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# Dog DNA tests are a thing. Here’s what happened when I tried this $51 kit on my mutt

Plus, two of the best-rated dog DNA breed identification kits on the market.

#Dog DNA tests are a thing. Here’s what happened when I tried this $51 kit on my mutt

Looking for a different holiday gift? Here are two of the most highly rated dog DNA breed-identification kits on the market.

#  Dog DNA tests are a thing. Here’s what happened when I tried this  kit on my mutt
Gus.

Ever since I brought Gus home from the West Los Angeles animal shelter eight years ago, I’ve wondered what mix of breeds it took to make his 20 pounds of redheaded perfection. According to his intake papers, the owner who surrendered him claimed he was a cocker spaniel and dachshund mix — which was entirely believable given his long hair and short stature. For a period of time, I convinced myself he was a “goldie dox,” which is a golden retriever and dachshund mix, although, anatomically, I’m not even sure that’s possible — but it sounds cute.

Because he’s sort of unusual looking, passersby often inquire about his breed, and I’d grown accustomed to saying, “We’re not really sure.” But I’d always hoped for a more concrete answer. I’d heard of people using canine DNA tests, but I’d always been somewhat skeptical of them. They’re not cheap, I imagine swabs getting mixed up and results getting confused, and I’m not sure I’m even capable of correctly collecting oral cells. But we figured, if nothing else, doing a DNA test could be entertaining. I have now tried a few of the DNA tests on the market, including the Embark Breed and Health Kit ($135 on Amazon), which is Wirecutter’s pick for best dog DNA kit, and Wisdom Panel Premium ($75 on Petco), both of which tend to be highly rated and have robust databases of dog breeds.

Embark Dog DNA Test Kit

$135 on Amazon

  • 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over 10,600 reviews
  • Wirecutter’s pick for the best dog DNA kit
  • Tests for more than 210 health risks and is partnered with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Wisdom Panel Breed Identification & Health Condition Identification DNA Test for Dogs

$125 on Chewy

  • A Wirecutter pick, with the site noting that it “identifies more AKC-registered breeds than any kit we tested” and has faster turnaround, though it also notes this may be slightly less accurate
  • Detects over 350 breeds and over 200 tests for genetic health conditions

For each of these tests, I swabbed the space between Gus’s cheek and gums for several seconds while my husband held Gus’s quivering body. Then I sealed the cotton stick in the included envelope and mailed it off in a self-addressed package to the laboratory. Gus wasn’t thrilled by the swabbing, but it wasn’t awful, and it actually easier to do than I’d expected. Each test took a few weeks to come back.

The results showed me that Gus is clearly a mutt (there’s some Cocker Spaniel and Poodle, and even some Pomeranian, among other breeds). Alas, complete with an official-looking certificate, a lab reference number and an explanation of the different breed-determination levels, Gus’s possible ancestry was now at my fingertips.

What I like about dog DNA testing:

  • I have an answer (albeit a complicated one) to give people when they ask me what kind of dog Gus is.
  • It’s a pretty painless process, and it doesn’t feel too invasive for the dog.

What to consider about dog DNA testing:

  • It’s pretty hard for me to be certain of the accuracy of the results.
  • It might not be that easy to get a DNA sample from your dog’s mouth. You have to swab the space between their gum and their cheek for several seconds, and Gus wasn’t thrilled — it might be helpful to have an extra set of hands to help conduct the swab.
  • It can take a while to get results.

Bottom line:

I like knowing what some of Gus’s DNA makeup might be so that I can research common personality traits and characteristics and educate myself on how dogs like him age and what to expect in terms of breed-specific ailments. You can try the Embark Breed and Health Kit ($135 on Amazon), which was Wirecutter’s pick for best DNA kit, or Wisdom Panel Premium ($125 on Chewy).

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the author has now tried multiple dog DNA tests.

About the Author

Alisa Wolfson

Alisa Wolfson is a personal-finance columnist for MarketWatch.

 

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