Using a Dog DNA Test kit to identify your dogs breed or ancestry is fun and if you’re like my family, friendly wagers will be placed to see who gets the breed right. We even places these wagers when testing Purebred Dogs as well. This is due to many factors in dogs DNA and how certain dog breeds have derived. If you thinking these Breed Identification DNA Tests are 100% accurate or even close to that then you should read on so we can explain through different examples how these kits work and how they are not the end all be all.
The first thing to take into account is each test has their own accuracy percentage and leave it open to human error. For example according to the National Canine Research Council, the Wisdom Panel test was found to be 84% accurate when dogs were tested that had two purebred parents. With the addition of more genetic markers to the test, the test is believed to be 90% accurate. This simply means that the DNA provided will have a 90% accuracy in matching the Genetic Markers that are stored in that companies database. There is also the chance of human error while collecting the sample, delivery of the sample and the actual testing of the sample. Human error at this point is an unknown percent of inaccuracy.
Since we mentioned the Genetic Markers, it’s important to know that research and analysis of these tests is focused on Genetic markers for not only breed identification but also health screening. Genetic markers are what make these tests work. During the development of Wisdom Panel over 19 million genetic markers were analyzed, with over 13,000 dogs evaluated for the Wisdom Panel. However 13,000 dogs is about .01625% of the 80 million dogs owned in the United States alone. These tests are available throughout many countries including the United States, Australia and England.
From 2007 to 2010 Wisdom Panel received 57,453 DNA samples, mostly mixed breeds. In those three years they obtained about .071816% of the United States Population of dogs. If They average about 20,000 DNA samples yearly they would have about 260,000 samples today. Which is .325% of the dog population of the United States only. This is a clear indicator that the tests are only going to become more reliable as more dogs are DNA tested and the information is stored for later comparison but for now should be primarily used for entertainment purposes only.
What The Companies Have To Say
Each company gives they’re own take on how these results should be interpreted on their website. In our opinion it is a little harder to find, but once you get past all of the marketing and sales pitches it’s clear as day….
Wisdom Panel test said my registered purebred dog isn’t a purebred. How can this be?
” Wisdom Panel dog DNA tests aren’t designed or intended to determine or validate whether a dog is purebred. Rather, they’re meant to demonstrate how closely a dog matches the reference genetic signature for a breed.
The database we use to develop the reference genetic signatures consists of samples from documented purebred dogs and samples from a network of veterinarians. Though we’re constantly updating our database, genetic drift and the impact of breeder preference can prevent small and/or foreign family lines from being well-defined by the dogs in the reference database.
It’s important to keep in mind that not every individual of the breed will meet the breed standard set forth by the Kennel Clubs (both UK and AKC). And variation exists even among puppies from the same litter. If you purchase a dog with registration papers, however, Wisdom Panel dog DNA tests are not intended to refute the documentation. Rather, our tests seek to help determine the breeds present in a dog of unknown progeny or one that lacks an authentic certified pedigree from the Kennel Club. We use statistical analyses to compare a dog’s signature against the reference genetic signature established for each breed covered by our test. The statistical modeling process takes 11 different possible family trees into consideration, trying to fit the best breed combination to the model to explain the dog’s genetic signature. Hence, it starts with a simple purebred tree and goes all the way up to a highly complex tree with eight different great-grandparent breeds coming together. Because there is only one purebred tree model in the 11 considered, the statistical process inherently favors mixed ancestry.
If questions arise about a purebred dog’s pedigree and breed ancestry, parentage testing is the appropriate and recommended course of action. For this evaluation, the documented sire and/or dam are examined to ensure they were the genetic contributors to the dog in question. If they are confirmed as the parents, their pedigree (and breed) is conferred onto the puppy. To find out more about parentage testing please contact the American Kennel Club. “
Embark’s Statement on the DNA Identification of Purebred Dogs.
” Therefore, we understand that it can be concerning when a purebred dog is tested using Embark’s DNA Test for Breeders, and the results indicate the dog is a mixed breed. While this is uncommon and can be an indication of crossbreeding, there are also situations where truly purebred dogs receive this result.
When Embark conducts a DNA Test on a purebred dog, we use a proven scientific approach to assess the genetic makeup of the dog using a process involving reference panels. A reference panel is a group of dogs that have all been registered as purebred in a particular breed, and Embark’s reference database of tens of thousands of purebred dogs is the largest and most diverse in the world. This database is used to identify a genetic signature unique to the breed, but of course does not include every dog in every breed.
For a variety of reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registration body. In fact because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed! “
Mutations, Recombination, Genetic drift and Selection
For example, if you purchase a cute little Bull Terrier puppy from a Breeder or Pet Store and you give your dog one of these DNA Tests and the results show only 50% Bull Terrier. You will be mad, very mad. Mad enough to go back to the Breeder or Pet Store and claim Fraud or that they sold you a mixed breed when you paid for and wanted a Pure Bred. This happens every day all over the United States. Even if the results show that your Bull Terrier Puppy that ranges in price from $2,500 – $6,000 is 90% Bull Terrier you will still be angry and would be inclined to call the Pet Store or Breeder to complain.
Unfortunately the average dog owner doesn’t know much about dogs and is putting all of their trust into an at home DNA Test that averages around $100, over taking a step back and understanding these tests and the basics of dog genetics.
Continuing using the Bull Terrier as our Breed example, this Purebred breed is well documented, grossly unpopular and is perfect for our trials and example. Let’s first dive into understanding the Bull Terrier. The Bull Terrier is a Purebred Dog that is in the Terrier Family that derives from many different breeds, some will even shock you. Being well documented and even being able to know the original breeder ( James Hinks ) we know there are several different breeds that were used to create the Bull Terrier we know today.
- English White Terriers ( Now Extinct)
- Bull and Terriers – which are made up of (Old English Terriers, Old English Bulldog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and American Staffordshire)
- Spanish Pointer
- Rough Collie
Knowing what Breeds, extinct or not, made up your current dog breed will help ease your mind when receiving your DNA results. It’s not unreasonable for a DNA test of a modern day Bull Terrier to come back with any percent of these several breeds. Does this mean your Bull Terrier is not PURE? Of Course not. This simply means this companies DNA results pick up Genetic Markers for those breeds in their results. Let’s break this down even further.
Mutation are the spontaneous changes to DNA that changes the content of a genetic barcode over time. A mutation can be passed on to a dogs offspring puppies when a mutation occurs in the germ-line, the sperm or eggs. The offspring puppies then may pass that mutation on to their offspring. So break this down further, dog breeders will hold back puppies to continue their genetic line for breeding purposes. These hold backs will replace another dog in the breeding line to keep that line going.
However, even with a breeder breeding their own lines, Mutations will occur and can cause Breed Identification Tests to show different results if there was a Mutation. If a breeder has a litter of 5 puppies and does 5 tests, one puppy might have a Mutation which will cause different results for that one puppy compared to his or her brother and sisters results.
Recombination is the shuffling of DNA content between the two copies of a chromosome. This process can cause changes in the content of DNA barcodes passed to offspring puppies. This is a wild card and can show different DNA test results in the same litter of purebred puppies.
Genetic Drift is the random fluctuation in the frequencies of genetic variation over time. To break this down if “Breeder 1” Breeds Bull Terriers and sells a Male Bull Terrier to “Breeder 2” and another Bull Terrier to “Breeder 3”. Then “Breeder 2” and “Breeder 3” breeds those dogs to their Bull Terriers and continues those lines you will see a Genetic Drift when DNA Testing “Breeder 2” and “Breeder 3” dogs.
Selection is probably one of the most well known evolutionary processes. Ever hear of Natural Selection? Selection is due to the effect of a genetic variant on the ability of an individual dog in a population to survive and reproduce. Simply put, breeders breeding Bull Terriers in different parts of the world will see a difference in DNA barcodes because of Selection that will happen naturally in their dogs.
Combination of these
It is also possible that two or more of these genetic changes can happen to one breeder. Selection and Genetic drift can combine and create new barcode markers in a purebred dog making the DNA test results appear to be lightly or even heavily mixed.