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Barking Up The Family Tree

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The best way to get a dog, in general, is to rescue one. That often means adopting a loveable hybrid, the joys of which are too numerous to list. Maybe you’re sure your dog is a Boxador (Boxer/Lab cross), while your spouse insists he’s a Boxweiler (Boxer and Rottweiler mix). And then there’s that distinctive beagle howl… To find out for sure, you could pay around $100 to have your dog's DNA analyzed. These home- testing kits are very easy to use: you just swab the inside of your dog’s cheek and send the swab to a lab. The test company will compare your dog’s genetic markers with the samples in its database and provide you with an analysis of your dog’s genetic makeup, giving you a glimpse of breed-related needs, quirks or health risks in their DNA.

What Brand Is Best?

The top two brands we recommend for dog DNA testing are: Embark and Wisdom Panel. Embark has a higher number of markers, so if you have a “hybrid” with a lot of potential breeds in it, this brand might find the smaller percentages (it has 110 times more genetic markers than its competition).

Wisdom Panel has a slightly larger breed panel, testing for 350 different breeds, so you can look into it if there is a particular breed you’re curious about.

Do keep in mind if you’re DNA testing your dog: most vets don’t have training in how to interpret dog DNA tests, so it’s important to do your own research.

What should you look for in a dog DNA test?

There are two elements that make up an ideal dog DNA test. The first thing to look for is a kit with a higher number of DNA markers than other brands. Basically, a breadth of DNA markers means the kit will identify even the lower-percentage breeds in your dog. The more DNA markers you look at, the better.

After collecting DNA information, the kit company also has to compare what other dogs look like at those markers. Therefore it’s important to look for a #dogdna test that’s tested enough dogs to have a higher number of breeds on its breed panel. Most companies have all the common breeds. If you’re trying to find out if your dog has a particular breed in it, then it’s important to check the testing company to make sure that breed is on the panel. 

Digging into DNA

Obviously, knowing your dog’s genetic background won’t make you love them any more. But besides satisfying your own curiosity (or settling family arguments), a canine DNA test can have some practical uses:

  • If your dog is a puppy, DNA may provide more accurate clues about his adult size than her appearance as a puppy. (You’d want to know if your tiny wiggle is actually 50% Mastiff, wouldn’t you?)

  • A DNA test can also alert owners to breed specific needs: exercise, nutrition, and socialization.

  • DNA testing can be helpful for pedigreed dogs as well. Breeders may use it to confirm lineage or even parentage, assuming the genetic profiles of both the dam and the sire are in the AKC registry.

What if the DNA report identifies your dog as a mix of breeds that don’t look much like him at all? It doesn’t mean the test was flawed. Like a human being, an individual dog carries genes for a huge variety of traits that she does not physically express. Put another way, a dog’s most visible characteristics, such as coat color, represent only a tiny fraction of the dog’s actual genetic code. If you do have doubts about the results, you can always try a test with a larger database and compare the answers.

If you’re considering making a Boxer your BFF, being open to a Boxer mix can lead to a healthier and more unique pup. It may also allow for the possibility of a mixed breed shelter dog to find a forever home. Looking into some of these amazing Boxer mixes might just be worth your time.

Have you had your dog’s DNA tested? If so, were you surprised by the results? We’d love to hear about your experience!


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