a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: January 2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Chip's Breed Results Are In!

SUMMARY: Biggest part makes sense, I guess but? --

...something I forgot about! And things I didn't expect!

My guesses were, in order: 1. Whippet or Greyhound 2. Golden Retriever 3. Labrador 4. German Shepherd (had to get the upright ears from somewhere! ).

His results came in quite a bit after Zorro's results, even though they went in at the same time and were received at the same time. Chip just got into the wrong line, I guess.

One of the cool things that Embark does when it sends your dogs' DNA breed results: Gives you a chance to take a quiz on what breeds showed up! The choices included:

German Shepherd Dog
Welsh Terrier
Chow Chow
Cane Corso
Siberian Husky
Bluetick Coonhound

And as soon as one particular one of those came up, I realized in an instant that I had completely forgotten about a particular aspect of Chip that I had decided 4 years ago indicated that he probably had some of those breeds in him. And so I didn't include it in my supposedly comprehensive set of photos of him, and I didn't include it in my guesses. Most people wouldn't know because you can only tell when his mouth is wide open (hint hint).

So, given everything else that you knew about Chip from me (bottom of page https://dogblog.finchester.org/2019/12/are-these-really-dogs.html), which do you think he includes? (I'll give a bonus hint: Only 3 on the list are True.)

And here's the big reveal

(scroll down)

  • Yep, one of his parents was a GSD. At least I got one of my four guesses right!
  • All those northern/working types? Siberian Husky is one of his secondary breeds. I see nothing husky about him at all (based on my experience with just one, Sheba). 
  • Chow is not the only breed that has blue/black tongues--so do other northern breeds (including huskies?) and some that aren't.
  • Supermutt: Additional breed ancestry so diluted that all they can do is make guesses. "We cannot be sure, given how little of their DNA has carried down to Chip, but we thought you might like to know our best guess anyway!"
    • German Spitz
    • Boxer
    • West Siberian Laika
So much for his original owner thinking "whippet" or other sight hound! Not a whit of that. (Although I thought it was a credible guess and included it in my guesses.)

It also includes a list of physical traits. Here's the summary:
  • Base coat color: "Can have dark fur; black or grey fur and skin; dark (nondilute) fur and skin)." It gives a bit of discussion on the various gene variants and how they can interact...  all affected by the--
  • Coat color modifiers:
    ✅Hidden Patterning/ More likely to have patterned fur
    ✅Body Pattern /  Fawn Sable coat color pattern [Bing! Bing! Bing! yep! and you can see the vertical white streak that marks his shoulder area-- really hard to tell apart from the fawn; and I believe that he also has one or more white feet]

    ✅Facial Fur Pattern / Can have black masking (dark facial fur)
    ➖ Saddle Tan / No impact on coat pattern
    ✅Merle /  Unlikely to have merle pattern
  • Other coat traits:
  • ❌Likely furnished (mustache, beard, and/or eyebrows),
      ✅Likely short or mid-length coat,
     ❌Likely light shedding,
    ➖ Coat would likely be curly or wavy if long,
     ✅Very unlikely to be hairless,
    ✅Likely not albino.
  • Other: 
     ✅Likely medium or long muzzle,
     ✅Likely normal-length tail,
     ✅Unlikely to have hind dew claws,
     ✅Likely normal muscling,
     ✅Less likely to have blue eyes
  • ❌Predicted Adult Weight:  42 lbs (that's off--he's currently about 35 but was 33 a couple of years back so that might be a healthier weight for him)


Chip has a ton listed who are 22% genetic matches ("As related as human half-siblings, aunts/uncles, and grandparents"). All are GSD except one mix--who has no photos posted.

As long as we're here--I also asked for the health screening. They tested for 181 things, and he's all clear except:
  • Alanine Aminotransferase Activity result: Low Normal  (not a risk, just something for vets to be aware of when doing certain blood tests)
  • Platelet factor X receptor deficiency, Scott Syndrome (TMEM16F): At risk, might have lower clotting strength than most dogs, something to be aware of if he has surgery or serious injury.

Vet already has copies of those reports. I am not concerned.
All so intriguing!

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Picking Up Poop

SUMMARY: The never-ending stream of criticism

There's another post today on NextDoor begging people to pick up their dogs' poops, followed by a stream of responses about how often/where/when they find poop, which is frequently/everywhere/every day.

I've had dogs since 1978 and this has always been a problem. Always. And picking up is not usually a hard thing, so what's with that?! I lived in a townhouse complex when I got my first dog (Amber). I walked her twice a day. In those days, it was a trowel and small paper bag that I carried with me for pickup duty.  And, yep, I always found other dogs' deposits and picked them up, as well.  One early morning as I was finishing my walk, a man came out of one of the other units and said, "I've been watching you and your dog. [Immediate fight or flight response starts to build.]  And I am very impressed--I see so many people leave their poop, yet you pick up theirs as well as your own. [Whew!] It's nice to see a responsible dog owner and neighbor."

If I see someone in the act of walking away from their mutt's mess, I might say, "Did you forget your poop bag? Here's one." Almost always they thank me and clean it up. That means that they're probably always forgetting their poop bag, but at least I gave them a hint from another dog owner. I've rarely had a rude response.

Yes, I'm tired of going for walks in any park and picking up after others. I don't want to step in that! And I don't want parks to be closed to dogs because of inconsiderate, lazy people! Yes, I've also seen poop right next to bag dispensers. Crazy, right?
(And on fences!?!)

Dog Owners, it's a responsibility! I have genuinely on rare occasions not had a poop bag--for example, maybe I brought 2, filled both and tossed, and then one of my dogs pooped *again*! (I usually try to have more, but you know, s....tuff happens.) Or I didn't notice that the bag dispenser was no longer attached to my leash. 

It is NO FUN looking around trying to find something with which to pick up the poop--newspapers are not so great, as they quickly absorb moisture and start to fall apart. ;-) On occasion I've used big leaves. Carrying it around in those makeshift "bags" is a pain and can get messy. But it's my responsibility! And yours, too, Dog Owners.

Also see:

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Trying to be motivated: weaves

SUMMARY: After class, after New Year’s, after who knows what, but something clicked…

Zorro's agility class worked on weaves again today. We have been practicing in class off and on for however long I’ve been taking classes, since last July? So… That’s once a week, maximum, with a lot of outages on my part for one reason or another. And Z is doing fairly well today... got the spread poles all the way in (so they're no longer spread), but with 2 guides still on. We struggled a bit with that, but looking pretty darned good! But not so good for having started maybe 5 months ago! Because--

--today, while the other dog kids were weaving, I kept thinking: I taught Tika the weaves in 3 weeks. I taught Boost the weaves in two weeks. Doing it in my own backyard, because I have actual weave poles. But I have not done that with Zorro. And why not? I don't know.

Also, in class, I use treats with Zorro, because he won’t play with a toy there. This has been a problem in every class we’ve been to: He won’t even play with his Jolly Ball or his Flat Ball or his Squeaky Snake, and those are his favorites. So today I thought, I think I know how to get a dog to start playing with toys in places other than at home, such as at agility class. He sure loves playing with toys here. He seems to enjoy class, but I'm sure would enjoy it more if there were more play. So, why haven't I worked on it? I don't know.

That has been my question for the last four years: Why am I not interested in doing anything with these dogs? I mean, they’re good boys. They’re smart. They are eager. Chip worries some and Zorro gets over-eager, but they’re perfectly willing to do things with me if I actually try to do things. Oddly, for some reason, today, I thought: well, it’s a beautiful day, the weaves are right there outside the back door, let’s go home and practice some. So I went out in the yard…

...last week I dug out the old rope toys, which I've never played with with these dogs, because… For whatever reason. Today in the yard I played tug and fetch with Zorro with the rope for a bit to get him excited about it. He tried switching to his flat ball a couple of times, because it was there in the middle of the yard, but I got him back onto the rope, and then we played with that for a while. So, that’s step one on the toy parade.

I tried that with Chip, and he turned and ran away. "I don’t know what you want from me, mom, I’m stressed." So I just played with him a little bit, no toys or treats, and left it at that. (He doesn't play with toys much, even with his favorites.)

Then I started working on backchaining weave poles. I have used that in the past for training the weaves, using the hand in the collar method with a toy or treats. Which I’m not going to try to explain.

Anyway: I started backchaining at the end of the weaves with Zorro with treats for now. He didn’t quite get it at first, but he is now driving forward from the next-to-the-last pole through the last pole, which is what I want! Personally I think this is a better method for teaching them, so we'll see whether I can get all the way to the beginning of 6 weaves before class next  week.

Tried some of the same with Chip, with whom I have never done any weave poles, because… For whatever reason. With him, I also have to work on training that it’s OK for me to pull him around by his collar, nothing terrible is going to happen, whether I pull back or forward, he just needs to go along for the ride, and get treats constantly as I’m doing it. I have worked on that off and on the whole time I’ve had him. I need a lot more on and a lot less off.

And then I managed to get a very few attempts at back chaining the last two poles. He seemed a smidgen more relaxed each time.

Then I was tired all over, and it wasn’t even that much work. Reminds me of several things:

  • When I taught Tika, I was 19 years younger. With Boost, maybe 15. And they were 2 years old and about 1 year, respectively, and I had been doing pretty much daily training of all kinds with both from the day they came home, with toys. Meanwhile, Zorro is 5 and a half, and Chip is 8 and a half.  
  • It feels good to work confidently on something and seeing achievement quickly. That was something that appealed to me about agility originally.
  • It feels good to  be tired--not exhausted or in a lot of pain--all over my body. I'm really out of shape, I'm aware of that, but I was able to do these things today. That also was something that appealed to me about agility originally.

Sometimes I think, so many years of opportunities wasted for having more fun with them and building more of a relationship with them.  And then sometimes I think, OK, for whatever reason--depression or grief or pain or training fatigue or maybe all of those, dunno, I've had lots of excuses--for whatever reason, I've needed a break. 

Not sure whether the break is over, but today was good.

    Thursday, January 02, 2020

    Zorro's Breed Results Are In!

    SUMMARY: Biggest part is as expected, but then --

    ... much unexpected!

    My guesses were, in order: 1. Cattle Dog 2. Rat Terrier 3. Border Collie 4. Basenji.

    And here's the big reveal:

    • To the ACD, I say, well, duh!  
    • Beagle: OK, has a non-ACD bark, I've always thought. 
    • But Chihuahua?  One friend said, while guessing her own breeds, "Including  Chihuahua because around here these days *everything* probably has chihuahua."  
    • And I expected terrier, but Boston Terrier?  I don't know enough about BT traits to say, "no way," or, "well, THAT explains it."
    • German Shepherd Dog: I sometimes wondered whether those were Shepherd ears. Should've added to  my guesses.
    • Supermutt: Additional breed ancestry so diluted that all they can do is make guesses. "We cannot be sure, given how little of their DNA has carried down to Zorro, but we thought you might like to know our best guess anyway!"
      • Smooth Fox Terrier
      • Shetland Sheepdog
    So much for his original rescue posting as "Border Collie Mix"! Not a whit of that.

    It also includes a list of physical traits. Here's the summary:
    • Coat color: Gives a fairly broad range, but not incorrect so far--I'll have to wade thru the "but if the dog has xxxx gene, then..." material. It is correct that he is not merle.
    • Coat qualities: Short or medium fur, straight not curly, sheds a lot seasonally.  Yep.
    • Other:  "Likely to" have medium or long muzzle, normal-length tail, normal muscling. "Unlikely" to have hind dew claws or blue eyes.   Yep.
    • Genetic diversity: Inbreeding 0%. Well, that's pretty interesting!


    They list 30 dogs whose DNA makes them "Close relatives: As related as human first cousins." They are ALL listed as ACD, while Zorro is Mixed Breed.  All those who have photos are clearly ACD as claimed. And although 2 are named Truckee and Cali, almost all of them live on the east coast except for an enclave in Nebraska. Intriguing.

    As long as we're here--I also asked for the health screening. They tested for 181 things, and he's all clear except:
           Carrier for "Progressive Retinal Atrophy, prcd" and "Progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD Exon 1)"
    No worries about him ever carrying that anywhere. I'll have to look  up what breeds commonly carry that. Later.

    Now can hardly wait for Chip's to arrive, because I had no confident guesses at all!
    And here they are!