DNA tests are getting really popular amongst humans. Who wouldn’t want to find out where their family is from? It’s fascinating to be able to trace little parts of your history and join up the dots of the parts you knew (or think you knew) with the parts you didn't.
So it’s hardly surprising that we now want to find out more about our furry best friends too. Whether you want to make sure your purebred Poodle really is 100% pure or find out the ancestry of the mixed pup you adopted from the shelter, you can easily do it with a DNA test.
But which is the best dog DNA test? How do they work? And are the results really accurate?
What is a dog DNA test?
Quite similarly to the ones we humans can do, dog DNA tests work by taking a sample of saliva from your pup and sending it off to the lab to be analyzed. You can order the tests online and (on average) will get the results back in two to four weeks.
The DNA tests will tell you the percentage of each breed in your dog’s genetic makeup (whether they’re purebred or mixed breed) and some will even let you know if your dog has a marker of a particular genetic disease.
Why test your dog’s DNA?
For most owners, testing their dog’s DNA is just a fun thing to do. It’s interesting to find out if the very expensive purebred you bought actually is purebred (fingers crossed) and what breed the parents of your pup were if you don’t know very much about them. You can finally answer all your questions about why your pup has particularly curly hair, why their nose is a little longer, or their legs a little shorter.
In some cases, the best dog DNA tests can also alert you to possible genetic diseases before they become a problem and give you an overview of your dog's genetic health. They can also help you match up your pup’s relatives based on dogs with the same DNA.
How does a dog DNA test kit work?
For most dog DNA tests you’ll need to register the kit – whether that’s by creating an online account or registering the kit to your name and email address. Once you receive your test you’ll need to take a swab of saliva (that’s full of DNA) from both sides of your dog’s mouth. Try to wait a few hours after they’ve eaten to make it as accurate as possible. Then send off your swab and wait for the results to come in!
Easy. So, which of the dog DNA test kits out there is the best?
Embark is a great option if you want to get as much information as possible about your dog. They offer two different kinds of tests:
- Breed ID Kit ($129)
- Breed and Health Kit ($199)
The Breed ID Kit tests your dog’s DNA against more than 300 breeds, including dingoes, village dogs, and wolves. You’ll get to know your pup’s unique genetics and trace their family tree back to their great grandparents, as well as getting an overview of breed behavior and traits. Embark claims that its genetic testing is between 95% and 99% accurate and is in partnership with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
In addition to this, the Breed and Health Kit tests identify 200,000 genetic markers (twice as much as other DNA kits) and your results include any possible health risks which your dog may go on to develop.
A really nice feature of the Embark dog DNA test is that there’s a social element to it. You can share your dog’s DNA with others and link up any possible relatives. You can also opt-in for your results to be used in the University's research into canine genetics. You can access your pet’s DNA results online or download them so it's easy to show your veterinarian.
Embark also donates a lot of money to shelters in the US and Nepal and to canine research charities. Which is obviously great, but this quality does come at a cost. Embark is one of the best dog DNA tests you can do, but it is more expensive than others out there.
Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test
Wisdom Panel is another great option, especially if you think your pup’s ancestors may not be as common in the US as other breeds. They test for over 350 breeds, types, and varieties of canine. There are two tests available:
They both test your dog’s genetic history and the premium version also tests for over 200 possible genetic conditions.
The setup is fairly similar to Embark and you’ll get your results back via email within 3 weeks of sending them off. They have great, responsive customer care and are very easy to get hold of. They also donate to animal rights groups and work with shelters across the US.
If you’re wanting to find your doggie’s family, this DNA test isn’t for you as they don’t have the relative finder option like Embark. Their genetic marker testing is also much less detailed as they only test half as much genetic information as Embark does. It is a slightly less expensive service than Embark, but more expensive than others.
For those of us who are also cat lovers, they offer cat DNA testing too!
DNA My Dog
DNA My Dog is a more affordable option if you’re interested in knowing your dog’s ancestry but don’t want to pay the top price. It isn’t, however, the one for you if you think your pup has a rare dog breed in their history. DNA My Dog has a smaller database which means you won’t get the same level of accuracy in the results as with other dog DNA tests. It does, however, include all the most common breeds in the US.
You’ll get your results in about a week (which is notably quicker than the other DNA kits) and they’ll give you a report on the personality traits and any health concerns of the most dominant breeds in your pup. It’s not quite as bespoke as Embark or Wisdom Panel and it is a little more general about health, but DNA My Dog might be a good test for you if you’re curious about your dog’s family tree and don’t have such a big budget!
The DNA My Dog Breed Identification Kit costs $69.
Orivet is another great dog DNA testing kit that’s specifically marketed towards breeders and veterinary professionals. Although finding out your dog’s breed history is fun (and something Orivet still does), this dog DNA kit focuses more on potential health risks that your dog might develop.
The sample is collected in exactly the same way as the other tests and you’ll get your results in a few weeks. If you go for Orivet Mixed-Breed Identification & Life Plan Dog DNA Test Kit, they’ll provide you with a personalized life plan for your dog, outlining any possible risks or diseases they may inherit. Of course, this is great knowledge for breeders, but for owners, it’s also useful information that you can then share with your veterinarian. If they think further health tests are needed (because they’ve noticed a particularly high risk in the genetics) they’ll suggest it. They take into account your dog’s age and recommend how you can best care for them.
Getting a DNA test for your dog is a great way to get to know your pet a little bit more. They’ll be able to identify the markers of different breeds and answer any questions that you might have had about where your pup comes from. DNA tests can also make you aware of any possible health risks, so you can be best prepared for the future.
Have you ever done a dog DNA test? What did it tell you about your dog?
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!