Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 27, 2013

Low Confidence in “Mixed Breed” DNA Tests

Posted at 04:33PM - Comments: (31)

I first met “Leroy” before he had a name, when he was just one more young dog in my local shelter, looking for a forever home. I believe the shelter identified him guessed at his identity as an Australian Cattle Dog-mix.

Some friends were kind enough to travel 150 miles from their home city to my little town so that I could help them find a nice dog. I showed them a bunch of dogs, but favored two or three smallish, sweet-tempered dogs. They chose Leroy, and have been generally very happy with him. They’ve taken two or three group training classes with him, and have definitely done their homework with him. He’s a sweet, smart, well-behaved guy.

As he’s matured and I’ve visited him a few times, I’ve stayed confident that Leroy is an Australian Cattle Dog-mix. I see the breed in his general shape, his face, ears, and his general demeanor: sharp and attentive.

Recently, the couple ordered a Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed Identification Test – a DNA test that purports to offer insights as to a mixed-breed dog’s origin. The results indicated that Leroy is at least half Poodle, with Borzoi detected with “low confidence.” Hmmm.

We’re going to be publishing an article about these tests in an upcoming issue of WDJ. Anyone care to share their experiences with these tests?

Comments (28)

I just did the test on my dog who is a Treeing Feist. I adopted him from a local rescue and he came with his original breeder certificate and registration certificate with the Squirrel Dog Association of America. I had done the Wisdom panel test before on my other dogs and was fairly satisfied with the results. They seemed plausible based on how my dogs looked and their temperament. Well, my guy's test says that he's 1/4 American Staffordshire Terrier, 1/4 Miniature Poodle, 1/4 Australian Shepherd and a mix that could contain Chihuahua, Sky terrier and a variety of other dogs. I have to say that I just burst out laughing because he is very terrier in his attitude and looks nothing like these dogs, unless you count the short coat on the AmStaff. His hair is short and his coat is completely flat. His ears are large and he holds them erect, although he will hold them down if he is feeling naughty. He is about 17 pounds and about the size of a Jack Russell. If anything the test gave me a good chuckle.

Posted by: Amanda K | March 14, 2015 8:52 AM    Report this comment

I've been trying to correctly identify the breed of my dog since I adopted him a few months ago. His coloring, facial structure and size are just about identical to Leroy, the dog pictured in this article. The shelter I adopted him from identified him as an Australian cattle dog/Shepherd mix but a lot of people have suggested he may be a kelpie mix.

Posted by: emmalane | February 1, 2015 4:30 PM    Report this comment

Have two adopted dogs. Molly who looks like a lab shepherd and chip who looks like a toy fox terrier mix. Used wisdom panel for both dogs and the results were strange. Molly a rottweiler, cattle dog, sheltie... and chip a pug, mini poodle and sheltie. If I could attach pics you would see how strange these results sound when looking at the dogs. Wisdom panel also explained that the 'mixed breed' part of his lineage is made up of german spitz, silky terrier, swedish vallhund, brittany and toy fox terrier. I think the test should be viewed for fun and in no way be used to design lifestyle changes for dogs.

Posted by: kris8 | July 10, 2014 3:57 PM    Report this comment

Have two adopted dogs. Molly who looks like a lab shepherd and chip who looks like a toy fox terrier mix. Used wisdom panel for both dogs and the results were strange. Molly a rottweiler, cattle dog, sheltie... and chip a pug, mini poodle and sheltie. If I could attach pics you would see how strange these results sound when looking at the dogs. Wisdom panel also explained that the 'mixed breed' part of his lineage is made up of german spitz, silky terrier, swedish vallhund, brittany and toy fox terrier. I think the test should be viewed for fun and in no way be used to design lifestyle changes for dogs.

Posted by: kris8 | July 10, 2014 3:57 PM    Report this comment

I recently rescued a dog that was said to be a hound lab cross. He looks like a Rhodesian Ridgeback (but no ridge). Reddish tan coat, droopy ears and similar small white markings on feet and chest to a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I did the cheek swab test through a DNA company in Toronto, Canada. Test came back Siberian Husky and Miniature Pincher. I sent them a picture and questioned the results. They said the Siberian Husky (highest level detected) may only be present in his personality, ie digging and separation anxiety. These are also present in the Rhodesian Ridgeback from what i understand. Needless to say, I was disappointed in the results. Maybe in a few years I will try it again (its only $70 anyway!) and see what they come up with then...!

Posted by: Kim M | July 12, 2013 7:35 PM    Report this comment

Coming in VERY late, but I feel I must comment. As an Australian, a Cattle dog fan and a one-time owner of a Cattle Dog, I feel I can confidently state that Leroy has NO Cattle Dog in his make up.

His Bat Ears, broad cheeks and little eyes make me think Boston Terrier.
I would not be particulary surprised if he has some Basenji.
The brindle on him makes me think some Staffie (English).
The rounded ears could indicate some Cardigan Corgi.

Here, I'd be pretty sure that the Shelters would describe him as a Staffie Kelpie Cross. (Well, they insist on Kelpie cross for most dogs :-( As a Kelpie fanatic, I see no Kelpie there except that if you mix up enough short-haired breeds you end up with a dog that LOOKS like a Kelpie :-)

Posted by: Jenny H | April 30, 2013 9:38 PM    Report this comment

I don't remember the brand, but I did a cheek swab test from a pet store a year ago. My 75 lb very long legged mixed breed has a black and white border collie mother. Father unknown. The test never mentioned border collie at all but said he's 1/4 purebred Miniature Schnauser, 1/4 purebred Staffordshire terrier, and couldn't tell on the rest. Needles to say, he has no characteristics nor temperament of either breed mentioned but acts very much like a border collie, has the border collie brains and focus, and is as friendly and docile as can be. I could believe a Great Dane father or a Greyhound, not a Miniature Schnauser! Waste of money.

Posted by: dale k | February 13, 2013 3:39 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I adopted a mixed breed from our local shelter about 7 years ago. He was a 9-10 months very scared and hurt puppy. He was advertised as a border collie mix. We thought for sure he had some Swiss mountain dog in him due to his coloring: tri-color mostly black with brown, white paws, white tip of tail, white chest, thin white "blaze" on his face. But narrower frame and face than the mountain dogs. Since everyone we met asked if he had that kind of breed in him, I decided to have the WIsdom Panel done. We were totally surprised to find out that he was so mixed that all the lab could detect "maybe" were traces of Irish wolfhound and golden retriever.He is tall and long legged but not like an Irish wolfhound, only 75 lbs. He is nervous, energetic, obedient, friendly, loving, happy, loves to catch the frisbee and balls. He likes to race bicyclists on our side of the fence along the road: he ended up at the shelter after being hit by a truck, which he may have been racing too. He doesn't run after wildlife as he was always afraid of everything and we taught him not to. He's also had a lot of health issues (among which pyoderma; digestive issues) but all resolved.
For our case, we feel it was a waste of money, so we decided not to test our other dog. Our veterinarian was so surprised by the result of our test that she had one of her little mixed breeds done twice and both times she got the same result.

Posted by: Georgette V | February 7, 2013 4:08 PM    Report this comment

I've had three dogs tested out of curiosity, using both the tests available some years ago (but just one test per dog). One was my longcoat Akita and two were rescues that we were sure were litter mates, both almost resembling longcoat Akitas. The Akita came back just Akita; one brother who was very square and fluffy came back mostly Akita, a little Chow; the other brother, more rectangular and shorter coat, came back mostly Akita, a little Malamute (the brothers' tests came from different companies). I saw photos of the sire and dam of the brothers; the sire looked like an normal Akita but with one blue eye; the mother looked like a poorly bred Akita with blue eyes and facial markings more like a Malamute. I wasn't disappointed but realize the tests probably have more misses than hits.

Posted by: Linda W | February 5, 2013 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I just did the Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed test in December. We adopted a dog from a rescue last July. The rescue said he is a chihuahua mix, and I thought for sure he wasn't 100% chi. I was so surprised when his results came back only chihuahua! Definitely didn't expect that!

Posted by: Niki S. | February 3, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment

I had the cheek swab test done several years ago on a blue merle dog that wandered onto our property. We could never find the owner so we kept him. The results from the test were very disappointing: no primary breed, 30% or less was black lab, 10% or less was Clumber Spaniel. Neither breed has blue merle coloring. When I complained I was asked to send a pic so they could figure out (guess) what his genetics were! A TOTAL waste of $130!! I have heard of other people who KNEW the breed of one parent & the test came back with completely different breeds. Maybe someday the technology will be there, but right now it is a total ripoff.

Posted by: Marti H | January 31, 2013 11:52 PM    Report this comment

Would recommend and use again the Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed DNA Test kit.

We adopted a dog from the Humane Society, they thought she was Collie/Lab mix. Several vets agreed.
Had the DNA test done and it came back pure bred Belgian Malinois on the sires side to the great grandparents. Mothers side was pure bred Catahoulan Leopard Dog to the great grandparents.
I had never heard of either breed before that day.
Stella has the body, temperament, and black tipped fur of the Belgian, but does have a white chest/neck and feet, along with spots on her skin, but not in the fur.
20 months old, she is a wonderful friend and companion, loves people and other dogs.

Posted by: PeterT | January 31, 2013 3:40 PM    Report this comment

We did a DNA test on our 10 pound chihuahua mix. The results came back showing ancestral breeds of Weimaraner, Dalmatian, and Samoyed! We called the company. The lady who answered was somewhat indignant when we said it must be a mistake. She agreed that she would have an analyst review the results and we emailed a picture. The analyst said there were traces of chihuahua and corgi (which is exactly what she looks like a mix of), but they were not statistically significant, so he didn't list them on the report. He saw no terrier, which surprised us, given many of her behaviors, but that may be because they don't have DNA for all the terrier breeds. So we don't think the test was worth the money.

Posted by: Scott R | January 30, 2013 12:38 PM    Report this comment

I thought the test might give me some insight into some of my rescue's behaviors but as someone has already said, they only test for AKC breeds and most everyone that sees her thinks she's a Kelpie mix. My vet didn't offer it at the time and the place I took her to didn't process the blood correctly the first time and we had to go back. Terrible experience. I should never had let them take to the "back" without me. She came out with a bandage on her leg and forever frightened of this place. So while it was interesting to see the results I would never do it again.

Posted by: Catherine A | January 30, 2013 6:53 AM    Report this comment

I did the Wisdom Panel DNA test (the one with blood sample, not cheek swab) on our last rescue. Knew he wasn't 100% Dalmatian, but wasn't sure of the other breed. Test came back 87.5% Dal, 12.5% Siberian Huskey. I couldn't believe that I hadn't guessed it because of the ice blue eyes (not Dalmatian blue eye fault), wash of black over the spots down the top of the back, the way his running feet strike the ground almost skimming the surface, his remarkably gentle interaction with children, dog herding, ...all text book S.Huskey, but he is otherwise so Dal-looking that I just missed it. On the last two, Dals are athletic, very social, and great with kids, but Huskeys were bred for herding Reindeer by day and keeping kids warm in home at night. You can see both in him. Glad we did the test because I, a longtime Dal owner in a multi-Dal house, appreciate and understand his behavioral differences better.

Posted by: Laura C | January 29, 2013 11:31 PM    Report this comment

I have had the test done twice, once for each of my mix breed shelter dogs, with very believable results in each case. The first looks very much like a lab, but you can tell there's something else mixed in. The results came back one parent was half lab and half golden. The other side is very mixed, with boxer, toy Manchester terrier, German wire haired pointer, and 2 other breeds with very small percentages. With mixed breeds, not all the breeds are going to show or be obvious. Our girl, according to the panel, is only one quarter lab, and that is what shows up predominately.

The other dog is half jack russell terrier mixed with an Australian Shepherd mix, including miniature poodle and 5 other larger breeds. She's bigger than a jack russell, but we can see that breed along with a few of the others in her and her personality traits.

Someone mentioned the cheek swab. We had the test sent in by our vet, and he actually used a blood sample. (The test was called Wisdom Panel Professional by Mars Veterinary). I'm wondering if the blood sample is a more accurate test. In any case, we were very pleased with the process and the results.

Posted by: jae | January 29, 2013 5:30 PM    Report this comment

My experience was the same as many of the people who have already commented- a waste of time and money.
I tested a 70 pound dog I adopted from the shelter- she looked like Aussie/ Kuvasz.
The test came back listing, among others, Dalmation, Italian Greyhound and Pomeranian.
Until there was some significanrt improvement in the test, I would not do it again.
Pat Engel, CPDT-KA

Posted by: Pat Engel, CPDT-KA | January 29, 2013 3:50 PM    Report this comment

I had my mixed breed dog tested through Canine Heritage. He looked like a big American Eskimo, and behaved like one too. His results were hysterical: There was no Primary or Secondary discernible breed. "In the Mix" was English Coonhound, Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd.
While I realize his behaviors could be similar to a Doberman or Shepherd too (he thought he was a guard dog and was very loyal to only me), I think the test has a long way to go!
It was a fun thing to do anyhow.

Posted by: Cindy G | January 29, 2013 3:03 PM    Report this comment

+1 for "they're a waste of money."

The only benefit I can see from these things is that anyone who's trying to prove that their short-coated, square-headed mutt is not a pit bull should be able to get a DNA test saying it's half poodle and half Irish Wolfhound pretty easily.

So, to the extent that two wrongs actually DO make a right in that scenario -- with wildly inaccurate "DNA tests" neutralizing wildly inaccurate stereotype-based BSL -- I'm entertained. But that is about it.

Posted by: Jennifer A | January 29, 2013 1:44 PM    Report this comment

When it first came out, I received a free Wisdom Panel test from my vet. I know from the rescue group that my dog's mother was a Golden Retriever. The panel came back with a significant amount of Golden Retriever and trace amounts of Brussels Griffon. I have little faith in the Brussels Griffon determination, given that he looks like a black Golden Retriever and I've only ever seen 2 Brussels Griffons in my lifetime! I suppose it is possible, but I would have put money on some type of herding breed, given his behavior (he chases everything that moves!). I suppose these tests are good for "entertainment value" but I'm glad I didn't have to pay $$ for it!

Posted by: Amy M | January 29, 2013 1:18 PM    Report this comment

A friend of mine has a black, lab-looking dog. She tried on of the tests about 3 years ago. No results. The company tried three separate samples. It seems that your dog must be at least one-eighth of some breed for the test to read that breed. For well blended mixes, the test tells you nothing. Yes, she got her money back.

Posted by: Laura S | January 29, 2013 12:50 PM    Report this comment

I received a Canine Heritage kit as a gift a few years back so tested my Rottie mix. The results showed him to be half Rottie, the balance Saluki and Shih Tzu. While he has the body shape, color and markings of a Rottie he weighs about 89 lbs and his muzzle is a bit long which could possibly indicate Saluki. He is 11 1/2 yrs old and barely showing his age which would again lean toward the Saluki. Temperament is very friendly and outgoing (as are my purebred Rotties). The Shih Tzu? Not buying it! I tested another of my dogs with the Wisdom kit. I guessed him to be a Schnauzer mix. The results indicated a Schnauzer Lhasa Apso mix. This one could be on the mark. In general I would not rely on these tests especially with Heinz 57 variety dogs. The technology just isn't there yet and not worth wasting money on. Your own instincts are probably more reliable.

Posted by: MICHELE M | January 29, 2013 11:30 AM    Report this comment

We did a Wisdom Panel DNA and were very happy with the results. Our dog is mostly Golden Retriever with some Labrador mixed in. We thought maybe there was something else in there, but apparently not. The Wisdom Panel only tests for AKC recognized breeds, so if your dog has anything else in there that's not AKC I'm not sure if it just doesn't show up or would show up as another breed altogether? Also, I do know that the more breeds that are in your dog, the less accurate the test results. Our newest puppy might be part English Shepherd, which is not a breed the test even would list, so I think we'll just leave it at an educated guess on his mix.

Posted by: Amy W | January 29, 2013 11:15 AM    Report this comment

My opinion? A total waste of money. I know one person who sent her purebred dog's sample in - it came back wrong. Another friend sent her shelter adoptee mix bered's sample in, and it cam back to not-believable she sent in another sample (and didn't tell them it was the same dog). If came back completely different the second time.

Posted by: PPaws | January 29, 2013 11:14 AM    Report this comment

I recently used the Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed Identification Test for one of my dogs. We were honestly mostly doing it for fun. We were very happy with the entire process. It was super easy, informative, and fun. We were super happy to learn that Truman is a American Staff Terrier - Neopolitan Mastiff mix (no Poodle).
Nothing but a positive experience for me!

Posted by: Teresa A | January 29, 2013 10:47 AM    Report this comment

The rescue group told us that our dog's mother was a rescued Pomeranian who was pregnant when they got her, so they didn't know the dad. She is 12 pounds, cream and white, and looks like the other part could be Chihuahua - large, pointy ears, nose slightly longer than the Pomeranian. Four years ago I sent to BioPet Vet Lab in an effort to satisfy my curiosity. It came back that she was Pug, ShihTzu, and Rottweiler - never mentioning her Pom. mother. Definitely a waste of money.

Posted by: Kara K | January 29, 2013 10:46 AM    Report this comment

I received the Wisdom Panel DNA test as a Christmas gift, and thought it would be a fun, frivolous thing to explore. I have researched these tests and found that many people (and some researchers) question the results.

We adopted our dog from a shelter, where she was listed as a fox terrier mix, which is certainly possible based on her appearance. She looks most like a Basenji, Carolina dog, or similar "primitive breeds". She is 30 pounds, brown double-coated, with white tips on her paws and tail and a white cross on her chest (like the Basenji), with button ears and a wrinkled brow. Imagine my surprise when her DNA tests came back - half Pomeranian, and the other half mostly Springer Spaniel! Well, it was certainly fun and amusing...

Posted by: AMY W | January 29, 2013 10:29 AM    Report this comment

I have often wondered about the accuracy of these tests. If it was not for the expense, I have considered having my pure breds tested for breed. My understanding is that they use the commonality of breeds in their process. Poodles are a common breed so they frequently say the tested dog is part poodle.

Posted by: Furrykids | January 29, 2013 10:26 AM    Report this comment

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