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)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 23rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptions, animals, breed tests, breeds, burlingame, california, chihuahuas, chiratoodle, dna, dogs, golden chinscher, mutts, mystery, peninsula humane society, pets, rescues, shelters, testing
We love dogs. We love depictions of interspecies harmony. And danged if we don’t love Roger Miller.
So even though its cast is made up of various members of the animal kingdom — not just the dogs we normally feature in our “Woof in Advertising” pieces — we’re pretty crazy about this recent ad for Android phones.
We especially like the tagline: “Be Together. Not the Same.”
The ad doesn’t make me want to buy an Android phone.
But it does make me happy.
How can such scenes of interspecies friendship not make you joyful, especially when you throw in the phrase “Ooda Lalley?
(According to Urban Dictionary, it’s a term popularized in the 1950s, meaning yay or yippee.)
Now all we have to do is figure out what “Do-Wacka-Do” means, and whether it’s possible that — with enough interspecies harmony — we CAN roller skate in a buffalo herd.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: advertisement, advertising, android, animals, be together not the same, commercial, dogs, friendship, harmony, interspecies, marketing, ooda lalley, orangutan, pets, phone, relationship, robin hood and little john, roger miller, roscoe, song, suryia, woof in advertising
Then the family got a phone call that indicated otherwise.
The caller, who claimed to have picked up their lost dog at a Durham, N.C., intersection, asked if there was a reward, and hung up when the answer didn’t please her.
The phone call was made six days ago, and the woman hasn’t called back since, according to the owners of Bella.
“She said she had the dog and asked about money and if we had a reward,” recalled Caroline Wilgen. “I said yes, but we hadn’t decided how much and she hung up.”
Bella, a white Maltese-poodle mix, wandered off last Wednesday as her owner unloaded groceries. She made it to the intersection of Cornwallis and Pickett Road.
“Several cars stopped when she tried to cross the road and the person who was closest to the dog scooped it up and then tried to put it in her car,” Wilgen told WTVD.
The next day Bella’s family received the phone call from a woman who said she had found the owner’s contact information on the dog’s collar.
“We received a call Thursday, around 8:00 pm, from the young woman who picked Bella up,” Wilgen’s husband wrote on his blog. “She said that Bella got into her car voluntarily. She sounded a little worried she may be in trouble. … We have hoped she would call back, but so far, nothing.
“We really hope she calls. We are not trying to get her in trouble, we just want Bella home. Maybe a neighbor or friend will recognize Bella and encourage her to do the right thing.”
Wilgen adopted Bella two years ago, driving seven hours to pick the dog up from a shelter in Tennessee, where she’d been dropped off with matted fur and rotting teeth.
Now Bella needs to be rescued again.
“She’s already been through a lot so if we could bring her home, that’d be great,” Wilgen said.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 19th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bella, car, dog, dognapped, dogs, durham, kidnapped, lost, maltese, missing, mix, n.c., north carolina, pets, phone call, picked up, poodle, ransom, reward, wandered
Jagger, the Irish setter who died little more than a day after competing at Crufts, was poisoned — but they are now all but certain it was not during the dog show, UK Kennel Club officials say.
Citing reports from independent toxicologists, a Kennel Club spokesperson said Jagger died from meat cubes tainted with two fast acting poisons — carbofuran and aldicarb (both banned insecticides in the EU) that would have led to symptoms and death within a few hours of being consumed.
On top of that, the fact that the meat cubes in his stomach weren’t fully digested indicate he ate the cubes after he returned home to Belgium Friday, March 6, Kennel Club officials said.
All those other unsubstantiated poisonings at Crufts — some media reports alluded to as many as six — were just rumors and were found to have no basis, according to The Guardian.
Jagger, who competed under the name Thendara Satisfaction, won second place in his category. He died between 24 and 48 hours after leaving Crufts.
The Kennel Club’s secretary, Caroline Kisko, said the report shows it was “inconceivable” that Jagger could have been poisoned while at the dog show.
“Considering we are told that Jagger showed the first clinical signs usually associated with these two poisons shortly before his death in Belgium, late on the night of Friday 6 March, leading to the immediate call for veterinary attention, we must conclude that it is inconceivable that he could have been poisoned at Crufts on Thursday 5 March, some 28 to 36 hours earlier.
“There has been a lot of concern about whether the poisoning happened at Crufts and we are now able to reassure all dog-lovers who came to Crufts that this could not have been possible,” she added.
Jagger’s owners, Aleksandra Lauwers, Dee Milligan-Bott and Jeremy Bott believed the dog had been poisoned during the competition.
In a statement they released yesterday, they offered little comment on where else Jagger might have ingested the poison and expressed “disappointment” in the way Crufts officials handled the tragedy.
“We feel we did everything possible to quell the media frenzy that was eager to sensationalise this sad situation,” the owners said.
“We would have welcomed being offered expert advice, from a professional corporation such as the Kennel Club and Crufts organisation, on dealing with the intrusive worldwide media whose only interest in this case was obviously because of the link with Crufts.
“That would have been helpful, rather than the cold, impersonal emails and their own press comments regretting that Jagger had died after the show (and) may have avoided the terrible media circus that ensued.”
(Photo: from Dee Milligan-Bott)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 18th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal, belfast, crufts, death, dog shows, dogs, fast acting, healthy, insecticides, jagger, pets, poisoning, poisons, purebreds, results, safety, test, thendara satisfaction, toxcicology
Dogs aren’t truly color blind, but they do see a lesser range of hues than humans do.
They may have better hearing than us, and be far superior to us at sniffing things out, but when it comes to seeing rainbows they don’t have as much to get excited about as we do.
Dogs have only two types of cone cells, which are responsible for color vision, enabling them to see blue and yellow — and their various mixes.
Most of us humans have three different types of cone cells, allowing us to see red, green and blue, and all combinations of those colors.
As this graphic from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog shows, dogs miss out on reds and oranges and generally enjoy a less vivid spectrum of colors.
But before you start feeling superior, consider that we’re probably not seeing all there is to see in a rainbow, either.
Butterflies may have up to five cone receptors, while the mantis shrimp has 12. They are fluttering around, or swimming around, seeing colors we’ve never seen.
(Imagine what a butterfly shrimp might see, if it weren’t breaded and fried.)
Quick science lesson: Colors are just different wavelengths of visible light, so the color of an object depends on what kinds of light it absorbs and reflects. What bounces back and hits our eyes is processed by our brain. Then and only then can we pronounce that the sky is blue, or that the dress is black and blue, or white and gold.
Humans on the Internet (which are slightly different than humans) recently spent weeks debating whether a dress shown in a picture was blue with black fringe, or white with gold fringe.
And everyone of them — unlike shrimp, butterflies and dogs — was absolutely sure that what they saw was right.
While other species may have more finely honed senses of smell, sight and sound, we humans have a much more refined sense of smugness, and we lead all species when it comes to the senses — or are they sins? — of pride, envy and greed.
That’s why, when it comes to rainbows, many of us are most concerned with the pot of gold (or is it blue?) that’s at the end of it.
I’ve given up on finding that, but I would, just once, like to see a rainbow as a butterfly does.
As for that dress, the fact that its color was more debated by women than men isn’t too surprising.
Not only are women less affected by colorblindness (because the genes encoding red and green receptors are located on the X-chromosome, of which men only have one and women have two), but they also have a higher potential of being “tetrachromats” – people with four types of color receptor cells instead of three.
Though the evidence remains inconclusive, some researchers believe this fourth receptor allows tetrachromats to see a wider range of colors.
I’m not sure if consensus was ever reached in the great dress debate, and I don’t really care.
But if you simply must have a final answer, ask a shrimp.
(Photos: Ace at Salvation Mountain in California, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; graphic from the Washington Post; photo of dress from ABC News)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 17th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, butterflies, color blind, colorblind, colors, dog, dogs, how we see colors, hues, perception, pets, rainbows, science, see, seeing, senses, shrimp, sight, smell, sound, spectrum, the dress
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.
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.
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.”
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 16th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, adopted, akita, animals. max tayar, appearance, bobby, breed testing, breeds, chow, dna, dogs, doppelgangers, florida, german shepherd, laika, lookalike, lookalikes, looks, miami, mixes, mutts, pets, pit bull, puppy leaks, rottweiler, shelter
Amid the bashing she’s taking on the Internet for picking her dog up by the tail, there are those coming to the defense of Rebecca Cross, owner of Knopa, the Scottish terrier who won Best in Show at Crufts.
But the explanations those defenders offer, and their justifications for the practice — which has existed for years — are disingenuous, misleading and often a little arrogant.
The only time, in our opinion, that a dog should be picked up by his or her tail is … NEVER!
There may be those in the dog show community, and in the worlds of hunters and breeders, who say that view is naive — that certain breeds can handle it. Then again, they have never been picked up by their tails.
Let’s look at their arguments.
1. The tails of some dog breeds are meant to serve that function. They are born with sturdier tails to provide us humans with handles so we can pull them out when they go into holes. Baloney. Clearly, neither God nor evolution put tails on animals to serve as handles for humans. And if breeders have worked to give certain breeds stronger tails, with that in mind, then they had the wrong thing in mind, which is often the case. Their tinkering with dog breeds to make them cuter, lower maintenance or more useful to humans — all in the name of sales, of course — leads to no good, and to bogus arguments like this one.
2. You shouldn’t do it, but, being highly skilled professionals, it’s OK for us to lift certain small breeds by their tails. Balderdash! Running around in a circle with a dog, and brushing its hair, doesn’t make you a highly skilled professional. Showing a dog doesn’t require a PhD. You’re not a doctor, and if you were you’d know that, the tail being an extension of the spine, it should not be used to hold up even part of a dog’s weight.
3. When a dog is picked up that way, most of the pressure is on the front end of the dog, and the tail is simply used as a guide. Bullshit — pardon our language — but anyone with the slightest understanding of physics can see that, when a dog is picked up this way, the tail is carrying at least some of the dog’s weight. And when the front end is being supported by a hand on his or her throat, rather than his or her chest, that too is problematic.
4. If it hurt them, dogs would yelp and whine. Wrong again! That’s not true of real world dogs, or show dogs — maybe especially show dogs who have accepted the fact that the human showing them is going to do this, just as they have accepted the judges who insist on grasping their packages to check for “conformity.”
5. We’ve always done it that way. We all know that is no defense at all; rather, it’s an excuse used by those who — even when someone is showing them a better way — stubbornly insist on living in the past. And if ever there was a vestige of the past, it’s purebred dog shows.
Those defending the practice offer plenty of what they, at least, see as justification, but little explanation of the reason for picking up a dog this way in the first place.
In that way, the tail lift symbolizes what, at the root, is wrong with dog shows.
And that’s the “appearance above all” mentality behind them.
Judging dogs on their looks — as called for by breed organizations and breed standards — causes suffering and is not in the best interest of the species.
Shows like Crufts and Westminster value “looks over the welfare and health of dogs which can lead to their early death, and that’s not acceptable if we’re really a nation of dog lovers,” RSPCA spokesperson Violet Owens told the BBC.
Although the dog owner’s comments didn’t sound too apologetic — she said she lifted her dog by the tail due to force of habit — Cross did apologize, according to UK Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko.
And just for the record Kisko also said that — no matter what the breed — picking up a dog by its tail is a no-no, at least at Crufts:
“Those showing at Crufts receive clear written guidance on handling their dog, in order to ensure the dog’s welfare, and this guidance makes it clear that dogs should not be handled in this way,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 13th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeds, crufts, dog, dog shows, dogs, handlers, handling, health, improper, judges, kennel club, knopa, pets, picked up, proper, purebreds, rebecca cross, rspca, safety, tail, westminster