Sunday, August 3, 2008

Would you trust this dog?

Seems dogs have issues that can be sorted out with a DNA test. For a price-- $55 to $200-- pet owners can get their mixed breeds tested to find out exactly what their genetic makeup is.

My first thought when I read the story in The Boston Globe was why would you care? I mean, apart from curiosity, why spend the money? I just wouldn't be curious enough. People often times know less about the babies they adopt. And we're talking dogs.

An aside here: I know a man, a South African black who is as white as I am, who paid $300 dollars to find out his genetic mix. This man has a fascinating story of growing up in South Africa. When he came to the US and applied for a professorship at a state college, he overheard a conversation through the door as he waited for his interview. Whoever the South African was, the blacker the better, someone said. I guess racial quotas were at stake. But he got the job, pale as he was.

Anyway, just as knowing a child's family history is useful to doctors, so it is with dogs and vets. The tests are marketed as a way to promote awareness of health issues that might arise in a dog. Some breeds are prone to hip displasia, some to breathing problems, for example.

And then, there's the issue of breed profiling, a close cousin to racial profiling, or judging a book by its cover. The dog of suspicion in today's world is the pit bull. Apparently if a dog even has a hint of pit bull-- the shape of the head, a barrel chest-- the MSPCA has to label it as being part pit bull.

And so what?

Well, for one thing, dog owners don't want their dogs associating with such rabble, and for another, doggie day care centers and landlords can discriminate against any dog perceived to be part pit bull. And in Boston these dogs must be muzzled on public property.

There is no, "don't ask, don't tell" in the canine world, and no canine equal rights amendment. No Doggy Liberties Union. And lots and lots of dogs have features that just might be pit bull.

Interestingly though, a vet who has been classifying dogs for ten years was amazed how wrong she was when test results came back. "I realized, I didn't know squat, " she said.

Makes me think. You can't judge a dog by its looks. Nor a human. It what's inside that counts, and I don't mean the DNA. I mean the heart.
A dog is not "almost human" and I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such. ~John Holmes


Amy said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog! I am so glad you did because I love this post about dogs. I have rarely met a dog I didn't love. I've got two of my own--one peekapoo (no, we didn't have to get a genetic test to find that out. Her mum and pops were both peekapoos as well...she's a pedigree mutt) and a shih tzu. Incidentally, some of the sweetest dogs I've met have been pit bull mixes. :)

RiverPoet said...

I never owned purebreds growing up. The only purebred animals were on the family farm back in Georgia, where such things mattered.

Then I took on a socially-challenged Samoyed from a friend of mine. She was our loving companion until she died at age 12. After her, we got another crazy Samoyed, because the breed is so gorgeous.

In 2001, my daughter wanted a bulldog for her 17th birthday, so we got her one (which is now ours, of course). We got another bulldog last year as a companion to this one.

I don't know what I'll do next time. We've had some breed-related issues happen (lost a bulldog puppy last year to congenital problems). I always had terrier mixes when I was growing up, and they were wonderful. Maybe I'll adopt a shelter dog. I already support them with a monthly donation to the ASPCA, and there are some sweet dogs who are given up every day. Time will tell.

Great post, hon!

Peace - D

Ross Eldridge said...

Hi there, Ruth,

I had to jump in on this one!

I was walking young Cailean last night and we were coming past "The Dock Hotel" which is actually a pub ... it may have been a hotel once, I suppose, but no longer. Just as we reached the door with its small group of smokers (you may not smoke anywhere but in your home ... so long as you do not use it as an office too ... or on the pavement) a "Hen Party" poured out the door.

"Bloody hell," I thought, and Cailean cheerfully tugged on the leash to greet them. And one of the hens, dressed in clothes that you might costume someone in if she was playing a "slag" or "slapper" on TV, who was staggering drunk, wobbled towards Cailean. "What a cute dash-hound!" the lady gushed, while Cailean put his front legs up on her shin and piddled on her shoe with delight. "I have a dog at home, she's half mini-dash-hound and half collie. The size and fur of a collie, but short-short legs. Oh, I love her so."

Now, I studied physics at college, so I was trying to figure out the mechanics of all this. "I'd guess," I offered, "that your dog's daddy was the collie ... and mum was the dachshund?"

Which was the case. Nothing kinky about THAT relationship!

On the touchy subject of DNA testing for ethnicity, origin and so on:

The Mormons, back in the 1970s, were having greater and greater success with missionary work in Central and South America. At the time, "blacks", or people with even a trace of "black blood", were not permitted to become fully fledged Mormons, to hold the priesthood offices or go in the temples. However, "white" converts in countries like Brazil were wanting to take part in everything. As the technology, then, did not allow for any exact DNA test to see if you might be a "little bit black", in 1978 the Mormon leadership had a "revelation" that ALL blacks might become full Mormons. Was this as much to make sure no white who could in theory be a little bit black, but wasn't, was left out ... as to welcome the world?And one wonders if we had precise DNA testing before 1978 whether God would have spoken.

DNA testing may alert you to the possibilities of hip displasia in your pet, and your decision NOT to get THAT one. Might it not create a whole new category of orphans in the human population? Perhaps not in Kansas City, but in towns and villages in India and China and Africa.

That sort of thing couldn't happen, could it ... Mr. Hitler?

Perhaps we SHOULD let sleeping dogs lie ...


PS: Third sentence of your bio, top right of page, is missing a word after "administrator" I think. Perhaps "for" or "with".

Carter said...

My first dog, when I was a kid, was a mix--cocker spaniel and something else, we didn't know what. The family all loved her. As an adult I've had two pure-bred bull-mastiffs, again, lovable. But we trained them.

Frankly, I think the DNA tests are a waste of time, and the Pit Bull rules stupid. Don't buy a dog from a breed that's known to run to hip dysplasia. Don't get a dog when the breed has been popular for several years--too much breeding ruins them. Don't get a dog from a pet shop or a puppy mill--get one from a breeder you really know, or take a chance with one from the pound.

Any dog can be trained, but many owners nowadays think they can send the dog off to school and get it trained; doesn't work. The owner has to be trained as well. Anyone unwilling to go with the dog to obedience training ought to be prevented from owning one. I'll guarantee you I could train a costly-poo to be as fierce as a Pit Bull, or any Pit Bull to be a sweetie. Just give me a solid couple of months.

Responsible dog owners are what I want to see.

Gary said...

Like the new colors ...

Kitty, the female Boston terrier, was sold cheap because her father's papers bounced at the AKC. She looks bulldog'ish. Doc, the younger and the male, has papers; he looks Boxer'ish.

Me? I'm an all-American mutt. I'd like to do the DNA thingie, were I rich. Maybe I'm one of the relatively-high percentage of males on this spinning orb related to Genghis Khan, or was it Attila the Hun. One of those bad boys anyway ...

~ G ~

Carter said...

Gary's comment reminded me that I ought to get my DNA done. I had a mysterious grandmother the family kicked out when my mother was only two years old. I have one picture of her, and I'll guarantee you she wasn't even half German, which is what they thought was respectable.

I think it's probably Attila, Gary--something about your eyebrows. And who knows--maybe we're all kin to Ruth!

sc morgan said...

Having just spent the last few days filing complaints in court about a loose Pit Bull that took our dog down on a public beach, and seeing, yesterday, a young Cocker Spaniel mauled to death by a Rottweiler in the middle of town, I'm probably not the person you want to hear from on this subject. However, I have always felt that the behavior of the dog depends entirely on the owner. Perhaps we should do DNA tests on the owners to see if they are fit to own a dog of any kind, much less a dog bred for work.

Ruth D~ said...

Amy~ You like the little ones!

River~ The plan to adopt a shelter mutt sounds like a good one. It's so sad to see them in the cages, so sad, and abandoned.

Ross~ Callean is just trying to "hook you up" with someone, but you need to teach him not to be so eager. :>) Funny tale as always, and thanks for the edits. Some people charge for doing that.

C~ You make two great points: the inbreeding is a problem, as much as it was in dynasties. And the training is the factor in any dog's behavior, despite it's propensity. Read Edgar Sawtelle for an interesting look at dogs.

Gary~ I think you might have some "American Writer" in you, too.

To C and G~ You could do worse than having a little of my Scottish thrift running through your bloodstreams.

Sarah~ Awful tale. Sad too. And probably the owner is the one who's as much to blame. It's cases like this that give the breeds bad names.

Me? I'm a cat person now. I grew up with several different collies. Hip displasia took one.

leslie said...

I always had boxers until I got Robbie, my little cocker spaniel. HE was so cute - blonde with freckles on his nose - but when he was around 18 months old, he decided he was going to be the Alpha. I took him to obedience training, walked him faithfully, tried to socialize him - but by the time he was 3 years old and had bitten my daughter several times, my son-in-law, a friend on the street, me twice, and attacking strangers on the street while on his leash out for a walk, that was it. Off he went. So sad, but I think it was inbreeding.

Jo said...

I think most dogs are like humans; if you treat them with respect and kindness, they will repay you. The only breed of dog I can honestly say I don't trust is a pit bull. Many of them have been bred to be aggressive, and I'm not sure if I would want to take a chance. I find larger dogs are usually more docile than smaller ones, not to generalize too much.

My parents always had Scotties, and they could be aggressive little things too, but fairly good natured. I prefer going down to the pound and getting a Heinz 57. I'm rather partial to those.

Wanda said...

Oh how frustrating ~~~ I can't get your pictures to come up!! I will come back later and try. It's not the same without the pictures.

Thanks for all you comments on my blog.


Wanda said...

This morning the pictures came up for me. What a interesting and informative article.

We had many mixes of dogs over the years. They were all wonderful pets. We found that the larger breeds are prone to more cancer and hip problems.

Molly is the first pure breed we had and she was a gift. Love the look of the last picture. Those eyes melt me.

Thanks for your prayers for J.

Bob Sanchez said...

Ruth, I like your assessment of dogs and people, that it's what's in the heart that counts. So much of dogs' behavior, pit bulls included, depends on how people treat them from puppyhood. Maybe we have a lot in common with other species.

DNA testing for either myself or my cats holds little appeal. What's the gain? We accept each other as we are, and more knowledge of our future or our past won't change that.

Nice post, Ruth.

Barbara Martin said...

DNA is not an important issue with any of the dogs I've owned, as almost all have been purebreds and show dogs. I could see doing a DNA test if the animal had some sort of genetic problem that had cropped up and you didn't know where it came from.

For people DNA testing that's getting to be dangerous ground, of messing with peoples' personal rights.

Barbara Martin said...

I forgot to mention that pit bulls in Toronto need to be muzzled when walked with their owners, and certain bull terrier breeds have to be neutered or spayed unless proven to be showdogs. There have been several maulings of children and other pets by pit bulls, and the citizens took their complaints to the City and new by-laws were drawn up.

Tere said...

I have a mixture of breeds and sizes. None of them follow the traits of their breeds. We have a Golden Retriever, one of the smartest breeds around, who may be smart but she is so stubborn and bull headed that we have never been able to teach her anything. Our black lab/dalmation mix is the sweetest, loving, smartest, gentle thing ever but is deathly afraid of water and won't fetch anything. I guess it's all about how you raise them. Kinda like kids.