Dog’s Eye View: The family tree explains a lot
In all the years that my husband and I have had dogs in our life, we have never had a DNA panel run on any of them. Okay, pop quiz: What do the letters DNA represent? I asked my husband and he rattled off, “DeoxyriboNucleicAcid” (caps mine). No fair. He’s a veterinarian. My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says, “Any of various nucleic acids that are usu. the molecular basis of heredity …” Now we are getting somewhere. DNA is the springboard for this article.
I have written about our feisty little wire-haired, short-legged, grizzled gray-colored terrier mix, Lawrence, that we adopted in January of this year. I can’t believe time has passed so quickly. He is a solid member of our family. He brings laughter and joy to our life. The little guy gets along with our two kitties and somewhat restrains himself from chasing them when they race around the house. He’s learning tricks and has earned his M.A. in the Canine Life and Social Skills Program. But, best of all, he is becoming a scent detection dog.
Out of curiosity we decided to run a DNA test on Lawrence. We used the Wisdom Panel 4.0 DNA Test. Their product slogan is, “Dogs can’t talk, but their DNA can.” The test involved rubbing Lawrence’s cheek and gum with little brushes and sending them to the laboratory. We sent the package on Oct. 14 and received the results Nov. 10. It was worth the wait.
It was like Christmas when we opened his results on line. Lawrence is 50 percent West Highland White Terrier, 50 percent Miniature Short Haired Dachshund/Standard sized Short Haired Dachshund mix, with a bit of unknown mixed breed at the very end of his three generation pedigree.
The detailed descriptions of the predominant breeds explain a lot about what drives Lawrence. Descriptive terms such as alert, keen sense of smell, earthdog, tracking, barking, chasing wildlife and may be difficult to disengage from an activity all play a part in Lawrence’s behavior. Both West Highland White Terrier and Dachshund breed standards describe these traits over and over again.
The report indicated that he is not in danger of “exercise induced collapse” and “multi-drug sensitivity,” problems that are sometimes found in some mixed breed dogs and some commonly affected breeds.
He is projected to weigh between 12-23 pounds. He weighs 20 pounds. Lawrence has floppy ears like a Dachshund and a normal length tail along with an “agouti/mixed” coloration, black eye rims and nose pad with a little bit of white on his body. All of these details were in the report.
To say that Lawrence is a “victim” of his genetic makeup would be like saying that he is what he is and that there is no modifying his behavior. Heredity/genes are acted upon by the environment. Letting him just bounce off of stimuli without any rules would be doing him a great injustice. His genes may be just what make him the fun and feisty little dog that he is. But he’s also pretty smart and is learning how to turn his energy and inborn traits into a way of earning yummy treats.
At the moment he’s perched at the end of the couch with his front paws on the window sill watching for wildlife. His pal, Brighty the cat, is sitting close by, watching him. To say that he’s alert is putting it mildly. He can spot a dog or man when they appear as just a speck down the road. A soft, low growl warns me of danger. He’s learning to come away from the window once I’ve checked.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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