Beagle or Bichon: Can Dog Drool Provide Insight?
Advances in DNA testing have changed the way we pursue criminals, verify paternity and date medieval manuscripts. Now it's being used to answer one of the greatest riddles mankind has ever faced: What kind of dog is that?
A new pack of genetics companies say they can tell mutt owners which breeds their dogs come from, for a fee of $60 to $125. The results, say the companies, can satisfy simple curiosity, provide clues to a dog's behavioral quirks, and even help identify breed-specific health problems.
But can a few strands of DNA really hold the answer to your dog's inner being?Yaniv Nord
What kind of dog is that? Parrot, who may be made up of Italian greyhound terrier, Boston terrier, bichon frise, golden retriever, mastiff, West Highland white terrier, Staffordshire terrier and/or bull terrier, according to various dog-DNA tests, plays in a Brooklyn, N.Y., park. To find out, we subjected our lovable, squeezable and all too agreeable mutt named Parrot to DNA tests offered by four companies. He happily sat still while we swabbed the inside of his cheek, and he didn't bristle when we took him for a blood draw at the veterinarian for one of the tests. In the end, he learned nothing (except maybe that swabs equal treats), but we learned that the business of dog DNA isn't as simple as it appears—starting with the fact that all four labs came back with different results.
The first lab we tried was DDC Veterinary in Fairfield, Ohio. The parent company has long focused on human DNA testing, mostly performing paternity tests, including, says the company, the one for Anna Nicole Smith's daughter. With that pedigree, we expected DDC to give us solid proof of Parrot's lineage, too.
The online buying process was easy. We paid $68 and received our swab kit in a few days. We sent the swabs back in the self-addressed, stamped envelope provided, and in a couple weeks, got our results. An official-looking certificate with a gold seal listed six breeds, grouped by the level of strength of each, on a scale of one to five: Italian greyhound and Boston terrier (level three); bichon frise and golden retriever (level four); mastiff and West Highland white terrier (level five). Also included was a list of each breed's behavioral traits and common health problems, and an explanation of what the levels mean. A level one, for example, indicated that the breed contributed to more than 75% of the dog's DNA, down to less than 10% for a level five.