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Deciphering the What in your Mutt
In-home DNA tests are cheaper. Are they better?
My DNA test pup: One test found Yorkie in her family tree.

Just in time for Christmas, the Canine Heritage Breed Test came out with a 4th gneration test to look for evidence of 120 breeds in your dog’s DNA, for the rock-bottom price of $25. Honestly, that seems like a pretty good deal—as long as you don’t plan on taking the results too seriously. I know of what I speak.

In 2007, the first in-home genetic tests started making the rounds. I wanted to unlock the nuances of my mutt, who was best described as a Labrador Retriever/Husky mix (See Lulu, left). So I sent a cheek swab along with $65 to MMI Genomics (creators of the Canine Heritage test).

I got a call, instead of the promised heritage certificate. Turns out, Lulu didn’t match with any of the then-38 breeds in the test. The results showed a little Siberian Husky “in the mix,” along with Chow Chow, Chinese Shar-Pei and Akita—none of which were “statistically significant” or made much sense.

MMI offered to refund my money and to flag Lulu’s sample for the next generation of testing in a few months, which aimed to include around 100 breeds. I wrote a blog about how I was relieved not to know, embracing the mystery, yada, yada, yada. Meanwhile, true to their word, the folks at MMI retested Lulu a while later. This time she came in with no “primary” matches, and Labrador Retriever as a “secondary” match and Yorkshire Terrier “in the mix.” Yorkie? Seriously?

Even though I repudiated any need to know by this time, I jumped onboard when Mars Veterinary launched its Wisdom Panel DNA test, based on blood samples drawn by your vet. Clearly, I wanted to know, and somehow not being personally responsible for collecting the testing sample made me more confident about the results.

The cost: I don’t actually remember, but significantly more than MMI’s swab test, plus the cost of the blood draw. (Now, Mars has a Widsom Panel cheek swab test as well, for $49.99).

Lulu’s Wisdom Panel found that she has some German Shepherd Dog and Labrador Retriever with a “high degree of certainty” and some Brittany with a “medium degree of certainty.” These breeds, at least, make sense to me—she looks and acts a little like all three types of dogs.

Ultimately, knowing she’s a German Labrittany didn’t change a thing about our happy life together, except I finally had an answer when strangers asked, “What kind of dog is that?” (Here’s one take on this phenomenon [video].) Worth $25? Probably.

Have you tried a DNA test for your dog? I’d love to hear about it.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Becca | January 16 2012 |

I would like to DNA test my dog as he is very funny looking, but I am waiting until they have honed their DNA testing skills. Mine is definitely part Cardigan Welsh Corgi, but we are not sure of the rest of him, maybe Aussi, BC, Catahoula? Who knows....we do know that he is 100% cute and loves to play flyball.

Submitted by stewspoos | January 16 2012 |

I had my Cockapoo tested to see how accurate those tests were. I knew two breeds made up his dna, but the dna test told me that he was 10% or less chihuahua. Yeah... a lot less! Granted it was a few years ago, and supposed, the science has advanced. But many breeds are mixtures of others many years ago. I still don't recommend that people waste their money on dna tests.

Submitted by Mary | January 16 2012 |

I did the MARS VET DNA version of the test about 3 years ago. It was about $100 at the time. We knew she was part boxer (shelter knew),but the other parts were unknown. She came back as 1/2 boxer and 1/2 akita. Very suprising since she is only about 40 lbs and looks similar to a mini german shepherd, but all brown like a boxer. It was very neat for us to "find out" what breeds she was. Though, we now can see her personality and traits is very much akita-like. She even has the Haichiko right ear that flops over!
I think I read somewhere (probably Bark!) that some genes are "expressed" and some aren't. So, your dog may indeed have some genetic code for a breed that you just don't see. I feel like I am stretching my memory on this, so maybe a geneticist could weigh in on this?

Submitted by SAdie | January 16 2012 |

Hi there,
I couldn't pass up the $25 but when I went to the website for the canine heritage DNA screen - it seems that the test is actually $59.99 and an additional $25 for the expanded breed testing.

So a bit of a higher cost then first impression.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 16 2012 |

I DNA Tested my mutt. He is about 65lbs and looks physically like a Lab/Pit Bull mix. He also has webbed paws so that narrowed it down a bit. The results came back without any real primary dogs, and the secondary and tertiary didn't seem to make sense. There is nothing small about our dog- he has a huge neck and head, a long tail and huge paws. The results said something about a miniature bull terrier and a possible Pointer. The pointer seemed to make sense but we realized that he is probably a pure mutt, and whatever he is made up of works perfectly for us.

Submitted by the DIY dog | January 16 2012 |

If I had the money to spare, I'd probably test my dog...well, maybe not after that video LOL. I think the discrepancy can be explained in generational terms - if a dog's great-grandmother is a Yorkie, he might not look anything like one. I suspect my mutt is at least 3 different breeds. The guessing game is fun, though!

Submitted by Glen | January 16 2012 |

I had my dog Rosebud tested with the Wisdom Panel XL and had very interesting results. She looks like a yellow lab/pitbull mix, but is a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Neapoltian Mastiff crossed with Great Prynees mix. She has characteristics of all her dominate breeds and is the best companion dog I have ever had.

Submitted by Basil Brown | January 17 2012 |

My "Corgi mix", which I got because I wanted a smaller dog, turned out to be -- according to the DNA test -- 50% American Eskimo, 25% ST. BERNARD, and 25% mix of Chow, Pointer, Beagle, Samoyed. Of course I love him, and at least he didn't get bigger than 55 pounds. I laughed quite loudly when I got the results.

Submitted by Rachel | February 28 2012 |

When people ask what type of dog my mutt is, I proudly tell them that she is a unique specimen of the 'Linda' dog.

Submitted by kayley | April 8 2014 |

my dog is part german shepherd
I know it plz

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