DNA Testing Can Unlock Helpful Information About Your Mixed-Breed Dog


Why does my dog love to dig?  Why does she try to "herd" the kids when they play outside?  Where does he get those ears?  These are some questions that owners of mixed breeds may ask themselves.  Now, thanks to DNA testing, those answers may be a cheek swab away.

Yes, you can test your dog's ancestry and the answers you get may settle the debate within your family, or among your friends, as to what kind of mix your dog actually is!  It can also provide valuable insights into your dog's behavior and help you with training.  Information on a dog's background can help the owner understand the dog's natural tendencies and make it possible to better train a dog.

dog dna testingWhile both genetics and environment influence behavior, studies have found that a limited list of behaviors such as territorial defense, playfulness and excitability, have a strong genetic component.  Knowing your dog's pedigree may help to anticipate and manage these kind of behaviors and develop a training program that takes these tendencies into account.

Some of the results of your dog's DNA test may surprise you, but a lot of that has to do with which genes are dominant and which are recessive.  For a fun refresher course on genetics, of dogs in particular, check out this video. For example, dogs with the same parents are only 50% genetically the same, on average.  That can create a lot of variation in even one litter!

If your dog is still a puppy, DNA testing can possibly provide information on how big your canine friend might get.  And, if there are terrier breeds in your puppy's background,  for example, it would suggest that your pup will most likely have a lot of energy and need lots of exercise!

The testing process is very simple, with kits available for purchase online that can be done at home.  One popular brand, Wisdom Panel, from Mars Veterinary, requires samples from your dog's cheek and the results are emailed to you within 3 weeks. Any test's accuracy depends on how many breed related genetic markers are in its database.  

Wisdom Panel claims that it has the largest database allowing it to identify 250+ breeds.  The report breaks down a dog’s lineage in the form of an ancestry tree. This allows you to see which breeds are present at the parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent levels. A parent contributes 50% of their DNA to a puppy, while a grandparent contributes about 25% and great-grandparent approximately 12.5%.

Let us know if any of you test your dogs and make sure to share the results with us at your next appointment!


The blog originally appeared on North Elm Animal Hospital and has been adapted with permission for reposting. 


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