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Your phone rings. When you answer, your friend says, "Hi! I just got a new dog!"
And naturally, you respond, "That's great! What kind is it?"
Every dog lover in the world has had this conversation, or at least one along the same lines. But if the dog in question is a mixed breed, chances are good that the answer to that question will be somewhat (if not totally) inaccurate. In many cases, it really doesn't matter; you were simply curious. But in other circumstances, the answer can be the difference between life and death for a dog.
A recent study by the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida has shown that dog experts of all kinds have one thing in common when it comes to identifying predominant breeds in mixed-breed dogs: Their assessments are stunningly unreliable. This is confirmation of what many in shelter medicine already knew to be true, but the findings are far-reaching and affect everything from apartments and insurance companies that have breed-specific regulations to rescues trying to match pets to families. In addition, this inability to recognize what breed a dog is endangers dogs facing breed bans and can hinder properly identifying lost and found dogs in shelters.
To learn more about the study and its applications, we spoke to Dr. July Levy, DVM, a professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida and leader of the dog breed identification study.
Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program
Top Responses: Border Collie, German Shepherd Dog, Basenji, Great Dane, Boston Terrier
DNA Results: 25% German Shepherd, 25% Staffordshire Bull Terrier, 13.36% Weimeraner, 7.29% German Wirehaired Pointer
Top Responses: American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Dalmatian, Argentine Dogo
DNA Results: 25% Plott Hound, 25% Boston Terrier, 25% German Spitz, 11.68% Saluki
Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, American Staffordshire Terrier, No Predominant Breed, Border Collie, Pointer (includes English Pointer)
DNA Results: 50% Catahoula Leopard Dog, 25% Siberian Husky, 9.94% Briard, 5.07% Airedale Terrier
Top Responses: German Shepherd Dog, No Predominant Breed, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Belgian Malinois
DNA Results: 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, 25% French Bulldog, 25% American Foxhound, 22.13% Belgian Tervuren
Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, No Predominant Breed, Golden Retriever, Anatolian Shepherd Dog
DNA Results: 25% Beauceron, 25% Siberian Husky, 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, 12.73% Schipperke
Top Responses: Chihuahua, No Predominant Breed, Labrador Retriever, Border Collie, Schipperke
DNA Results: 25% Miniature Pinscher, 25% Brittany Spaniel, 25% Chinese Crested, 12.83% German Spitz
Top Responses: Beagle, No Predominant Breed, German Shepherd Dog, Corgi (including Cardigan, Pembroke), Basenji
DNA Results: 50% Russell Terrier, 50% Plott Hound
Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, No Predominant Breed, Pointer (includes English Pointer), Brittany, Foxhound (including American, English, Treeing Walker Coonhound)
DNA Results: 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, 25% Collie, 21.41% Black Russian Terrier, 19.86% Norwegian Buhund
Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, American Staffordshire Terrier, No Predominant Breed, German Shepherd Dog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier
DNA Results: 25% Irish Water Spaniel, 25% Siberian Husky, 25% Boston Terrier, 8.33% Bull Mastiff
Top Responses: Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, No Predominant Breed, Rottweiler, Dachshund (including miniature, standard, smooth coat, wirehair, longhair)
DNA Results: 25% Great Dane, 25% Schipperke, 12.5% Chow Chow, 12.5% Collie
Top Responses: No Predominant Breed, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Beagle, Collie
DNA Results: 25% Doberman Pinscher, 25% Wirehaired Dachshund, 12.5% Samoyed, 12.5% Miniature Schnauzer
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