Breed matters?

Yesterday I saw an ad for genetic testing for dogs. Specifically it is a DNA test to determine what breed a mixed breed dog may be. The part that caught my eye was the claim "Breed count matters to trainers". It made me pause. I mean I stopped to really consider the question, does what breed a dog is change the way I conduct training for that dog and their people?

I have to say I honestly don't think it does. Sure I take breed traits into account IF they affect what issues I am there to work with for the client. But I have worked with plenty of random bred dogs who's breed is a big fat question mark. It doesn't mean I can't do my job at 100% lacking that information.

Aside from results of a DNA test, labeling dogs as certain breeds based on their look is a tricky business. Years ago I saw a video by Sue Sternberg that had slides of known dogs and the audience had to guess at the "recipe" of those dogs. Sometimes the guess was right, and sometimes it wasn't even close. From what I recall I think it ended up being a 50/50 endevor. I once met a dog I assumed was a pit bull. It turned out the dog was a cross between a Boston Terrier and  Siberian Husky. (Sadly in some areas that dog could be taken from it's home and killed for that look but that's another topic.) I also saw a dog the other day that looked like a PBGV (Petit Bassett Griffon Vendeen) at work. It turns out it was a dachshund and bull terrier cross. Now there is no way I would have ever guessed either of those dogs were those mixes. These are a good examples of how determining breed by looks is a crapshoot. So be careful if you try. It can be an iffy proposition at best.

Do I think doggy DNA tests have value? Certainly. Some people want to know more about their dogs parentage for health reasons. If you know what breed of dog you have it can help with diagnoses of certain known breed issues. Do I think knowing a dogs breed makes a difference in training? I don't know. I think it might help explain some of their behaviors, but does that really change how we deal with those behaviors? That might be a stretch for me.

Breed issues are interesting because it seems both sides of the fence are played regularly. Heck I've even done it myself. We say a dog is a dog before it is a breed, and then we go on to say this breed acts this way or that. Remember the dogs themselves aren't reading those breed books so they don't always meet that expectation, or they exceed it. 

Now I'm not saying knowing breed traits isn't important, it can especially help when choosing a dog to best fit into specific homes. But is it so important that we need to test dogs to know for sure what they are so we can train them even better than we already do? I'm not convinced. What say all of you?

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