Saturday, July 07, 2007

Mixed-Breed Dog Genetic Testing

SUMMARY: Is Fido really a Shepherd/Labrador mix? Now you can know for sure!

At a recent agility trial, I discovered this interesting thing: For a small fee, you can send in a swab from your dog's mouth and find out whether your Dachshund/Sheltie mix is really a Border Collie/Beagle/Chihuahua mix. Doesn't that sound like the stuff of fantasy? Or at least science fiction? But no--it's happening. And they are discovering, contrary to what I had read several years ago, that they can distinguish specific breeds from their DNA. (Previously, I read that they couldn't even distinguish dogs from wolves, because the DNA was so similar. Either research techniques have improved or I got the wrong info--)

I knew that DNA testing of puppies among purebreds is frequently used--yes, you can have more than one father in the same litter; yes, there are reasons why a breeder might make more than one father available to their bitch in heat; and, yes, before AKC started requiring the genetic testing, they were discovering an error rate among reported paternity of about 14% ( !! -- because people could lie, I suppose). They tested Boost's litter because Tala was bred to two different dogs. The possibilities for what can be tested for grow greater all the time.

Another friend is one of those researchers who are mapping many interesting things in dog genomes: Physical traits, diseases, even behaviors. She says, sure, do the testing for your mixed-breed dog's ancestry if you want to, but be aware that, although there are many hundreds of breeds of dogs known to mankind (OK, really, who else would know breeds of dogs? horsekind?), not all breeds have been mapped yet. So if you are pretty confident about at least one specific breed in your dog's ancestry, but it's not a mapped breed, save your dollars until it's done. I said that I guessed that, if Tika isn't all Australian Shepherd, she might be part Husky or Malemute. She said that Aussies haven't been mapped yet. Dang.

In any event, it seems unlikely that they'll get around to mapping breeds such as the Tornjak or the Smalandsstovare any time soon--but, then, it seems unlikely that any random dog anywhere in the world (except Bosnia or Sweden) would be one of these breeds, anyhow. But, for example, MMI Genomics (according to one article) has a test that looks at 96 points and can identify 38 breeds that encompass 75 percent of all dogs." (And they do note that testing on dogs outside the U.S. could give incorrect or useless results.)

Some articles on the topic:


  1. heyy this sounds really cool but where do you send it in and how much does it cost??????????

  2. It's not cheap, unfortunately. I still haven't had it done on my dog because of that. More than one company offers similar kinds of tests. One is linked in the blog post (here) and describes the Canine Heritage Breed Test.