DEAR DIDI: We have a dog that we adopted from a shelter about three weeks ago. I am extremely concerned because he has a mostly black tongue. We thought it was kind of cute until someone at the pet store in town told us that it means he is a Chow Chow mix. I know Chows can have serious aggression issues. Are we in for a difficult time? – Nervous In Manteca
DEAR NERVOUS: I am so sorry that someone has made you doubt your four-legged companion. Chow Chows are one of the most ancient breeds known to humans and their most recognized trait is their blue-black tongue. It is estimated that many breeds of dog probably have some Chow in them if we could take their DNA far enough back in their lineage. Black spots on tongues are akin to birthmarks and they likely have the same spots beneath their dense coats. Chows also have a reputation for being aggressive but any dog can be aggressive if not properly raised and trained.
There are approximately 37 recognized breeds that are prone to having black spots on their tongues. These spots can be so overlapping that the majority of the tongue appears black in color or a puppy may only have one small speck of color. Having spots can occur in any breed just like any one of us could have a birthmark somewhere on our bodies. There is no foundation for assuming a dog has Chow traits merely because of some tongue color.
Here are a few of the canine breeds that are prone to tongue coloration: Airedale, Akita, Belgian Malinois, Chinese Star Pei, Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Pomeranian, Pug, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Shiba Inu, and Siberian Husky. If you are truly curious as to the origins of your new fur baby I would encourage you to run a DNA test. For less than $100 Wisdom Panel has been proven very accurate. What a dog looks like on the outside is only a small part of what they may be on the inside. Their brain, temperament, prey drive, toy drive, food drive, and much more can all be determined by their ancestors, not just their immediate parents. Either way, our dogs are their own unique set of genes making them their own special individual that we love.
Birthmarks on tongues will present with no distinguishable surface or textural differences. If your dog has developed a fleshy looking, discolored area of his tongue, you should have him evaluated by his veterinarian.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.