DNA test for dogs – what can you learn?

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A Shetland Sheepdog Boxer mix

What breed is she?

If you are like us, maybe you have a mixed breed dog and you have always been curious what breeds compose their ‘mixed breed’. Or maybe you have a purebred dog but are curious just how pure your purebred actually is.

We reached out to Wisdom Panel, one of the most reputable of the Dog DNA testing companies, to finally get some insight into the breed composition of our dog Zuzu. The shelter told us their best guess was that Zuzu was a Labrador Retriever, Border Collie Shepherd mix, and we told that to people for years even if we didn’t really know with any certainty. Well now we do. The DNA tests not only satiate your curiosity about your dog’s breed, but can help you better understand your dog’s behavior and also potentially warn you of any genetic predispositions that could be avoided. The Wisdom Panel test does 7 million calculations to analyze 321 genetic markers and has mapped 200 breeds from the 3 ancestral dog trees.

Getting started

We used the Wisdom Panel 2.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit ($69 at Amazon), which is a cheek swab test (as opposed to a blood test). It takes about 30 seconds to collect the dna sample by rubbing a little bristle brush that they provide between the cheeks and the gums on each side. You then let it dry for 5 minutes, register your kit online, and then put it in the prepaid mailer to return the kit. For us, we had the results in 2 weeks.

dna report coverThe results

Once ready, the results come in a PDF report that you can download online. We were completely surprised by the results. To start we found out that Zuzu is a very, very, mixed breed (beyond 3 generations for a lot of the markers), but both her paternal and maternal side did have markers that indicated two predominant breeds. On one side, Zuzu is predominantly a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie), going back to her grandparents and great grandparents. On the other side? A Boxer! We had no idea. Considering we had no idea about her breeds until we got the test results, it is no surprise that no reader guessed either one of those breeds.

The Sheltie side made some sense, given Zuzu’s high energy and instinct to herd moving things, but Shelties are often smaller dogs and Zuzu is 50 pounds. The boxer side may explain some of her size, and after speaking with a veterinarian scientist at Wisdom Panel (Dr. Angela), she mentioned that the base of Zuzu’s ears is similar to a boxer’s upright ears. Dr. Angela also pointed out some other interesting things. Zuzu’s all blonde coat is a recessive trait, meaning it was carried through generations on both sides. Her black nose is a dominant trait. Body size is related to many factors. Dr. Angela also warned us that on Zuzu’s Sheltie side, she may have a mutant MDR1 gene which could put her at risk to certain medications (here is a list: www.vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-VCPL/drugs.aspx), especially at high doses. The list included Imodium, some chemotherapy agents, some anesthetics, and other somewhat commonly used medicines.


  • The report you get has some basic information, but be sure to call up and have someone go over the report with you. They may have additional information (especially about health markers) that is not included in the report.
  • For those checking purebreds, you can get a statement of authentication with your results showing the breeds back 3 generations.
  • The main difference between this test and the test at the veterinarian’s office (besides cost and taking blood versus a simple cheek swab) is that you are guaranteed to get a good dna sample through the blood test at the vet. But as long as you follow the instructions for this cheek swab test, it’s really easy to get a good sample (we had no issue). At the vet you can also get more information and have a discussion about health indicators from the test.

Overall it was fascinating to finally know what breeds make up Zuzu – we can finally say with confidence that she is a very mixed breed dog, but predominantly Sheltie on one side, and some definite boxer on the other. We can also be aware of the health risks that she may face from certain medicines and avoid them as best possible.



[Notes: We used the Wisdom Panel 2.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit for this study.]

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