Reliabilty of DNA Breed Identification

by Catherine Holden Robinson
    The introduction of DNA testing for dogs can answer questions about your dog's ancestry.

    The introduction of DNA testing for dogs can answer questions about your dog's ancestry.

    Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

    You look deeply into your adorable mixed breed's eyes and smile at his goofy grin. His ears, which seem larger than life give you cause to wonder, "what are you?" For years, dog owners have had few options aside from the educated guess to try to determine their canine pal's heritage, but thanks to DNA advancements, and DNA testing for dogs, that guesswork might be a thing of the past.

    DNA Testing

    A quick search of the Internet provided numerous options for DNA dog breed testing, and each site promises upwards of 97 percent accuracy. According to Nathan Sutter, PhD, associate professor of medical genetics at Cornell University, the test results are only as accurate as the number of dog breeds the companies compare the results against. The breed comparison lists of the companies promoting this service ranged from less than 100 breeds on file, to almost 200.

    The Parent's Role

    According to professor Sutter, if your mixed-breed pal has a heritage including multiple breeds, the results won't carry a lot of accuracy, but if your dog has a full breed parent or grandparent, the results can be highly accurate. Given this information, the accuracy of the DNA testing appears to hinge entirely on your dog as an individual, suggesting that a guarantee of results cannot be promised.

    How DNA Testing Works

    In most cases, the DNA testing is an at-home and fairly simple process, at least for you. Your pet may react differently, but gentle coaxing and a calm voice should make the process stress-free. A swab of your dog's cheek is taken, and inserted into the packaging provided by the company. Once received, the DNA testing company compares the genetic markers in your dog's cheek cells against DNA sequences identified in specific breeds. The results are then mailed or emailed, and in most cases, returned within a month's time.

    The Choice to Test

    You might have one of those dogs who turns heads, a mixed-breed of such unique perfection that people simply stop and stare. People ask you what he is, and you've always wondered. Many dog owners test for curiosity purposes, but some have a different motivation. Many dog breeds are predisposed to certain health conditions, such as cancer, bleeding disorders and hip dysplasia. The decision to take DNA breed identification results to your dog's veterinarian allows him to take a proactive approach to your dog's health care. DNA results also may help you make better food choices, as ingredients vary, and certain foods can be more nutritionally beneficial to dogs of a particular breed. Being prepared, and engaging in preventative care can help your dog lead a healthier and perhaps longer life.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Catherine Holden Robinson is the award-winning author of "The House of Roses," and "Becoming Mona Lisa", published by Black Rose Writing, the creator of the blog, Tommy's Tool Town, and has contributed articles as an animal advocate. Robinson resides in upstate New York, surrounded by all things shiny.

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