Friday, January 22, 2010

DNA Testing

Well this is unexpected. I had been under the impression that I was part Basset Hound and part Blue Heeler (aka, Australian Cattle Dog). This evening I got an e-mail from Melissa, the woman who runs Peace and Paws. That's the organization that rescued me and my siblings from the shelter and fostered me until my home was found. Cactus Jack, one of my litter mates, got a DNA test. His new owners were curious about his heritage.

I am indeed part Basset Hound. For those of you who are curious, Basset's are short-legged sent hounds that were bred to hunt rabbits by scent. There aren't a lot of rabbits running around where I live. Squirrels work well, as do the Canadian Geese along the river.

Basset's usually top out at one foot in height at the withers. However they are stout muscular dogs weighing between 40 and 70 pounds. They are usually brown and black, most often spotted, but do exist in a variety of colors. They are considered a friendly breed though "forget" training when a reward is not present (those of you who have met me have no doubt figured out I have this quality). Bassets are also a very vocal dog--howling and barking when they want something, or a low murmuring whine to get attention (I especially do this when falling asleep).

Training needs to be persistent, as Bassets listen with their noses more than their ears (strange, since they have such big ears). They can be stubborn, but highly motivated by food and respond well to positive reinforcement methods (e.g., clicker training).

I am also part Blue Heeler, also known as the Australian Cattle Dog. These are medium sized dogs with short coats. The dogs have either brown or black hair distributed evenly through a white coat (which ends up looking red or blue). They are a herding dog originally developed in Australia (thus the name, silly) to drive cattle over long distances of difficult terrain.

Female Blue Heelers are between 17 to 19 inches tall at the withers and weight between 30 and 60 pounds. The mask on Blue Heeler's face is one of the most distinctive features of the dog. The mask is a black patch over one or both eyes. If it's on one eye is a single (or half) mask. If it's over both is a double (or full). Have you seen my pictures? As a puppy I had a double black patch. As I'm growing up that patch is turning brown. Kind of cute, no?

Blue Heelers are known to have a lot of energy, abundant intelligence, and an independent streak. They are not aggressive dogs but form strong attachments with their owner. This can lead to heelers being protective of their owners and their possessions. Heelers require copious exercise, companionship, and a job to do. By nature, they tend to herd people by nipping at their heels. Particularly if those people are young children who run and squeal.

Now here is for the surprise. The genetic testing indicated that I am equal parts Basset Hound, Blue Heeler, and Collie. Collie? What?

So I got my paws onto the computer and read about Smooth Collie's on Wikipedia. There is a lot left for me to learn since I've not done any previous reading about collies.

I'm attaching a picture of a smooth collie that looks just a little bit like me. This is considered a large dog, with females ranging from 22-24 inches tall at the withers. Weight is from 45 pounds in females to 75 pounds in males. The dogs come in four colors. Sable (that was Lassie); tricolor (black with tan and white markings) and blue merle (silvery gray marbled with black and tan markings); or white (mostly white with heads and usually a body spot of sable, tri, or blue color).

These are sociable dogs that are considered easily trained. Collies are considered smart and eager to please their owners. Training usually involves a light touch since they are sensitive to correction and don't respond well to harsh treatment (would you?).

Collies are herding dogs, so like the Blue Heeler, they need a job to do.

It's interesting learning about my genetic background. It helps me understand some of my behaviors and gives clues how to best shape my behavior toward things that I instinctually want to do. It also hints how to best engage me in training.

Have you learned about the heritage of your dog?

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