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Tag: mutts

Does pinpointing breeds speed up adoption?

lily

In hopes that potential adopters will find a “Chiratoodle” or a “golden Chinscher” more appealing than a plain old mutt or “Chihuahua mix,” an animal shelter in California has begun DNA testing some of its dogs to determine their breeds and market them under more exotic names.

The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, says initial results show the DNA tested dogs are getting adopted twice as fast.

Not too surprising in a world that prefers labels over mysteries — at least when it comes to what we bring into our homes.

DNA testing is not widely practiced by America’s animal shelters, mainly because of its expense. As a result, most people who adopt a dog from a shelter leave with a mystery mutt, or one whose heritage has been guessed at by shelter staff.

My dog Ace, for instance, when he was adopted nearly 10 years ago, was listed as a “hound mix” on his shelter paperwork, referred to as a “shepherd mix” by shelter staff and listed on Petfinder.com as a “Labrador mix.”

When DNA tests came on the market in 2007, I purchased one, swabbed his cheek and learned he was Rottweiler and Chow. In the next few years, as the tests became capable of identifying more than the original 38 breeds, I tested him two more times. The second test determined he was Rottweiler, Chow and Akita. The third test showed him to be all of those, and a little bit pit bull.

The tests allowed me to answer the question I was asked at least once a day: “What kind of dog is that?” It wasn’t so much that I had to know. All three tests were done mostly as research, for the purpose of writing about them. And once I learned the breeds he was made up of, I kind of missed the mystery.

I don’t think the information is all that vital, but I can understand how a purchaser, or adopter, of a dog might like to know what’s in his or her mix.

In California, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA conducted the tests in an attempt to increase the adoptions of Chihuahua mixes, which make up nearly a quarter the dogs in its shelter.

The campaign, conducted under the slogan “Who’s Your Daddy?” is aimed at “finding great homes for dogs at risk of being overlooked,” said Scott Delucchi, the shelter’s senior vice president.

“People love mutts. Still, we’re betting shelter dogs with DNA results included, for free, will be quite fetching,” he says in a commercial for the campaign.

The shelter picks up the cost of the $50 tests, which they say can help owners identify what breed-specific traits the dogs might exhibit. The tests also allow the shelter to have some fun coming up with clever breed names — like “Chorgi” (Chiuahua-corgi), “golden Chinscher”  (golden retriever-miniature pinscher-Chihuahua) and “Chiratoodle” (Chihuahua-rat terrier-poodle).

In February, the shelter conducted tests that determined the breed make up of 11 small dogs. All found homes within two weeks — twice as fast as any 11 untested small, brown dogs in the previous months, according to an Associated Press story.

Twelve more dogs have been tested since then and once they are all placed in homes the shelter plans to test 24 more.

Chihuahuas have replaced pit bulls as the most prevalent breed in the shelter, largely due to the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies, and the breed’s popularity among celebrities.

While some visitors to the shelter are seeking Chihuahuas, others are looking for mutts — small dogs who, thanks to another breed being in the mix, might have a less nervous dispositions.

While shelter officials have proclaimed the new program a success, they note that it’s going to take more than a gimmick to reduce the “alarming” number of Chihuahua mixes coming in.

“Another part is making spay-neuter low-cost or free to the community,” Delucchi said. The shelter also exports some of its smaller dogs to shelters in Florida, New York and other states where they are in shorter supply.

(Photo: Lynn and Tony Mazzola, with Lily, their newly adopted  ”Chorkie;” by Eric Risberg / AP)

Another Ace doppelganger surfaces

SONY DSC

From time to time, about once every couple of years, I hear from a reader who thinks their dog looks just like mine.

That’s my dog Ace above — one of a kind, I like to think, but a mix of four breeds according to repeated DNA testing conducted after I adopted him from a Baltimore animal shelter nearly 10 years ago.

And, no, one of them isn’t German shepherd, though that is the most common guess.

The guessing is one of the joys of mutt ownership, along with the fact that — unlike with, say, Golden retrievers — running into an exact replica of your dog is something you tend to get excited about.

bobby1So, naturally, when May Tayar in Florida stumbled across Ace on the Internet, and saw how much he resembled his mystery mutt, he got pretty excited.

Tayar, who lives in Florida, had assumed his dog Bobby (left), adopted from an animal shelter in Miami, was a German shepherd mix. After reading about Ace’s heritage, now he’s not so sure.

“Bobby looks exactly like Ace,” Max wrote me earlier this month in an email, with three Bobby photos attached.

“We always wondered what mix of breeds he is,” Tayar said of Bobby. “He sometimes looks like a German shepherd, but when he’s standing next to a real one he looks nothing like him. Also Bobby’s tail is clipped so we don’t know what his tail would have looked like.”

Whether Bobby’s tail would have curled up into a question mark, like Ace’s does when he’s in a good mood (we thank the Akita for that), will never be known.

While Bobby doesn’t have Ace’s tail, he has something Ace doesn’t have — pointy ears, or at least sometimes pointy ears. Not until I got to the third photo were they shown in the full upright position, suggesting to me that Bobby, unlike Ace, may have some shepherd in him.

bobby2

After reading about Ace’s origins on ohmidog!, Max is now convinced Bobby, like Ace, is a Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull mix. (Despite the bad reputation those breeds have, I generally share that information with everyone — except maybe landlords and insurers — because he shows how undeserved those reputations are.)

“We’ve been thinking about Ace a lot,” wrote Max, who owns Assara, a laser hair removal business in Manhattan. “… Every time Bobby’s ears go down and he gets a certain look on his face we call him Ace to see if he reacts.”

laikaNo sooner did I write the above then I came across, online, another Ace lookalike — really more of a Bobby lookalike, but with even bigger ears.

I was checking out the blog Puppy Leaks (I think you’d like it) when I saw a photo of Laika. That’s her to the left.

I went to the Puppy Leaks Facebook page, and sent a message to the blog’s author, Jen Gabbard, asking her if she knew what breeds were in Laika, and if it would be OK if I included Laika in this post as well, promising to poke only the gentlest fun at her highly impressive ears.

Laika, according to DNA tests Gabbard had conducted, is a mix of German shepherd, Rottweiler and pit bull.

Of course, what breeds are in a dog doesn’t define a dog — nor does the size of its ears.

It’s all relative. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and maybe even more so in the eye of the owner. Though some have pointed out they think Ace’s floppy ears are disproportionately small for his body, I’ve always seen them as just perfect.

I’m sure Max sees Bobby, and Jen sees Laika, the same way.

And the funny thing is, we’re all right.

(Photos: At top, Ace, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; second and third photos, Bobby, courtesy of Max Tayar; at bottom, Laika, courtesy of Jen Gabbard / Puppy Leaks)

Mutt shot for copulating with purebred

shotYou can’t blame Raider.

Maybe you can blame his owner — for not getting his front door fixed, and for not getting Raider fixed — but the 4-year-old Labrador mix was only doing what intact dogs tend to do, when the neighbor dog goes into heat.

The mutt went out the unlatched front door, and over to the home of a neighbor, who authorities say shot Raider twice when he caught him copulating with his prized purebred.

The neighbor, Randall Schexnayder, 51, of Metairie, was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana.

Raider is expected to recover from gunshot wounds to the muzzle and neck, according to his owner, Jim Hanley, 43. The dog disappeared last Wednesday, returning a few hours later covered in blood. Initially, Hanley thought Raider had been hit by a car, the Times-Picayune reported.

He took the dog to a vet, who told him Raider had been shot.

Hanley told the sheriff’s office who he suspected. A couple of neighbors had complained about Raider getting loose, and one had warned Hanley that he would take action if he ever caught Raider mounting his purebred dog.

When deputies called on that neighbor — Schexnayder —  he admitted shooting the dog. He told the deputies he chased the dog off once, but when the dog returned, and attempted to mount his pet — whose breed wasn’t identified — he shot Raider twice with a .22-caliber pistol.

Schexnayder turned the gun and Raider’s collar over to authorities and was briefly jailed before being released on bond, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

Hanley, while not denying his dog accosted his neighbor’s purebred, said that doesn’t justify his dog getting shot.

“I understand that (a strange dog mating with a prize female) would be upsetting, but it would never cross my mind to pull out a firearm,” he said. “I think my first move would have been calling animal control. I mean, my Lord.”

Raider is named after the Archbishop Rummel High School Raiders.

One-eyed dog charms crowd at Crufts

A purebred flat-coated retriever won best in show, but it was a one-eyed mutt named Dudley, and his dazzling performance in an agility contest, that won over the crowd at Crufts — the pretentious, I mean presitigious, UK dog show that concluded this past weekend.

Dudley, a six-year-old Lhasa apso-pug mix who lost his eye as a pup, and later was given up by his owners,  won an official Crufts rosette for his performance in the agility ring, beating out other rescued dogs in the competition, according to the Southern Daily Echo.

While we’ve been known to poke fun at purebred dog shows, it’s good to see them — on both sides of the pond — opening things up to mixed breeds, like Dudley. And, if  the crowd reaction to him is any sign, it’s something they should do a lot more of.

“He was definitely the crowd’s favorite and got a huge cheer as he ran round,” Dudley’s owner, Lara Alford, from Southampton, said. “Over the last few days he has had so many admirers – he’s probably been one of the most photographed dogs at Crufts this year.”

Dudley had his right eye removed as a puppy because of an infection. At 14 months, his owners surrendered him at an animal adoption shelter.

Alford, shortly after adopting him, noticed his speed and maneuverability and began training him in agility. As they run the courses, she always stays on his left side, so he can see her.

At Crufts, the training paid off.  “It was one of the fastest rounds Dudley’s ever done,” she said.

More than 21,000 dogs vied for honors at Crufts, which opened Thursday. In the best-in-show competition, Jet, a flat-coated retriever, beat out a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, a German shepherd, a boxer, a wire fox terrier, a standard poodle and a bichon frise.

Westminster Dog Show: An opposing view

Best in Show

Best in Show Pictures

If the following take on Westminster reads like its coming from some PETA hothead that’s because it is.

Then agains, hotheads are sometimes worth listening to.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, and her remarks appeared in the form of a guest column in the Sacramento Bee.

Pollard-Post recounts watching Westminster in her youth, usually with a bad case of strep throat, and with her dog Katie at her side…

“But had I known then that Westminster – and the dog-breeding industry that it props up – share the blame for the mutilation and deaths of millions of dogs each year, I would have changed the channel faster than you can say ‘Sesame Street.’

“Back then, I had no idea that the snub-nosed bulldogs and pugs prancing around the ring may have been gasping for breath the whole time because these breeds’ unnaturally shortened airways make exercise and sometimes even normal breathing difficult. I didn’t know that the “wiener dogs” that made me laugh as their little legs tried to keep up may have eventually suffered from disc disease or other back problems because dachshunds are bred for extremely long spinal columns. I didn’t learn until much later that because of inbreeding and breeding for distorted physical features, approximately one in four purebred dogs suffers from serious congenital disorders such as crippling hip dysplasia, blindness, deafness, heart defects, skin problems and epilepsy.

“I remember feeling shocked when I learned that Doberman pinschers’ ears naturally flop over, and that their ears only stand up because they are cut and bound with tape when the dogs are puppies. And I felt sick to my stomach when I discovered that cocker spaniels have beautiful, long, flowing tails, but American Kennel Club breed standards call for their tails to be amputated down to nubs. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that these procedures ‘are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient’ and they ’cause pain and distress.’

“… Like many people, I hadn’t made the connection that every time someone buys a purebred dog from a breeder or a pet store, a dog in a shelter – a loving animal whose life depends on being adopted – loses his or her chance at a home …

“Dog shows also encourage viewers to go out and buy purebred dogs like the ones they see on TV from breeders or pet stores. This impulse buying robs shelter dogs of homes, and even more dogs end up homeless when overwhelmed people discover that the adorable puppy they bought ruins carpets, needs expensive vaccinations and food and requires their constant attention.

“My own parents succumbed to the lure of purebreds: They purchased Katie from a breeder. Katie was an exceptional dog and my best friend, but it saddens me to think that other loving dogs waiting behind bars in shelters missed out on a good home because we thought we needed a certain breed of puppy.

“Thankfully, some things have changed. After Katie passed away, my parents adopted a lovable mutt from the local shelter. I haven’t had strep throat since I was a teenager. And if the dreaded illness strikes again, you’ll find me cuddling on the couch with my rescued dog, Pete, watching movies – not Westminster.”

Should you feel guilty about your purebred?

petaprotestAfter PETA’s protest at Westminster, The New York Times posed a timely and interesting question yesterday: Should the buyers and owners of purebred dogs feel guilty — given the number of dogs euthanized in shelters and the abuses that continue in purebred breeding?

Then they bounced that question off four experts on dogs and their place in society.

The responses are well worth reading in their entirety, but here’s the overly condensed version:

Francis Battista, co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society:

The only truly guilt-free purebred dog is one acquired from a shelter or breed rescue group … What’s an exploitive breeder? Any breeder that can’t provide a loving, in-home environment for a pregnant bitch, and a safe home environment surrounded by loving people for new born puppies, is exploitive. Anyone who breeds as a business rather than for the love of the breed is exploitive.

Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of ”The Intelligence of Dogs,” “How Dogs Think” and more:

Nearly 40 percent of dogs do not make it through their first year with their first owner, and instead are returned to their breeder, given to a shelter, euthanized or abandoned, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Humane Society … The advantage of purebred dogs is that they provide us with some level of predictability.

Mark Derr, author of “A Dog’s History of America” and “Dog’s Best Friend”:

This need to find “unspoiled” or rare breeds is tied not only to a desire for the next “hot” dog but also recognition that purebred dogs for all their beauty or uniqueness often have multiple genetic problems that are as much a result of the way they are bred as are their appearance and talents … But with purebred dogs accounting for 25 percent of those in shelters and countless more with dedicated breed rescue groups, virtue would appear to lie in giving a dog a home.

Ted Kerasote, author of “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog”:

Dividing the world into those who should feel guilty for owning a pedigreed pooch and those who can feel self-righteous for rescuing a mutt does little to solve the two major challenges domestic dogs face today: careless breeding and an antiquated shelter system … Assigning blame to one or the other won’t do much to bring more genetic diversity into the world of purebred dogs or help shelters operate in more diverse and life-saving ways. Nor does instigating guilt give the slightest nod toward the magic that happens when a person and a dog, purebred or not, fall in love.

The Power of Bow Wow Now

muttstar

The creator of the comic strip MUTTS has teamed up with spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle on a book that celebrates dogs, life and ”living in the moment” — the latter being a philosophy best taught by members of the canine species.

Normally motivational speak quickly takes a Tolle on me, but I will admit to liking “Guardians of Being,”  both for the point it makes, and the way it makes it –  more light-hearted than heavy-handed, thanks in large part to Patrick McDonnell’s deft touch.

McDonnell uses the cast of characters from the MUTTS strip to illustrate Tolle’s lessons on the value of staying in the present moment, appreciating the oneness of life and recognizing the beauty we sometimes forget to notice around us.

guardiansofbeing

McDonnell is the award-winning mind behind MUTTS, which appears in over 700 newspapers. (He’s also on the board of the Humane Society of the United States and a long-time advocate of dogs and the environment.) 

Tolle, author of “The Power of Now,” speaks and teaches around the world. He lives in Vancouver, Canada, but spends most of his time on the bestseller list.

After reading “The Power of Now,” McDonnell sought out Tolle to collaborate on “Guardians  of Being.”

“He created a passionate, humorous, enlightening meditation on the power and grace that animals can bring into our lives,” McDonnell said of Tolle. “Eckhart has translated what our companion animals have been telling us for ages: Life is good. Live in the now. Enjoy.”

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