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Want to Dig Into Your Dog’s Roots? DNA Testing For Dogs

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We love our dogs regardless of the breeds that make them who they are, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to know who Fido’s mom and dad were! With the advent of DNA testing for dogs, finding out your pup’s lineage is now a reality. But what exactly is a DNA test for dogs? How do they work? What are the benefits? Below we’ll answer all these questions and more. Dog DNA test kits are a fun way to learn more about your pup — and they make a great gift for your dog-loving friends! They may also be a special bonding treat for you with your family pet.

What is DNA Testing for Dogs?

The concept of DNA testing for dogs might seem foreign, but it’s actually pretty simple and very much like human DNA testing. Just as humans have DNA, so do dogs, and each breed has a distinctive set of markers. The companies that sell and perform dog genetic testing maintain a database of breed-related genetic markers. After receiving your dog’s DNA sample, they run it against these profiles. By observing which breed-specific markers are present in your dog’s DNA profile, these companies can give you an idea of the different breeds that make up your dog’s ancestry.

What Can I Learn From a Dog DNA Test?

Read Our Dog DNA Test Reviews

Some dog DNA tests can tell you more than ever before, thanks to recent scientific advances. Here are some of the reasons you may want to purchase an at-home test.

Dying of Curiosity?

Are you in a “curiosity killed the cat” mode when it comes to your dog? As a mixed-breed dog owner, you likely weren’t present at your dog’s conception or birth, so you have no clue what breeds your dog’s parents were. Running a canine DNA test for a mixed-breed dog helps to satisfy that curiosity. Most dog DNA test kits on the market today give you a report of your dog’s breed percentage, i.e. 50% Cocker Spaniel, 25% Pug and so on. Many companies also give you a detailed description of each breed in your dog’s lineage, so you get a better understanding of each breed’s general physical and personality traits.

Is My Dog Really A Purebred?

Wondering if your rescue dog or purchased pup is, in fact, purebred (as promised)? Some dog DNA kits can confirm that your dog does indeed come from a purebred genetic line. The same holds true for designer dogs like Labradoodles, Cockapoos and Puggles.

How Big Will My Puppy Get?

A dog breed DNA test can help you get a better idea of your dog’s physical traits once he’s fully grown. Many dog owners know that while a mixed-breed puppy may have the appearance of one breed, that can change as the dog ages. For example, a puppy that is small may just be the runt of the litter, and if its genetic makeup is that of a Mastiff and a Great Dane, then the owner will know to expect their small puppy to grow into a much larger dog.

Is My Dog Prone to Certain Diseases?

Very recent scientific advances allow you to get genetic testing for dogs to isolate certain genetic mutations found in their DNA. These identified genetic markers tell scientists that your dog could be more prone to developing identified hereditary canine diseases. Keep in mind; this information doesn’t mean your dog will develop the disease. But he has a better chance than other dogs. Knowing that your dog is predisposed to one or several hereditary health conditions can help you keep a watchful eye on early symptoms. Only a few dog DNA kits, however, offer this specific genetic health screening analysis.

How Does Dog DNA Testing Work?

Not all DNA tests for dogs work the same way, which gives a lot of wiggle room for dog DNA test accuracy. As with most products, some at-home dog DNA kits are much better than others. Read our dog DNA testing reviews to learn more about specific tests we recommend. With that said, most kits follow the same process. Here are the typical steps you take for an at-home DNA test for dogs:

  • Purchase an at-home dog DNA kit online.
  • Once you receive your kit in the mail, be sure to read all instructions carefully. Most dog DNA test kits ask you to wait a while after your dog’s last meal.
  • Swab the inside of your dog’s cheek using the swab(s) contained in the package.
  • Pack the saliva-covered swabs in the small container provided in your kit and use the postage paid envelope to mail your sample back to the company’s lab as soon as possible. Each lab processes your dog’s DNA and compares it to its existing database of dog breeds.
  • You’ll receive e-mail or direct mail results from the lab with your dog’s DNA results.

How Much Does a Dog DNA Test Cost?

The best dog DNA tests for home-use will run you anywhere from $80 to $200. There are a few slightly cheaper varieties of dog DNA tests on the market, but most have poor customer feedback and poor reliability.

How Accurate Are DNA Dog Tests?

As we mentioned above, it depends on the canine DNA testing company. Some companies have a larger margin of error due to a limited breed profile database. But the majority of mixed-breed dogs in developed countries are of well-known breed ancestry. It’s unlikely that a mixed-breed dog from the United States is going to have the DNA profile of rarer breeds like a Tibetan Mastiff or a Lagotto Romagnolo (an Italian retriever). The best DNA dog testing companies include a majority of the 180 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds.

Canine DNA testing can still be helpful with a somewhat limited database because the test can narrow down your dog’s breed category. While the DNA testing center may not have a specific breed on file, they will likely have a similar breed from the same class of dog. For example, a testing center that has a Jack Russell Terrier breed profile but does not have a Parson Russell Terrier on file may classify your dog as being of Jack Russell ancestry. While this information is not entirely correct, it still indicates a specific group of traits that are common to this class of terrier. While this test result may not be 100% accurate, the results still give you more information about your dog’s genetic makeup.

Physical Traits of DNA Explained (Video)

Here is a video that provides more detail as to which physical traits are dominant vs. recessive in dogs so you can better understand why your dog looks just the way he does. We were surprised to learn just how dominant straight, black hair is for pups!

Is DNA Testing for Dogs Right for Me?

If you’re looking for some basic information about your dog, like where he could have gotten that up-curved bushy tail, then dog DNA testing may be just the ticket. And if you want to know if your dog is more prone to developing certain hereditary health conditions, you have a couple of options now. Check out our dog DNA tests reviews for some specific at-home testing recommendations.

Have you done a DNA test for your dog? What did you find out?

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About Sally Jones
Sally grew up in a feline-only home, but cat allergies in her early 20’s made it an easy transition to dog ownership. And she couldn’t be happier with her canine shadow, who’s been at her side (literally) for years. No longer a cat person for obvious reasons, Sally is now a true bone-ified dog lover.
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  • Ellen L. Chalk

    I had my puppy’s DNA tested, both parents were on site and he was supposed to be Shepherd/Akita, but the test came back as Pitbull/Shepherd/Chow/ Siberian Husky/ Asian mix breed? He has no traits or features of Pitbull or Chow or Siberian Husky however he looks like Shepherd and Akita mix and has similar traits. BTW I have had 9 pedigreed chow’s over the past 50 years so I am familiar with the breed.

  • Betsy

    I think someone needs to test a purebred AKC registered dog and see how the results come out–if my Scottish Terrier’s results come back odd then we know there is a problem!

  • Sophia Mata-Mendoza

    I’m trying to find out how I can determine my Chihuahua’s breed, I’m not sure what type of DNA testing I need she’s purebred I’m sure of only 4 pounds.

  • Babs

    I am quite interested in the accuracy between a blood test carried out at a vets office to the home kits. The vet uses Royal Canin and a blood sample, it is really pricey, but my dog could be a banned breed in the UK which is where we may move back to at some stage, so I need as accurate a result as possible.

  • Charles Schwartz

    We used the Wisdom Panel for a dog that was supposed to be a Bernese/ Lab mix. It looked more like a Collie/Huskie maybe shepherd. The test results we got were so far removed from what we are looking at we wondered if the tests were mixed up.

  • Michael Coolidge

    I’m adopting a German Shepherd mix pup from a rescue down in Tennessee. He’s so beautiful but he’s got a face that looks almost like a Retriever. So this is something that I’m interested in. For health reasons and just plain curiosity.

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