Newman: Poi Dog Pondering

I’ve never been very good at identifying breeds of dogs, but now I’ve worked at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton for over a year and I’ve had a lot of practice.

I’m still terrible.

I’m also not alone. It turns out working in the animal welfare field doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to accurately identify the breed or breeds of a particular dog.

In one study, adoption agency personnel were asked to visually identify the breed or breeds of 40 different dogs. These guesses were then compared to the breeds identified through DNA analysis of the same 40 dogs.1

To reveal the results, they all went on The Maury Povich Show, where Maury exclaimed to the delight of the audience, “Congratulations, you are a Pit Bull!”

OK, the actual results were slightly less dramatic, but no less interesting. There is little correlation between the breeds that were identified visually and the breeds identified by DNA analysis. Basically, we stink at visually identifying a dog’s breed.

What are the potential consequences of these results? How can breed specific legislation, like the Pit Bull ban in Denver, be enforced if we’re unable to visually identify a breed? Are we doing damage by potentially mislabeling a dog at a shelter? Would you think differently of a dog labeled “Pit Bull” than a dog labeled “Lab”?

The results of this study answer a few questions, but probably pose a hundred more.

So, what is Newman, you ask? Drumroll, please…

According to the Wisdom Panel DNA analysis, Newman is half American Staffordshire Terrier and half poi dog, as they say in Hawaii. Basically, one parent was so mixed they could only give me the top 5 best breed matches for his other half.

  1. Cesky Terrier (6.23%)
  2. Bulldog (5.33%)
  3. Boxer (2.15%)
  4. Flat-Coated Retriever (0.62%)
  5. Miniature Bull Terrier (0.44%)

These 5 breeds still only make up about 15% of his other half, which means there is still about 35% of Newman that is unaccounted for. Whatever those breeds are, I’m sure they’re what make him want to eat my socks and sleep on my head. Or maybe these are just a couple of the things that make Newman, Newman.

Newman also jumps like an Olympian and cuddles like a champ. When his mouth is closed, it’s turned to a perpetual frown; when he’s panting it’s a wide, beautiful smile. Newman’s coat is so silky that my 7-year old neighbor has declared Newman the “fluffiest” dog he’s ever met. His large, webbed paws elicit comments from nearly everyone we meet.

Wherever these traits come from, they are likely the result of a complex mix of Newman’s genes and his environment – not a reflection of one particular breed. Newman is unique; a one of a kind. But then again, aren’t all dogs?





And just for fun, would you be able to pick out the Pit Bull? Many of these dogs would likely be identified under the “Pit Bull” label, but only one is an American Pit Bull Terrier.

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