Unless your dog came fully equipped with a long pedigree and a steep price-tag, you’ve probably wondered what’s really behind that adorable ball of fluff. How can a ten-pound cutie look so much like a border collie? The shelter said your lab-mix would love the water, but he won’t even walk through puddles. Wouldn’t you love to take a peek at his family tree?

Well, now you can – up to a point. There are several companies on the market who provide DNA testing for dogs, and we’ve had lots of questions about whether or not it’s worth doing. The answer depends on your curiosity, the depth of your wallet, and your ultimate expectations.

How Does It Work?
The DNA tests are conducted using a sample of your dog’s saliva. You’ll be sent a kit that contains a swab which you pass under your dog’s tongue and the inside of his cheek pouch for 30-60 seconds. You’ll also be provided with a container for the swab and a return envelope for the lab. The registration process for the testing happens online, and that’s where you’ll receive the results about six to eight weeks later.

Photo credit: Wisdom Panel

What Will I Learn?
You’ll be provided with a family tree that goes back two or three generations, showing the breed of each ancestor. The chart is produced by an algorithm that plots the most likely scenario based
on your dog’s DNA. That means it’s a representation of who your dog’s parents probably were, but it can get a little blurry the farther back you go. Testing also provides you with rough percentages of the breeds that make up your dog’s genealogy, so you’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s in there even if the precise contributors are a little speculative.

How Much Does It Cost?
Satisfying your curiosity isn’t too bad on the wallet, but can be expensive. Tests range from about $70 to over $200, depending on the number of comparator breeds and diseases the company screens for.

Are There Any Health Benefits to DNA Testing?
Certain breeds are known carriers of various genetic conditions. This includes things like hip dysplasia, glaucoma and osteoarthritis. Being able to identify your dog’s genetic makeup can certainly alert you to the possibility of problems down the road, but your dog’s health is about much more than his ancestry. Diet, exercise, regular check-ups and professional care will have a much greater influence on your puppy’s life expectancy than knowing her father’s breed is prone to disc problems. The short answer is yes, it’s good to know, but your dog’s health is ultimately dependant on the care you provide over a lifetime of love and companionship.

What’s the Bottom Line?
If you’re burning to know your dog’s ancestry, then by all means go ahead and get their DNA tested. The results are often surprising, sometimes baffling, and always a source of great interest. You may find out that your dog’s genetic makeup makes them prone to certain diseases, and that’s something you should definitely share with your vet. There’s no need to panic, however, as being prone to a particular illness is no guarantee that your dog will ever present with the disease. Just like people, dogs are both the product of their breeding and their own unique selves.

Where Can I get my Dog Tested?
There are several companies that provide DNA testing for dogs, and each one screens for ancestry and genetic diseases. Here are three to start you on the path to finally answering the age-old question, “What kind of dog is that?”


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