Wednesday, May 27, 2009

DNA Update

I've been having a pleasant email conversation with one of the staff people at Canine Heritage (very nice and responsive). She provided me with a bit more detail around Kirby's DNA results. Turns out, only about 50% of his DNA can be matched to specific breeds. It's likely that some of that other 50% is one or more of the terrier breeds that haven't yet been DNA mapped, such as Jack Russell Terrier. So the guessing game continues!

Also, she provided some clarity on the numbers...

There is approximately 23% to 25% Chihuahua in Kirby. I asked if that meant a grandparent was all or part Chihuahua or if it just all adds up to that percentage. She said that when it states that Chihuahua is Secondary, that could be more than one Chihuahua in his background, and "it certainly doesn't mean that a purebred Chihuahua was in the woodpile either."

Lhasa Apso is approximately 14 to 15% and the Collie / Shetland Sheepdog is approximately 10%. The rest of Kirby is unknown.

While I had a good time with the DNA test, I am not at all bummed to only get half of it... I've always found a certain comfort in mystery. What we don't know keeps us curious, and curiosity keeps us thinking and asking questions and pondering possibilities. And it provides more fodder for dog park conversations...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kirby's DNA Results are In!

The results of Kirby's Canine Heritage DNA breed test have arrived! Drum roll please...

Primary DNA: None

This is not surprising according to the CH people..."very few mixed breed dogs have a breed listed in Primary. The dog must have a purebred parent to have a breed in this category. Even then, the breed can end up in Secondary."

Secondary DNA: "Reports the DNA of breeds detected at significant levels within your dog. Breeds in this category can have a strong influence on your dog’s appearance and/or behavior." Kirby has only one in this category:


Ok, that was totally unexpected...

In the Mix DNA: "In the Mix category identifies breeds that appear in your dog’s DNA, but only in small amounts. Sometimes, they may represent breeds earlier in your dog’s ancestry. They may have no bearing on your dog’s appearance and/or behavior."

Lhasa Apso


Shetland Sheepdog

Unknown DNA: Says CH: "We have the markers for 106 breeds. However, there are 1100 dog breeds in the world. It is apparent that your dog is also comprised of another breed or breeds that we do not have the markers for."

The "In the mix" breeds are not as surprising to me as the Chihuahua. I had considered Lhasa Apso previously, given Kirby's body shape and underbite. We had also guessed that some sort of collie or sheepdog might be in there because of the way Kirby herds us down the beach...and there's a bit of that sheltie look about him at times, especially through the face.

But Chihuahua? That breed has not come up in ANY conversation about Kirby EVER. Wow.

I'm really surprised there isn't any terrier there. Or Schnauzer. Or Dachsund. And while he doesn't look particularly like a German Shepherd other than his coloring, the shelter thought his mom was a German Shepherd mix, so we figured it was a given. But based on her picture and Kirby's DNA, she must be some sort of collie mix.

But does this mean his dad was probably some sort of Chihuahua/Lhasa Apso mix? Apparently "Chi-Apsos" are one of the latest designer dogs - yes, people are actually crossing them on purpose. Although I think it's more likely Kirby's dad was the "design" of some teeny little Romeo who dug his way under the neighbor's fence...

Now that I think about it, Chihuahua might explain the Baja connection. Our friend Cheryl, who spends the winters in Baja and has a little Kirby look-alike dog named Paco, says there are little dogs that look like Kirby and Paco running all over the beaches of Baja. Perhaps some Kirby ancestor made the trek up to Northern California from Mexico, bringing his ancient Toltec dog DNA and some scruffy, non-DNA-mapped Baja dog along with it.

In any case, Kirby's the same loveable, sweet, spunky, bouncy, waggy, happy little dog he's always been. And after all the pondering and blog posts and dog park conversations we've had whenever someone asks "what kind of dog is he?" we're now going to have to get used to giving some different responses.

Chihuahua/Lhasa Apso/Collie/Shetland Sheepdog/Mystery Dog.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Fetching Chase Scene

Playing fetch with a dog can be a very satisfying experience. You send some object off and it is cheerfully returned to you. It's a lovely, complete circuit.

I can't say that I've had the satisfaction of that completed circuit when it comes to receiving Kirby's DNA test results... Yes, I had the test kit for a couple of months before actually doing the test and sending it off, but now that it's done, I'm in a big hurry for the postman to fetch me the results. I haven't been this interested in getting the mail since I was in college, hoping for a parental check or a box of cookies.

On the subjects of DNA and fetching...I think we've pretty much confirmed that Kirby has at least some collie blood: sheltie, border collie, Australian Shepherd, something along those lines. As I've reported from our previous beach trips, Kirby is a natural born fetcher. Add to that his keen ability to herd us as we stroll down the beach, and I think we can be pretty sure of at least one bloodline on the DNA test. Kirby may have some definite terrier traits, but I've never met a terrier who would herd and fetch right out of the box. Kirby's eyes light up at the prospect of chasing a stick and his execution is near perfect...the stick is thrown, he makes a beeline for it (no stopping to smell jellyfish or roll on dead birds), he grabs the stick, turns on a dime and brings it immediately back to drop it at your feet. Kirby will do this over and over and over with the same gusto each time.

We made another trip to the beach this past week, where Baxter did his usual "take the stick and run off to chew it to sawdust" version of "fetch." Kirby, in the meantime, was doing a superb job of demonstrating his keen retrieving ability. Perhaps it was Kirby's success at pleasing the alphas with his fetching prowess. Or perhaps Baxter just had a wild hair. But all of a sudden Bax decided it was time to steal the stick away from Kirby before he had a chance to bring it back to us. What ensued was a chase scene that brought to mind a combination of Buster Keaton, barrel racing and Wild Kingdom.

Kirby realized that Baxter was gaining on him. He darted left, darted right, ran around us, between us, around us again with Baxter in hot pursuit. I have to say, for a 10 year old dog, Baxter was doing a spectacular job of keeping up with a dog 1/3 his age and his size. But every time Bax was just about to get his jaws on the stick, Kirby would escape by mere centimeters. After about a dozen laps Bax finally gave up and Kirby brought the stick back to us for more. By this time the two had attracted a smiling audience.
So we threw the stick again and the whole thing happened a second time. This time it ended in a dog tug of war and the whole fetching mood evaporated as the two of them finally decided it was a draw, dropped the stick and stood there panting and looking at us as if to say "now what?"

Next time I'm bringing the video camera...