Now Updated: Questioning the accuracy of Dog DNA tests

Scroll down for the update.

This sounds like a scandal in the making. According to the reader reviews at Amazon, the results of the BioPet DNA Breed Identification kit are — let’s try and put this charitably — questionable.

Writes Leah Quezada:

We’re pretty sure our mutt is a Chihuahua / Mini Dachshund, but Mini Dachshund was not on their list. We assumed she would identify as Dachshund instead, but I guess the miniatures have very different DNA, as she came up as a very very weird mix. I can see the Mini Pinscher maybe, but not Bichon Frise, Basenji, Collie (she’s only 9 pounds!) Airedale Terrier, or Schnauzer.
They were very fast with their results though. When the test goes on sale again we’re going to try with our Mini Dachshund, since we know for a fact he’s almost pure.

We’re just going to try again with our mutt (who looks exactly like all Chiweenies) when the DNA tests get more exact.

Leah is more forgiving of the strange results than T. Camden who writes:

My dog was rescued off the highway and is a very neat and unique looking dog. He goes everywhere with me and I am asked “what kind of dog is that” almost daily. We were all very excited about this product as we would love to have another just like him, he is the perfect dog! I thought I had found the answer and could not wait for the results. However, there is no way the results could be right, Cocker Spaniel-Min Pin-German Shepard? Maybe the samples were mixed up at the lab. I was so disappointed as were all my family and friends.

Mariena notes that there seems to be a disproportionately high amount of Afghan blood in the US mutt gene pool:

The breeds that emerged for our dog were just really odd (German Shepherd, Yorkshire Terrier, Afghan Hound, Saluki and West Highland Terrier). Seems like Afghans come up a lot and you don’t see many of them running lose… I guess we all envision these dogs and how on earth they had opportunities to breed! The breeds in our profile didn’t make a whole lot of sense based on where she came from, her appearance or even behavior. But, highly mixed breeds may not look or act like you think they would, and environment is so important. So, not to say that the range of breeds listed weren’t detected by the test. It just seems the “known” breeds from the parentage would have come up strongly as noted in other reviews. In the end, a mutt is a mutt, and we love them just the same. I don’t think I really know more about the dog after doing the test….

Garden Girl is, however, more trusting:

I’ve always wondered what my mixed breed is. He is a pretty dog and I thought maybe he had Border Collie or maybe some German Shepherd in him. Turns out he’s mostly Chow Chow which accounts for his coloration and his curved tail & purple tongue, Afghan Hound and Pembroke Welsh Corgi which is why his body seems long for his size, and he is part Collie which accounts for his instinct for herding. Now that I know his genetic background, I better understand his personality characteristics. It’s just fun to know what my dog is made of, and I’m really glad that I had the test done!

As for me, all I can say is that when I first heard about these tests, I remember discussing them with a guy at the dog park who said, “But they could tell you whatever they want, couldn’t they?” Guess so.

Update:
From the comments, Doxie Mama says, “I had a friend who did this with her longhaired Dachshund who is clearly pure bred, and the report came back with 5 different contributing breeds and Mastiff was near the top of the list.”

OK, we’ll bite, here are some Dachshund and Mastiff photos:

Quit Pickin On Me!!, originally uploaded by Just Jo.

Ahhh…a bed that is king sized but fit for a queen, originally uploaded by bwdaigle.

All this leads us to another piece of news, namely the city in Israel that last year introduced a forensic dog-poop DNA unit. The New York Times Magazine reported:

About three years ago, the mayor of Petah Tikva, a city near Tel Aviv, called the veterinarian Tika Bar-On and said, “I can fix almost everything in this city, but I don’t know how to fight dog poop.” He asked Bar-On, the city’s director of veterinary services, if it was possible to use DNA fingerprinting to identify which dogs pooped on his city streets and — most important — which owners didn’t pick up after them. As a result, this year, Bar-On introduced the first-ever forensic dog-poop DNA unit.

Let’s just hope the unit’s tests are better at distinguishing between wiener dog and mastiff poop than BioPet is at identifying wiener dog and mastiff genes.

13 thoughts on “Now Updated: Questioning the accuracy of Dog DNA tests

  1. Matt

    On the show Flipping Out the main guy gets his dogs DNA tested and what they send him back is clearly wrong. He has a dog that’s obviously part dachshund he just wanted to know what else. But dachshund wasn’t even on the list!

    Matt
    doxienews.com

  2. Christopher

    I don’t believe the tests are accurate at all. After reading about the results, it seems to me that they are producing way too many dogs that have more than two breeds.

    I just don’t think this is the case. Who out there is really breeding several generations of mutts?

    The fact that the tests don’t work with 100% purebred dogs is also telling.

    I don’t believe they have identified enough markers yet. Even the expensive tests.

    I think you can get better results by simply researching breeds and traits yourself at this point. Not that these tests won’t eventually be accurate, but comparing the photos to supposed assigned breeds doesn’t convince me that it works.

  3. doxie mama

    I had a friend who did this with her longhaired dachshund who is clearly pure bred, and the report came back with 5 different contributing breeds and Mastiff was near the top of the list.

    I agree with Christopher that the tests just aren’t accurate.

  4. Scott

    No dog DNA tests mentioned here claim accuracy, which is why the results are probably so off. The trick is to study the science behind these tests. The only test that has an actual accuracy statement and is validated and backed by science is a test called Wisdom Panel. Very different and based on my research, very credible.

  5. AnnB

    As far as I can tell, Scott, the Wisdom Panel test has to be done by a vet. Do you, by any chance, know if that’s the case? Thanks, AnnB

  6. Leah

    I’m Leah quoted above, and I think I figured out two of our mystery breeds –
    Our mutt has tuxedo patterning, which is found in Dachshunds and Minis, but more commonly in Basenjis and Collies. I assume the genetic markers are the same, so that could lead to the skewed result.

    She also just had a litter with our Mini Dachshund, and based on the puppies, 4 of whom have recessive patterns or coats, it’s pretty clear she carries some of the same recessive genes he does.

    I would prefer to see a list the genetic markers they use for identifying breeds and which our dog has, not just a piece of paper saying she might be 37-74% of one thing, 20-36% another, and so on. I’m sorry, but 37-74% is a huge difference and shouldn’t be just one “level”.

    And as for the dachshund-mastiff, that’s just absurd.

  7. mrshat

    We adopted from the local Humane Society what we were told was a nine week old mini doxie mix who weighed 5 lbs. A year later we have the best dog ever who weighs 60 lbs and looks like a giant dachshund. He's the same length as our other dog who is a 60 lb pit mix but a full head shorter. Naturally we are really curious about what the other part of him is so we did the mail in DNA test. It came back mostly POODLE, then Rottweiler and lastly English Setter. I don't freakin' think so.

  8. Anonymous

    Since everyone asks us what kind of dog we have (and we were wondering, too), we had our dog tested. We think she is probably a sheltie/dachshund mix, but maybe with some border collie or terrier, too. The results came back with salucki, dalmatian, rhodesian ridgeback (she's only 26 lbs), and pug. Ludicrous… but we did get a good laugh!

  9. Anonymous

    Silly people … Read The Documentation That Comes with the Results! Why? Because if the company doesn't test for a particular breed, a test will instead find an earlier ancestral link to the next-closest breed on the company's list.

    Are y'all inbred too?

  10. Pingback: Are DNA tests for dogs one big scam? | Scottish Terrier and Dog News

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