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?

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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.