Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Trooper's family tree

When Trooper arrived at our condo last December 7, we were told he was a schnauzer mix, possibly the offspring of a miniature schnauzer and miniature poodle. At age one he had come to Dogs for the Deaf in Central Point, Oregon, from a shelter in Bakersfield, California. His birthday was listed as May 22, 2014.

Miniature schnauzer
That was all Dogs for the Deaf and his accompanying papers could tell me about his early puppyhood.

Of course I was curious. There’s a potential book in this hearing service dog, and it would be useful to know as much as possible about his origins. Was Trooper a designer “schnoodle” or something more complicated? Maybe a DNA test could tell me.

Miniature poodle
So I bought a Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed DNA test kit for $85 on Wisdom Panel is widely considered the most accurate canine DNA test because its genetic database contains more breeds than any other.

When the kit arrived two weeks ago, I swabbed Trooper’s cheek with the two accompanying swabs, and mailed them to Wisdom Panel.

Today the results arrived via email.

One of Trooper’s parents, the results said, is purebred miniature schnauzer and the other is a miniature poodle/mainly Pekingese mix. (I’m not sure which is the father, but family trees usually put the male lineage on the left side.)

If I am reading the chart right, Trooper is one-half schnauzer, one-quarter poodle, one-eighth Pekingese and one-eighth Your Guess Is As Good as Mine.

So now we know.

The results also said that Trooper, like all dogs, has a gene called MDR1, a mutation of which can cause problems with absorption of drugs in the body. His MDR1 is normal. His vet might find this useful to know, and we’ll pass that along.

The rest of the results discussed the traits of Trooper’s three dominant breeds. Schnauzers tend to be intelligent, active, alert, quick learners, show a high prey drive and are sometimes suspicious of strangers. Poodles are intelligent, athletic, playful, eager to learn, reserved with strangers and tend to be barky. Pekes are alert, calm, intelligent, stubborn, barky and defensive.

Trooper displays most of those shared traits. Most important, he’s smart, eager and highly trainable—that’s why Dogs for the Deaf chose him for training.

He will bark at strangers in certain situations, such as at our condo’s elevator doors if someone he doesn’t know unexpectedly steps in or out. (He never barks when he’s at work in restaurants, shops, supermarkets and the like.)

As for the unknown mix, it's most likely a combination of terriers. His shaggy coat is neither rough (schnauzer) nor curly (poodle) but soft and silky (probably Peke).

High prey drive? Whenever he spots a squirrel on our walks, his 17 pounds on the other end of the leash damn near dislocates my shoulder.

He’s 100 percent dog.

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