Genetics of Dogs and How They Behave


If you had to guess, what would you say this dog is?

Take a look at this sweet face in the photo and tell me what you think she got in her?  When we adopted her from the shelter, she was only five weeks old.  Like a human baby, sometimes new born dogs are hard to tell what their features are going to be like.  Since she was found under a porch with her sister but no mom, the animal shelter guessed she was some kind of chow mix because of the black on her tongue.

We had just lost our Chow and Sharpei mix, Beatrice, in October and since then, I had been making surreptitious visits to the shelter.  Generally, I don’t adopt puppies.  I’m all about saving the older dogs but something drew me into the puppy room.  And there I saw this little bundle of black fur and blue eyes and I was sure it was Beatrice reincarnated.

We did all the right things with this puppy.  We took her, as soon as she had all her puppy shots, to puppy training school.  We socialized her around lots of people and other dogs.  We exercised her and took her hiking up the mountain at least once a week.  That pudgy, fluffy, flop-eared puppy grew into a gangly, giant-eared, long-snouted dog!


Me? Digging? I haven’t been digging!

Oddly enough, as her appearance changed, so did some of her behavior.  She became leery of people in general.  She was very cautious around other dogs.  She was exhibiting more dominant behavior with the other dogs at home.

We decided to get her DNA tested to just get an inkling of what her breed make up was.  We were certain by this time that she was no chow mix.

We purchased a standard, cheek swab DNA kit and sent it into the company.  In a few weeks, we got the results.  The DNA revealed that she had no breed in her primary make up — so Mom and Dad were not pure bred anything.  She also had no specific breed DNA in her secondary heritage line — so Grandma and Grandpa and Grandma and Grandpa were not purebred.  She also had no specific breed DNA in her tertiary lineage — so Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and…well you get the meaning…no purebreds there either.

What she came back with were traces of the following breeds:  Boston Terrier, Rottweiler and Belgian Tervuren Shepard.  The ears, for instance, definitely came from the Tervuren but certainly her short coat didn’t.  The Tervuren has long feathers.  I look at the shape of her mouth and her slightly bulging eyes and I can see the Boston.  Her natural protectiveness could be a trait from the Rottie.

Once I found out what her genetic make up was, however, it did not change the way I was training her.  It helped me to understand why she did some things, like herding the pack along when playing outside or guarding the house when we were away.  But, Bailey has a personality all of her own and quirks galore.

Although knowing the breed and the characteristics of the breed can help explain some behavior, it is not the defining factor in a dog.  As a pet owner, trainer and dog lover, I say these tests can be fun but don’t think your dog is going to act a certain way because her breed description says it.  I have a lab who doesn’t like water!

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