Does Knowing Your Dog’s Breed Matter?

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes. There are purebreds, designer breeds, mix breeds, and those that are hairy and hypoallergenic. All of this variety makes it easy to find the perfect companion for each and every household. In recent years, there’s been increased demand for doggy DNA testing promising to unveil the hidden secrets of your dog’s genetic makeup. This is an especially fun prospect for people who adopt mixed breed dogs and eagerly try to guess their makeup.

It’s Not About Looks

Spaniel laying on the floorYou may think you’re an expert at identifying a dog’s breeds by looks alone, but supposedly only 2% of your dog’s genes control their physical appearance. It also turns out that common dominant traits your dog can inherit — like a block-shaped head, dropped ears, or a short black coat — can be attributed to hundreds of breeds beyond the one you’re thinking of.

When it comes to DNA testing kits, some claim to look at as many as 1,800 genetic markers before matching them against databases with more than 250 dogs. This approach offers higher rates of success when identifying prominent breeds in your dog compared to self-identified experts, like vets, shelter staff, and trainers, who are only successful about 27% of the time.

What’s in a breed?

But, as much fun as it is to know your dog’s breed, does it really matter?

Understanding what your dog DNA make-up is can offer insight into health issues they may be prone to or what some of their drives may be. They can also provide clues that can help you keep your dog happy and engaged, like offering a beagle the chance to use their nose.

As humans, we naturally gravitate to assigning dogs to breeds to create order. It helps guide our assumptions that certain types of dogs aren’t as smart as others, some are predisposed to barking, and others can even be dangerous. Studies have also shown that when people see photos of two similar looking dogs, they make judgments on the animals based on their breed labels. While certain breeds may have specific behaviors associated with them, a lot more than genetics comes into play in these things. And that’s because we play an important role in helping to shape the animals our dogs become.

So, at the end of it all, when you have a dog that you love, do they mean more to you when you know their breed? For most dog owners, their unconditional love, affection, and companionship is more important than a breed name or the collection of traits we may associate with them. It’s the warmth that comes from their warm bodies when we snuggle up on the couch. It’s the smile they put on our faces after a long day at work. It’s the wag of their tails when to show us they’re happy. In our minds, all of the things that make them special put them in a category all of their own: Dog.

Have you had your dog DNA tested? Were you surprised by the results, or did you learn anything? Tell us in the comments below!