Your Dog’s DNA – Why It Matters, Or Does It?

“Who’s Your Daddy?”

With Mother’s Day just past and Father’s Day on the horizon, discussing your dog’s genetic background seems appropriate. If you want to do a background check, and find out what sort of relatives your dog may be  hiding, this is the time to order that DNA kit, grab a QTip,  and wrestle with your dog as you try to get a sample of his cheek cells.

How can you possibly be my Daddy?

How can you possibly be my Daddy?


DNA test kits for dogs have been available for over 5 years but have come a long way recently. Since the first kits  became available, the databases on which they rely  have grown enormously, making these tests more accurate than ever. But what do they really tell you?

What To Expect

All the kits on the market are similar and provide a couple of swabs, a couple of envelopes to protect the swabs, and a couple pages of instructions. There are several manufacturers, the main difference between them appearing to be the number of breeds in their data bases. The more breeds in their databases the more likely one or more may appear in your dog’s DNA. The tests are designed to determine how much a dog’s genetic material is from a particular breed, thus the more breeds the better.  If the database only has genetic markers from 50 breeds and you dog’s genetic material is not from one of those 50 breeds the less revealing the test will be. One company asks  you to send a photo with your swab.

Claims and Suggestions

The companies all have carefully constructed claims. They are careful to point out that different tests may indeed show vastly different results. Basically they are saying that the breeds they have identified may have made a contribution to your dog’s genetic past.

The advertising suggests however that knowing your dog’s genetic background will influence how you exercise your dog, how you play with your dog, how you train your dog, and what you feed your dog. The suggestion seems to be that by tailoring training, exercise, etc., you will be a better pet parent. I’m not sure that it is useful information.  People who spend time training, playing and exercising their dog, generally know what games he likes, what training approach is effective and how much exercise he need or want.

So while I don’t think it will make you a better pet parent, I do think it shows that you are a very curious one!




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