Information

Is there a DNA test to identify dog mixes?


We adopted a dog at the age of two. Our vet said it was a mix of an Australian Shepherd and Border Collie, which we've told everyone. Based on markings, I think it's likely. I am wondering, however, if there are any tests or other ways to know the mix of a dog if you don't know the specific parentage.

Does each dog breed have specific genetic markers that can be used to identify the breed? If so, has a dog breed test been developed or is there no commercial demand for such a test?


There are many commercially available mixed breed ID tests, as a quick Google search will tell you. However, I cannot vouch for their accuracy: this news article may be of interest. Also this.

The genetic markers used to identify breeds in a mixed-breed are microsatellite markers (sometimes SNPs): you can read more here, but from the abstract:

We used molecular markers to study genetic relationships in a diverse collection of 85 domestic dog breeds. Differences among breeds accounted for ∼30% of genetic variation. Microsatellite genotypes were used to correctly assign 99% of individual dogs to breeds.

If you're interested in dog genetics, I encourage you to check out Elaine Ostrander's work. She's written at least one book for laypeople, in addition to her numerous journal publications.


Wolf-Dog Hybrid Test

A wolf-dog hybrid

Wolf-dog hybrids have been produced by crossing wolves with wolf-like dog breeds such as Siberian Husky, German Shepherd, and Alaskan Malamute. Occasionally natural wolf-dog hybrids occur, usually when a female dog in estrus strays and is mated by a wild male wolf. Many states in the US restrict wolf-dog hybrids as pets, due to the unpredictable temperament of these canids. It has been estimated that there are upwards of 300,000 wolf-dog hybrids in the US.

The VGL wolf-hybrid test consists of 3-4 types of assays (depending on whether animals are female or male) and analyses: Y-chromosome haplotype, X-chromosome haplotype , wolf-specific DNA markers and population analysis of DNA markers. Below is a more detailed description:

  1. Males are tested with Y-chromosome markers and results compared to our database of known wolf and dog haplotypes. Results are reported as Dog, Wolf, Inconclusive (if found in both dogs and wolves) or Not-Applicable (if female).
  2. Males and females are tested with X-chromosome markers and results compared to our database of known wolf and dog haplotypes. Results are reported as Dog, Wolf, Hybrid (if female).
  3. We test for 22 DNA STR (short tandem repeat) markers that have variants specific to wolves. Results are reported as Present (if wolf variants are detected) or Not Detected (if no wolf variant is observed).

The dog-wolf hybrid test is powerful enough to detect hybrids within 3 generations. Because of the close genetic relationship among dogs and wolves, wolf ancestry beyond 3 generations may be undetectable by these tests.


'It can actually extend your dog's life'

Brenda Bonnett, CEO of the nonprofit International Partnership for Dogs and a veterinarian in Ontario, Canada, said that point is getting missed amid the doom and gloom.

She said the outcry, which she called narrow in scope, fails to acknowledge the "fantastic potential" for genetic testing to improve the health of dogs.

She pointed to researchers in England who have reduced single-gene disorders through DNA testing. She said that testing has increased the awareness of inheritance disease and that it has opened the door for greater research of more complex diseases.

“The concern is if you start to make people think that all of DNA testing is a scam and all the DNA test providers are just out to make a dollar and are bad performers, you could taint this whole world and change people’s feelings about the potential good,” she said. Bonnett also supports the push for genetic standards and agreed DNA testing results can be used inappropriately.

Ryan Boyko is founder and CEO of the Boston-based testing manufacturer Embark. He compared his product to a new wave of tools that help people discover their ancestry.

"What we saw was hundreds and thousands of people a year buying DNA tests for their dogs, but none of the DNA tests were like a 23andMe or Ancestry or these human tests where they're collecting a lot of data and then able to give you a very accurate result and able to use that data to help people in the future," Boyko said.

He pointed to health information as the other draw: "In some cases, it can actually extend your dog's life."

He defended the accuracy of the product, which he said is the same lab work approved by the Food and Drug Administration for humans. Like anything, he said, it’s possible some people can test without enough quality control and others can misinterpret the results.

"We go very far to make sure that neither of those happen with Embark," he said. He said it is "shortsighted" to say information that can save dogs' lives should not be available just because it can be misused.

The company has a disclaimer making clear it doesn't provide medical diagnoses and instructing pet owners to talk to their veterinarian if they're worried about a medical condition.

Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, said the group does not have a position on DNA testing for dogs, but "it's fine to do if you're curious about your dog's ancestry and breed makeup." He said pet owners should talk to their vets if the goal is to identify potential hereditary disorders or health conditions.


The DNA subjects

My husband and I have a 9-year-old dog named Roscoe Jenkins and a (probably) 1-year-old dog named Amy Ruth.

In 2010, I moved into my first solo apartment, and to keep up with the adulting process I wanted to get a dog. After looking on rescue sites and shelters, I stumbled across a Craigslist post from an owner in the Bronx who was looking to get rid of her 2-year-old dog. Not only did he look like he fit the bill, his name was Roscoe. Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles was my favorite restaurant when I went to college in Los Angeles, so I took it as a sign.

Despite his quirks and medical maladies – he can't eat grains, beef or chicken without scratching off his fur, he went blind because of a genetic disease about a year after I got him, and he's had to get many of his teeth removed – I quickly fell in love. More than seven years later, he's still by our side.

I tracked down the original owner who told me he's a Yorkipoo. But no one else believed it -- the average Yorkipoo ranges from 3 to 14 pounds, much lighter than Roscoe's 18 pounds. Roscoe doesn't shed so we always thought he was some kind of poodle mix. He loves to take toys and shake them to death, which we were told was terrier behavior. People on the street most often think he's a West Highland Terrier-poodle mixt.

We wanted to add another dog, so in October 2017, we started fostering a skinny 12-pound rescue dog with the original name of Lil' Booger. She was between 1 and 2 and had just given birth to a litter of puppies. She also came with the note "REALLY shy but adorable. Needs help with confidence." She had never walked on a leash, and didn't know how to play with toys. After fostering her for a few weeks, we decided to keep her and rename her Amy Ruth after my favorite fried chicken and waffles place in Harlem.

We thought she looked like a Chihuahua, but she's definitely much larger than the average 3 to 7 pounds. She also has ridiculously long legs for her size and is an incredible jumper, so maybe she had rat terrier in her. We then saw a Xoloitzcuintli but with hair (otherwise known as a Mexican hairless dog), and decided that was the closest to what she looked like.


Testing the DNA Tests

James Belzer was always interested in confirming his suspicions that 13-year-old Girl was a Husky/German Shepherd mix. So the Manhattan executive agreed, at the request of WebMD, to try three brands of dog breed DNA tests: Canine Heritage, DDC Veterinary, and Mars Veterinary’s other option, Wisdom Panel.

All of the dog DNA tests Belzer tried use a cheek swab sampling to compare DNA against a number of major breeds. These dog DNA test kits were created to identify dogs of mixed heritage. Purebred confirmation is available through other testing.

Continued

Here are the DNA tests Belzer used and their cost at the time he did the tests:

  • Cost: $79.99
  • Tests dog’s DNA against 170 different breeds
  • Findings: Made up of at least 50% Siberian Husky and 25% Border Collie
  • Cost: $99.95
  • Tests dog’s DNA against 105 different breeds
  • Findings: Siberian Husky as a secondary breed (Canine Heritage only lists a primary breed if the dog has a purebred parent), with German Shepherd in the mix
  • Cost: $68
  • Tests dog’s DNA against 62 different breeds
  • Findings: Level 1 Siberian Husky, made up of at least 75%, level 4 German Shepherd, made up of between 10% and 19%

“It was pretty easy,” says Belzer of the collection process. After he sent the completed test kits back to each company, results came within two to four weeks (Wisdom Panel was the quickest both of the others took about a month). DDC and Canine Heritage findings came in the mail, and Wisdom Panel’s results were emailed.

Two of the three companies’ results validated Belzer’s hypothesis: that Girl was a Siberian Husky/German Shepherd mix. Wisdom Panel, which tests against more breeds than the other two, suggested Girl was part Border Collie. “That was something I would have never considered,” says Belzer, who doesn’t question the accuracy of the test. “The results were a little out of line with what the other two found, but it’s certainly not a breed that I would rule out.”

All of the companies contain disclaimers that the test is for informational purposes only, and most owners order dog DNA tests solely for the curiosity factor. “It answers hypothetical questions and can validate your assumptions,” Belzer says. “It’s also a great conversation piece at the dog park.”


DNA testing looks into dog breeds and cat history

A chihuahua and a St. Bernard don’t look like they have much in common. But they’re both the same sub-species. What’s the difference? A few genes.

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October 24, 2019 at 5:35 am

St. Bernards are tall, hairy, muscular dogs, built for a life rescuing trapped travelers in the mountains of Europe. Chihuahuas are tiny, with shorter hair and rounder heads. They come from Mexico. Looking at them side by side, you might be tempted to question whether they’re the same species. Yet for all their dramatic differences, each can still mate with any other dog and produce pups. That’s because a big boy St. Bernard and an itsy bitsy chihuahua are the same subspecies — Canis lupus familiaris.

The differences in the appearances of these two dog breeds trace to tiny variations in their DNA. DNA is a long string of smaller molecules called nucleotides (NU-klee-oh-tydz). They come in four types — adenine (A), cytosine (C), thymine (T) and guanine (G). The order in which those four letters occur spells out the instructions that tell each cell what molecules to make. And those DNA strings are highly specific to each individual.

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One may have a string of letters that are almost identical to another’s. But the first may have a C at a site where the other has a T. That single difference might change what molecule is made from that long sequence of letters — giving one dog curly fur instead of straight, or short limbs instead of long.

Each parent passes along half of its DNA to its puppy. That DNA codes for traits that will collect over doggie generations. Eventually, if breeders select for certain traits (mating dogs with the same chosen traits over and over), they can create a new breed.

A couple of tweaks here might produce the long floppy ears characteristic of a basset hound. Another few tweaks over there might produce the short stumpy legs and elongated snout of a dachshund. Still more tweaks might make no changes at all.

Scientists refer to these small but important tweaks as SNPs (pronounced snips). That’s short for single nucleotide polymorphisms (Pah-lee-MOR-fizms). SNPs are places where one nucleotide has randomly substituted for another — where a G, for example, might have taken the place of a T. Millions of SNPs appear within the DNA of every dog (and cat, and human). Comparing patterns of SNPs in dogs that look alike or have other characteristic traits can help scientists find what subtly sets each breed apart.

By searching for those SNP patterns, scientists can later figure out from which breeds a dog or cat has descended.

Hunting down dog SNPs

To make that work, scientists first need to identify those patterns. Scientists like Angela Hughes. She’s an animal geneticist at Mars Petcare (yes, the Mars that makes M&Ms) in Vancouver, Wash. Hughes heads a team that makes Wisdom Panel. It’s a test to find out what breeds are in a dog’s ancestry.

Explainer: What are genes?

To figure out which SNP patterns define a breed, Hughes needs dogs. Her own mutt — a mix of an Australian cattle dog and a Jack Russell terrier — won’t cut it. She needs dogs that people have been specifically breeding for generations. “We go out and work with breeders and [dog] shows,” she says. “Sometimes we have to go out and find the breeders,” she says, because “they don’t always come to shows.”

Her team tries to test several hundred dogs of each breed. They also get different types of the same breed — such as retrievers that have been bred for hunting and retrievers that have been bred to be show dogs or pets.

Then, when someone sends in a sample from their pet to Wisdom Panel, scientists can look for distinctive SNPs in its DNA. To identify a dog’s lineage, they plug in 1,800 gene sequences, each with its own SNP. Then they’ll compare these to those in the pet.

A computer program then uses an algorithm (AL-go-RITH-um) to find the best match between this pet and the known SNPs of purebred breeds. “If the dog could be only one thing, which of these would it best match?” Hughes asks. “And if it were two things, what would be the best match?” The program does this all the way to figure out a dog’s great-grandparents.

Wanted: Millions of mutts

There are several other tests for a dog’s DNA. Adam Boyko founded the company EmBark to make one of them. Boyko is a geneticist at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He developed the test to get more data for research. Most of his tests, though, start not with EmBark clients but with his dog, Penny — a mix of Jack Russell terrier, Pomeranian and miniature pinscher. “When she sees a swab, she jumps up. She knows there will be a treat,” he says. “We test a lot of prototypes on her.” But while Penny is a great experimental subject, she’s only one dog.

“There’s a billion dogs in the world, and most are not purebred,” he notes. “If you want to make discoveries about what makes unique behavior in dogs, what underlies cancer risk or risk of … allergies, you need way bigger sample sizes,” he says. He figured he could only get enough samples if he created a test that anyone might use on their pets.

Scientists Say: Chromosome

His computer program works a bit differently than a SNP test. It looks at more than 200,000 different genetic fingerprints. These are patterns of DNA changes that sit close to each other on chromosomes.

Chromosomes are long, tightly coiled pieces of DNA. When animals mate, their DNA mixes. In the process, chunks of their chromosomes tend to end up close to each other. Scientists can trace those chromosome chunks back to the parent who passed them on, Boyko explains. EmBark then compares the DNA in those chromosome chunks to the DNA in known dog breeds

Boyko can identify a dog’s ancestral breeds. He can even find that dog’s closest puppy cousins. That’s important, he notes, for people who breed purebred dogs. Many of these dogs have been inbred — bred with animals to which they are too closely related. That can be bad for the health of their puppies. By finding their close relatives, Boyko can help people breed healthier dogs.

Here kitty, kitty

“There’s more researchers in dogs than there are in cats,” observes Robert Grahn. Still, he points out, cats can get their DNA tested, too.

Grahn, a geneticist at the University of California, Davis, notes that there are fewer cat breeds. Moreover, he notes, most cats aren’t really one “breed” or another. They’re just, well, cats. Most cats meet on the street and mate randomly, he explains. Those are the “domestic short hair” or “domestic long hair” cats that come in black, white, tabby, calico and more. Persians, Siamese and other cat breeds are purebreds. They are often bred to compete in shows. But owners tend to keep these expensive cats to themselves, Grahn says. They “tend to stay inside. How many times have you seen a Persian wandering the street? You don’t let that out.” (Though he studies cats, Grahn himself is more of a dog person. “I had the best cat ever,” he explains. But once that cat died, “any other cat I would have wouldn’t measure up.” Now he has a Labrador named River.)

People who breed cats may still want to know about their pet’s family tree. A genetic test such as Basepaws can detect cat breeds. The test hunts for SNPs just as the dog tests do. But instead of trying to get a saliva sample from an indignant feline, a chunk of cat hair will do.

Such a test can tell you about possible coat colors and fur length. But with so many “domestic short hair cats” in the world — such as the many random tabbies and tuxedos — knowing their ancestral breed might not be as interesting as learning where in the world its ancestors came from. That’s why Leslie Lyons helped develop the Cat Ancestry test at UC Davis. It shows the part of the world where your cat’s ancestors might have developed.

Lyons is a geneticist. She works at the University of Missouri in Columbia where she and her laboratory have built a genetic library for cats. “I think they’re the perfect little species,” she says. She wouldn’t say she owns cats, herself. “Four cats share my home,” she explains. “I live in a rural area,” and so the cats come and go as they please.

Domestic cats, notes Lyons, are not native to North America. “They’re imports.” They came from Europe, southeast Asia — maybe even the Mediterranean, she says. The Cat Ancestry test identifies patterns of SNPs from these areas. Then it compares them to the SNPs in your cat. So sure, yours might be another domestic short hair. But it may turn out to have a Western European heritage, or an Asian one. Wouldn’t you like to know which?

Power Words

algorithm A group of rules or procedures for solving a problem in a series of steps. Algorithms are used in mathematics and in computer programs for figuring out solutions.

behavior The way something, often a person or other organism, acts towards others, or conducts itself.

breed (noun) Animals within the same species that are so genetically similar that they produce reliable and characteristic traits. German shepherds and dachshunds, for instance, are examples of dog breeds. (verb) To produce offspring through reproduction.

cancer Any of more than 100 different diseases, each characterized by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The development and growth of cancers, also known as malignancies, can lead to tumors, pain and death.

cell The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.

chromosome A single threadlike piece of coiled DNA found in a cell&rsquos nucleus. A chromosome is generally X-shaped in animals and plants. Some segments of DNA in a chromosome are genes. Other segments of DNA in a chromosome are landing pads for proteins. The function of other segments of DNA in chromosomes is still not fully understood by scientists.

code (in computing) To use special language to write or revise a program that makes a computer do something. (n.) Code also refers to each of the particular parts of that programming that instructs a computer's operations.

computer program A set of instructions that a computer uses to perform some analysis or computation. The writing of these instructions is known as computer programming.

data Facts and/or statistics collected together for analysis but not necessarily organized in a way that gives them meaning. For digital information (the type stored by computers), those data typically are numbers stored in a binary code, portrayed as strings of zeros and ones.

develop To emerge or come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing. (in biology) To grow as an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size and sometimes even shape.

DNA (short for deoxyribonucleic acid) A long, double-stranded and spiral-shaped molecule inside most living cells that carries genetic instructions. It is built on a backbone of phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon atoms. In all living things, from plants and animals to microbes, these instructions tell cells which molecules to make.

gene (adj. genetic) A segment of DNA that codes, or holds instructions, for a cell&rsquos production of a protein. Offspring inherit genes from their parents. Genes influence how an organism looks and behaves.

generation A group of individuals (in any species) born at about the same time or that are regarded as a single group. Your parents belong to one generation of your family, for example, and your grandparents to another. Similarly, you and everyone within a few years of your age across the planet are referred to as belonging to a particular generation of humans. The term also is sometimes extended to year classes of other animals or to types of inanimate objects (such as electronics or automobiles).

genetic Having to do with chromosomes, DNA and the genes contained within DNA. The field of science dealing with these biological instructions is known as genetics. People who work in this field are geneticists.

irony A phrase, expression or action that seems to counter what had been stated or had been expected.

limb (in physiology) An arm or leg. (in botany) A large structural part of a tree that branches out from the trunk.

localized An adjective for something that has a very local impact. (antonym: broad or far-reaching)

molecule An electrically neutral group of atoms that represents the smallest possible amount of a chemical compound. Molecules can be made of single types of atoms or of different types. For example, the oxygen in the air is made of two oxygen atoms (O2), but water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O).

native Associated with a particular location native plants and animals have been found in a particular location since recorded history began. These species also tend to have developed within a region, occurring there naturally (not because they were planted or moved there by people). Most are particularly well adapted to their environment.

nucleotides The four chemicals that, like rungs on a ladder, link up the two strands that make up DNA. They are: A (adenine), T (thymine), C (cytosine) and G (guanine). A links with T, and C links with G, to form DNA. In RNA, uracil takes the place of thymine.

pup A term given to the young of many animals, from dogs and mice to seals.

random Something that occurs haphazardly or without reason, based on no intention or purpose.

risk The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard &mdash or peril &mdash itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)

sequence The precise order of related things within some series. (in genetics) n. The precise order of the nucleotides within a gene. (v.) To figure out the precise order of the nucleotides making up a gene.

single nucleotide polymorphism Abbreviated SNP (pronounced &ldquosnip&rdquo), this refers to DNA in which one of its original nucleotides has been naturally substituted for another. This variation may alter the function of DNA. SNPs are inherited.

species A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

subspecies A subdivision of a species, usually based on geographic separations. Over time, this separation may have allowed some of the genes in a population of a species to vary, creating differences in those organisms&rsquo appearance or adaptation to the local environment.

subtly An adverb to describe something that may be important, but can be hard to see or describe. For instance, the first cellular changes that signal the start of a cancer may be only subtly different &mdash as in small and hard to distinguish from nearby healthy tissues.

trait A characteristic feature of something. (in genetics) A quality or characteristic that can be inherited.

unique Something that is unlike anything else the only one of its kind.

Citations

Journal:​ M.J. Montague et al. Comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome reveals genetic signatures underlying feline biology and domestication. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 48, December 2, 2014, p. 17230. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1410083111.

About Bethany Brookshire

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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Can a Dog Breed Test Tell You What Mix Your Mutt Is?

When you adopted your furry friend from the shelter, you weren't quite sure what mix of breeds he was. Now, thanks to new technology and testing, you can find out! You may even find out you're the proud parent of a rare dog breed! Here's everything you need to know about dog breed tests and how you can use the information they provide to your advantage.

What Is a Dog Breed Test?
A dog breed test is "a DNA test that will determine the make-up of the breeds that are most prominent in a mixed-breed dog," says Dr. Rodney Page, a veterinarian who serves as the director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. The test is often done alongside an MDR1 test, which is used to check a dog's DNA for mutations in the MDR1 gene.

All dogs carry this gene, but some breeds, like shepherds and collies, are more prone to a mutation, which can affect their ability to metabolize certain drugs. As such, this mutation can lead to medical complications, so it's good to get this test done at the same time as the DNA test to know if your dog has this mutation.

And by knowing what breeds are found in your dog, it may be easier for your veterinarian or pet care provider to provide proper care, says Dr. Steve Thompson, a veterinarian who serves as the director of the Pet Wellness Clinic at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

How Does It Work?
A dog breed test involves an analysis of your dog's skin cell samples, which can be collected by rubbing a cotton swab on the inside of his cheek. These samples are then sent off to the lab, where technicians will extract your dog's DNA and look at it against more than 300 markers used in the test. Then, these technicians will use a computer algorithm to analyze the breeds in their database and select the best fits for your dog.

Two to three weeks after you send in your dog's samples, you'll receive a report detailing your pet's ancestry. The test goes back to the great-grandparent level, which means that you'll get to find out the pedigree of both your dog's parents, all four of his grandparents and all eight of his great-grandparents. If a pedigree can't be found for one of these relatives, your report will show a mixed-breed marker.

In these cases, the report will identify the genetic grouping of breed -- such as hound, toy, terrier or guard -- detected in the non-pedigree family member.

Is It Reliable?
As Dr. Page points out, these tests have been around for the better part of a decade, so there's been lots of time to work out most of the kinks. However, reliability often depends on the quality of the sample. In an effort to improve the accuracy of these tests, you should wait at least an hour after your dog has eaten before you take a swab and make sure that she doesn't share toys with other dogs prior to testing.

How Much Does It Cost?
Dog breed tests start at about $50 and go up in price from there, depending on what's included in them. The more breeds, types and varieties a test offers, the more costly it will be. The addition of the MDR1 test, which can cost up to $70 on its own, also increases the overall price. In general, prices seem to top out at about $90.

What Can You Learn From a Dog Breed Test?
Here are two things you can learn from the results of your dog's test:

  • Your Dog's Risk Factor For Developing Certain Diseases
    Some breeds are more likely to suffer from certain diseases or conditions than others, so it may be helpful to know what your mutt is made up of. For example, Dobermans are known to suffer from heart failure, so ask your vet about performing heart screenings early on if your dog is partly made up of this breed. If your pet has the MDR1 mutation, your vet will know to use an alternative drug for certain medical situations.
  • What to Expect in Terms of Your Dog's Behavior and Physical Appearance
    Dogs were bred to perform specific jobs, and they are happiest when they are doing those intended jobs. If your pet is part terrier, you can expect lots of holes in your yard, while a mutt with shepherd ancestry may nip at children's heels in an attempt to herd them. Thankfully, these behaviors can be modified by finding constructive ways for your dog to use his talents. Dog breed tests can also give you an idea of how big your dog will get and how much you'll need to feed her.

Even once you know the makeup of your mutt, it's still anyone's guess as to how those traits will play out in your dog. It all depends on which of those genes are dominant and which are recessive, says Dr. Thompson. But, then again, that's what makes your mutt unique!

Tiffany R. Jansen is a freelance writer who specializes in health, parenting, business and design. She plays mom to a mutt who, depending on who you ask, is part Great Pyrenees, part retriever, part Shar Pei, part Boxer, part Spinone Italiano and part Springer Spaniel.


Test No. 1: Wisdom Panel

About: I was sent the Wisdom Panel Health Canine Breed + Disease Detection kit. The branding says it is “the world’s leading DNA test for dogs” and includes “screenings for 150+ genetic health conditions as well as the most breeds of any canine DNA test on the market.”

What It Tests For: Ancestry, breed, health

Notable Features:

  • Screens for 150+ conditions
  • Breed detection, with a family tree going back three generations
  • Predicts weight profile
  • Genetic trait analysis
  • Results can help develop training, nutrition and long-term health plan with veterinarian

How It Works: The Wisdom Panel kit has two swabs that look like mascara wands. Use them inside your dog’s mouth along the cheek to collect skin cell samples. Place both wands into the provided plastic bag, activate the kit online by creating a profile, and then drop the bag off in the mail in the box that came with the kit. (It includes prepaid postage.) Your pet’s results arrive via email in two to three weeks.

Pros: Two price points used by veterinarians easy to understand

Cons: The swabs had rough bristles, and April didn’t seem to like me putting them in her mouth. It was hard to actually get the sample.

Time For Results: 24 days. Kit was sent on March 20, and results were returned on April 13.

Price: $150 for the canine breed and disease detection kit, or $85 for just the canine breed kit

April’s Wisdom Panel Results:

April’s Wisdom Breed Results: 25% American Staffordshire Terrier (Pitbull), 12.5% Basset Hound, 12.5% Doberman Pinscher, 12.5% Chow Chow, and 37.5% of unspecified breed groups of hounds, herding dogs, and terriers. For this last “unspecified breed group,” Wisdom DNA offered some guesses as to what April could be, listing Beagle, German Shepard, Great Pyrenees and Russel Terrier, along with other breeds.

April’s Wisdom Health Results: Screened for 150 conditions ― found at risk for 1 carrier for 2 cleared for 149

The results are easy to share with your veterinarian for more customized care. When we mentioned it to April’s vet, she said that Banfield Pet Hospitals use Wisdom Panel in some of their pet care planning to better understand the animals’ health care, behavioral and nutritional needs.


Choose a testing kit that matches your dog's suspected lineage. For example, kits are available for purebred, designer crosses and mixed breed dogs. Designer crosses are the result of intentionally breeding two different purebred dogs, for example, a cocker spaniel and a poodle to create a "cockapoo." Swab the inside of your dog's cheek, following the kit instructions, to obtain a DNA sample, or take your dog to the veterinarian to obtain a blood sample. Seal the sample and mail it to the manufacturer for testing, which usually takes about two to three weeks.

The testing company analyzes your dog's DNA sample for specific genetic markers and compares them to a database recognized breeds. Based on the results, a report is prepared listing the possible matches for each marker and the likelihood or percentage of your dog's relation to each matched breed.


How Does Dog DNA Testing Work?

A dog DNA test is easier than you might think! All you have to do with at-home dog DNA tests is order the test online, take a simple cheek swab from your dog, place the swab in the provided container, and mail it back in a prepaid envelope.

In a few weeks, you&rsquoll receive a report that includes your dog&rsquos DNA results. Depending on the company, you&rsquoll see the percentage breakdown of your dog&rsquos breeds and risks for developing some hereditary diseases. Some companies also offer parentage testing and purebred and designer dog testing.


Which Dog DNA Tests Are the Most Accurate?

If you’re looking for a dog DNA test you can trust to be accurate, we suggest going with Wisdom Panel 2.5.

Wisdom Panel 2.5 is one dog breed identifier test that does their best to ensure accuracy. They have done this by:

  • Using 1,800 most revealing genetic markers to evaluate DNA
  • Testing for over +200 different dog breeds and variations
  • Conducting tests in a USDA accredited laboratory to guarantee quality control
  • Testing many dogs multiple times, resulting in an average repeatability over 99%

Learn more about Wisdom Panel 2.5 in our full review, or purchase it on Amazon to have a test kit delivered to your home.