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Does what’s in the mix really matter?

Now that I know Ace is a “Rokita” mix (50 percent Rottweiler, 25 percent Akita, 25 percent anybody’s guess), what can I do with the information?

And what of Elliot? Does knowing his somewhat fuzzier lineage — 25 percent golden retriever, 25 percent boxer, and 50 percent unknown — provide any information that might be helpful to him and his owners?

The experts at Mars Veterinary, makers of the Wisdom Panel MX mixed breed analysis, say yes — that knowing what’s in your mutt can help you better understand his or her behavior, and better be on the lookout for potential medical problems.

With Ace, they say, I should be aware of the potential for hip and elbow dysplasia, as both of the known breeds in him are prone to that. I should keep him on the lean side (something I’ve been unable to do with myself), and consider supplementing his diet with glucosamine, for optimal joint health. Also, since Rottweilers and Akitas are both prone to cataracts and other eye problems, I should keep an eye on his eyes.

With Elliot, hip dysplasia is also a concern, as, later in life, is cancer, which has a high incidence in boxers and golden retrievers. Elliot, based on the breeds found in him, could also be predisposed to skin issues, allergies and hypothyroidism.

Depressing as it all sounds – I, for one, would rather not know what afflictions lay ahead for me – I’ll admit that the information is somewhat useful.

Since DNA testing for mixed breed dogs hit the market, about two years ago, I’ve considered it a fun and fairly frivolous pursuit. I tested my dog twice (he was Rottweiler-Chow the first time around) not because I’m a super diligent caretaker of my pet, but for a newspaper story (the first time) and for this website (the second time).

And while I still don’t consider the tests vital — my guess is still that most people do it mostly to satisfy their human curiosity – I no longer consider them a complete waste of time. If you can afford it – most are $100-plus – they can give you a better understanding of your dog, and a better handle on caring for him.

I already knew Ace, like any big dog, would be prone to hip dysplasia, but the potential eye problems were news to me, and being cognizant of that possibility can’t hurt. In Elliot’s case, the DNA report may be a little less useful, as no breeds were found to be dominant in him.

The blood of Ace and Elliot, after being drawn by Dr. Johnny Slaughter, was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska, where DNA was extracted from the white blood cells. From there, the information was sent to a computer in England that evaluated the data, comparing the DNA of Ace and Elliot to markers from 157 breeds.

That showed that 50 percent of Ace’s DNA best matched Rottweiler, meaning either that one of his parents was a purebred Rottweiler, or that two of his grandparents were purebred Rottweilers, according to Angela M. Hughes, a veterinarian completing her PhD at the University of California, Davis. Hughes also works as a geneticist for Mars Veterinary.

Ace’s DNA showed there were “faint signals” from other unidentified breeds that likely go three generations back.

The Wisdom Panel report lists the attributes of Rottweilers as being calm, intelligent working dogs. The Akita, meanwhile, is loyal, intelligent and willful. Both breeds can get up to 28 inches tall, and 110 pounds.

Ace surpasses both those marks, which could be a result of something big in the 25 percent of his DNA that is mystery dog, or simply a matter of something happening in the mix.

“Purebreds have a limited toolbox, because their gene pool is limited,” Hughes explained. “When you move into mixed breeds and recombining genes, all bets are off. It can get totally random and weird, depending on the combination. It’s very possible your dog has managed to get certain genes that give him longer legs than you usually see in a Rottweiler.”

As for how this effects my view of my dog, otherwise, the answer is not much. He’s still a combo of something sturdy and German and something wise and Asian. He’s still a gentle giant. He’s still far more than the sum of his parts. But at least it does give me a new answer when I’m stopped on the street and asked, “Hey, Mister, what kind of dog is that?”