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Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs

Updated on: July 8, 2021
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Nobody knows the exact time humans and dogs became friends. However, there's an interesting history to it.

Over 10,000 years ago, before the existence of dog YouTube pages, humans formed a relationship with an unlikely animal - the grey wolf. 

This relationship changed the way both species lived and adapted to their environment. The grey wolf became less aggressive, lost its hunting ability, and changed its nutritional demands. It learned how to understand humans better - their sworn enemies. They became more friendly. They became dogs. 

Humans, on the other hand, changed the way they approached the grey wolf and started seeing them more as friends and less like enemies. Humans dropped the hunting weapons designed to hunt the grey wolf and accommodated them as their domestic family.

Fast forward to today, dogs are a huge part of human existence. They didn't just become family, they became our best friends. We now have TV shows, movies, places, and YouTube channels dedicated to dogs. We want the best for them and they want the best for us.

Our relationship with dogs has led us to know more about them. One of the things we love to know about dogs is their origin and identity. This is where we started exploring their genetics like we do to humans.

DNA is the building block of human genetics. It's part of our genetic makeup. However, this is the same with dogs. Earlier in history, dogs cross-bred willingly with wolves, leading to a chunk of dog breeds.

According to the FCI, an international organization for pedigree dogs, there are about 390-400 breeds of dogs in existence today. It doesn't stop there because more breeds are being added every year. The genetic diversity surrounding most dog breeds created room for the discovery of new and exotic breeds.

The breeds are determined through dog DNA testing. With dog DNA testing, you can know the origin, behavior, and diseases your dog might be susceptible to.

Analyzing the DNA of your domestic companion can help you make educated lifestyle and health decisions on their behalf. Thankfully, many of the privacy- and ethics-related concerns are waived when dealing with your pet; full genetic profiling is only ever in their best interest.

Testing your dog's DNA is now easier than ever too. Using a simple swab from your dog's cheek can uncover a wealth of breed identification and health information. But with so many different dog DNA test kits on the market, it's not always easy to narrow down the best DNA kit for pet owners. So, to help you decide, we looked into the top dog DNA test kits on the market and listed them here!

Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 1
From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5492993/

What a dog DNA test can tell you

Breed

“Most people can guess just one breed present in a mixed-breed dog less than 25 percent of the time.”

-Veterinary geneticist Angela Hughes, D.V.M., Ph.D.

For the proud owners of rescued dogs, the genetic makeup of their pooch may be a complete mystery. When a dog’s breed is assigned at the receiving SPCA or rescue operation, it’s usually based solely on visuals alone. As Dr. Hughes says above, this is not a very reliable system to determine a dog’s breed, especially among younger canines.

While many of these tests may not be adequate to confirm a pure-breed status - as this usually requires familial documentation - it is generally more than enough to access local breed or kennel clubs. Akin to human services, one of these dog tests even facilitates meetings between genetic relatives: Embark can even connect you with the guardians of your dog’s kin.

Each dog DNA test kit can provide you with a breakdown of the genetic makeup of your favorite pet. You may be surprised to find that your mutt is purebred, or your 1:1 mix is a combination of a dozen different breeds.

Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 2
source https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5492993/

Hybrid Status

Many of these genetic testing kits provide you with details on the percentage of wild dog DNA that exists within your domestic companion. This isn’t the ancestral history or origin of your dog; it assesses more recent incursions from nature. This kind of test is more applicable to large, ambiguous dog breeds than small terrier mixes. However, the results may be surprising if they’re included in the DNA kit you choose.

Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 3

Health Risks

Like 23andMe, many canine DNA tests provide insight into potentially inherited health risks. For some tests, this is included in the base price; for others, it’s an optional add-on. Embark takes this to another level, providing details that rival human counterparts.

Some genetic diseases and illnesses are more likely among certain breeds, underlying many of the health information these health tests can provide. However, some take it a step farther by scanning for specific genetic disease-causing variants outside of your dog’s breed analysis. These insights may allow you to take proactive measures to prevent the onset of illness; they may also help you prepare for unpreventable outcomes, like blindness or deafness.

How accurate are DNA tests for dogs?

Most dog DNA tests are accurate. Dog owners, especially owners of rescue dogs barely know the breed of their dogs. An average dog owner can only guess the breed of a dog at a 25% accuracy.

Most DNA tests can predict the breed of a purebred dog at 90-95%. However, for mutts, this can be tricky. Whenever a dog's genome is altered, the chances of predicting its breed slowly decreases. This is because when new breeds are introduced to another dog's DNA, the structure of the DNA changes. This makes it a lot harder to determine its true breed or ancestry. The DNA test accuracy of a Mutt may not be as high as that of a purebred dog, but it's far higher than the 25% accuracy of most dog owners.

Some dog owners just assume their dog is a mutt and move on. However, the accuracy of DNA tests has made it easy to know your dog's ancestry.

Top 5 Dog DNA Tests

The only comparable metric between tests is the size of their breed database. This is primarily relevant if you suspect your dog may have a rare or international ancestry. Each test is quite different, with specific goals, options, and strengths. Therefore, they’re not listed in any particular order. Choose the best one for you and your dog.

Embark: $199


Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 4

Key Features:

  • Breed identification of up to 350 different dog breeds, types, and varieties
  • Wolf and Coyote tests
  • Incredibly detailed health assessment, checking for 175+ genetic diseases — comparable to the results from human tests
  • There’s an option to connect with your dog’s ‘relatives’ if both guardians opt-in to the feature. There are even ways to arrange a play-date if you’re local. This feature can be incredibly helpful in contacting original breeders in the case of undocumented purebreds.

Wisdom Panel: $85-150


Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 5

Key Features:

  • 350+ breeds, types, and varieties
  • Wolf and Coyote tests
  • Optional health screening for 150+ conditions
  • Learn more about your dog’s appearance, wellness needs, and behavior
  • Their massive database is the best chance of finding details on rare, new, or international breeds. This may be the only way to identify the true mix of a furry friend from overseas.

HomeDNA Orivet: $125


Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 6

Key Features:

  • Includes sterile brushes for quickly collecting a DNA sample from your dog
  • Screen your dog for 100+ genetic diseases and traits
  • This kit also provides a customized plan for the ideal diet, play and exercise regimen, based on the results of the health assessment

DNA my Dog: $58-189*


Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 7

Key Features:

  • 100 breeds
  • The breeds found in your dog broken down by percentage
  • Wolf and Coyote tests are optional
  • Part of the proceeds from sales are contributed to canine rescue operations
  • A certificate of breed or breed mix is provided
  • Explains health concerns that are present in your dog’s breed
  • They’re faster than all the others, but return postage is not included in the kit

All of these tests take a few weeks to a few months to receive and process. Most will arrive within six weeks, but they all abide by the processing times listed on their respective websites.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do dog DNA test kits cost?

DNA testing companies generally price their DNA kits based on what the tests cover. Those that provide in-depth breed identification kits and include health information, like Wisdom Panel, tend to cost in the $100 to $200 range. Tests that only cover limited dog breeds and have test results that don’t offer health information can be found for under $100.

Do canine DNA test kits work?

As long as you go with a reputable testing company, these dog DNA testing kits absolutely work! They’re one of the best ways to quickly and easily learn what’s going on inside your dog and help make you aware of potential health issues.

How accurate are dog DNA kits?

These tests are incredibly accurate at breed identification and at offering health test results. They are great at finding the genetic markers that set different breeds apart and alerting you to potential health conditions your dog may develop.

How do I test my dog's DNA?

While the method of testing may vary depending on the testing company you use, most follow a similar process. To collect a sample you will generally have to use a swab to collect cells from the inside of your dog’s cheeks. This swab will then have to be packaged and shipped back to the company to be processed in a dog DNA testing lab. You will then have to wait several weeks for the test results.

How long does a dog test kit take?

Collecting the DNA sample from your dog only takes a matter of minutes. Once the sample is sent to the lab, getting your DNA results can take a bit of time. While it varies from company to company, most test results will be returned in around 4 to 6 weeks.

Where to get a dog DNA test?

Depending on the DNA kit you’re interested in, there are a few different options as to where you can buy them. Luckily, rather than searching all over the web to find where the test is being sold, you can always just visit Amazon. Most of the tests featured on our list can be purchased through the Amazon website. If they’re not available there, check the testing company website.

Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 4
Embark

The leader of Dog DNA Testing

Embark gets our recommendation for dog DNA testing because they're an established company, they are the market leader, and provide terrific info for you and your dog.

Benefits of dog DNA tests

There are a lot of ancestry companies that offer humans the option of knowing their ancestry and genealogy. Our curiosity for the origin of things leads to DNA testing.

The advancement in medicine has allowed us not only to determine our origins, but also to use DNA testing to diagnose, treat, and monitor the risks of different disease conditions.

DNA testing can determine which breed of dogs were susceptible to cancer. There are several genetic markers that can be used to determine whether your dog will develop cancer in its lifetime. Since this cannot be determined visually, DNA testing is the only way to know the possibilities.

There are a lot of benefits you can get from testing your dog's DNA. Knowing the origin of the special trait familiar with your dog's breed is one of them.

For most owners, their dog's behaviors elude them. Some dogs possess special traits that either confuses the owner, irritates, or excites them. This is normal because dogs of different breeds have their specific quirks. Some dogs may have quiet and chill personalities, some can be aggressive and destructive while some may have the combination of both characters.

DNA testing can help you get familiar with your dog's behaviors, and also manage them better.

Some benefits of dog DNA testing include:

  • It can help determine your dog breed or pedigree.
  • It can help to know the disease conditions your dog might be prone to.
  • It can help to determine your dog's average lifespan.
  • It can help to discover personality traits common to a particular dog breed.
  • It can help to determine some physical features in a dog such as height, size, hair length etc.

Can dog DNA tests help with obedience training?

Genetics and environment combine to give your dog its personality and traits. There's a common misconception that only genetics is involved in the process, but the environment you raise your dog also has a high impact on its personality.

DNA testing can help you determine your dog's breed and origin. Dogs have common characters specific to different breeds. These characters include obedience, aggression, and other behaviors.

When it comes to obedience training, DNA testing can help to tailor your dog's training based on Its specific personality. For example, some dogs like terriers are aggressive, stubborn, and highly energetic. The golden retriever, on the other hand, is more friendly, confident, and calm. Although they usually get bored easily. 

These personality traits can help the dog trainer know which techniques suit their obedience training. These are possible when the dog breed is determined through DNA testing.

A final word on dog DNA tests

There are many reasons to give your dog the same attention that a family member would deserve. You can avoid surprises when it comes to illness that may manifest. You can also get confirmation on the components of your mutt’s mix. Tests like these can give you a new appreciation for the heritage of your furry friend!

Humans are naturally curious about their health and ancestry; it’s understandable that it would extend to their best friends.

Top 5 DNA Tests for Dogs 4
Embark

The leader of Dog DNA Testing

Embark gets our recommendation for dog DNA testing because they're an established company, they are the market leader, and provide terrific info for you and your dog.

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