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Dog DNA testing

Updated on July 15, 2009

Who's your daddy?

The following cliche' happens more often than thought: a dog owner takes his dog the vet for the the first time. The dog was adopted by the shelter. The animal hospital receptionist types all the main characteristics of the dog so to make him recognizable. Sex, age, color and breed. But when the owner is asked  about the dog's breeds, minutes of hesitation arise. The owner looks uncomfortable and appears not be able to make up his mind.

''He looks like he has the color of a black and tan Rottweiler, yet his eyes are blue like a Husky. The receptionist looks puzzled, should she put the dog in as a Rottweiler Mix or a Husky mix? Which breed is prevalent? Is the color of the eyes or the color of the coat more important? Confused the receptionist scrolls down to the very bottom of her breed choices and selects ''other''  a not so rarely used option made for such circumstances.

If this dog was a baby, the child could be simply asked ''whose your daddy?'', but in a dog world, where a farm dog from miles away can impregnate a dog in heat, often owners are left clueless without  knowing what type of dog was the lucky one.

Things get even more complicated in shelter dogs which have a question mark history, where age is guessed and breed is often the last think thought of. However, today dog owners no longer need to live in the obscure, the breed of their mutt can be easily unveiled thanks to a sophisticated DNA test.

The test may be interesting for dog owners that want to understand better their dog's heritage. Certifications of such testing results may accompany puppies upon being sold by breeders for proof of DNA. Breeders will enjoy this test before breeding their specimens by checking for pureness of the bloodline. A DNA test may also rule out the chances of a multiple-sired litter.

How does this work?

Perhaps the best part of dog DNA testing is that it can be done from the comfort of the dog's home. The procedure is very easy, non invasive and a blood sample is not required.

Basically dog owners will collect a sample of the dog's cheek cells with a swab by rubbing it for about 20 seconds and then the sample is mailed in. After 4-6 weeks the results are mailed back in with a certificate identifying the dog's breed composition.

Knowing your dog's heritage can be much more than being able to say what kind of mix he or she belongs to. It may also help owners and veterinarians take notice of possible inherited diseases  the dog may be prone to, often making screening for possible conditions much easier.

BioPet DNA Breed Identification Kit
BioPet DNA Breed Identification Kit

Advances in DNA testing technology mean that it has become possible to identify the ancestry of any dog by performing a simple test using a cheek swab. The DNA required for the test to be run is isolated from cells that are trapped on the DNA ID Card. All cells carry the same genetic material, regardless of type or location in the animal. Taking a cheek swab is therefore the easiest way to obtain the samples needed for testing.



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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 years ago from USA

      Thank you for allowing me to go more in depth on the topic, indeed it seems very interesting!

    • Susie Writes profile image

      Susan 8 years ago from Northern California

      Well, that's just cool! Very interesting reading. Thanks for providing the links.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 years ago from USA

      Hello Susie, this is new to me as well. But I did find a better explanation on how this works and thanks for asking. It is a bit complicated to understand but in my understanding it looks like it works through matching up ''markers'' found in the sample and then identifying it with markers obtained by various dog breeds. Of course, the test may have its faults, but to get very technical here is the explanation step by step provided by :


      DNA Isolation and Amplification — Each sample is then delivered to our DNA isolation laboratory where your dog's DNA is extracted from the cheek swab. We then perform PCR, a laboratory process that amplifies the concentration of your pet's DNA by making copies of it, to give us a sufficient amount of DNA for the test. Breed Test Processing —

      Once the PCR process is complete, we are ready to begin the Canine Heritage Breed Test for your dog. DNA is then chemically enhanced and run through state-of-the-art laboratory equipment that identifies hundreds of key SNP marker locations.

      Analysis — Now that the markers have been identified for your pet's sample, these markers are put through a complex proprietary analytical program that compares your pet's markers with that of our pure breed database markers, ultimately determining which breeds are in your pet's composition. The analysis software puts its findings into three categories.

      First, it determines if your dog's genetic profile is a strong match with any of the profiles of the purebred dogs in our database. If so, the breed(s) identified is placed into the "primary" results category and represents a very large portion of your pet's breed composition.If a good match is found, but it's not a perfect match, this information is placed into the "secondary" results category. While these breeds may have an influence on your pets look and personality, each breed listed makes up a smaller portion of your pet's breed composition.

      If the match looks good, but fewer markers match the profile of a purebred dog that information is placed "In the Mix" results category. This final category identifies breeds that have the least amount of influence on your pet's composition.

      They appear at low but measurable amounts in your pet's DNA.Once analyzed, each sample is then carefully reviewed by a scientific review panel to ensure that it meets all of our rigorous standards and numerous quality control checks.

      Reporting — After final approval of your dog's breed results, it is ready for reporting. If you uploaded a picture of your dog, it is then linked to the results. Our Canine Heritage Team prints your Certificate of DNA Breed Analysis and ships your results to you via USPS.

      This website offers a better explanation:


      Already a world leader in canine DNA technology, we began to dig deeper into canine genomics as part of our desire to provide dog-owners a better understanding of the genetic make-up of their dog. Our mission is to improve a pet’s well-being and strengthen the bond between pet and pet parent.

      We hope that pet parents will use this information to improve health, promote wellness, and gain a better understanding of the behavior and personality of their canine companion. The Canine Heritage Breed Test also provides a unique means of satisfying the curiosity of mixed-breed dog owners wishing to fill in the missing pieces of their pet’s breed and ancestry puzzle.

      The Canine Heritage Breed Test began with the search for a set of unique DNA markers, known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms), which could identify the breed of a purebred dog. We started by testing over 400 different DNA markers on over 100 purebred breeds* to identify the unique combination of markers that describe each breed. After testing thousands of purebred dogs, a unique breed DNA profile was developed using over 400 DNA markers per breed. From these initial markers we identified a smaller subset of markers used for the Canine Heritage Breed Test.

      This final marker set, based on a blind study using thousands of dogs that have been verified to be purebred by AKC certification, was able to successfully assign the correct breed over 99% of the time when testing purebred dogs that are among our identifiable breeds.

      These markers were then applied and validated on mixed breed dog populations. While the Canine Heritage Breed Test has gained unprecedented media attention and satisfied the curiosity of tens of thousands mixed breed dog owners, we see it as just the first in a series of products that will allow you to use genetic information to better manage health and wellness throughout the entire lifetime of your pet.

    • Susie Writes profile image

      Susan 8 years ago from Northern California

      This is a new one on me too. I've been a serious hobbie breeder for about 30 years and am a long time member of our parent club's Heritable Defect Committee. I have not heard about this type of DNA test. We do various genetic and DNA tests for breed specific heritable defects and I do know about the test to determine the parentage of a multiple-sire litter, but it was my understanding that you had to have DNA profiles on the dam and both sires in order to make that determination in each pup.

      As for determining the pureness of a bloodline, would you not have to have profiles of several generations and each dog in them? And since DNA testing is fairly new, how could you make this determination on ancestors prior to such technology?

      Admittedly, my experience on DNA testing has been exclusively related to pure bred dogs so this is in a different realm for me. I did not know about tests to determine breed heritage in mixed breed dogs.

      This post is not meant to be argumentative. I have studied dogs, their health, breeding, training, and behavior for most of my life. I am always looking to learn more and with technology changing so rapidly, there's bound to be plenty I have missed. I would be very interested in learning more about the type of DNA testing you write about in this hub. Do you perhaps have a link or two to the science on this? Thanks!

    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 8 years ago from Mississippi

      wow this was a new one thanks good hub

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 years ago from USA


    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      We don't talk about doggy daddies in our house. Characteristics, speed, cunning and agility.