The Pick and Mix Dog

Author: 
Lesley Birch
Friday, September 16, 2016

Interested in finding out what the make up of your cross breed is? Wagging Tails' Lesley Birch had her beloved Mabel DNA tested to find out more about what makes her tick. Read on to find out the results...

Do you own a dog with a pedigree? Lucky you. You know that your dog is the offspring of two dogs of the same breed (as were their parents before them). You chose your dog knowing what it was supposed to look like and how it was likely to behave. Or maybe you have a crossbreed. You know who the parents were and hopefully you now have a canine companion combining the best features of two breeds. Or maybe, like me, you have a funny looking mongrel that causes you to wonder ‘what on earth went on there?!’

Ted and Mabel from Wagging Tails East Sussex dog boarding

Meet Mabel, pictured here on the right, aged 12 weeks, with our older dog, Ted. Both dogs came to us as puppies from a rescue centre with the label ‘collie cross’. Ted is clearly the descendant of a border collie. He looks like one, more or less, and his behaviour is typically collie. Mabel has proved to be something of an enigma. She is now nearly two years old and is clearly a very different dog to Ted. We call him the ‘proper dog’ while Mabel is our ‘comedy dog’. Every day is a bad hair day for Mabel no matter how much time we spend brushing her. She scratches constantly as if she finds her own coat itchy. Dirt sticks to her like Velcro , food collects in her beard and for the first time in many years of dog ownership I find myself having to visit a grooming parlour to keep her looking halfway respectable.

Mabel from Wagging Tails Tonbridge dog boardingI have wasted many hours trawling the internet trying to find a dog that looks like her to give me a clue as to who her parents might have been. Everyone who meets her has an opinion from the more obvious Parsons Jack Russell or Fox Terrier to the frankly bizarre – Bedlington Terrier or lurcher cross. I find myself constantly eyeing up other dogs to see if they have a ‘look of Mabel’ in them. I apologise to all those strangers I have accosted in my ongoing obsession to find out more about this curious little canine stranger who has entered our lives. Why does it matter so much? If it is true that cross breeds contain the best traits of each breed then I would like to know where Mabel gets her humour, her endless energy, her boundless enthusiasm for making friends with everyone she meets however little interest they may show in her. She has no interest in chasing anything, is not a digger, has a horrible yap of a bark and hates water. She is bright enough to follow the rules at her dog obedience class but then sometimes just loses interest and goes into total refusal mode. She likes to lie in the mornings, demands a reward for peeing on wet grass and her favourite outing is probably the local café so that she check out the social scene. She understands the house rules but ignores them when she thinks no one is watching. Having only ever owned collies or Labradors I feel that I would be better equipped to deal with her if I knew more about the terrier and whatever else is mixed up in her hotch potch of DNA. And so I decided to stop guessing and go down the route of DNA testing. Thanks to the internet buying a DIY testing kit is easy. I ordered a kit from Wisdom Panel having done some research into the procedure and the range of recognised breeds held on DNA databases. The kit from Wisdom Panel arrived promptly promising me that using the database of DNA from 185 recognised breeds of dog it could analyse Mabel’s genetic makeup through three generations and give me an accurate family tree. The instructions were easy to follow. All I had to do was to take 2 swabs from Mabel’s cheek when her mouth was clean. That meant at least two hours after eating or sharing her saliva with any other dogs. As we had a purebred German Pointer holidaying with us at the time of the test I did keep the dogs apart to prevent misleading saliva getting onto her swab!

Dog DNA test instructions

Mabel was a little confused but not terribly bothered at having a plastic stick rotated in her cheek for 15 seconds. She was less happy about the second sample being taken but apparently the laboratory needs two swabs for accuracy so ,with a piece of chicken as bribery ,my daughter took the second sample. The swabs then went into the envelope provided and into the post box. All we had to do then was wait two weeks for the results.

And very promptly the results dropped into my email box and I can now reveal that this funny little mongrel is indeed definitely a true Heinz 57 variety!

Mabel being swabbed for her dog DNA test

It seems that Mabel has two identifiable pure breeds in her – the Border Collie and the Parsons Russell Terrier in equal quantities. This makes up 50% of her DNA. This means that one of her grandparents was a Border Collie and the other a Parsons Jack Russell. The remaining 50% of her DNA is labelled ‘mixed breed’ which means that it is difficult to identify strong breed signals in this ‘mixed’ portion as it has been mixed beyond three generations. In other words she is half unidentifiable mongrel, a quarter Parsons Russell and a quarter Border Collie.

The data analysis team offer five suggested breeds that are statistically the most likely to have contributed to the ‘mixed’ element. Not quite sure how this is worked out but the suggestions seem a little random with the most likely breed being the Lagotto Romagnolo, followed by the Chihuahua, Labrador Retriever, American Staffie and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Now there’s food for thought.

Mabel is of course not bothered in the slightest by the results as she always knew she was pretty much perfect. We now have her family tree pinned up on the wall and the next time someone asked me what sort of dog she is I shall cheerfully say either mongrel or Italian Parsons Collie depending on who’s asking!

Border Collie, Parson Russell Terrier Mix

Mabel and Ted out in the gardenAnd in case you were wondering, yes I did get our lovely Ted tested as well. His results were more surprising as we always assumed he was a just a particularly chilled and long-legged Border Collie. It turns out he is mainly Border Collie with a generous helping of English Springer Spaniel and a bit of Labrador thrown in for good measure. No wonder he is always up for a long walk, needs endless jobs to do, eats anything and likes to keep his family rounded up!

Ted and Mabel are a team both in the house and when out an about. I can’t imagine what life would be like without this mixed breed/mongrel canine duo in it.

East Sussex dog boarding. Lesley Birch pictured with her two dogs, Ted & MabelLesley Birch and her two dogs, Ted & Mabel own and run the Wagging Tails Tonbridge franchise offering owners throughout the TN postcode area a home based alternative to kennels. Go here to find out more about her East Sussex and Kent dog boarding service.