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A blog by Jane Brackman, Ph.D.
jlbrac@earthlink.net

Saturday, July 14, 2012

DOG DNA TESTS - HOW ACCURATE ARE THEY?

THIS POST WAS UPDATED MARCH 6, 2014.  Read a recent article I wrote for The Bark magazine, Do DNA Tests Reveal Genetic Secrets, (November/December 2013) that explains why DNA tests are accurate but they probably won't tell you what you want to know.  

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Several companies sell mixed breed dog DNA tests. Are they accurate? I used two kits and compared Izzy's results to find out.  
Izzy was born in late 2010, weighs 25 pounds and looks like a Chihuahua/Whippet cross in a Golden Retriever costume. I rescued her from a Los Angeles shelter when she was about a year old. I tested Izzy's DNA with the Canine Heritage Mixed Breed DNA test and the Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed DNA kit.


The Wisdom Panel results indicated that one parent was a Miniature Pinscher/Shih Tzu mix. On that side of the family her grandparents were too, as well as her great grandparents. This means that one parent was a "Pin -Tzu" designer hybrid which is an intentional cross between the Miniature Pinscher and Shih Tzu.  Her other parent was a mongrel of indeterminate ancestry. On that side of the family, all her ancestors were mixed breeds of unknown origin.  That's a Pin Tzu above, and Izzy to the right.  So based on Izzy's looks, I would say this test is accurate.



The Wisdom Panel test indicated she is the offspring of a carefully bred
hybrid dog who fell in love with a mongrelly mongrel.
The results of the Canine Heritage test indicated that both parents were mixes, which confirms what the first test described if you agree that a hybrid designer dog is a mix.  Like the first test, it indicated a purebred Shih Tzu grandparent, but it didn't mention any Miniature Pinscher ancestry.

In conclusion, I would say that both tests were accurate, but the Canine Heritage test was not as thorough as the Wisdom Panel.


If you've had your dog's DNA tested, share your results with me and I'll post pictures on my website.

22 comments:

  1. That is a fun comparison and way to find the heritage of a mixed breed.

    Debbie

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  2. No we have not had one done but my human is baffled by my parentage. So maybe we will have a go.
    Best wishes Molly

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  3. I had two of my dogs tested recently by wisdom panel. very strange mixtures of dogs.

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  4. I'd be interested in posting a photo of your dogs and the results of their DNA panels. Let me know. jlbrac@earthlink.net

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  5. Too bad Canine Heritage is going out of the DNA testing business. I've had 4 mixed breed dogs tested by them, two of them also by Wisdom. Didn't send any pictures to either. Canine Heritage was quite accurate on all 4, whereas Wisdom faltered on both less than at least 50%. But it seems there no longer is a choice--I couldn't find any others besides Wisdom in business today (I wanted my new dog tested).

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  6. Wisdom Panel acquired Canine Heritage in July this year, so now there is only one company. Bark magazine, on the stands now, has an article I wrote that goes into detail about why the tests are so counter intuitive. I'll make it available this week, via my blog.

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  7. Izzy has some features of her head or ears like my dog of the same color, Tillie (who looks like a miniature golden retriever in cream with an up tail-whom when I rescued her I was told she was a Cavalier mix CKCS/ possible /eskimo mix ( there is a hybrid called Cav a Mo - if I can figure out how to post my Avitar(is there a way to do this for my post?)of my cavamo Tillie, u will see how there are some features like Izzie (maybe the ears - is it a spaniel thin?zze I may purchase a Wisdom DNA test- there are 2 types- Professional (used blood drawn at ve) and the one sold at pet stpre like Petco (that used a cheek swab) is it worth extra money and effort and vet visit to get the professional or just enough info from the cheek swab type ?? or is this just something for fun and not really scientific/

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    1. Can you email her photo to me at jlbrac@earthlink.net?
      I think MARS has a new improved test with more than 200 breeds in the data base. That one uses the cheek swab. I've never used the blood draw. DNA labs often use cheek swabs so my guess is they're just as good. I guess it depends on what you're looking for.

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  8. We just tested one of our dogs using the MARS Wisdom Panel 2.0. I have to say that we are sceptical of the results. Maggie is a 40lb, highly energetic dog with a very strong herding instinct. We've been told repeatedly that she looks most like an Australian Kelpie mix, and she certainly fits many of the breed characteristics. The results came back as mixed breed on one side (part German Shephard, part American Staff terrier ) and Chow Chow mix on the other. The Chow Chow part seems really unlikely...We don't care, but wanted to know what she is as she's such a great dog!

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    1. Send a photo andresults to jlbrac@earthlink.net, I'll post them. I'm not a geneticist but this is my best guestimation. When the computer seeks breeds it's looking for DNA that clusters together. If clusters are tight, dense, big and recent, it indicates an established breed. And the search will stop at the first big cluster. If there aren't any, It will go back generation after generation to find the closest thing to a cluster that it can, even if it's small and loosely defined. Maggie's DNA stopped when it got to Chow, G. Shepherd, and Am. Staff. (Did you look at the Wisdom Panel breed library?) The Chow is an ancient breed, so if you go back far enough in any dog, Chow will probably show up. The GS was made up of other herding breeds (including ones that look like Kelpies) so whatever is in the GS is also in Maggie. And if she is part Pitbull (Does MARS use Pit and Am Staff interchangeably?) then anything goes. So it sounds pretty accurate to me. She is the perfect mix!!

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    2. Thank you! I really appreciate your insights. I'll send you a couple of photos....

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  9. I used the wisdom mixed test and they only could identify one breed with high accuracy. .the other two breeds look nothing like my dog..then there were a list of 5 other breeds that she may have... she looks nothing like a lab/weimaraner/shar pei mix lol

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    1. I wrote an article about why the test is reliable, and why people think it is not. Not sure if it will clarify anything, but it's interesting.
      http://thebark.com/content/do-dna-tests-reveal-genetic-secrets

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  10. I've just had my Lurcher tested and was quite surprised with the result. They have her as a Greyhound (very accurate) German (White Swiss Shepherd) Mix. Apart from a slightly more hairy tail than Greyhounds, I can't see any Shepherd in her at all. I thought Greyhound, Whippet and possibly some Staffie as she is smaller than a greyhound. In the mixed breeds they mentioned things like Doberman, German Shepherd and Husky and a couple of other possibilities. Her weight they had at 50-78lb, she is 50lb. Interesting, but I can't determine how accurate by her looks.

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    1. My understanding of ancient Lurchers is that they were combinations of many dogs although the primary breed was always Greyhound. Is this still the case?

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  11. They are a cross between any Sighthound and another type of dog. Usually a pastoral breed or terrier. More recently there are Bull Lurchers which are a cross between a bull breed and a Sighthound. I have also had my other Lurcher tested, and am now more confident about these tests as he is down as Greyhound/Staffie X Greyhound/Mixed breed. He has very obviously some Bull Lurcher in him, though I thought maybe some Collie which wasn't mentioned.
    I have also seen a photo of a dog that is a Doberman/German Shepherd and some other dog, and it looks very much like my original Lurcher, so maybe it is accurate after all, though I can't understand why she isn't bigger.

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  12. I am wondering how accurate the assessment of the mixed breeds are in the DNA test results. My sighthound was tested recently and, convincingly came out as a Spanish galgo cross vs saluki cross with mixed breeds showing outcrossing in every generation on both sides, back to the great grandparents. I received a list of possible candidates for the mixed breeds, some of them fitting in nicely with the Spanish/North African breeding of the pure breeds, but some of them less so. I'd love to know how accurate the mixed breed assessments are.

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    1. The test are accurate but I'm not sure they tell you what you want to know. The issue is that all breeds of dogs are so closely related that if you go back a few generations, mixed breeds, no matter what they look, are pretty much are all related. If your pooch has no purebred parent or grandparent, the test tells you all the breeds that make up the mongrel mixes. I wrote an article about why that happens. It was in The Bark a few months ago. You can read it here: http://thebark.com/content/do-dna-tests-reveal-genetic-secrets

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  13. So I did both tests - Wisdom & Heritage mixed breed. My dog is about 60-65 lbs, 2' at the shoulder and looks like a husky with shepherd in her - she wookies (husky trait) and is a runner.

    Heritage came back with 75% husky / 25% auzzie shepherd while Wisdom came with 50% husky / 25% golden retriever / 25% newfie.....

    I don't know how to post a picture - but I would say the Heritage is closer to her real mix - but neither are accurate as far as I can tell.

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    1. I had a response from Wisdom, now saying that they are confident of the Husky in Karma (I sent them pics based on their request to review the results)....the match is based on a computer algorithm, which suggests that she has about 50% husky (1 parent), the other parent is some sort of mix with golden retriever and newfie at the grandparent level...unknown at the parent level....they kept coming back that her Husky genes were predominant and that the rest were probably from the unknown portion of her mix. Interesting response to my query.

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  14. We tested our dog at Wisdom. They identified three great grandparents (two Am Staff, one Beagle) and suggested Poodle, German Shepherd were "in the mix." Nothing surprising there, except she views the world like a sighthound and kangaroos through brush like an Ibizian hound. Would I get additional information if I tested her as an purebred Greyhound or Ibizian, or would that be a waste of money?

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  15. Can you send me a photo of your pooch via my email: jlbrac@earthlink.net
    I'll include her in the post.

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