With more and more people today choosing to rescue rather than buy a dog, dog DNA tests are becoming far more commonplace. Although most animal shelters will try to learn the lineage of surrendered dogs, owner accounts are often far from accurate. And guessing its breed based on the dog’s appearance is notoriously unreliable, especially with puppies and younger dogs. As a result, many pet parents are turning to dog DNA tests in an effort to learn their new pup’s breed.
With that said, there are so many tests on the market today, it’s hard to know which are the best dog DNA tests that give the most accurate results. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of our top choices to help you decide..
When you adopt a dog from a shelter, it can be hard to get an accurate history or know exactly what breed (or breeds) the dog is.
Why Do a Dog DNA Test?
The most common reason pet parents give for doing a DNA test is simple curiosity. Our dogs are family, and we want to know as much about them as we can. Additionally, a DNA test can alert us to the possibility that our dog is predisposed to an inherited or genetically linked illness. Golden retrievers and Great Danes, for example, are prone to cancer, while Doberman pinschers have a high incidence of a blood clotting disorder known as Von Willebrand’s disease. Thus, knowing your dog’s probable lineage (no DNA test is foolproof) can alert you to medical problems to watch for later on. In fact, some tests will actually supply medical information based on the dog’s DNA. However,these tests are largely unregulated and potentially flawed, according to a recent article in Nature, The information they supply should always be interpreted in consultation with your vet.
Dog DNA tests can also be helpful when it’s time to train and socialize your dog. While most dogs respond to standard training methods, certain breeds (terriers, for example) tend to resist being told what to do. Knowing this, you may choose to hire a professional dog trainer to help you find the best approach for your special dog.
Lastly, a dog DNA test can give you valuable information about your dog’s nutritional and exercise needs and help predict how he will interact with children and other pets. Knowing that your pup is, for example, 50% Border Collie will alert you to the possibility that he may have a strong prey drive and will need to be watched carefully around small pets. Similarly, if your dog’s DNA shows he’s 70% Jack Russel Terrier, it’s a good bet that he will need lots of stimulation, lots of exercise, and a pet parent who knows how to handle an assertive dog.
How Dog DNA Tests Work
Before you decide to invest in a DNA test for your dog, it’s a good idea to know how these tests work. Although the methodology used varies from company to company, the basic premise behind testing is the same. First, the owner takes a sample of cells from the dog’s cheek using a swab supplied in the testing kit. The sample is then placed in a test tube and mailed to the lab.
Knowing what breed your older rescue dog is can help you make decisions about his health.
At the lab, a technician manually extracts DNA from the cells provided on the swab and processes them so they can be analyzed. A computer algorithm then matches hundreds and sometimes thousands of genetic “markers” found on the dog’s chromosomes to the dog breeds in the company’s database. In most cases, this allows the company to determine, with a fair amount of certainty, the dog’s breed.
With that being said, the accuracy of DNA tests depends to a great extent on the number and types of reference samples a company has. The larger the company’s database, the more accurate its results tend to be.
The Best Dog DNA Tests — Our Thoughts
So, which companies offer the best dog DNA tests? To determine the answer to this question, we looked at a number of factors, including:
- Size of the database
- Cost of the test
- Accuracy of results
- Amount of information offered
- Time to receive results
Of course, not everyone who chooses to get a dog DNA test is looking for the same features. So we rated each one of our top choices based on all of the factors that might be important to you. Here are our results:
Of course, not everyone who chooses to get a dog DNA test is looking for the same features. So we have listed a number of kits from each of the top dog DNA test manufacturers so you can choose the option that best fits your needs.
Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test
If you’re interested mainly in finding out your dog’s ancestry and some basic health information, the Wisdom Panel Dog DNA test is a good choice. Manufactured by Mars Veterinary, a long-time player in the pet health field, the test uses a database of about 350 different dog breeds, which allows it to provide some pretty accurate results.That said, it references under 100 data points on the DNA sample, so it is a little less accurate than some of the more comprehensive tests, and customers report more generic “mixed breed” results. But the test is far more affordable than many other offerings on the market today, and you should get your results in about 2-3 weeks.
Wisdom Panel Essential Dog DNA Kit
A new and improved version of the Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test, the Wisdom Panel Essential Kit is one of the most comprehensive breed, trait, and ancestry tests on the market today. Using Wisdom’s 2 million-plus DNA samples and a database that includes over 350 breeds and breed hybrids, the test can accurately identify your dog’s breed with about 95% accuracy and trace its ancestry back three generations. The analysis also gives you information about your pup’s coloring, coat, (for example, heavy shedding or hypoallergenic) and even whether he adapts well to higher altitudes (good to know if you’re planning a trip to the mountains any time soon.) It also looks for more than 25 inherited medical conditions, including multidrug sensitivity (MDR1), bleeding disorders and neurological conditions such as epilepsy.
Wisdom Panel Premium Dog DNA Test
Newly released in 2020, the Wisdom Panel Premium Dog DNA builds on the information provided by the Wisdom Panel Essential test. In addition to information about breed, body type, temperament, ancestry and nutritional needs, it tests for over 200 inherited medical conditions, including breed specific diseases such as the muscle wasting illness centronuclear myopathy and a similar condition known as exercise-induced collapse which are found in Labrador retrievers, If the lab finds anything abnormal, you have the option of scheduling a free 15-minute consultation with a veterinarian to discuss your dog’s condition and future care. The price, however, is a bit daunting — about 50% higher than the Wisdom Essential kit.
Embark Dog DNA Test Kit
Another of the more comprehensive dog DNA tests available as of this writing, the Embark Dog DNA Test analyzes your dog’s DNA for breed, ancestry and health problems with a single cheek swab. Created in partnership with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the test uses over 200,000 genetic markers and screens for more than 190 genetically linked conditions, including multidrug sensitivity (MDR1), glaucoma and dilated cardiomyopathy.The company has a huge database of dog breeds, mixes, and even wolf and coyote DNA, which allows it to accurately identify over 350 dog breeds and mixes of breeds. Results take about 3-5 weeks to arrive, and if there is anything in them that concerns you, you have the opportunity to speak with a pet geneticist about what they mean.
Easy to perform and exceptionally accurate, the Embark Dog DNA Test is rather expensive, on a par with the Wisdom Panel Premium Dog DNA Test. Still, given all the information and resources the tests offer, many pet parents think it’s well worth the price.
Embark Breed Identification Kit
From the makers of the more comprehensive Embark DNA test, this breed identification kit is a more affordable option for pet parents who want accurate breed results without the hefty price tag. Using the same extensive database as the Embark DNA test, this veterinarian-developed test gives you accurate information about your dog’s breed and ancestry, and tells you how many other dogs in the company’s database share DNA with your pup. Results are reported online in about 2-4 weeks, and — perhaps best of all — you can upgrade your account at any time and get a comprehensive health screening without submitting another swab.
Orivet Geno Pet 5.0 Dog DNA Test
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Yet another comprehensive dog DNA test, Orivet’s Geno Pet 5.0 analyzes your dog’s ancestry using a database of over 350 breeds. Like Embark and Wisdom Panel, it reports several generations of the dog’s lineage and looks for genetic markers associated with over 200 health conditions and traits. Orivet also uses a proprietary algorithm to create a “Health Risk Analysis” based on your dog’s breed, age, gender and environment, and provides pet parents with a customized Life Plan that includes dietary recommendations and ongoing reminders for routine health care. All of this information is reported online in about 3-5 weeks.
At a price point just a tad lower than the Embark DNA test, Geno Pet 5.0 is a good choice for pet parents who want a comprehensive breed and health assessment at a more affordable price.
Orivet Dog DNA Health Screen and Life Plan
A little bit of an anomaly on the dog DNA landscape, Orivet’s Dog DNA Health Screen and Life Plan tests your dog’s DNA for over 200 different genetically linked traits and conditions and reports those that are most relevant for your dog. However, you must know our dog’s breed or breed mix first. For purebred dogs with a documented pedigree, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if your dog is a mixed breed or you’re unsure about his lineage, you will need to first buy a breed identification kit and then purchase this test.
Although Orivet markets its DNA Health Screen to pet owners and consumers, this test may be most useful amateur breeders who want to avoid passing on unwanted genetic conditions to their dogs’ offspring.
DNA My Dog
A good choice for budget-conscious dog owners, DNA My Dog is a relatively low-priced DNA kit that provides basic information about your dog’s ancestry plus an overview of personality traits and health conditions that are common to the breeds identified. It’s not a comprehensive test by any means, but you do get a nice official-looking DNA certificate and some feeding and training advice.
The Bottom Line
Testing your dog’s DNA can be a fun adventure, but it’s important to take the results with the proverbial grain of salt. Unlike human DNA analysis, which is remarkably accurate when performed by a high-quality lab, the methods used to analyze dog DNA are not standardized and vary a great deal. As time goes on and science develops, they will undoubtedly become more sophisticated. But for now, to keep in mind that even the best dog DNA tests can be inaccurate, so it’s important to make choices about your dog’s health and wellness in consultation with your vet.
Testing your dog’s DNA can be a lot of fun, but in the end you’re going to love him no matter what the test shows!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.