Monday, October 18, 2021
34.0°F

Think you know that dog’s breed? Think again

by ANDREA NAGEL Contributing Writer
| July 28, 2021 1:00 AM

If you saw Rosie walking down the street, you’d likely think she is a beagle mix, with droopy ears, a broad nose and a square muzzle. That’s what her owner thought, too, until she did a DNA test and found out she was more than four breeds, including basset hound, Shiba Inu and French bulldog — no beagle at all!

Stories like this are not uncommon.

That’s why if you want to adopt a dog, don’t limit yourself by looking for, or filtering out, certain breeds. You could miss out on finding your new best friend, and be basing your decision on a complete guess.

Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re looking to adopt an animal and see a breed listed, chances are someone just made an assumption based on the physical features of the dog. After all, animal shelters don’t have the time or resources to DNA test every dog that comes into their care. Various studies show that it is incredibly difficult, even for animal experts, to guess breeds, especially since so many canines nowadays are mixes of multiple breeds. 

A 2018 study published in the journal PLOS One compared the breed labels given to dogs in an animal shelter with their results from genetic tests. This study showed that just 67.7% of the dogs were labeled with at least one correct breed. Put in another context, this would be a near-failing mark on an exam. Even more astonishing is that when attempting to identify more than one breed, labels were correct only about 10% of the time. 

In another study, dog professionals were asked to pick dogs’ breed, and less than half could accurately identify even one breed in a majority of the animals.

The proven inaccuracy of breed labels is one reason why many animal shelters across the country, including Better Together Animal Alliance, no longer include this information. Instead, at our adoption center, we provide facts like gender and weight, as well as notes about observed behavior, like that a dog loves to play or is a couch potato, for example.

This approach is not only better for people, but animals too. It’s proven that animals spend less time in shelters when organizations don’t breed label, because they aren’t passed over based on (often wrong) preconceptions.

Even if you do know the breed of a dog, breed isn’t an indicator of behavior. It is much more valuable to look at each canine’s individual traits to see if their personality matches what you’re looking for.

So come on down to our adoption center! We have plenty of dogs who could be a perfect fit for you. With time off work and kids out of school for the summer, your whole family can bond with the pet. Plus, summer weather is perfect for outings with your new canine.

If you’re truly curious about the genetics of your pet, we do sell at-home DNA kits so you can find out. But remember, when your best friend could be waiting for you, breeds don’t mean anything.

Visit bettertogetheranimalalliance.org/adopt to see a complete list of dogs and cats looking for a home. Call (208) 265-7297 ext. 100 to schedule an appointment and meet your favorites!

Want to try your luck at determining a dog's breed? Take a look at Huck, who was adopted by one of our board members. The first person to guess his top two-three breeds will get a free dog DNA testing kit. Send your guess to dna@btanimalalliance.org.

Andrea Nagel is director of storytelling and partnerships at Better Together Animal Alliance.

photo

(Photo courtesy BETTER TOGETHER ANIMAL ALLIANCE)

If you saw Rosie walking down the street, you’d likely think she is a beagle mix, with droopy ears, a broad nose and a square muzzle. However a dog DNA test found out she was more than four breeds, including basset hound, Shiba Inu and French bulldog — no beagle at all!