This Is Not the Shaggy-Dog Story We Thought It Was

 You think you know someone…

dog in the car riding safely in harness The 3 Rs Blog

When we first brought our dog home in November 2014, he came with a story:

“Chester is an adorable 3-year-old petite Golden mix who loves to receive cuddles and attention, and gives plenty of kisses in return. Chester’s favorite pastimes are chasing tennis balls and making a game of giving the ball back to his people, playing with his knotted rope, and getting walks – there is so much to sniff along the way! Although Chester is fine being left alone in the house, he is definitely a ‘people person,’ and always wants to be with his family no matter what they are doing – homework, watching television, hiking, whatever. Chester was surrendered to Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue when his family had to leave the country for an extended period. Chester does not get along well with cats, although other dogs are ok. He knows his basic commands and is a fast learner – especially when treats are provided as incentive!”

Within a day, we’d decided that “Chester” was short for “Winchester,” officially changed his name in homage to our favorite pair of Supernatural TV brothers. and were speculating as to what was mixed with his Golden. The folks with the rescue group believed it might be Cocker Spaniel, but his resemblance to Teddy, a Golden/Corgi mix, made us suspect that combination. Golden Retriever seemed obvious; his size made “Golden Retriever and something smaller” a good answer when people asked “What kind of dog is he?”

dog lying on floor in front of bookcase The 3 Rs Blog
Winchester: official mascot of The 3 R’s Blog since November 2014

But we wanted more of an answer. There are temperaments, traits, and predispositions that are specific to every breed of dog, and the mix may amplify some and moderate others. That information can help you train and take better care of your dog, in addition to providing a literal answer to the question “Where does that behavior come from?” When we brought Winchester to the vet for his annual checkup and vaccinations this spring, we had them take a blood sample for a Wisdom Panel DNA/Genetic Health Analysis test.

In addition to analyzing for ancestry markers, this test identified genetic markers that could indicate potential health problems. When the results came in, we learned that Winchester is missing a blood-clotting factor, which means he could bleed heavily if he is injured or undergoes surgery. It may never be an issue. Hopefully, now that we’re aware of it and can be watchful, we may be able to keep it from being an issue. It’s a very good thing for us, and our vet, to know this about him.

dog sitting on chair looking thoughtful The 3 Rs Blog

The GHA traced Winchester’s ancestry back three generations and found indicators for about eight different breeds, five of which were listed in the report as “statistically likely” but not specifically identified with any ancestor. Three breeds were predominant in the mix, and one breed came from both sides; one grandparent was a purebred.

The “something smaller” in Winchester’s mix is apparently two somethings, one on each side. One parent was part Maltese, and the other was part Pekingese. Given that Paul and I are usually pretty dismissive of most dog breeds in the toy group, it never even occurred to us that there might be two of them in Winchester’s mix, and this was a real surprise! However, we’ve definitely seen the Maltese attributes of intelligence, playfulness, and gentleness in Winchester, as well as the Pekingese tendencies to occasional stubbornness and defensiveness with larger dogs.

dog playing with three toy balls and a rope The 3 Rs Blog

Aside from those little issues–which we and the trainers at his daycare are working on–Winchester is usually even-tempered and cheerful. He loves to ride in the car and play in the water. He loves to chase balls and bring them back, although he has to be prompted to actually give them to you. In behavior as well as in appearance, he is a retriever–and the GHA results made that official!

The purebred grandparent was a Labrador Retriever. On both sides, Winchester is genetically a Labrador Retriever mix. This is perfectly fine with us. Labradors have been America’s most popular breed for over twenty years, They’re Paul’s favorite of all dog breeds. And if Labs are the most popular breed, why shouldn’t we expect Lab to show up very frequently in mixed breeds as well?

Winchester is a medium-sized dog in both height and weight, which does make him “petite” by retriever standards (and huge for a Maltese). His coat is soft, fluffy, and a gorgeous golden color…and yet, not one of the eight breeds identified in his genetic makeup is Golden Retriever. The dog we adopted from a Golden Retriever rescue group was merely passing as a Golden, and he had everyone–including his original owners, apparently–fooled.

Our shaggy dog is not the dog we thought he was, but we’re excited to know what makes him the dog he actually is, and he’s still our golden boy no matter what.

dog in Star Trek bed from thinkgeek.com The 3 Rs Blog
Gold is the “command” color in Starfleet, so why shouldn’t this golden boy have his own captain’s chair?

Have you ever thought about having a pet DNA tested? If you’ve done it, what did you learn, and did it surprise you?

(This is not a sponsored post. We paid for the Wisdom Panel/GHA test we ordered through our veterinarian, and I wanted to share the process and the results.)

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