I am a complete mutt fan. I love their quirks, uniqueness and the surprise of what they’ll look like as adults. I do not believe that certain breeds are naturally aggressive, but that upbringing and training play a huge role in how a dog behaves. And I love looking at mixed up mutts and thinking, I wonder if I can guess what breeds are there...
So why did I get a DNA test to find out what breeds are in my dog?
The main reason: curiosity. People ask me what kind of dog Nala is all the time (she's the dog in the photo at left), and I usually give one of 3 answers. “Pound puppy.” “Mystery mutt.” “A brown dog.” But I was really curious to know what else is in her – why does she have so much extra skin? Why does she have a stocky body but short legs? And why on earth do her ears fold sideways, instead of forwards like most dogs?
Training is another big reason for getting a dog DNA test. Just like people, different dogs have different learning styles that work for them. Luckily for us, we can associate breeds with certain temperaments and adjust training styles appropriately. By knowing what kind of dog Nala is, I can adapt my training methods to best suit her learning style. That will make training easier on both of us and more effective.
Health concerns are the third major reason. Different breeds are prone to different health problems. While this is usually less of a concern for mixed-breed dogs, breed-specific problems can still affect mutts. By knowing their genetic make-up, owners and vets can work together to prevent and be on the alert for breed-specific health problems. Knowing her true mix has helped us identify one genetic problem Nala has, as well as given us a better way to determine Nala's target weight for optimum health.
Knowing Nala's breed makeup has definitely been useful. Some of her behavior is definitely explained by the breeds I didn't know were in her, and I've changed the way I handle some of those behaviors to accommodate where they're coming from. It's definitely been helpful at the vet's office to know what's in her and what to look out for too.
Still, when people ask I just say she’s a mutt. If people press for more details (as they often do) I tell them what she is. But knowing her genetic makeup doesn’t make me any less of a proud mutt mom.
On Thursday we'll cover Dog DNA testing: How does it work?
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