The Mars Wisdom Test

I am not of the opinion that the Mars Wisdom Test should be the arbitrator of whether or not a dog is purebred. I suspect my reasoning is similar to what went through the minds of the AKC Board when they rejected using the test for that purpose.

I have no doubt that the people working at Mars Veterinary are doing their best ... but the reality is that the method that they are using is proprietary. No one else can see it or use it. There is no independent scientific check that it works. (Yes, lots of people have tried the test ... but that is not science.)

The concept of purebred is man-made, not something that occurs in nature. (It is equivalent to the concept of "race" in humans.) All purebred means is that at some point, people said that certain dogs were the founder dogs, and we would consider anything descended from those dogs as "purebred".

Aside - there is a strong belief among geneticists that a small closed gene pool like Norwich can not survive ... that the stud book will need to be opened to allow new genes. This has already happened publically for two breeds - Dalmatians and Miniature Bull Terriers. And no doubt it happens "under the table" with almost all breeds.

Historically, we trusted people to tell the truth about who were the sire and dam when puppies were registered. (And we had and continue to have strong sanctions against those who lie.) Then the AKC started using their DNA identification/parentage test to randomly check ... and the exodus of puppy mill breeders that began when AKC started care-and-conditions inspections became a flood. (Note that the AKC DNA identification/parentage test is an open test that can be done by any lab. The markers and information about the test are available on the US Government's NIST web site.)

This is why my working hypothesis is that a non-AKC registered dog is a mix. If it was not a mix, then it would be registered with AKC. And my working hypothesis - unless other evidence comes along - is that an AKC registered dog is purebred.

Yes, I know that some AKC registered dogs have been proven to be mixes. And I applaud the work of those who supply such proof. But in all cases of which I am aware, these mixes found by the Norwich Pedigree Integrity Committee are descended either from

  1. dogs imported from countries from which we only recently allowed importation, or
  2. dogs that were administratively registered (and where fraudulent information was provided to AKC).
There are now two parent clubs - Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, and the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America - that now require AKC DNA identification as a condition of entering their national specialty. Perhaps it is time that the NTCA did also ... although I suspect that the idea would meet a lot of resistance. Or waiving my magic wand further, that the AKC require - as a condition of registration - that DNA identification be on file. But I suspect that this will not happen either, as it would most likely drive registrations down even further ... although to my mind this is the right thing to do.

To those who think that the Mars Wisdom Test should be the arbitrator of whether a dog is purebred or not ... I respectfully suggest that they publically advocate that all dogs at dog shows should be tested as a condition of entry. After all, how can they be sure that what they see in the ring is purebred?

So to conclude, I think the Mars Wisdom Test is a tool to lend evidence about a belief as to whether or not a dog is purebred. But it should not be the arbitrator of what is purebred.

Blair Kelly
6 July 2013