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Everything You Need to Know About Dog DNA Tests

Dog and human on computer


Adding a dog to the family brings a whole new level of love and affection into your home. There’s no denying that a dog adds something special to your life. But it’s also fair to say that different dog breeds have unique personalities and some breeds are more affectionate than others. But, when you adopt a pup, there is often some question about the breed. This mystery is why dog DNA tests have gained such traction recently in the pet world. 

If you purchase your pup from a reputable breeder, you should get papers stating your pup’s pedigree. However, countless dog owners have mixed breed pups, many of which they adopt from a shelter or rescue. 

Your vet can give you a well-educated guess about your pup’s breed. However, you likely won’t know with 100% certainty unless you run a DNA test. But, do these tests really work, and do you have to get one if you want to take the best care of your dog?

How Do Dog DNA Tests Work?

To unlock the mysteries of your mixed breed fur baby, you only need to look as far as your computer. You can easily order a DNA test kit online, and you’ll be swabbing your pup in no time. 

In a nutshell, the process is relatively simple and includes everything you need to perform the test. First, you swipe the inside of your dog’s cheek to get a sample. Then, you package up the sample according to the test kit’s instructions and send it to the lab. 

The lab analyzes the sample, comparing it against a comprehensive database that includes over 300 dog breeds or more. You’ll receive the results in the mail, or depending on the test, you can view your results online. 

You might get a cut-and-dry response, or some tests will give you a more thorough analysis. You’ll see a breakdown of the different breed possibilities by percentage. For example, your dog is 50% Chihuahua, 40% Miniature Pinscher, and 10% Rat Terrier.

Others will do a more general result. For example, it might say something like: “Primary Breed: Undefined; Secondary Breed: Chow Chow; In the Mix: Bulldog, Labrador Retriever.” You can typically click on each breed and learn more about itgaining valuable insight into your dog.

What’s the Easiest Way to Get a Sample From Your Dog?

Most tests have you swab the inside of your dog’s cheek or under the tongue for 15 to 30 seconds. When you open the swab, make sure not to touch the bristles with your hands. It’s also important to package the swab right away after collecting the sample so you don't contaminate it and get inaccurate results. 

Of course, swabbing the inside of your dog’s cheek might be easier said than done, depending on your pup.

If your dog tends to get a little active and excited, grab their leash and go for a walk first. You can let them blow off some steam and expend some energy so they’ll be calmer for the swab. However, make sure they don’t eat or drink anything during your expedition since food and water could compromise the sample (make sure to pick up their food and water bowls about two hours before the test).

Once your dog is calm, try to get them interested using treats (just don't give it to them before doing the test). While they're focusing on the treat, try to get the sample. Make sure to stay calm and speak in a positive way to your pup to help them stay relaxed. After you get the sample, you can give your dog the treat as their reward for cooperating. 

What Can You Learn From a Dog DNA Test?

Obviously, the main thing you learn from a dog DNA test is what breeds make up your precious pet. But, it’s worth noting that there’s more than just feeding your curiosity at play here. Knowing your dog’s breed can help you better understand your pet. 

You can also be more aware of any potential health issues your dog might be predisposed to. Not to mention you’ll now have an answer the next time someone asks you, “What kind of dog is that?!”

Are Dog DNA Tests Worth It?

The average cost of a dog DNA kit is about $40 to $130. However, there are tests out there that cost $200 or more.

First things first, it’s worth noting that dog DNA tests aren’t as accurate as the human variety.

That being said, some people are content just to embrace their lovable mutt as a mixed mystery. But others have an itching, burning desire to know everything about their pup. Therefore, deciding whether this price is worth it or not depends on just how much you want to know your dog’s breed.

Whether you’re one of the former or the latter isn’t a good or bad thing. Everyone is different and approaches pet parenting from a different perspective. So, if you’re one of those pet owners who needs to know, then a DNA test might be worth it for you. On the other hand, if you don’t think about it too much, you might prefer to save your money.

True, knowing your dog’s genetic makeup can give you some insight into their health and behavior. Also, many tests will screen for a variety of genetic health risks. But, staying up to date with regular vet visits and in tune with your pal’s day-to-day life also ensures your pup’s optimal health.

Three of the Best Dog DNA Tests

So, if you decide to move forward with testing your pup’s DNA, which test should you get? There are tons of DNA kits out there, so choosing one can get overwhelming. Your vet or friends and family that have tested their pups might have some recommendations. 

But, if you want to get started right now, check out these three dog DNA test kits.

  1. Embark Breed & Health Condition Identification DNA Test Kit

The Embark test kit analyzes over 200,000 genetic markers to give you the most detailed analysis of your dog and their family tree. It screens for over 350 breeds and 210 genetic health risks, and you can view results via the online portal within 2 to 4 weeks. The kit retails for $199.99, but you can frequently find it on sale for around $149.99.

  1. DNA My Dog Breed Identification

This budget-friendly DNA kit, available for under $70, gives you insight into your dog’s genetic makeup through a comprehensive report outlining your pup’s results. You receive a certificate illustrating your dog’s breed composition, showing the dominant breeds and a percentage breakdown. You will also get information regarding personality traits and health issues.

  1. Wisdom Panel Premium

Many claim that this kit is one of the most comprehensive DNA dog tests on the market. It is $159.99 from the manufacturer’s website, screens for over 350 breeds, and reports breed detection down to 1%. It also includes many other features like a vet consultation, 210 health tests, over 25 trait tests, and more. It can also help you identify your pup’s family. The company also has an essential kit that is less expensive at $99.99, featuring fewer health tests and no vet consultation. 

For more helpful pet parenting tips, check out the rest of our blog. The best way to take care of your furry friends is to stay in the know.

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