Experimenting with the latest pet trend: Testing doggie DNA
By Nicole Wroten
Meet Rocco. Rocco is a lanky, fetch-loving mutt whose body is too big for him to control. His ears flop to the side and his tail swings hysterically, oftentimes slapping over something on the coffee table. He’ll be your friend forever if you throw him the ball and pat his belly.
Rocco has the coloring of a Rottweiler and the love and affection of a German Shepherd. So his owners, Beavercreek couple Dan and Sara Adducchio, weren’t at all surprised when Rocco’s doggie DNA results came back saying he was mostly German Shepherd, with a little Boxer mixed in.
“[The results] were exactly as I expected, but he had a little more German Shepherd in him than I thought he would,” said Dan.
Sara, on the other hand, wasn’t too sure about the Boxer part.
“I was surprised because Dan sometimes said he sees Boxer in him and I never really did,” she said. “I was amazed he is part Boxer …”
Dan and Sara got Rocco when he was just four months old at the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals (SICSA) in Kettering. They had wanted a dog for a long time, but weren’t sure what they were looking for.
“I wanted a hound dog … something that would howl and annoy my wife,” Dan joked, “But, honestly we wanted something that was good with kids … that was fairly low maintenance. We wanted a [dog with a] good personality.”
Then they saw Rocco.
“He was very cute and had big floppy ears,” said Sara. “The first night with us … Dan actually slept on the floor with his hand in the cage.”
Though SICSA had told them they suspected he was a German Shepherd or a Boxer mix, the Adducchios could never be sure and always wondered. Dan admitted sometimes seeing a little Boxer in him, but occasionally other breeds as well.
“I thought he was a Rottweiler or something else,” Dan said, “just because of his coloring, but I had no proof.”
To solve their never-ending curiosity, Dan and Sara did an at-home canine genetic analysis test kit by Wisdom Panel Insights, purchased at their local Petsmart store (on sale for $39.95). The process was as simple as holding Rocco down, swabbing his cheeks with the two provided swabs and sending them off in an envelope. After just two weeks, the results were emailed directly to Sara and Dan in a six-page breed breakdown. The first page details the main breed breakdown of DNA from Rocco’s great-grandparents, all the way to his parents. As you can see in the provided diagram, all of Rocco’s ancestors include some type of mixed breed dog, mixed with the Boxer and German Shepherd purebreds. The make-up of that mixed breed appears on the second page of the results sheet (showing 10 percent Alaskan Malamute, five percent Bedlington Terrier, five percent Irish Wolfhound, four percent Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and three percent Schipperke), which was definitely a little more eye-opening.
“The second page … those totally shocked me … really all of them,” said Dan, “The Irish Wolfhound was one of them where I was like, ‘Whoa, no way.’ But when you look at them each individually, you can see the characteristics of each one of those dogs in my dog.”
“I liked the Swiss Mountain dog,” said Sara, “The Bedlington Terrier too, I was surprised that that was in there.”
So, how does it work? According to the Wisdom Panel website, the cells that were extracted from Rocco were examined for 321 DNA markers. The results from these markers were put into a computer, which used an algorithm to consider all of the possible pedigree trees in the last three generations of Rocco’s heritage. The computer performed over seven million calculations to predict the most likely combination of pure and mixed breed dogs in Rocco.
The process pulled from over 185 different dog breeds to find the best match. For each combination of ancestry trees built, the computer gave each a score representing how well that combination of breeds matched Rocco’s data. The pedigree with the best score is shown on the chart.
For the mixed breed analysis, they identified the five next best breed matches which appeared in the analysis of Rocco’s DNA. The breeds are listed by the relative strength of each result in the analysis with the most likely at the top of the list.
It’s been a few weeks since Dan and Sara got the results and after doing some research, Dan especially is starting to notice both German Shepherd and Boxer traits in Rocco.
In our interview, I read off a few German Shepherd traits from the American Kennel Club (AKC) website: German Shepherds are completely fearless when it comes to protecting their loved ones.
Dan responded with an anecdote about Rocco’s fearlessness that occurred one night when the power went out and he came home.
“Rocco was at the top of the stairs growling — the meanest growl I’ve ever heard,” he said. “He couldn’t see who I was. I jumped at him and he just runs back into the bedroom with Sara and gets in front of her.”
I read off a few Boxer traits from the AKC website: Boxers are incredibly family-oriented.
“Oh yes,” Dan said, citing how good Rocco is with their 11-month-old daughter Giana.
Sara chimed in, “He’s very good with Giana. But he’s an attention seeker, so he was mad at first when we brought her home. But he lets her crawl all over him, pull his ears. He likes her more now because she’s getting older and now she throws the ball to him.”
So after years of speculation, Dan and Sara both agree that German Shepherd and Boxer are pretty spot-on for Rocco. With another baby on the way, Rocco might be losing a little bit more of that attention, but now that the Adducchios know a little bit more about his background thanks to this new technology, they feel more prepared about how he might act as he gets older.
“It’s cool you can do this, especially for people who don’t know their dog’s breed at all,” said Sara.
For more information on dog DNA testing, visit www.wisdompanel.com or ask your veterinarian.
Reach Winnie’s owner Nicole Wroten