Dog DNA Test: How It’s Done and What to Expect

The dog DNA test is fast is fast becoming one of the hottest discussion topics between dog owners during playtime catch ups. And, if it isn’t already the number one topic, it certainly seems poised to take first place at any moment.

As avid dog lovers and attentive dog parents, it stands to reason we’d want to know everything there is to know about dog DNA tests. For example, how accurate is it, how does it work, how much does it cost and every other arcane detail we can hope to discover.

Here’s the inside scoop on exactly what you need to know:

What is a dog DNA test?

Dog DNA tests use a scientific approach to unpack which breeds make up your dog’s DNA. Until recently, this type of information was generally only available for purebred dogs whose bloodline is documented by breeders.

Now, using a simple cheek swab, any dog can have their breed mixture assessed in a lab. If you have a shelter dog, or you simply don’t know anything about your furkid’s breed (or maybe you have a suspicion), you can now have this confirmed. Well, sort of…

Because it’s worth noting that DNA testing in dogs is still fairly new and industry regulations are still being established. So, while results offer up some incredible insights into your pup’s provenance, health risks and traits, whether results are 100% bona fide is ultimately up to you to decide.

This dog is having the dog DNA test and is having the sample saliva swab done.

How do you get your dog DNA tested?

Most doggy DNA tests are available for online purchase so you can take the sample swab of dog saliva at home then post it to the lab. Some can also be done at the vet just as easily, which means you won’t have to post the test swab back to the lab.

Here’s a step-by-step outline of how the process is done for most tests:

  1. Purchase your dog DNA test online (here’s a selection of tests from Off the Leash)
  2. Register an online account through the company’s online portal
  3. Check the kit you receive includes instructions, a swab, swab bag and a pre-paid return envelope
  4. Take a swab of saliva from your dog’s cheek. Here’s a how-to video
  5. Let the swab dry, then seal it up and post it
  6. Your results will be uploaded to your online profile between two and three weeks from when they receive your swab. Some companies email your report back

Voila! You’re ready to print out your report and frame it! Besides making for an interesting conversation piece, you can share your report with your vet. Depending on which breeds make up your dog’s genetic material, this can hold valuable insights into your dog’s health and temperament.

Want to know more about breeds? Read up on the kindest dog breeds.  

How much is a dog DNA test?

Tests run the gamut from as little as $80 to as much as $280. The pricier tests offer a more comprehensive unpacking of DNA analysis and work with larger doggy DNA databases.

The bigger the database, the more samples your dog’s DNA can be cross-referenced against, giving you a fuller picture of your dog’s breed makeup. To give you an example, some tests only reference a gene pool of 62 dog breed types, while others have a genetic database of more than 350 breeds.

So, say for argument’s sake, your dog is part Husky. But your dog DNA test laboratory doesn’t have Husky DNA in its database. That then means you’ll be missing that valuable information in the results you receive.

How reliable are dog DNA tests?

Your pup’s test results are run through a detailed analysis with the various parts of the DNA cross referenced against all the dog breeds in the database. Of course, this means the company with the biggest breed database can offer the most comprehensive test results.

Some tests claim they can detect a dog breed in your dog’s DNA if it makes up as little as 5% of their DNA. At any rate, most breed databases are added to on an ongoing basis. This means that over time, the tests will become more and more comprehensive.

However, at this stage without any regulations, there’s no way to guarantee results are accurate.

What can you expect from the test?

Tests vary in what they offer, from breed information to bonus information, like what your dog’s ideal weight and health plan ought to be.  

Here’s a collection on offer from various dog DNA tests on the market:

  • DNA databases from 62 breeds to over 350 breeds
  • Family tree
  • Canine genetic relative finder
  • Research surveys
  • 20 possible traits
  • Up to as many as 200 + possible health risks
  • Inbreeding score
  • Weight indicator
  • Health plan

If you take a test that tells you if your dog has family members on their database, you could end up meeting your dog’s siblings or parents or in-laws!

A dog DNA test could help your vet predict your dog's future health issues prevent them before they happen.

Why test your dog’s DNA?

For most canine parents, testing is fun because you get a certificate that tells you more about your best friend’s legacy.

Another great outcome is that, with the testing providing a deeper insight into your dog’s breed mix, you can then explore what health conditions it might be more prone to.

Maybe you discover pup has a German Shepherd grandpa or an English Bulldog great grandma. You and your vet can use these genetic markers to pre-empt likely health problems before they occur.

This gives you the leading edge in a comprehensive approach to your pup’s overall health. Because you can up your game plan with a proactive approach to their diet and fitness regime.

If you do the test when pooch is still a puppy you also stand of chance of better predicting how big they’ll grow. This might prove useful when you’re buying a dog bed or travel crate (see our travelling with pets tips here), so you can get the right size at the outset.

Not interested in doing a dog DNA test, but still want to know how big puppy will grow? Read our article on dog size.

Dog insurance

Another comprehensive approach to caring for your dog’s health is our dog insurance, which takes the bite out of pet health costs. Besides being super affordable and potentially saving you thousands in health care, you can choose between three plans with three different defined benefit limits.

And of course, there’s third party liability cover. So, if pup eats your best friends’ cushions on a doggy playdate, we’ll help cover your costs.

Dog DNA test – over to you

Have you had your dog’s genetic markers analysed? We’d love to hear about your experience; tell us in the comments below!

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