8/5/2022 | By Kari Smith

DNA testing for people has become increasingly popular for finding distant relatives and understanding health risks. Now, people are using dog DNA kits, too. We provide an overview of these kits and examine the potential benefits, from knowing breed tendencies to managing health..

What are dog DNA kits?

You’re not the only one wondering! Web searches for dog DNA kits are up 172% over the last 5 years, as dog owners have explore the possibilities of such testing . In fact, on Amazon alone, two highly rated DNA kits together generate around $47,000 daily. So why the hype?

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the hereditary material in human (and nearly all other organisms’) cells that contains thousands of markers carrying genetic information. For dogs, this means knowing your dog’s ancestry (especially useful for mixed-breed dogs), to better understand potential behavior traits and inherited conditions.

What are the benefits of testing a dog’s DNA?

Pet owners who got their four-legged family member from an animal shelter or rescue may want to know their pet’s breed. For some, it is a matter of sheer curiosity. For others, breed information can inform them on how best to care for their dog: better understanding his energy level and activity needs, potential temperament and behavior, potential health problems, etc.

For canine breeders or dog owners considering breeding their pup, DNA results can help them know what genetic risks they may pass on to puppies. Even a pet that shows no signs of illness or worrisome genetic conditions could still be a carrier.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) outlines seven major dog breed groups: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding. (Some dog DNA kits even search for results that match wolf and coyote.) Matching a breed to your lifestyle or even understanding why your dog is not working with your lifestyle is important. For example, if DNA results reveal that your pet carries the genetics of a livestock guardian dog, it may help you sort out why your pup has not succeeded as an indoor house pet.


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However, DNA can show much more than your dog’s breed. The traits of your dog (size, eye color, coat type, etc.), potential genetic health conditions, and more are found in its DNA. This may be important, for example, for someone who is allergic to dogs and looking for a less-allergenic breed, such as a hairless, no-shed, or low-shed dog.

How reliable are the results?

woman with her dog. Photo by Pojoslaw, Dreamstime. Increasingly, people are using dog DNA kits. We provide an overview and examine benefits, from knowing breed tendencies to managing health.

The FDA does not regulate genetic testing in dogs at this time, so laboratory guidelines and quality control are up to the manufacturer. Be sure to check with your testing kit manufacturer to be sure that they use an accredited lab for testing, and check for their reported accuracy percentage, which should be as close to 100% as possible. Some testing companies take additional safety measures, such as using robots to barcode and handle samples so that they are never contaminated or mixed up by human error. To reduce risk even further, some breeders and registries use veterinarian verification to ensure that your submitted sample actually came from your dog, which can be identified by tattoo or microchip.

The New York Times researched 17 dog DNA kits to discover which kits were best, measuring size of breed database and inherited-disease screenings as well as customer support record. The Times found that Embark was the best, with nearly all AKC breeds in the database as well as street dogs and the gray wolf (more than 350 breeds), self-reported results that are 95% to 99% accurate, and more than 220,000 genetic markers, twice the number as competitors.

How do these kits work?

Dog DNA kits commonly consist of a swab, a DNA collection tube, and a prepaid return envelope. Using this kit, an owner can swab Fido’s cheek to collect saliva, which is then sent off for lab diagnosis. Results are usually produced in 2-4 weeks, based on the company you use. Two of the most popular dog DNA kit manufacturers currently include Embark, whose tests range from $129 to $199 with additional options for breeders and veterinarians, and Wisdom, which offers options from $80 to $160. Basic levels of testing screen for breed identification, whereas higher levels of testing include additional health and trait tests, and even vet consultations to discuss your pet’s results. Some tests can even find your pet’s closest relatives. Family reunion, anyone?

Where do I get a dog DNA kit?

If you’re ready to know more about your dog’s ancestry, there are many places to buy a kit. In addition to purchasing online from dog DNA-specific companies such as the ones mentioned above, you can purchase your kit from pet supply companies such as Chewy, Petsmart, Petco, and retailers such as Target and Amazon.

Related: Technology to keep our fur babies safe and happy

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith