Introducing the American Shelter Dog, the dog you've always known.
In most shelters across the United
States the majority of dogs are mixed
breeds of unknown parentage.
Nevertheless, it is common practice
for staff to guess a dog’s breed based
on appearance. This ‘best guess’ is
used to identify the dog, although the
actual pedigree is unknown. The
problem is that breed identity elicits
behavioral expectations on the part
of the new owner, even though
researchers have found enormous
behavioral variability within all
breeds. For instance, people who adopt large black dogs with floppy ears, identified as “Lab mixes,” expect their dogs to swim and retrieve balls. Dogs with short legs and long bodies, labeled “Bassett Hound crosses,” are expected to bay and hunt with their noses. Blockyheaded,
short-coated dogs are called “Pit-mixes” and, to their detriment, are expected to carry all the behavioral baggage unfairly associatedwith their brethren.
We now have the
ability through DNA testing to identify the actual genetic makeup of a mixed
breed dog. With the help of researchers from Western University Veterinary School and the Animal Farm Foundation, the Center for Shelter Dogs at the ARL of Boston has collected DNA samples from more than 30 adopted shelter dogs. To their surprise, they found that our best guesses about breeds were often dead wrong! Many of the so-called “Lab mixes” we tested were
really just black dogs with floppy ears and, while most of the “Pit mixes” in our sample had some American Staffordshire DNA, they also had DNA from a variety of other breeds.
In most shelters, cats are rarely identified by breed. Instead, they are labeled as Domestic short, medium or long hairs. So why not describe our dogs in a similar way?
Instead of depending on inaccurate breed labels, we want people to choose their future companions based on accurate personality profiles. This new approach will enhance understanding and appreciation of dogs and is bound to benefit both dogs and owners alike. The Lewis and Clark Humane Society is now working to develop a validated personality assessment to be used on all of our shelter dogs. The new American Shelter Dog name will help adopters make better, more informed choices and increase their odds of finding the best canine match.
So, instead of introducing you to a Pit mix, we will show you a brindle American Shelter Dog who is a bit introverted, but very playful. Or perhaps you would be interested in the medium-sized black American Shelter Dog with an agreeable and extroverted personality?
I’ve been trying to get ready for your visit, but my cat roommates keep drinking your milk and the shelter staff won’t let me near the oven to bake your cookies.
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