How do I figure out what breed my dog is? This has to be one of the most common questions asked by dog owners. While it may not always be possible to determine a particular dog's breed heritage, it is getting easier.
Ways to Identify Your Dog's Breed
Unless a dog is purchased directly from a breeder, it may be difficult to know exactly which breed that dog is. Shelters are filled with puppies and adult dogs waiting for adoption. Some are clearly purebred, while others are obviously mixes of two or more breeds. While every dog is equally deserving of love and care regardless of their breed, it's still fun to figure out a dog's heritage. It can also be useful to know a dog's breed composition for medical purposes, because some breeds are prone to specific health issues.
Compare Breed Pictures
Although perhaps not the most accurate way to identify a dog's breed, sometimes it is possible to compare a dog to pictures of other dog breeds to determine what breeds make up their heritage.
The American Kennel Club website is a great resource for pictures of all the currently recognized dog breeds, as well as many rare breeds. By browsing through their dog breeds category, you may be able to find distinct similarities between your pet and one or more breed images. This can give you a basic idea about which breed or breeds are behind your dog.
Other websites that include dog breed charts are DogBreedChart and DogTime. These sites are helpful for identifying your dog's breed by characteristics, comparing your dog's physical attributes (fur length, muzzle size, ear shape, weight, etc.) and behavioral traits (barking, digging, pointing, etc.) to those of existing breeds.
Ask Your Vet's Opinion
Veterinarians see many breeds come through their clinics, and most develop a good eye for assessing which breeds might be involved in a particular dog's family line. When in doubt, ask your vet for an educated opinion about your dog's heritage. He or she may be able to tell you what breed your dog is, depending on a variety of factors.
Contact Your Local Kennel Club
Whether you think your dog is purebred or mixed, you'll find real dog experts at your local kennel club.
Find out when the club is holding the next meeting and plan to attend. Bring your dog along and ask if anyone can try to help you figure out their heritage after the meeting ends. You may get more opinions than you bargained for, but it could lead to a great discussion and consensus.
Online Breed Quiz
You can use an online tool or app to help you determine what breeds make up your dog's genetic history. Tests and quizzes ask various questions about your dog's ears, muzzle, and tail and will provide possible results. What's My Mutt? is a "what breed is my dog" app that works on iOS devices. The app quizzes you on your dog's physical features to give you an idea of what your dog may be mixed with. The DogKey is an online quiz tool that will also ask a series of questions about size, coat length, body shape, and ears to provide a list of potential results.
Take a Picture
There are apps available for your mobile devices where you can upload a picture of your dog to receive information on what breed it might be. Examples of these apps are DogZam!, available for both iOS and Android, Dog ID, available for iOS, What's My Mutt?, available for iOS, and What Dog Experiment, available for iOS and as an online tool. These apps are only useful if your dog is a purebred, and their accuracy is minimal.
There is an app that claims it can determine the makeup of mixed breeds called Dog Scanner. This app allows you to take photo or video, then submit it to help determine your dog's breed composition. You can also share your results and compare them with other dog owners who received similar results.
Submit a DNA Sample
If you really feel you need to know which breed your dog is, submitting a DNA sample might be the most accurate way to figure it out.
DNA test kits are available from several companies:
- Embark was voted the number one test for dog DNA testing by Canine Journal. Embark works with the Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine to keep up-to-date on research into dog DNA. In comparison to other tests on the market, it tests for 250 breeds, but offers 100 times more genetic information. Unfortunately, it's the most expensive of the tests at about $228, but the cost is worth it if you want the most accurate result.
- Wisdom Panel sells a basic testing kit for about $100 that will give you a result based on a database of more than 250 breeds. Their Wisdom Panel Health test costs $149 and includes more detailed information on screening for possible genetic health conditions.
- HomeDNA provides two types of tests for dog DNA. The DNA test for mixed-breed dogs costs $89 and the Dog DNA Health Screen costs $125. The company has a database of more than 235 breeds and tests for 150 genetic conditions. The downside of the test is you need to order both if you want both pieces of information, whereas the Wisdom Panel health test will include mixed-breed information, as well.
Collecting a DNA sample is as easy as swiping the inside of your dog's mouth with a cotton swab and sealing it inside the collection container provided with the kit. You can then insert the container in the return envelope that comes with the kit and mail it back to the lab. Once the sample has been analyzed, labs typically send a report on which breeds were identified in the sample. The labs look for genetic markers in the DNA that match up to markers among different dog breeds.
Be aware that dog DNA testing isn't foolproof and results may vary, but it can prove more accurate than a visual comparison to other dog breeds. If you can afford the cost of the test, this may be your best option. Research the testing company, as they vary widely in the number of dog breeds in their database. The larger their database, the higher the potential for a more accurate result.
Is Knowing the Breed Really That Important?
So, how do you figure out what breed your dog is? There is more than one answer to that question, and you may never receive an answer that is 100 percent accurate. In the long run, it may be best to just accept your dog for who they are and not worry about their breed heritage. After all, dogs love you no matter who their parents are, and that's a wonderful gift to receive.