Probably my favorite photo of her:
Tag: canis lupis familiaris
We’re back! And for the final installment of the Decoding Maris series, we’re going to explore some other lesser-known dog breeds that may or may not have gone into making a Maris.
Portuguese Water Dog
Though we don’t get asked nearly as much as we did when she was little, the second-most guessed dog breed for Maris is Portuguese Water Dog. PWDs are well-known now thanks to Bo Obama, the First Dog. And I bet everyone who knows anything about PWDs can also tell you they are hypoallergenic. So, given the curly and hypoallergenic coat, if we’re going to make a Maris without a poodle, a PWD is a strong contender.
PWDs were bred to accompany fisherman on boats and are proficient swimmers. This is in stark contrast to Maris, who gets her swimming instincts from me. We like to play in shallow end, but will be damned if we have to go into water over our head and actually swim. On the upside, we’re making progress with Maris and swimming. Me? I’m a lost cause.
PWDs are a bit smaller in stature than a poodle (17-23 inches, 35-60lbs), but their coat has the same curly texture which makes me wonder if there is a “wavy-coated” mix breed that might look a lot like Maris. In the meantime, what do you see on this puppy’s chest:
Bouvier des Flandres
If any breed is going to contend with the Giant Schnauzer for the contribution of bearded genetics, it’s the Bouvier des Flandres. Bouviers were originally bred in Belgium for herding cattle and general farm work. Much like the Giant Schnauzer, they are compact, powerful working dogs that are fairly tall in stature (females ~23-26in).
Their coat is thick, short and dense – made for working in inclement weather. And (and this is my favorite thing ever), they are known known by several different names including “Vuilbaard” which means… wait for it… dirty beard. (Sidenote: I live in a house with way too many gray vuilbaards).
There are not a lot of photos of Bouvier mixes, but the puppies bear a striking resemblance to Maris, as does this photo of a Bouvier without the cropped ears.
But the Bouvier, as you can see in the photos (and confirmed by my encounter with one at the dog park) is fairly soft and fuzzy, especially when clipped. And that brings us to the final piece of the Maris puzzle: her coat. Here’s a close up of her back & leg:
You can clearly see the fuzzy undercoat, which I would describe more as “wooly” than soft, and gray wire hair coming through. So, if any genetics are required in a Maris-mix it has to be something with a wire coat.
One of the things we noticed in the photos of Fergie was how thin/narrow she is, especially her snout. This had us looking around at similar dogs which lead us to the Irish Wolfhound. The first thing to note is that Irish Wolfhounds are gigantic. I mean, seriously huge (they stand somewhere between 30-34 inches tall). But as you can see from the photo, while tall, they are very narrow dogs, especially in comparison to the Schnauzers & Bouviers. The breed dates back to 391 A.D. and, as the name suggests, were originally bred to hunt wolves.
They have a wiry, rough coat, fantastic eyebrows and a vuilbaard. They are also the only breed I came across with their own Tumblr fan page. In looking up Irish Wolfhound mixes I came across Onyx, a Wolfhound-lab mix. I can’t insert the photos here, so check out his portrait session courtesy of Sarah Beth Photography.The size is way off, but there is a definite Maris resemblance there.
Okay, so Dovekie isn’t a breed, he’s a dog I came across when looking up the legitimacy of dog DNA tests. Dovekie’s story was featured on All Things Considered on NPR. His owners were told he was a golden retriever-chocolate lab mix until he began a “strange metamorphosis”: “His eyebrows shot up — straight up. And his whiskers grew — straight down. His snout got longer and longer. Weird wiry white hairs started showing up on his back. And his paws were turning into giant webbed paws.”
Basically, he began to look exactly like Maris, and if you don’t believe me check out the list of his traits in the left hand column and compare it to the list I wrote a few weeks ago and his Facebook page. Also, I love the list of breeds his owners considered and the additional suggestions in the comments. I swear I didn’t copy it for this blog series.
In any event, the point of the NPR story was that Dovekie’s owners decided to find out what he was made of and sent his DNA into several different companies. The results were all over the board, but the one breed that all the services came up with that caught my eye was Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
As it turns out, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are not the same breed as German Wirehaired Pointers (but, the GWPs are descendants of WPGs). The first thing I noticed when I looked up WPGs was how the gray coat stops around the neck. You can see from the black & white photo in the first post, Maris’ gray is concentrated on her torso and is slowly moving down her legs, with almost none on her neck and head. I also learned that a WPG’s gray coat can take 2-3 years to fully come in, which makes me wonder how much more gray Maris is going to get. Of all the breeds that may be in there, I think WPG and/or GWP is almost a certainty.
I was going to round out this series by doing a point-by-point comparison of Maris to a muppet, only to find out that someone (with a labradoodle, no less) totally beat me to it. So, I’ll leave you with one last Maris photo and leave you to your continued speculation. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
For those of you just joining us, see the first installment of Decoding Maris here.
The number one question we get asked about Maris is whether she’s a Labradoodle. For those of you who aren’t down with designer mutts that cost way too much money, a Labradoodle is a labrador retriever bred with a poodle. Labradoodles come in all sorts of colors and sizes, and their coats range from curly to wavy. And some, well, some look an awful lot like Maris:
I concede that the wavy coat, webbed feet, and beard are on point. And we’ve met several Labradoodles that look an awful lot like her. But she’s generally much shorter and stockier than the poodles and Labradoodles we’ve seen and her fur is not at all curly. And this series isn’t about coming to a conclusion in the second installment, so let’s move on.
At some point in the process of Googling various dog breeds, I came across this post on a dog forum. The dog in question looked a lot like Maris, albeit much smaller, so I kept scrolling and discovered a whole new breed of designer mutt with a stupid name. Blog readers, meet the Schnoodle.
A Schnoodle is the result of a schnauzer and a poodle that HOLY SH*T THAT DOG LOOKS JUST LIKE MARIS:
It turns out I know absolutely nothing about Schnauzers. Up until a few days ago I couldn’t even tell you what AKC group the Schnauzer belongs to (it’s the terrier group or working group depending on the size) or what they were bred for (all kinds of things: guard dogs, police dogs, protecting livestock, cattle driver, catching vermin). They come in three sizes: miniature, standard and giant, and are known for their impressive mustache and beard on their muzzle (or, as they say in German, schnauze). Don’t be embarrassed – the light bulb just went off for me too.
A female Giant Schnauzer stands ~23-26 inches high and weighs anywhere from 55-75lbs. A notable Giant Schnauzer trait is their musculature. For example, adjectives used to describe Giant Schnauzers are: powerful, compact, robust, sturdy, muscled, and rugged. This is interesting because Maris is turning into a fairly dense dog. She is by no means narrow or lanky like a poodle (and it’s not clear from the photos if Fergie was lanky or simply malnourished) and she has at times been accused by ignorant strangers as being slightly overweight. But really, under all that fur there is a substantial amount of dog.
Schnauzers have a wiry top coat and a dense undercoat that mats easily, which again, is exactly what Maris has, and the Giant Schnauzer I met at the dog park confirmed this.
One of the most alarming things I learned was what a purebred Giant Schnauzer puppy looks like:
I know, RIGHT?!
Much like the Labradoodles, Schnoodles run the gamut of colors and sizes. Those with wavy coats are a spitting image of Maris, while those with the curlier poodle-like coats don’t look anything like her. But even if we knew definitively that Maris was part poodle, I would deny it because I cannot bring myself to call her either of those names.
But is poodle even necessary? Could Maris have been created without any poodle genetics?
::insert cliffhanger music here::
UP NEXT: Dog breeds you’ve probably never heard of
A few weeks ago I took this photo and when I looked at the screen I had no idea whose dog was staring back at me. Seriously, when did she go from cute muppet-puppy to this giant ridiculous looking dog?
As with all mutt owners, Maris’ genetic makeup is a topic of endless fascination and speculation in our house. I’m embarrassed to admit how many Google searches we’ve done on the topic. In this new series of posts, I invite you to speculate along with us and maybe learn about a few breeds (pure and mixed) that you’ve never heard of along the way.
Before I get into it, YES, I am aware that there are companies out there that do dog DNA tests. I am also aware that they are inconsistent, unreliable, and in some cases simply wrong. Besides, I would rather keep the money for the next time she eats a sock and it doesn’t come out the other end.
Let’s start with what we know about Maris:
Age: 9.5 months
Withers (shoulder) height: ~23inches
Coat: Hair; black & soft underneath with a gray (wirey?) coat coming through mostly on her torso
Beard: Gray and fierce
Temperament: Easy-going, amiable, with a very stubborn streak
Maris came to the shelter with her mother, Fergie, and sister, Cindy. They were advertised as lab-otterhound mixes, but having recently read an article about how unreliable shelters are at identifying mixed-breeds, I put little stock in that. Regardless, Cindy seems to confirm the lab portion of this equation, but Fergie? It’s hard to tell from the photo how big she is, but she clearly shares the black/gray coat, beard and eyebrows with Maris. But is she part otterhound?
Background: Otterhounds are a British breed that – as the name suggests – were bred to hunt otters. The Otterhound Club of America has provided a handy list of otterhound traits, including long low-set ears, large webbed feet, and a thick double coat. Otterhounds are also known as being very vocal. They have a characteristic deep bay or “hound voice” and frequently mutter, grumble, grunt and sigh. According to the AKC, the breed standard for females is 80lbs and ~24 inches at the withers. As for the coat, the outer coat is dense, rough and coarse, and there is usually softer hair on the head and lower legs. They also have a water-resistant undercoat of short wooly, slightly oily hair.
Why we think Maris is part otterhound:
Having spent most my life with retrievers, I have no doubt that Maris has some hound in her. Her desire to retrieve exists only to the extent that something (actually, anything) more exciting isn’t happening. She is easily distracted by her nose and has no ball drive whatsoever.
Size-wise she’s larger than most female labs and has a large barrel chest and fairly large feet which makes us believe something larger than a lab was involved in her conception. Her double coat of hair (not fur) is coarse and prone to matting and her large furry feet collect just about everything. On the upside, this means no shedding.
And then there is the grunting. OH the grunting. Other than bulldogs whose grunts are a byproduct of their breathing, I have never heard a dog grunt the way Maris does. It usually happens when she is excited about something (e.g. treat, toy) or when she is really comfortable (like a purring cat). It’s a guttural grunt that you can feel coming from deep down inside her. She also has a tendency to sigh dramatically when she lays down as though her life is terribly difficult. We mock her regularly for this.
Why we think Maris is not part otterhound: Statistics. According to the Otterhound Club of America fewer than 1,000 purebred otterhounds exist world-wide. While some purebred otterhounds are known to exist in eastern Washington, its hard to imagine that one had the opportunity to mate with a non-otterhound dog. Also, she’s definitely lacking the low-set long ears and deep bay voice. More likely she is a conglomeration of traits from several breeds that have expressed themselves in a manner similar to an otterhound.
Why we will continue to tell people Maris is part otterhound: Because her name is not nearly as funny or clever if she isn’t an otterhound.
UP NEXT: Things that end in ‘oodle’
*Correction: The original post stated Maris weighed ~65lbs. This number was based on a weigh-in over a month ago. At her weigh-in today Fatty McButterpants clocked in at 75lbs.
Maris gets the zoomies every night before bed. And this is a good illustration of why I can’t have nice things.
Maris turns 16 weeks old today. In the last month she has more than doubled her weight; outgrown her first harness; sunk her teeth into every power cord and flip flop she could find; mastered sit, down, stay, come, drop it, shake, roll over, and bump it; discovered her love for peanut butter-filled kongs, bully sticks and pig ears; escaped several enclosures; reasoned and torn her way through every work-to-eat puzzle we’ve given her; and made zero progress on her friendship with the cats.
In the last two weeks we have entered a new phase of puppydom. Gone are the days of brief jaunts in the yard followed by regularly scheduled puppy naps. Enter the overly energetic, I-will-be-obnoxious-and-destructive-until-you-play-with-me phase. Objects on the floor: you have been warned.
With that said, Maris is proving to be a mellow, friendly, intelligent and easily trainable dog. She’s well on her way to being valedictorian of puppy preschool, which is important because a Dogwager Countess must have manners. We’ve learned she’s at her peak sweetness right after a nap, and at her absolute worst at right before bed when, like clockwork, she has a total meltdown (See? Just like children). Oh, and that muppet-face doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
Gone are the days of laying down to eat kibble out of a bowl. Enter “work-to-eat” puzzles:
Maris received the green light from the vet yesterday to meet other “well cared for dogs.” This was especially exciting because she was finally allowed to put a snout to the smells coming from the other side of the fence. Those smells belong to Barringer, a giant 8 year-old shepherd mix and Jasmine, a 5 month old white-golden retriever. Needless to say, Maris has a new best friend.
Internet, meet the newest addition to our family: Maris Otter, The Dogwager Countess.
Part lab, part otterhound, all snuggles. We got her name from a type of barley - maris otter - which is used frequently in English beers (and since she’s part otterhound… ). The Dogwager Countess is her proper title of nobility and a nod to the best character on Downton Abbey.
And the best part about her? She has a gray beard.