What Breed Is My Dog?
Updated on March 18, 2024
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What Breed Is My Dog?

If you have ever wondered what breed your dog is, there are many ways to figure it out. You can do this through DNA testing, consulting with a veterinarian, using online tools, observing physical traits, asking breeders, or checking out local shelters.

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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.

Let’s take a closer look at the different options to help you correctly determine what breed your dog is.

How to Tell What Breed My Dog Is

Often, you can determine if a dog is purebred just by their unique traits and physical appearance. You can look at a dog’s appearance or observe their behavior.

For example, purebred dogs have specific body types, ears, coats, or personalities that will help guide you.

Mixed-breed dogs are a lot harder to identify. They usually have a combination of traits from at least three different breeds.

A mixed dog may not show physical traits from their mother (dam) or father (sire). In these cases, it may be nearly impossible to know their breed.

When visual cues alone aren’t enough, you can opt for a DNA test to determine your dog’s breed.

Physical Traits to Identify My Dog’s Breed

You can observe a dog’s physical characteristics to understand their breed. These include features like: 

  • Body size and weight
  • Head shape, ear, or tail 
  • Coat characteristics (length, texture, color, and patterns)
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Sometimes, a single unique trait will help you identify your dog’s breed.

1. Body Size and Weight

Body size and weight can be important clues to a dog’s breed.

Teacup Dogs

Teacup dogs are mini versions of dogs, usually small breeds. Generally, they weigh less than four pounds and stand less than 17 inches tall.

Some examples of teacup dogs include:

  • Teacup French Poodle
  • Teacup Poodle
  • Teacup Chihuahuas

Toy Dogs

Toy dogs are tiny dogs bred 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 in bed. Think:

  • Pomeranians
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Havanese

Small Dogs

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:

  • Beagles
  • Boston Terriers
  • Cocker Spaniels

Medium Dog Breeds

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:

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Bulldogs
  • Corgis 

Large Dog Breeds

These dogs tip the scales between 50 and 80 pounds and measure at least 24 inches tall. Large dogs include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherds

Giant Dog Breeds

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 two to three feet tall. Giant dogs include:

  • Great Danes
  • English Mastiffs
  • Saint Bernards

2. Head Shape, Ears, and Tail

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 note that their lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.

What about large floppy ears? It’s likely a Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, or hound. Do you have a large dog (not a giant) with a curled tail? It is probably either a Husky or a Samoyed.

3. Coat Length, Color, and Patterns

In some cases, a dog’s coat can clue you into 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 patterns.

A coat that includes a mix of black, tan, and red suggests German Shepherds. But a Belgian Malinois 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, narrow-nosed dogs with long hair, particularly around the head and tail, are typical of Collies and Afghan Hounds.

How to Tell What Breed Your Dog Is Based on Behavior

How your dog acts can also reveal its breed. Like physical traits, your dog’s temperament is influenced by genetics.

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Certain behaviors are linked to specific breeds, which can help you narrow your list of possible breeds. Generally, dogs have three temperaments: assertive, neutral, and passive.

Here’s how you can tell which one your dog is and what breeds they are associated with.

Assertive Dog Temperament

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 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.

Neutral Dog Temperament

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 Dog Temperament

Passive dogs are calm and quiet. They generally are indifferent to other dogs and are happy just to 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.

Dog Scanner App To Tell You Your Dog’s Breed

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’s breed.

All you have to do is snap a photo of your pup and upload it to 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:

Online Quizzes to Identify Your Dog’s Breed

If you don’t feel like downloading an app, you can take an online quiz like The Dog Key to identify your dog’s breed quickly.

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 distinct features.

However, mixed breeds and dogs with more common features will have less chance of getting the right result.

Using A Dog DNA Test Kit to Know Their Breed

If you can’t guess your dog’s breed by its physical traits and behavior, don’t worry. Even experts can only 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 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 regarding identifying your dog’s breed.

Should You Try Dog DNA Testing?

If you’re curious about what breed your dog is, dog DNA testing is worth it.

If you own a purebred dog, their physical appearance and behavior are often all you need to identify their breed. Dog scanner apps and online quizzes can make this task easier. However, if you want to be absolutely sure, dog DNA testing is your best bet.

Mixed breed owners will have a tougher time just going by features. You may want to consider testing your dog’s DNA if they are mixed.

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, but DNA testing also has other benefits, such as:

  • Learn your dog’s temperament – If your dog has some Labrador in it, you may need to exercise it more.
  • Provide the appropriate diet for your dog breed – Certain breeds need more protein due to their high activity levels.
  • Reveal your dog’s potential health risks – Many illnesses are due to genetics, and your dog may require additional care.

Knowing your dog’s breed will help you give them better care.

Updated on March 18, 2024

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2 sources cited
Updated on March 18, 2024
  1. “Dog Breeds” American Kennel Club.
  2. What kind of dog is that? Accuracy of dog breed assessment by canine stakeholders” Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, University of Florida.
Katrina Canlas
Katrina Canlas
Content Contributor
KC Canlas is an experienced content writer for Know Your DNA. She combines her passion for storytelling with a deep understanding of DNA and genetics. She creates engaging content that can empower readers with knowledge about their genetic makeup, promoting a greater understanding of the role DNA plays in their lives.