What Is Quinn?

The DNA profile of our eldest rescue hound is—after literally hundreds and hundreds of questions from Twitter readers over the last three years—finally revealed. And the results are a bit surprising.

Above: Quinn (top) and Scout (bottom). Note that this is merely a Photoshopped cell-phone photograph—we didn’t really commission an oil painting of our dogs!

Introduction

Those who read my Twitter feed will know that I often post photographs of our two now-four-year-old rescue hounds, Quinn and Scout. In the Photoshopped cell-phone photograph above, Quinn—our “alpha”—is closest to the window sill, lying in her preferred, cat-like position.

A couple months ago, my wife and I finally sent in our pups’ DNA for testing, which I recognize some people think is a strange thing to do, so I’ll briefly justify what even for my wife and I was an uncharacteristically idiosyncratic decision. Not only do we love our dogs so much that we want to know everything about their lives and their background that we can—for instance, Quinn was rescued along with her mother and siblings by a mailman in an empty lot in Arkansas, while Scout was found by local animal control in Alabama wandering around by herself—we also want to gather any information we can that might make us better parents. If we know more about what breeds our mixed-breed rescues hail from, it could help us better understand their instincts and personalities—which I can tell you are dramatically different and often bewildering. {Note: I mean this in the best possible way! We love how different the two are.}

In any case, whenever I post photographs of our dogs, readers share the same interest my wife and I have, and repeatedly ask what breed(s) our dogs are. Well, we now have the very surprising answer! I decided to post that answer here because, quite literally, I’ve been asked for the answer to this question hundreds of times over the last three years and have never—until now—had a notion of how to reply besides empty guesses.

Quinn the Dog: A DNA Profile

According to DNA testing, Quinn is the following:

  • 12.5% American Staffordshire terrier

  • 12.5% Shibu Inu

  • 12.5% Akita Inu

  • 12.5% Bloodhound

  • 50% Hound Breed*

*Believed to be Treeing Walker Coonhound.

We’d seen pictures of Quinn’s mother—an oddly nondescript white dog that looked like a Labrador Retriever to me but actually, if I’m blunt, didn’t really look much like any particular breed—and due to Quinn’s coloring and habits and much else, assumed her dad was a Southern hunting dog who’d mixed it up (perhaps against the wishes of his owner) with a local stray. That certainly still seems possible, though both the Shibu Inu and the Akita Inu (whether the Japanese Akita or the American Akita) are hunting dogs, which makes it seem a bit like someone out in Arkansas was trying to create the Terminator of hunting dogs or whatever and callously abandoned the project—and its offspring—in midstream.

While we don’t know where Quinn’s mom ended up, or most of her siblings, we were there when one of her brothers was adopted, and he ended up with a nice family from Concord, New Hampshire. He was already far bigger than her, so we assume he must be positively huge now.

Conclusion: Should You Do a DNA Test on Your Rescue Dog?

Obviously, it’s 100% up to you—and because the test is around $150, I fully realize that not everyone will be in a position to make this decision.

For those considering it, however, I’ll say this: it’s a totally painless process for your dog, it only takes a few weeks to get the results, and besides the additional emotional component it adds to your relationship with your pet—because you understand a bit more about their background—it can also give immediately useful information that may help you be a better steward of your dog’s long-term health.

I’ll give an example.

When Quinn first reached her full adult size—we got her when she was around 13 weeks old—she weighed about 54 pounds, and in our vet’s mind that understandably came to be seen as her ideal weight (she was quite fit at that point). Since then, despite getting a decent amount of exercise, Quinn’s weight has increased to about 61 pounds, which neither we nor the vet consider ideal. While we still hold that opinion, the fact that Quinn’s DNA profile suggests she should weigh between 46 and 75 pounds gives us a little bit more of an understanding of her size and shape. For example, she has a lot of loose skin, which one might normally associate with some weight gain but must also be tied to her hound (and particularly her bloodhound) genes. Also, all of her DNA profile suggests a stolid, thick-build ancestry that seems to match what we see in her.

I don’t mean to suggest—at all—that we don’t continue to follow our vet’s advice. Our attitude is that the vet knows best, period. I think this DNA-profile information just helps us contextualize our parentage of this dog in a way that perhaps is difficult to summarize but feels meaningful to us as dog parents and, whether it’s real or illusory, I think even that feeling of empowerment has value. For those of us who treat our dogs as our children, but who have chosen to rescue dogs rather than get them from a local breeder, anything we can do to better connect with the history of our family member seems genuinely important to us. My wife and I are just grateful we’re in a position to spend the $300 to do this research on both our dogs. We’re still in a holding pattern on Scout’s results, but I’ll post them here in the Extras section of Proof when they arrive.

{Note: I realize this is a bit of a frivolous post. In my defense, (a) readers truly have often asked about Quinn’s heritage, (b) the “Extras” section does advertise itself as essentially a space for miscellaneous frivolities, and (c) it’s free to read and, of course, free to ignore. My thanks in advance to all those who’ve sent in well-wishes to our pups in the past. This article is for you!}