Be a Citizen Scientist! Join Project MuttMix!

Project MuttMix

Here’s a dog and its genetic makeup. Do you see a Chow Chow?

The following is taken from the Project MuttMix website, where you can participate in the program, which begins Monday, April 16, 2018.

About MuttMix

The idea of breeds and pet dogs are intimately connected. When asked about our pets, we don’t say “I have a dog,” we say “I have a Golden Retriever,” or “I’ve got a Dachshund.”

Statements like these bring with them a weight of preconceptions. Some breeds are expected to be friendly, others aloof. Some are a bit slow, others can practically play chess.

What does this mean for mixed breed dogs? Since these breed categories are so strongly ingrained in our notion of “dog,” naturally our brain tries to put any new dog we meet into one or more of these categories.

“That’s a beautiful dog, what kind is she?” How often is a variation of this question the first thing asked when a stranger meets a new dog? Since with mutts we don’t know the answer to this question, we guess. Those floppy ears look a bit like a Lab’s, the spots might be from a Dalmatian, short legs are definitely like a Beagle, and so on.

We take individual characteristics that match our notion of breeds and use those traits to build a box to mentally house our mutt. And, since we have notions about breeds and behavior, we now also have a mental box of behavior we expect from this dog, all based on appearance.

Are we actually any good at this? First of all, can we do a good job of judging the mix of breeds in a mutt by looking at them? Second, do our preconceived notions about behavior and physical traits hold true?

Project MuttMix aims to answer the first question. Using genetic markers, and a panel of known pure-bred dogs, we can confidently determine the ancestral mix of breeds represented in an individual dog.

All of the images you will be asked to judge in this experiment are of dogs that have been tested, so we know what mix of breeds they represent.

Now, we need your help in finding out how well people are able to guess these breed mixes based on appearance.

For each image, you will be asked to guess the top 3 breeds contributing to the mix. For the first few examples, we’ll show you the results right away, so you can see how everything works. Following that, we’ll hold off on giving you results until the study is over, at which point you’ll be able to see all of the dogs’ genetic results.

Thank you for your help, and have fun!

Source: International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants – Science Projects

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