Are Dog DNA Tests Accurate?

by Melissa on January 9, 2012

Anyone with a mutt has likely wondered at some point in time, “What breed is my dog?” While in some dogs it is obvious what the mixed breeds are, in others it is truly impossible to guess. Many curious dog owners are turning to a variety of dog DNA tests on the market to get an accurate picture breed, but the debate on whether or not these tests are reliable is ongoing.

A 2009 article from The Oakland Press, in Michigan’s Oakland County, highlights the breed quest of veterinarian Stephen Steep and his wife, Anne. The proud pet parents of two mutts, Millie and Mollie, decided to purchase three different commercial DNA tests to find out if their breed assessments were accurate. At 68 pounds, the couple describes Millie as a “true Heinz 57 mutt”, while Mollie, at just 36 pounds, demonstrates characteristics of an Australian Shepherd.

The results of the tests varied wildly: ten breeds for Millie, and only one of the breeds was listed twice. With Mollie, just one breed came up on all three tests, while none of the tests said Australian Shepherd. The conclusion: the tests are not wholly accurate on dogs that have extremely mixed backgrounds. On the other side of the coin, Theresa Brady of Canine Heritage, a DNA test on the market, stated:

Probably, his results were so mixed because his dogs were so mixed. The more recent a dog has a purebred in its past, the more accurate the test is going to be.

Most dog DNA tests are done by a simple cheek swab test, and the testing companies usually have a set amount of breeds they can look for. For example, the Canine Heritage Breed Test XL120 can identify 120 breeds. Wisdom Panel, the only company that offers a blood test (but also has the cheek swab test), has five different types of tests: mixed breed, purebred, designer dog, professional, and optimal selection. The professional test can look for up to 225 different dog breeds.

If you are trying to make a decision on whether to purchase a dog DNA test, reading reviews and personal experiences with them is a good way to determine whether or not it is right for your dog. If the dog has prominent breeds, it might be worth considering.

Have you ever purchased a DNA test for your dog? Were the results accurate?

[photo credit]

This article was written by My Pet Saving’s contributor Melissa. She has a master’s degree in creative writing, owns several pets and runs her own online pet magazine. To learn more about this author check out the contributor profile page.

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teresa January 9, 2012 at 7:35 PM

As Foster Coordinator for a a local Humane Society, we don’t usually do DNA on our rescues however, we did finally do a DNA on one particular dog. . . . the results were that he was mostly Chihuahua. . . . . this dog was 95lbs! After contacting the particular lab, they then said that they had made a mistake and he was mostly Rhodesian Ridgeback! Needless to say, I no longer trust breed DNA tests.

Melissa January 10, 2012 at 6:44 AM

Thanks for sharing, Teresa!

Sara January 10, 2012 at 6:21 AM

I’d love to know for my mix as well. We have an idea but would love to know for sure. The home DNA tests I looked at before don’t test for either of the breeds we think he is. I’ve never felt these are accurate. They ask a lot of info that you shouldn’t have to provide. They ask for a photo and your best guess of what breed. That makes me suspicious from the get go.

Melissa January 10, 2012 at 6:46 AM

I hear you there, Sara! I am in the same situation with my Border Collie. I know she is a border collie for sure, but I have no idea what she is mixed with. My vet said possibly an Australian Shepherd. My sister did have a DNA test done on her dog, and it came back Chow Chow and Bulldog, which we knew the Chow Chow for sure, but the Bulldog actually made sense with how she looks/acts.

Liz January 10, 2012 at 6:39 AM

we had our black lab tested because we suspected he was mixed with great dane. the test result was black lab and pug.

Doug S January 10, 2012 at 11:53 PM

they really should put the standard disclaimer on those DNA tests : for entertainment purposes only…

Steff January 11, 2012 at 12:51 PM

A friend of mine had a DNA test done on her dog. She picked one that did not require a picture of the dog. When the results returned she had a guess the breed party. And did not open the results until the party. It listed 5 primary breeds. All but one were small and fluffy. The one bigger dog was long haired also. Her dog was a 70 lb. short haired dog that had no resemblance to any of the 5 listed breeds. I have no faith in these DNA tests, though I have heard that the blood tests are more accurate. If they ever come up with a more accurate test, I may consider having my dogs tested. Until then, I will rely on my own guesses.

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