Tag Archives: dog dna

Testing dog DNA

The last few years have seen a whole new industry arise – testing dog DNA. Many people are curious about their mixed-breed dog’s origins. Why they look the way they do. If their tendency to “herd” is natural, etc. And it’s understandable that people want to know. But, in the long run, what difference does it make?

Every dog is an individual with their own personality. Dogs of the same breed, even the same litter, are never identical either in looks or personality. Just like people. And their genetic make-up is just one indicator. The old argument of “nature vs. nurture” is never resolved toward one side. It’s always a combination of personality and upbringing, training and instinct.

Flawed results

A story by the CBC tested the accuracy of four different companies doing dog DNA tests. They submitted samples from two mixed-breed dogs, one purebred dog, and one human reporter. They also, essentially, lied to the testing companies, both about the purebred dog and the person. The results they got for each individual, from each company, were wildly different. And rather hard to believe.

The oddest part about these, and most other dog DNA test results we’ve heard about, is how very unlikely the results seem to be. According to people we know who’ve had the tests done on their dogs, there are apparently hordes of Chow Chows and Chihuahuas reproducing indiscriminately at a great rate out there. We don’t know about you, but we’ve never seen either a Chow Chow or a Chihuahua running loose.

Indigenous roots

Many of the dog DNA results also came back positive for “village dog breeds” or some ancient breeds that no longer exist. It’s a good cover story – but most people would rather know if their fluffy puppy has Poodle or Shih Tzu, not ancient native dog genes. It seems to be a cop-out. Evolution says that all dogs probably have common ancestry. So no big surprises.

Picture of a random street dog to illustrate dog DNA

As far as the human DNA leading a couple of the companies to list origin breeds rather than test failure, it’s predictable. People tend to find what they’re looking for, regardless of what the truth might be. We first learned that lesson many years ago, watching a sit-com called “The Governor and JJ.” In this episode, two book review groups’ books got mixed up. One group, which focused on nature and wildlife, got a sex-education text book. The other group, which was to review the sex education book, got a book on river otters. That second group concluded that their book was rife with obscenity and immorality. They found what they were looking for.

Have fun with it

The upshot is that, if you decide to test your dog’s DNA, don’t take any results as absolute fact. It’s fun to satisfy our curiosity. But it doesn’t change your dog or how you feel about them.

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