Posted 6 months ago ago
Credit - Emily Chao
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Meet my dog, Dobby.
Dobby was rescued from a shelter in Connecticut in the United States by my partner in 2018, and his breed has always been a source of baffled amusement for us. His large ears made us think of Corgis and Pharaoh Hounds, however his build was small, and his long, skinny legs seemed out of place with the breeds we were guessing.
In 2020, my partner finally gave in and bought Dobby a DNA test to try - partly out of curiosity brought on by months of lockdown boredom, and partly because some breeds can be more susceptible to certain illnesses and health issues, and it can be helpful to know if there might be a way of improving our pup's health.
Here’s another photo of Dobby - let's see if you can guess what breeds he might be made up of... you might be as surprised as we were to learn the results!
Credit - Emily Chao
It turns out that our little 11kg dog is part German Shepherd.
That’s right - one of the bigger and heavier dog breeds has transformed into such a small frame. Not only that, but there is Labrador Retriever and Weimaraner DNA in the mix - the hefty Lab ancestors surprised us the most - although we did have some correct guesses with Rat Terrier and Toy Fox Terrier listed in the results.
The test also came back with high levels of “Supermutt”, in which the DNA is so mixed, the science is unable to fully discern the tiny strains of potential dog breeds that make up our Dobby.
The large variety of mixed breeds did not surprise us because Dobby was found on a street in Georgia by a shelter in the United States, rather than being bought from a litter, but it was a shock that his ancestors were such large dogs. However, with further research we began to notice the influence that the German Shepherd DNA had on him – this particular breed can have issues with separation anxiety, something that Dobby also struggles with.
Credit - Embark screenshot
How to do a doggy DNA test
“I wanted the test because Dobby was listed as a Corgi/Basenji mix, and after having him for two years, I did not believe that at all,” my partner told me.
“I wanted to see what he was made up of and what traits came from which breed.”
Dobby underwent an owner-administered breed ID test from US online service Embark Vet. They send their kits to the UK, but the wait for results could take several weeks because of the added postage time.
The price is $129 (around £92) for a breed ID kit, and $199 (around £142) for a breed and health kit, but do look out for special offers and discounts - there’s one on the site now that offers $40 off the health kit.
“The process of getting the test was just ordering it online and having the saliva kit shipped to me, but I had to swab Dobby's mouth for 30 – 60 seconds and he did not like it,” my partner said.
Once the cheek swab is taken you put it into a tube and the liquid inside will stabilise the saliva, and keep your dog's DNA ready for analysis for many months.
Their website has a video on how to carry it out and advises not to let your dog chew or bite the sponge applicator.
What to expect
With Dobby, the test took around two to three weeks to be returned after the saliva swab was sent off.
Credit - Emily Chao
“It's very simple,” she said, “but you've got to swab the inside of your dog's mouth for more than he's comfortable letting you do, so if you have a big, mouthy dog I'd be forewarned.
“I'm just glad this DNA test was done, because it has given me a lot of joy.”
A dog DNA test may not be for everyone because it is expensive, and more basic forms of the test do not test for any health concerns your dog may be susceptible to.
The DNA comparisons from the Embark kit are also based on common US breeds, so results in the UK may not be as expansive. Embark says it tests for more than 350 breeds, even wolf, coyote, dingo, and village dog ancestry. Together, these cover more than 98% of dogs in America
These home kits work similarly to human commercial DNA tests like 23AndMe, however breed testing is a little more inaccurate, with companies comparing your dog's genetic information with that of other dogs in their databases.
It's best not to take dog DNA test results as gospel, but it was fun to learn a little more about Dobby's genetic make-up, and for an adopted dog may provide a little useful insight that a shelter may have been unable to give you.
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Heard the one about the family who all wanted a dog but Dad didn't?
(Yes, you can guess how that worked out. Read it here.)
- Or what about rescue dog Dobby whose owners thought he was a Corgi... until he took a DNA test.
- Then there's the video that has to be seen to be believed about the guard dog who dozed through an armed robbery. You need to watch this!
- Let us introduce you to the dogs behind the TeamDogs team - Tommy and Molly and Whisky and all.
- Make sure you're getting the most from this site by reading our quick guide to TeamDogs.