In This Article
In This Article
So you’ve adopted a dog from a rescue or shelter and wondering what breed it is.
How can you tell?
According to the American Kennel Club, there are around 340 different dog breeds.1 Unless you bought your furry friend from a breeder, identifying them can be quite challenging.
Thankfully, there are a few options to help you correctly determine what breed your dog is. Let’s take a closer look.
Often, you can tell a purebred dog just by their unique traits. You can look at a dog’s appearance or observe their behavior.
For example, purebred dogs tend to have specific body type, ears, coat, or personality that will help clue you in.
Mixed breed dogs are a lot harder to identify. They usually have a combination of traits from at least 3 different breeds.
A mixed dog may not show physical traits from their mother (dam) or their father (sire). In these cases, it may be near impossible to know their breed.
When visual cues alone aren't enough, you can give your dog a DNA test to reveal its breed.
Know Your DNA Reviews
Wondering what to buy your pet (or your friends with pets)?
You can observe a dog’s physical characteristics to get an idea of what breed they are. These include features like:
Sometimes, a single trait will help you identify your dog’s breed.
Body size and weight can be important clues to a dog’s breed.
Teacup dogs are mini versions of dogs, usually small breeds. As a general rule, they weigh less than 4 pounds and stand less than 17 inches tall.
Some examples of teacup dogs include:
Toy dogs are tiny dogs that have been bred down to be small and easy to carry. They weigh less than 15 pounds and generally stand no taller than 18 inches.
These dogs can easily jump on your lap or cuddle with you in bed. Think:
Small dogs are slightly bigger than toy dogs. They weigh less than 22 pounds and measure up to 20 inches in height.
Here are some small-sized dogs:
Medium dogs make up a large portion of dog breeds. These dogs weigh between 22 and 50 pounds and stand anywhere from 18 to 25 inches.
Below are some medium-sized dogs:
These dogs tip the scales between 50 and 80 pounds and measure at least 24 inches tall. Large dogs include:
These are the largest dog breeds out there. They generally weigh between 80 and 120 pounds but can weigh up to 200 pounds.
They stand anywhere from 2 to 3 feet tall. Giant dogs include:
Now that you know your dog’s size, looking at its head shape, ears, and tail should give you a better idea of its breed.
For example, if your dog is small with a flat face and erect ears, it could be a Boston Terrier or a French Bulldog. Boxers also have a flat face. But their lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.
What about large floppy ears? It’s likely a Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, or some type of hound. Do you have a large dog (not a giant) with a curled tail? Probably either a Husky or Samoyed.
In some cases, a dog’s coat can clue you in to what breed it is.
Dalmations, for example, are easily recognizable by their white coat and black spots. Beagles are known for their black, brown, and white coat pattern.
A coat that includes a mix of black, tan, and red is suggestive of German Shepherds. But a Belgian Mallinois can also be similar in appearance.
If you have a large dog with thick, curly hair that doesn’t shed, it may have some Poodle or Airedale Terrier in its DNA.
Long and narrow-nosed dogs with long hair, particularly around the head and tail, are typical of Collies and Afghan Hounds.
How your dog acts can also reveal its breed. Like physical traits, your dog’s temperament is influenced by genetics.
Certain behaviors are linked to specific breeds, and this can help you can narrow down your list of possible breeds. Generally, dogs have 3 temperaments: assertive, neutral, and passive.
Here’s how you can tell which one your dog is, and what breeds they are associated with.
Assertive dogs tend to be protective and territorial. They make good guard dogs and are not as friendly to strangers as other breeds.
They can also be headstrong and very loyal. They may demand for your attention more than other dog breeds.
Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, and Dobermanns are all examples of assertive dogs. However, even small dogs like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds can be assertive.
These dogs are full of energy and tend to be affectionate. They get along great with other dogs and generally try to avoid conflict.
Neutral dogs are not possessive. They aim to please and will gladly share their toys. They love to play fetch or run around the park.
Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Australian Shepherds are examples of neutral dogs.
Passive dogs are calm and quiet. They generally are indifferent to other dogs and are happy to just lounge around all day.
Because of this, they don’t require as much attention as assertive and neutral dogs. French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Cocker Spaniels are dogs that usually have a passive temperament.
If your dog has you stumped, then a dog scanner app may be your answer. These apps use pattern-recognition software to help identify your dog breed.
All you have to do is snap a photo of your pup and upload it in the app. The app will then tell you which breed your dog is and the match percentage.
These apps often work best when you’re sure you have a purebred dog, but can’t tell which one. They aren’t recommended for mixed breed dogs because they may not be as accurate.
The best dog scanner apps are:
If you don’t feel like downloading an app, you can take a quiz online like The Dog Key to quickly identify your dog’s breed.
You’ll answer a few questions about your dog's physical appearance (such as weight and coat length). After that, the algorithm will identify the breed that matches your answers.
The downside is these quizzes are not very accurate. Similar to the apps, they may work for purebred dogs with very distinct features.
However, mixed breeds and dogs with more common features will have less chances of getting the right result.
If you can’t guess your dog’s breed by its physical traits and behavior, don’t worry. Experts are only able to correctly guess a dog’s breed 27% of the time.2
This is where DNA testing comes in. If you adopted a dog of an unknown breed and want to find out what it is, a dog DNA test is your best choice.
These tests analyze your dog’s genetics to find DNA sequences that are unique to a certain breed. It then uses this to determine your dog’s genetic makeup.
Pet DNA testing is also a great option for mixed-breed dog owners who want to see the exact breakdown of their dog’s breed.
Two of the best dog DNA testing services are Wisdom Panel and Embark. Their test kits are more than 95% accurate when it comes to identifying your dog’s breed.3
If you own a purebred dog, their physical appearance and behavior is often all you need to identify their breed. Dog scanner apps and online quizzes can make this task easier.
Mixed breed owners will have a tougher time just going by features. If you happen to be one, then you may want to consider testing your dog’s DNA.
While dog DNA testing requires more time, effort, and money than an app or quiz, it’s the only way to be more certain of your dog’s genetics.
Not only does it satisfy your curiosity, DNA testing also has other benefits such as:
Knowing your dog’s breed will help you give them better care.
Know Your DNA Reviews
We review the top 4 best dog DNA tests so you can find out more about your best friend.