The board of a luxury New York City apartment complex raised concerns about “dog racism” in 2015, when it started requiring residents to test their dogs’ DNA before granting the animals permission to reside in the building.
The board reasoned that certain dog breeds are aggressive by nature. (The complex has a list of banned breeds, which includes Pomeranians, according to DNAinfo.)
Dog DNA tests claim they can tell you about your pet’s behaviour, estimate how big a puppy will get, and indicate whether it will play nice with children or other pets.
Having experimented with testing my own DNA, I decided to find out more about my pup. In honour of National Pet Day, here’s how it went:
This is Izzie. When I adopted her over a decade ago, I was told she was a mixed-breed golden retriever.
She was only a year old at the time, so no one knew how big she'd get (most goldens reach their full size, about 60 lbs., around age 2) or how she'd behave. Our veterinarian told us she was likely a (smallish) golden retriever mutt.
But Izzie stayed roughly the same size, and we stayed curious about her heritage. Now 15 years old, she's friendly and loyal.
Most people get dog DNA tests so they can find out what kind of behavioural traits to expect -- golden retrievers tend to be loyal and good with kids, for example, while dalmatians are super active and generally make good guard dogs.
Source: American Kennel Club
When I got the chance to test her DNA, I seized it. There were several options, but I picked the Wisdom Panel DNA test developed by MARS Veterinary, the world's largest pet healthcare provider.
At $US79.99, the kit isn't cheap.
Getting dog DNA samples is a lot like getting human DNA samples -- you firmly twirl each swab along the inside of each cheek for 15 seconds.
Izzie wasn't a huge fan of the process. But my dad (shown in the background) got a kick out of watching us.
Once I got Izzie's samples, I stuck the swabs into the holes in the package and let them dry, as instructed, for five minutes. Behold the microscopic Izzie DNA:
Once the swabs were dry, I resealed them, packed them up, and popped the package in the mail. At Wisdom Panel's lab, Izzie's DNA would be scanned and analysed in a database of 250 dog breeds.
The test looks for 1,800 different 'markers': places in Izzie's DNA where there are signature variations that can help determine which breeds she's most likely made up of. The test also looks for coyote and grey-wolf markers, since coyotes, wolves, and domestic dogs can interbreed. (They're all members of the same genus, Canis, but belong to distinct subspecies.)
After two weeks, I got an email telling me Izzie's results were ready. I have to admit: I was completely surprised by what I found. Here's the first screen I saw after logging on to WisdomPanel.com:
Chow chow and Cocker spaniel?! American Eskimo and Samoyed?! So much for my 'mini golden retriever' assumption ...
Izzie doesn't look like a Cocker spaniel, even though her results say she's nearly 38% Cocker. At first, I couldn't believe it, but I kept reading the results, which appeared on several pages:
The personality certainly fits -- Cockers are known for being members of an active 'sporting breed.' They thrive on daily exercise, are intelligent and gentle, and do well as part of a family.
Although Izzie's DNA suggested she's 25% chow chow, she doesn't look like that breed either. Still, a few personality traits sounded familiar.
Here's the screen that got me: Izzie is 12.5% American Eskimo dog. With the exception of the perky ears and white, fluffy coat, Izzie does kind of look like the images below -- I can see some likenesses in the eyes and snout, for example.
The last breed in her results was Samoyed, a type of dog originally named after a group of nomadic Siberian reindeer herders who bred the pups to round up reindeer and pull sleds. This dog's tail looks a lot more like Izzie's than the other breeds, and its eyes and snout are similar, too.
Her final page of results looked at all the remaining DNA that couldn't be classified into the previous groups. The breeds probably reflect some breeding that happened outside of the three generations that Wisdom Panel tests for. Here are the groups Izzie is likely related to:
It's important to keep in mind that differences among breeds are unusual as far as mammals go. All dogs are members of a single species: Canis lupus familiaris, aka the domestic dog.
But because dogs have been bred by people for specific characteristics over many years, they have some pretty big visual differences.
Source: American Kennel Club
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