Features June 2009 Issue

DNA Testing for Mixed Breed Dogs

Can DNA tests really reveal the origin of your mixed-breed dog?

The sequencing of the canine genome, accomplished as a public research project in 2004, opened the floodgates to endless possibilities for canine genetic testing. The holy grail for many scientists engaged in this work is the understanding of, and ultimately, the elimination of inherited canine diseases. For many dog owners, though, the most exciting outcome of this serious work is the possibility that they can learn exactly what breeds their mutts are made of. Though there are already several commercial companies offering products that purport to be able to do just that, our assessment of the breed identification tests is that the results may be just as mixed as the dogs they seek to explain. The test results may be nearly as varied, interesting, and enjoyable as our mixed-breed friends, but it seems that, at least right now, they may not be able to absolutely satisfy the question of your mutt’s parentage. The tests are getting better every day, though! And as the understanding of DNA, the size of the sample databases, and the power of computers grow, it’s likely that the tests will, at some point, truly live up to the marketing hype currently being used to sell them.

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