By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More than half of the dogs in the United States are mixed breeds, otherwise known as mutts.

From the Humane Society to rescue organizations to dog parks, most Americans choose dogs that are not purebred.

Like most families, Amelia Santianello and Frank Vascellaro chose adoption.

frank and amelias dogs Meet Frank & Amelias Mutts

(credit: CBS)

First they choose Louie 5 years ago, who was rescued from a farm. A year later they chose Lola, who came from Red Lake Reservation.

“She’s gentle, even in the way, like when you give her food, she’s gentle. This one’s a little skitsy, but he’s very loving, too. I mean, they are both very loving,” Amelia said.

Lola is calm and affectionate. Louis barks loudly and can get a bit snippy.

“Most people look at them and think black lab and they think siblings,” Frank said.

They’re not siblings, but are they labs?

We took them to an expert, but Dr. Lisa Lindesmith of All Paws in St. Louis Park didn’t just guess. She says eyeballing isn’t very accurate, it only works about 20 percent of the time.

“When your clients come to you do they usually think, ‘I know what my dog is,'” WCCO’s Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield asked.

“Sure, or they want us to know and it can be very hard to guess, once those genes get mixed up they can look like all sorts of things and it can be hard to guess,” Lindesmith said.

So she offers DNA testing for $150.  She says the blood draw is most accurate but there are also take home versions that use a mouth swab you can buy online.

Louie was the perfect patient. So was Lola.

“It’ll be interesting really to see if they both do have any or a lot of black lab,” Dr. Lindesmith said.

A few weeks later, the answers were clear.

Lola is mainly German Shepherd, much to the shock of her owners.

The results look at her parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.

She’s mostly German Shepherd, then Border Collie, then lab, then Siberian Husky.

Now, time for Louie’s bloodline.

Louie is mainly Golden Retriever. Louie’s also got a large amount of border collie, then lab and then U.S. Show Dog Chow Chow.

But the tests also yielded more serious results. They tested for gene mutations — Louie’s was perfect. Lola had a gene for being prone to collapsing during exercise — but the gene was recessive, so she’s in the clear.

“That’s gratifying knowing what they actually are, but I like the genetic makeup to see if there were any health issues, something that we could keep an eye on,” Amelia said.

“It’s great to know but it’s weird, too because 10 minutes ago I thought I had a couple black labs. I found out I have a German Shepherd and a Golden Retriever,” Frank said.

They’re really just the same. The biggest question we had was why are both the dogs black and why do they favor labs. Dr. Lisa says if dogs have even a small amount of a certain breed, like say labs, that breed can determine their traits.

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