dog breeds and start red flagging the irresponsible breeders, owners and handlers instead! We need to get serious about education and irresponsible ownership.

  82. Beth with the Corgis says

    Kat, I think the reason I may have some frustration creeping into my posts is that in my opinion (and in the opinion of a lot of behaviorists who have actually done randomized studies of such things), your statements 1 and 2 above are BOTH true. In other words, genetics gives you a certain probability of a certain set of behaviors, but that is a probability, not a definite. Saying that pit bulls tend to be dog aggressive and owners should expect that, and also realize that the behavior may come on gradually or suddenly at social maturity even in a dog that was previously dog social should be no more inflammatory than saying border collies tend to be high energy, and need an owner who can handle that, and the BC you see in the shelter may be calm because she’s stressed and shut down (as BC’s don’t tend to do well in shelters). So chances are, even if you bring home a mellow dog, she will show that BC energy at some point down the road. Might there be 3 BC’s in 100 who are low-energy? Sure, but don’t bet on it being yours.

    I agree completely with the sentiments in your post. I just re-read the section on “personality” in Trisha’s book “The Other End of the Leash” and that sort of sums up my feelings (though she does not mention bullies and I am not at all trying to imply her agreement with anything I’ve said).

    If you want a high-energy dog for agility and look at Border Collies, you might do all your homework and end up with a dog without much drive. The flip side is, if you are looking for a low-energy dog, why would you START with Border Collies, or border collie mixes? It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, and there are so many other dogs who tend to be low-energy.

    My point (and the point of breed rescue) about pitties in dog parks is not that every pit bull on the planet is combative to some degree with other dogs. The point is that the majority of them actually are (I’m not talking about Am Staffs bred by good breeders; I know little about them). And the fact is, if you think yours is not and you’ve read the situation wrong, or she becomes more so as she matures, you have brought tragedy to someone else’s dog and also put your own in a pickle. No one needs dog parks. Dogs have lived for thousands of years without dog parks. Media reporting can lead to anti-breed bias. But so can having your own dog mauled by someone else’s. And that is why most pit bull advocacy groups say “adult pit bulls should not go to dog parks.”

    We need to set dogs up to succeed, not to fail. We do that by knowing that each dog is an individual, and also by knowing that dogs come hard-wired with certain behaviors that are hard to change and those behaviors have a genetic basis. Because of the somewhat random nature of sexual selection and the possibility of mutation, we don’t always get what we breed for. But we are more likely to get a set of behaviors if it is bred for. I’ve seen non-herding dogs with “Border Collie Eye.” It’s very rare, though. Very rare. In Border Collies, I understand there are a few without the eye. But it’s quite common, and if you want BC eye, get a border collie (or a Kelpie).

    Do people get themselves and their dogs in trouble by assuming their dog will just be a certain way, because his breed is “supposed” to be that way? Absolutely.

    And do people also get in trouble by getting a dog bred to do a certain set of tasks and totally failing to plan for the possibility the dog would actually behave in the way prescribed by the task? Absolutely.

    Both are true and neither set of beliefs is in conflict with the other. Most well-bred labs are good with children because the same set of traits that makes them not flinch when a winged duck flaps and squawks in their faces means they tolerate screaming, grabbing children. But that does not mean you should assume a dog is good with kids just because he’s a lab, because he may be poorly bred, or he may have a genetic mutation, or he may be sick and in pain, or he may have had horrible experiences with kids and is afraid, or any number of other things.

    That said, it is common for Labs to not mind being thunked around the face or have people shriek near them. It is the rare Corgi who likes being grabbed and squeezed. Probability. That’s all I’m talking about.

  83. JJ says

    re: “No one needs dog parks.”

    I couldn’t disagree more with that statement.

    I consider that frequent opportunities to run free/off-leash is as basic a need for the vast majority of dogs as food and water. For thousands of *previous* years, humans and dogs have lived in a world where there were lots of places that dogs could run free. So, you could say that no one needed dog parks historically. Let’s not confuse that with modern conditions in countries like America.

    At this point in history, we now have many humans and dogs living on property with tiny backyards (me, me!) or in apartments with no backyards. Not that even a big backyard is going to cut it for most dogs. (See Trisha’s book on the subject.) And at the same time, we have laws, at least in my State, that make it actually illegal to let one’s dog run off leash in pretty much every single natural area, including beaches and remote countrysides. And it IS enforced. I hear stories all the time of people getting big fines because their dog was running free in the forest or on the beach!

    Thus, the ONLY place many dogs get to just run and explore an large enough outside place is a dog park. Since, I consider this function to be as necessary to my dog’s health as food and water, dog parks are most definitely necessary for my dog – and many others.

    I’m not saying that *everyone* needs dog parks. Some people live in the country and on properties big enough that their dog’s needs are met. Some dogs are too old to want to run. Some dogs can’t handle dog parks. (We will have to agree to disagree on the definition of that.) Etc. But there are certainly a great many dogs, at least in America, who do absolutely need something like a dog park.

  84. Rose C says

    I agree with everything JJ mentioned.
    Just from my own experience, my dogs need dog parks. They are small-ish dogs but are quite active. I can, and do, take them for long walks but they need to meet other dogs to keep them socialized (I have two shy dogs). We don’t get to meet as many dogs in our walks and when we do, everyone is leashed so their interactions are limited to ‘meet and greet’ and maybe a little ‘play bow’ or a ‘start-stop’, and a short run just up to where their leash length ends. Dogs need to interact and play, with people and with other dogs. My people-shy dogs get to meet more people in the dog park who take time to greet them and hand them treats. In our case, dog parks are definitely essential. I understand that dog parks are not always appropriate to every dog (Trisha had talked about Willie being one of those dogs) but given the set-up of our modern society and lifestyle, I believe dog parks provide many benefits for many other dogs. Admittedly, I myself benefit from our visits as well. Walking and playing with my dogs and watching them and other dogs play and interact is like my heaven on earth.

  85. Nic1 says

    ‘ some well-bred labs are good with children’. Dogs by their breeding alone can not be judged to be ‘good’ with children IMO. After all, English Staffies were often known as ‘Nanny Dogs’ in England – Labs and Staffies are two very different breeds with different traits and defence responses. Dr. Ian Dunbar also spoke at a TED conference about PitBulls making great family pets too I seem to recall? I think that’s on YouTube. Perhaps it’s more helpful to focus on the behaviour expectations of the humans involved as opposed to placing unrealistic expectations on the dog because he is a certain breed?

    Some well-bred, well-trained, well-socialised and adult-supervised labs (or dogs) are good with appropriately behaved children, perhaps is a bit more realistic. Sorry to labour the point but it’s important to be clear about what is really involved in having a safe family pet.

  86. Nic1 says

    There is currently 34% off the Wisdom Panel kit at Amazon UK. I’ve purchased a kit to assess my mixed breed adopted dog, whose ancestry is a mystery. Looks and behaviour suggest to us that she has a lot of terrier (JRT or Patterdale) and Border Collie in there. However, we’ll see! I’ll report back once I receive the report…..

  87. Nic1 says

    Great idea Rose C! I’ll do that tomorrow. My PC at work is a lot easier to work with than my iPad. I’ll end up getting irritated and upsetting the dog and my partner if I try and do that on this device!

  88. Sharon says

    I mentioned above how inaccurate the test is. See this great video for an anecdotal account:

    This is an AKC champion American Staffordshire Terrier (who is also dual registered as a UKC pit bull). His Wisdom results came back as: primarily Border Collie, followed by Boston Terrier and Bulldog.

  89. Nic1 says

    Wow! Now there is a handsome pittie if ever i saw one! But I can see the BC colouring and the rather large Boston Terrier face too! Who knows? After all, our pedigree dogs derived from the village dog.

    Due to the discounted price I thought it would be fun to try more than anything. Whatever the result, I’ll be taking it with a large pinch of salt. Given the nature of pedigree dog breeding, perhaps some people have been inclined to be disappointed if their purebred dog gets a report that inclines otherwise. Personally, I’d be as amused if I got a ‘no result’ or a 50% GSD. It’s irrelevant to me what ancestry my dog is really as I take her as I find her. What is more interesting and important is if there are any linkages to diseases and health issues within certain breeds.

  90. Rose C says

    I love the vid, I thought it was hilarious. The dog looked bored at the start tapping the tail and yawning and was like, ‘Okay now, let’s keep this going’ and later when the owner said she had some bad news to break to him. Love it! And yes, I saw the BC B&W colouring, the Boston Terrier head and overall look, and the Bulldog for its wider chest and head maybe. Of course, the results may not be a true guarantee that he is exactly what it says but it’s fun to see anyways.

    I’m sure you must have mentioned Lily’s size and characteristics somewhere in the past posts but I don’t recall exactly so I’ll make my guess based on what I *think* I see:
    Lily could be a Parson Russell/Fox Terrier mix and if she is taller than what I think she seems, with Fox hound, Harrier, or Beagle mixed in as well.

  91. Nic1 says

    Rose C – Lily is a medium/small sized dog, adopted aged about 3 years. She’s reactive, bold and very ‘drivey’. Ball obsessed. Loves people, not so keen on other dogs. I’ve often wondered if she has some solid hound ancestry myslef Rose given her ‘nose to floor, tail in air’ tracking activities on walks. It’s all a guessing game of course with mutts and it is a lot of fun, but it focuses you on simply observing and evaluating the dog’s behaviour you have in front of you with no breed bias.

    I love that dog in the video – his tail never stopped thumping!

  92. Beth says

    Nic1, I would guess either terrier/hound or perhaps terrier/pointer, but who knows? She’s cute.

  93. JJ says

    RoseC: Thanks for your follow up. You make a good point too.

    Nic1: Adorable dog. Thanks for sharing those pictures.

  94. Jessica says

    I really had my doubts about the Wisdom Panel when my dog’s results came back in the mail. It was the “MX” panel, with a blood test, and the results came back so weird that I called the company to confirm that they were right.

    Here’s Hershey. Try to guess what you think he might be before you look at the results:

    And his Wisdom Panel results:

    I genuinely have no idea what he’s mixed with as I adopted him from a shelter as a pup. All I know is that he came from aanother shelter in Virginia.

  95. Nic1 says

    Lily’s results arrived in my inbox today.
    *drum roll*

    Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mix crossed with Pembroke Welsh Corgi/EnglishSpringer Spaniel cross.

    We definitely got the behavioural aspects of her ancestry correct – terrier, herding and hunting.

    Of the mixed breed ancestry they offered the following 5 best matches:
    Chesapeake Bay Retriever 14.5%
    Bouvier des Flandres 8.15%
    Finnish Spitz 5.63%
    Bassett Hound 3.96%
    yorkshire terrier 3.14%


  96. Rose C says


    She is a little bit of this and that and a whole lot of spunk and cuteness! Thanks! Love it!

  97. Nic1 says

    @Rose C – a whole lot of fun too. At a training class tonight though the instructors were very wisely sceptical of the results. They are pretty convinced she has some BC in there. She does have a fantastic stalk and ‘eye’ very much like a BC. I wonder if Corgis exhibit anything similar? Where’s Beth??

  98. says

    Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed is a simple DNA test that helps reveal the breeds in a
    dog’s ancestry. Finding out a dog’s breed makeup does more than just satisfy ..

  99. Kristin says

    “No one guessed both breeds [Boxer and Am Staff] as part of the mix, which is understandable if you think about it, but a good reminder to us all when guessing breed backgrounds.”

    Not true! “Hope” guessed both, for one, and “Laura Anne” guessed both Boxer and “pit-bull,” of which Am Staff is a type.

  100. Carla says

    “There have been reported incidents of American Staffordshire Terriers being aggressive with other pets or people.” This statement was included on my dog’s Wisdom Panel test results document. When I complained to Mars about this because aggression to people is not a typical trait for this breed, they replied that this statement was included to inform owners and promote responsible pet ownership. Yet nothing was said about the importance of socialization and positive training in the behavior of all breeds. I guess from their viewpoint and business model, breed is all that matters. My rescue dog turned out to be 75% Am Staff and 25% mix breed, I tested out of curiosity. Did Leo’s (or anyone else’s) reports include any similar remarks?

  101. dia says

    I’m a year late to this, but just had to comment. I just sent in my dog’s DNA to Mars, and am waiting for the result. I am expecting “Mixed Breed” or “No Result” because in essence, he is a village dog from Egypt.

    But … he has the double-suspension gallop of a sighthound with full extension and contraction, and although I haven’t raced him directly against either Salukis or Greyhounds, I take him to lure coursing practice. On the first two runs, the guy handling the lure was obviously not expecting my dog’s speed, as he almost caught the lure. And, through some surreptitious timings discovered that while he’s not the fastest dog, he can certainly hold his own against the Salukis (no Whippets or Greyhounds ran that day).

    And, as said in the blog – even if it’s “No result”, that in itself will be interesting. But if it comes back with even a hint of Saluki, I’ll not be too surprised. :)

  102. LL says

    I found this blog by happy coincidence when searching for a hint of why when I had sent two Wisdom Panel kits in the same day, received at exactly the same moment, I have the results from one but not the other… but carrying on…(because the other is now ready).

    Perhaps you have some insight on this already, but it is my understanding that the Boxer actually earned its name through a phonetic adaptation of Bullenbeisser and/or the other derivative German breed names, and actually has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Boxers (like many, many other breeds of dogs) ‘box’ with their paws.

    I genuinely admire your work, and so was a bit surprised to see that myth perpetuated here. I find that many origin stories are happily repeated, false though they may be. The other one I see far too often is the “Nanny dog” myth that people, meaning well, apply to Pit Bulls. They don’t know that they are actually misrepresenting the dogs when they tell this story as it was adapted from a comment that a breeder of fighting dogs made, saying that his dog would win in the pit, and then come home and nanny the children. As much as we would like to attribute such a kind story to our bully friends, it’s better that we know the truth of it, and that NO dog is a nanny dog (in the sense that no dog should be left alone with children). Ah, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Apologies!

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