We love our dogs because they’re special, and in most cases, considered a member of the family. That family member may be a working dog on a ranch in Wyoming, a lap-dog in Hawaii, or a hunting dog in Texas. No matter what dogs are doing, they seem to have a unique quality that makes them bond with people and become part of the family.
You’ve done DNA testing for yourself, and discovered that your family isn’t actually Irish, but rather a mixture of French and Scandinavian. Your grandmother is a little irritated with this information, but you love knowing more about yourself. So isn’t it time to do the DNA testing on your four-legged family member?
The costs to DNA test your dog vary, and different companies offer different packages. You can get everything from a simple list of breeds, to a more detailed family tree, to a consultation with a veterinarian about your dog’s potential health issues. Check out our review of three different DNA testing kits here.
My current dog, Thor, is a rescue from our local pound. I saw his picture on their web-site, and fell in love immediately. That love was reinforced when I met him: he was just so happy that someone was giving him attention. The paperwork I received described him as “Mix: tri-color.” That’s it. No potential breeds listed. He was a mutt, with no paperwork and an unclear background.
Once we got through the settling in period (who sleeps where, who gets to pee inside, and who has to go outside, etc…), I decided to do a DNA test. I wanted to know what breeds were mixed up in that “tri-color” dog. My reasoning for this was based on questions that lead many people to DNA test their dog.
DNA testing for Health Issues:
DNA testing for your dog can help determine potential health problems. My previous dog was part German Shepherd, and he suffered from Hip Dysplasia when he reached his teens. Thor looked like he could be part Shepherd, so this was a concern. DNA testing can tell potential genetic problems or diseases your dog may be prone to. It can also tell you the warning signs for early stages of a variety of medical problems. You’ll have things to look out for so you can get ahead of potential problems. You’ll be helping a family member so that you can have a long, healthy relationship.
DNA testing to determine breeds
Your canine buddy can’t tell you the family tree, but DNA testing can. My “Mix: tri-color” dog ended up having a little bit of everything: Australian Shepherd, Jack Russell, Greyhound, and Great Dane. I didn’t really need to know any of this, but the process was fun. I swabbed Thor’s mouth (and received a look that screamed, “What the heck are you doing?!”), mailed off the sample, and waited for results. I got the email within a week, and spent an excited half hour explaining to my (admittedly disinterested) dog what his family tree looked like.
Knowing the breeds in your dog’s DNA can help you learn what traits he’s likely to display. Thor, having a good bit of Australian Shepherd in him, wants to be outside, moving, and yes, herding. Since my backyard is free of cattle and sheep, Thor herds my other two dogs around. He’s constantly active, and often “repositions” the other dogs to his liking. He’s even tried to herd the ducks that hang out at the golf course down the road. After you get your DNA results, do a little research on the breeds it found. You may learn why that little dog would rather stay inside than go for a long walk.
There are all kinds of other reasons to DNA test your dog. If she’s a pure-bred, that testing can help confirm the line. It’s also fun to see the family tree when it can be traced back generations. Some places are even doing DNA testing on dogs to help enforce dog waste laws. With a database of local dogs, a pile of dog poop left in the park can be traced back to an individual dog. I’m not sure how that concept will catch on, but it shows that we could see many uses for canine DNA in the future. Until then, Thor and I will be taking walks, and continue to herd other dogs and ducks!