The board of luxury New York City apartment complex raised paws last year when it started requiring residents to test the DNA of their dogs before granting them permission to reside there.
Its reasoning was that certain dog breeds are aggressive by nature. (The complex also has a list of banned breeds, which includes Pomeranians, according to DNAinfo.)
Beyond their behaviour, dog DNA tests claim they can tell you everything from how big a young dog will get, to whether it will be good with kids or other pets.
Having experimented with testing my own DNA, I figured it was worth a shot to find out more about my dog. Here’s how it went:
This is Izzie. When I adopted her over a decade ago, I was told she was a mixed-breed Golden Retriever. She was only a year old, so no one knew how big she'd get (most Goldens reach their full size, about 60 lbs, around age 2) or how she'd behave in a house where she was the only pet. Our veterinarian told us she looked like a Golden, so it was safe to say she was some kind of (smallish) Golden Retriever mutt.
Despite our worries, she stayed roughly the same size. And we stayed curious about her heritage. She's now 14 years old, and she's friendly and loyal. Most people get dog DNA tests so they can find out what kind of behavioural traits to expect: Golden Retrievers tend to be loyal and good with kids, for example, while Dalmatians are super active and generally make good guard dogs.
When I got the chance to test her DNA, I seized it. There were several options to choose from, but I picked the Wisdom Panel DNA test developed by MARS Veterinary, the world's largest pet healthcare provider. At $84.99, the kit wasn't cheap.
Getting dog DNA samples is a lot like getting human DNA samples -- you firmly twirl it along the inside of each cheek for 15 seconds, and then repeat with the second swab.
Izzie wasn't a huge fan of the process. But my dad (in the background) got a kick out of watching us.
Once I got Izzie's samples, I stuck the swabs into the holes in the package and let them dry, as instructed, for 5 minutes. There's tons of microscopic Izzie DNA on there!
Once the swabs were dry, I resealed them, packed them back up, and popped it in the mail. Once it got to Wisdom Panel's lab, Izzie's DNA would be scanned and analysed in a database of 250 dog breeds for 1,800 different 'markers,' or places in Izzie's DNA where there are signature variations, which can be used to determine what breeds she's most likely made up of. The test also looks for coyote and grey wolf markers. Coyotes, wolves, and domestic dogs can interbreed (they're all members of the same species, Canis) but they belong to distinct subspecies.
I have to admit: I was completely surprised. After 2 weeks, I got an email telling me Izzie's results were ready, so I logged on to WisdomPanel.com and entered my information. Here's the first screen I saw:
Chow Chow and Cocker Spaniel?! American Eskimo and Samoyed?! So much for my 'Mini Golden Retriever' assumption...
At first, I couldn't believe it. She doesn't look like a Cocker Spaniel, even though her results say she's nearly 38% Cocker. But I kept clicking through the results, which appeared on several pages, as shown below:
While she doesn't look like a Cocker Spaniel, her personality certainly fits. Cockers are known for being members an active 'sporting breed.' They thrive on daily exercise, and they're intelligent, gentle, and do well as part of a family.
Onto the next part of her DNA: 25% Chow Chow. To me at least, Izzie doesn't look like a Chow Chow either. Still, a few personality traits sounded somewhat familiar:
Here's the screen that got me: Izzie is 12.5% American Eskimo Dog. With the exception of the perky ears and the white, super-fluffy coat, Izzie does kind of look like an American Eskimo! I can see some Izzie likenesses in this dog's eyes and snout, for example:
The last specific breed in her results was Samoyed, a type of dog initially named after a group of nomadic Siberian reindeer herders who bred the dogs to help round up reindeer and pull sleds. This dog's tail looks a lot more like Izzie's than the other breeds, and its eyes and snout are similar too:
Her final page of results looked at all the remaining DNA that couldn't necessarily be classified into the previous groups. The breeds shown below probably reflect some breeding that happened outside of the three generations that Wisdom Panel tests for. Here are the groups that Izzie is most likely -- statistically speaking -- to be related to, with the most likely at the top:
Still, it's important to keep in mind that the difference among breeds is unusual as far as mammals go. All dogs are still a member of a single species -- Canis lupus familiaris, aka the domestic dog. But thanks to having been bred for so many years for specific characteristics by people, they have some pretty big visual differences.
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