Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?


We adopted Diesel from the Humane Society in June. He was listed as a retriever/mix. On our first visit to the vet, she declared him a Labrador retriever/Border Collie mix, but he would be small, as she predicted he would grow to about 40 pounds (he currently weighs in at 37.5 pounds).

Over the last few months, much debate ensued about Diesel’s ancestry. Of course, we asked him to describe his parents, but we have not found anyone that can translate his barking into English.

Our friends Billy and Lara were especially curious about Diesel’s background. Diesel spends a lot of time at their house and their dog Bogart is Diesel’s BFF. The general consensus between the two of them and Mark and I was that Diesel was part Border collie. His other lineage was the dispute.

Lara insisted that he was not a Retriever; she guessed Whippet. Billy claimed that he was Chihuahua. Mark and I still thought he was a Lab.

One would think that my background as a geneticist would have made me intensely curious about Diesel’s lineage. This was not the case. At our first visit to the vet, she mentioned that we could get Diesel DNA tested to determine with some accuracy the breed of Diesel’s parents. I scoffed at the idea, thinking that getting a dog DNA tested was preposterous.

Billy and Lara, though, decided they wanted to know more about Diesel. They researched doggie DNA testing and bought a kit from the most reliable company, Wisdom Panel Insights, which tests for 170 breeds.


The procedure itself simply entails taking a sample of cheek cells using a special swab and sending it to the company. It could not have been easier, particularly since I had done this hundreds of times on humans involved in studies I have worked on.

Then we waited.

Finally, the results are in. Evidently, none of us are very good at determining dog breeds, because all of us were wrong.

Diesel is a flat-haired Labrador and an Australian Cattle dog.

When I read about these two breeds, they fit Diesel’s personality uncannily well. He is extremely curious, intelligent, playful, lovable, food motivated (he will do anything for a treat), agile, a Frisbee junkie, apprehensive around strangers (he has a little barking habit around newcomers), and a herder. He has also become quite a good running companion.

His size and markings also fit well with these breeds, and his ears particularly reflect his heritage.He still has one ear that sticks up (the Australian Cattle dog) and one ear that flops over (the Retriever).

I told Diesel about his family tree and showed him pictures of what his parents might have looked like. All he did was tilt his head in an “I don’t care” manner and grab the Frisbee hoping for a rousing game of fetch.

4 comments: