The Results are In!

March 30, 2010

Weeks ago, I swabbed the inside of Sierra’s cheek as instructed in the DNA test kit I’d purchased, and sent the sample off to Mars Veterinary. I’ve been anticipating the results of the Wisdom Panel,™ designed to discover the genetic makeup of mixed breed dogs. The test is not yet perfect, although it does have genetic markers to identify over 170 breeds.

If at least 50% of your dog’s DNA belongs to one particular breed, it is classified as  Significant Breed. You’re likely to see the most physical and behavioral traits from this breed. If at least 25% of your dog’s DNA comes from a particular breed, it is classified as Intermediate, and you may see some physical and behavioral traits from that breed. A 12.5% or more showing is termed Minor Breed, although it’s unlikely you’d see the breed’s physical traits unless, as Mars says, “some of the genes are dominant.” The report also supplies a sheet on each of the breeds identified. Having seen some results from friends’ dogs, I knew that the number of breeds that show up varies. You might get no Significant results, and three Minor ones; or two Intermediary results and that’s it. It really depends.

So here….(insert drumroll)…are Sierra’s results:

Significant Breed: Alaskan Malamute
Intermediate Breed: Siberian Husky, and Keeshond
No results in Minor Breed

So to those of you who guessed any of those breeds, hats off! I’m personally surprised that Malamute was the more prominent, as her body type and play style are more typical of the slender, agile Husky.

The information sheets designate the Malamute as an ancient sled dog bred to survive in the hostile environment of the Arctic. Huskies have been used for “herding of reindeer, pulling sleds, and keeping children warm.” The Keeshond is known in Germany as the Wolfspitz, which is ironic because most everyone who sees Sierra calls her a “miniature wolf.” These dogs were bred to “watch over the homestead and hunt wildlife for its master.” Well, she’s certainly got the hunting part down on her daily hikes with my husband. And although there aren’t any reindeer (or kids) around here to herd, I plan to put her innate skills to use very soon—not with reindeer, but with sheep. On Friday we’ll visit a local herding instructor and have Sierra tested to see whether it might be an appropriate activity for her. Stay tuned!

The DNA of a Hunter

March 16, 2010

The bunnies are out and about, and I worry for them. The tiny balls of fluff have ventured from beneath the backyard plywood platform they’ve claimed as home, in search of grass and other edibles. And there, not far off, lies Sierra. The first time I glimpsed her from my window, lying there serenely watching bunnies who were no more than 25 feet away, I thought, Oh! I had it wrong. Her prey drive really isn’t what I thought. The next time I looked more carefully, and realized that her seemingly lackadaisical stare was anything but; she was conserving energy as she waited for those bunnies to venture far enough away from shelter to pounce on them. So far the bunnies are fine. But Sierra is patient, and I fear it’s only a matter of time.

My husband sees Sierra’s true hunter nature on their morning hikes in the mountains that surround our home. Nose to the ground, she intently follows scent trails, and attempts to stick her nose into holes that are surely sanctuaries for critters who don’t want to be bothered. I’ve asked my husband to please deter her, as sooner or later she will find something–and it’ll bite back!

Not everything that lives in these mountains is small, either. Coyotes are encountered fairly regularly. It’s a good thing Sierra is on a long line, because she tries desperately to go after them, even when there are two coyotes together. The girl’s got prey drive! This will all be a moot point come mid-April when the rattlesnakes start making their appearance; the mountains will be off-limits then, until the frost returns.

So where does that prey drive originate? I recently sent off a Wisdom Panel DNA sample. I couldn’t resist—I really want to know what Sierra’s made of. Of course, the testing process isn’t perfected yet, and the degree of certainty depends partly on the prevalence of one breed over another. Still, it will be interesting to learn the results. I’m guessing she’s partly sheltie or collie, and possibly husky and German Shepherd. Whatever she is, there’s a hunter in the mix for sure.

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