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Mixed up dog — one last dance with DNA

What do these four breeds have in common — besides getting labeled as vicious from time to time?

All four (Rottweiler, Akita, chow and Staffordshire terrier, aka pit bull) are in my dog Ace, according to yet another DNA test (last one, I promise). The best guess now is that one of Ace’s parents was a Rottweiler, the other a combination of Akita, Chow and pit bull.

Together, they formed this creature:

How the product of four “feared” breeds could be such a gentle giant might be explained several ways.

For starters, they aren’t vicious breeds — just breeds that, due to the acts of a few members, have seen themselves smeared as a whole. Secondly, we would contend, when you start mixing up breeds, though some purebred purists might be offended by it, some wonderful things can happen. Third, maybe, just maybe, nurture is more important than nature.

Then again, maybe DNA testing — scientifically solid as it may be — isn’t always the full and final answer.

After all this was our third test, and our third different diagnosis.

The first DNA analysis was performed in connection with the Baltimore Sun series, “Hey Mister What Kind of Dog is That?” The Canine Heritage test from Metamorphix, using a cheek swab taken from Ace, determined he was Rottweiler and Chow. At the time, the test checked for 38 breeds.

The second came after Mars Veterinary offered us a free Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis kit, which can detect the presence of more than 150 breeds. This one required a visit from a vet to take Ace’s blood, and the results showed he was 50 percent Rottweiler, 25 percent Akita, and 25 percent other unknown breeds.

While we were waiting for our results on that one, Canine Heritage got back in touch to let us know the newer version of their  test — still using a cheek swab — could now detect 100 breeds. They offered us a free re-test, so we swabbed Ace’s mouth again.

The results of that one arrived in the mail last week.

Makers of the tests say it helps dog owners better understand their pets’ behavior, and better be on the lookout for potential medical problems, many of which are prevalent among certain breeds. In that regard, testing a dog’s DNA can serve a useful purpose. But there’s a potential for misusing them as well — if, for instance, they ever become a tool for enforcing breed bans.

In that case, Ace, with his components, would be Public Enemy No. 1. Should that ever come to pass, none of this ever happened, and Ace is actually a, uh … Portuguese water dog/Labradoodle mix.


Comment from Clay
Time March 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Have you read what Jim Crosby had to say about these tests a year ago?

[quote]Sure, there are those new DNA tests that are being sold to “..tell you the breed makeup of your dog…”, but the genetic scientists I have spoken too generously call those tests “well marketed consumer products.” In other words in the scientific class of those late night infomercial products.[/quote]

I can`t figure out why anyone would care about the genetic makeup of a mutt.

If anyone is concerned about medical problems in certain Breeds,don`t get a Pure Breed and better yet perhaps it`s time to change Breeding practices so those prevalent Medical problems disappear.

Frankly I don`t see any useful purpose for these tests but I certainly see potential for misuse unless of course the real reason they are being developed is as a tool for enforcing Breed Bans.

I wouldn`t be voluntarily contributing my dogs DNA to help with further development of those tests.

Dog Owners beware.
That would be my advice.

Comment from Hayledog
Time March 8, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I love this post. BSL infuriates me and the fact that Ace, gentle giant that he is, is potentially the mix of 4 of these so-called “dangerous” breeds, just goes to show that DNA doesn’t mean anything when it comes to personality and behavior.

Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time March 8, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Been thinking about this a bit. First of all, I’m still dubious of the Chow component and wonder if any of these DNA experts took a moment to look inside Ace’s mouth.

But if you go with Akita, Rottweiler, Pit Bull, and we’ll throw a bit of Chow into the mix, it’s interesting (actually a bit inspiring) to go beyond the recent hype and hysteria and look at how these breeds came into being and how their relationships with human beings evolved.

Chows are one of the “ancient breeds,” one of the dogs that has changed the least from its original form. So Chows and human beings have been together for thousands of years.

Akitas are a much newer breed. A single Akita is revered throughout Japan for his amazing behavior after his human’s death. He returned every day to a railroad station to wait for the man–and he did it for years. I suspect if you asked a Japanese person, he or she might say that the Akita embodies some of the virtues that are important in Japan–honor, tenacity, dignity, and devotion to duty.

As for Rottweilers and Pit Bulls, both of these dogs were bred to help with the labors of the farm. They honestly believed in England that having a bull baited and fought by a dog at market time somehow tenderized the meat. (Don’t ask me, I don’t have a clue, but it’s one reason the “sport” evolved. I guess that’s where the “bull” came from in their name.) When the bull-fighting dog wasn’t busy fighting, it was a working farm dog–killing vermin, guarding livestock, and–yes–looking after the children. Same goes for the Rottweiler, though I don’t know if they were ever run in fights. We should remember that as recently as a couple of years ago a Rottweiler saved the life of the young child he was looking after by tenaciously alerting her family to the fact that she was injured and unconscious. I guess if a Rottweiler wants you to know that something is wrong, he’s going to convince you.

So you might look at Ace as the product of four kinds of dogs that have been of immeasurable value to human beings for thousands of years. They wouldn’t have survived this long without some outstanding qualities. Add to that the fact that he’s been brought up in a good home by people who care for him, and it’s almost inevitable that he would be a great dog.

Comment from TIG
Time June 1, 2009 at 8:13 pm

I too have a rokita u can see a clip of her on u tube if u search (my rokita ruby) my neighbour has her sister they are good natured and big softies a joy to own

Comment from TIG
Time June 2, 2009 at 7:34 am

I have just watched your videos and the markings tail and behaviour everthing is like looking at my own dog, my ruby is 50% rotti father and 25% akita 25% border collie mother (i have met them both).looking at Ace i would say he has the same mix but the collie replaced by another breed lab or retriever maybe, but i don’t think there is any shepherd in him at all after all is said and done i personally would call him a rokita due to the majority of the mix i have seen a few rokita’s in uk and they all look similar you are very lucky to have such a fine dog.