Unlock The Secrets of Your Dog's Breed Heritage with a Home DNA Testing Kit

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 4 min

As a dog parent, you have probably wondered about your furry companion's breed heritage and potential health risks. Fortunately, scientific advances have led to the development of DNA heritage testing for dogs, offering valuable insights into their genetic makeup.

So let’s get into the incredible world of canine heritage testing, to help you make an informed decision about whether this is something you need to help your dog live their best life!

The History of Genetic Research into Dog Breeds

In 2004, the National Human Genome Research Institute initiated a groundbreaking project to sequence the dog genome. This ambitious undertaking aimed to unravel the genetic makeup of various dog breeds and explore the genes associated with different traits and health conditions.

The results of this project paved the way for the development of DNA testing kits that provide information on breed ancestry and can help predict the risk of certain inherited health conditions. 

How Does DNA Testing for Dogs Work?

To understand how DNA testing for dogs works, let's revisit the basics of genetics. DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a blueprint unique to each living organism.

Dogs possess thousands of genes within their DNA that determine characteristics such as breed, appearance, behavior, and genetic predisposition to disease.

DNA testing kits for dogs come in different types, from basic and affordable to comprehensive and more pricey. The type of kit you choose depends on your specific goals for DNA testing.

For example, it's natural for anyone who's adopted a mutt (aka a designer original) from a shelter to wonder what their family tree looks like and why their new family member behaves in a certain way.

On the other hand, people who buy a puppy may want reassurance that the adorable 2-month-old will really grow up to be the labrador they wanted and not a rottweiler. (This really happens, especially when people buy online or from overseas breeders).

How Do I Do a DNA Test on My Dog?

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It's quite straightforward to perform a dog DNA test using an at-home kit.

Typically, you simply collect a DNA sample by gently swabbing the inside of your dog's cheek.

The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. A company such as Embark will offer options - do you want a simple breed heritage test, or a more comprehensive one which will also include health screening and predict the adult weight of a puppy.

If you opt for your veterinarian to do the test, it may require blood or tissue samples. These invasive procedures are not required for in-home test kits.

What Information Will a Dog DNA Test Give Me?

The information a dog DNA test provides depends on the test type. Here are some types of information that DNA tests can reveal:

Breed Tracing and Ancestry

Mixed-breed dogs often have a complex lineage that may not be apparent based on their physical appearance. DNA tests can trace their ancestry, helping you determine which purebred dogs (if any!) contributed to their genetic makeup. This information can help understand your dog's behavior, size, exercise needs, and potential health risks associated with specific breeds.

Health Risks

DNA testing can assess whether your dog's DNA carries a higher risk of inherited health conditions. By identifying potential risks, you can be vigilant for signs and symptoms and take proactive measures for early diagnosis and treatment. For example, certain breeds are predisposed to specific disorders like hip dysplasia or heart conditions.

Genetic Disorders

In cases where specific genetic mutations are responsible for certain diseases, DNA tests can provide accurate results. These tests are particularly helpful for identifying single-gene disorders, such as Von Willebrand disease in Dobermans.

Behavioral Insights

Some DNA tests can shed light on the genetic factors that influence your dog's behavior - why they bark incessantly, love walking with a stick in their mouth, love everyone they meet, or ignore strangers. Understanding how their heritage influences these factors can help you address behavioral issues and develop appropriate training and management strategies.

Benefits of Dog DNA Testing

DNA testing for dogs offers numerous benefits that can enhance your understanding and care of your canine companion:

Health Monitoring

By uncovering potential health risks, you can proactively monitor your dog's well-being and provide timely veterinary care. Early detection of inherited conditions can significantly improve

treatment outcomes - and reduce veterinary costs.

Insight into Behavior

Genetic insights into your dog's behavior can help you better comprehend their natural tendencies and address any behavioral challenges they may exhibit. This understanding enables you to provide the proper training and environment to promote their well-being. Overall, you’ll be able to let your beloved companion ‘be themselves’ while fitting into your lifestyle.

Responsible Breeding

DNA testing is a crucial tool for responsible breeders who aim to reduce the prevalence of inherited disorders in their lines. Breeders can make informed decisions about which dogs to breed by identifying potential genetic risks, ensuring future generations are healthier. Before you buy a puppy, ensure the breeder has carried out comprehensive genetic testing on the parents as well as the pup.

Strengthen the Bond Between You and your Dog

Discovering your dog's breed heritage can be a fun and fulfilling experience. It allows you to connect with their ancestry, appreciate their unique traits, and gain insights into their behavior and needs. You’ll be well-placed to help your pet live their best life,  while strengthening the bonds of love and respect between you.

The Accuracy of Dog DNA Tests

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It is important to note that DNA testing for dogs is not regulated, making it challenging to determine the accuracy of results, especially regarding breed lineage. However, companies with extensive breed databases generally provide more accurate results.

Choose a provider with a solid track record of research. For example, Embark's database, recommended by Felicitails, and the official DNA partner of the Westminster Dog Show, are research partners of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

For diseases with simple genetic mechanisms, DNA tests can be highly accurate. Yet, DNA tests are just one piece of the puzzle for complex disorders influenced by multiple factors.


DNA heritage testing for dogs opens up a world of knowledge and understanding about your furry friend's breed traits and potential health risks.

By unraveling the secrets encoded within their genes, you can make informed decisions about their care, monitor their health effectively, and gain insights into their unique behaviors.

So whether you are a curious dog parent owner or a responsible breeder, DNA testing offers valuable information that can enhance the well-being of your beloved canine companion.

To order an Embark DNA test kit for your dog via Felicitails, click here now!

Stay Pawsitive!