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Don’t Label Me

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For those of you in the market for a four-legged friend, there are quite a few fantastic pups at the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe shelter. If you’re looking for a shy, goofy, and playful little guy who looks like a punk rocker, then Doby is an excellent choice. If someone young, athletic, and ready to hit the trails is more your speed, we highly recommend Roxy.

Roxy has been at the shelter longer than most. She is a favorite of the staff and I can see why — she is intelligent, easy to train, and tips the scales at a svelte 50 pounds. This girl loves her walks and looks forward to her morning jaunts with the dedicated HSTT volunteers. I spent some quiet time with Roxy and was impressed by how well behaved she was. Roxy would like a home where she can be the only dog. Her adoption fee has been sponsored.

A great dog and a great deal!

I wanted to know more about Doby and Roxy, so I checked to find out what breed or mix they are. What I found was that of the 12 dogs listed none had a breed description of any kind; instead, the dogs were described by personality traits. Roxy was not described as a German shepherd mix, but as athletic, smart, and energetic. Whoa. Why the change?

I spoke with HSTT volunteer coordinator Erin Ellis who explained the new philosophy went into effect this July. HSTT staff used to guess what breed or mix a dog was to help describe it. The problem is that research shows that not only are we poor at guessing the breed make-up of a dog, it’s questionable whether this information is even helpful.

Dogs that are a mixed breed are actually members of no breed at all. Even if you could DNA test every dog at the shelter, the results wouldn’t be as useful as you might think. For example, a dog that is part black lab and part pug may not necessarily inherit the characteristic swimming ability of the lab. It’s important that potential adopters don’t have unrealistic expectations based on a breed description that is not only potentially inaccurate, but also irrelevant. What traits come from what breed are impossible to know. What’s important is finding a pet whose personality meshes with yours. HSTT is an early adopter of this philosophy. We will be watching at Flip’s Friends to see if it becomes a national trend.

For more information on Roxy or Doby, and to see descriptions of all the dogs at the shelter, visit

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