Whether or not the dog DNA tests that purport to reveal the breeds that have gone into your mixed-breed dog are accurate, they are fascinating.
Late last summer, I fostered a medium-sized dog who was, according to her owner, a mix of Rhodesian Ridgeback and Australian Shepherd. Luna had a crazy pattern of backward-growing hair and tight swirls down her back, in a violin-shaped pattern – but neither her size, shape, or coat color looked particularly like a Rhodesian Ridgeback. And certainly nothing about her resembled an Aussie in any way.
Luna’s seven puppies were a further mystery. Since she had belonged to a man who was homeless, and she frequently wandered around town without him, the pups she had may have had any number or type of fathers.
After the pups were spayed or neutered, I was thrilled to be able to find homes for all of them with friends or friends of friends (Luna got spayed and returned to her owner). And several of the new puppy owners had mixed-breed dog DNA tests done on their pups.
Of all the pups, Rocket looked the most like his mama, down to her identical color, short coat, and crazy, violin-shaped ridge. His owners were the first to have his DNA done – and so the first to be surprised by the findings! These results are from the Embark dog DNA test:
This finding lent some credence to Luna’s owner’s claim that Luna was part Australian Shepherd, even though she looked nothing like one. The bully breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier) were not a surprise; almost every dog I’ve known who is from this area and has been tested (including my two disparate-looking dogs) has contained one or the other (or both) of these two ubiquitous breeds. But the presence of Collie was one surprise, mostly because none of the pups looked at all like Collies at the age of 12 weeks or so, when they got adopted. The other surprise was the low contribution of Rhodesian Ridgeback! Such a funny result, given the strong presence of the ridges on the pups.
Dashi was the next pup whose results came back. He was one of the only pups to lack a ridge down his back, and he had a thick, longer coat. He also has big, floppy, unattached dewclaws on his hind feet. I was sort of expecting a little Great Pyrenees in his breed DNA test results; I thought it was even possible he had a different dad than the rest of the pups. His results were from Wisdom Panel.
Holy smokes! Collie and Aussie at the top of the charts again! And all the same breeds as found in Rocket, in slightly different amounts – and with some unusual other breeds thrown in. And again, with such a low contribution of Ridgeback!
I forwarded these results to the owners of the other pups, and asked if anyone else had ordered DNA tests for their pups. The folks who adopted one of the pups who looked the most like a purebred Ridgeback had ordered tests from both Embark and Wisdom Panel – my kind of people! (I, too, have results from both companies for both of my dogs.) Astra is the color of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, has the right kind of coat, and has a prominent ridge.
So interesting that the two different dog breed DNA testing companies found similar breed contributions, but interpreted the amounts of the breeds so differently. Embark seemed to identify American Pit Bull Terrier as the dominant bully-breed contributor in its two tests of the siblings, and the American Staffordshire Terrier as playing a more minor role; Wisdom Panel had these roles reversed in its two tests. Embark also indicated that the pups had more Aussie than Collie in them; Wisdom Panel put Collie over Aussie.
Curiously, the company that found the most Ridgeback in any of the pups (Embark, with 5.2% in Rocket) found no Ridgeback inheritance in the pup who looks most like a Ridgeback (Astra)!
These tests may be scientific, but it’s imperfect science. Based on the commonalities between these four tests on three sibling pups, I’d say both companies are definitely getting at the contributing breeds, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on the percentages.
And, for what it’s worth, when the pups were with me, I didn’t see any Collie looks whatsoever. But now that they are about 9 months old, several of them look very similar to Collies! I was dubious about the results months ago, but now I’m sold. One puppy, Gabby, belongs to my ex-in-laws. She has very strong Collie looks – with a gorgeous, long, tri-color coat – and a crazy ridge down her back!