What It's Like to DNA Test Your Mixed-Breed Dog

Posted by Allie Layos
Collie German Shepherd mix dog
Photo by Allie Layos

I always wanted to DNA test my mixed-breed dog, and I'm so glad I finally did.

When we adopted six-month-old Ananda my senior year of high school, we were told she was a mix between a Labrador Retriever and a Golden Retriever, so you can imagine how confused we were that she looked more like a Collie.

After twelve years of being asked what breed she was and receiving the response, "Oh, but you can tell she's mostly Collie," I finally gave in to my curiosity and got her DNA tested, and the experience was everything I hoped it would be.

Collie German Shepherd mix puppy
Photo by Allie Layos.

There are numerous options for DNA testing your dog, but after some research I decided to use Wisdom Panel 2.0, manufactured by Mars Veterinary, to test Ananda. I purchased it at my local Petsmart for $89.99, but it's also available many places online, including Amazon.

Wisdom Panel 2.0 box
Pet Guide

Rather than requiring a blood sample, Wisdom Panel uses cells from the inside of your dog's cheek for the test. Each kit comes with two cheek swabs (in case one gets contaminated), a drying insert for the swabs, an instruction sheet and a pre-paid shipping label.

Make sure to read the instructions before you begin, because there are a few important rules to follow. For example, feeding your dog before using the cheek swab can contaminate your sample.

Wisdom Panel contents

Taking the samples, however, is easy; you simply roll the swab (a small wand with light bristles on the end) between your dog's inner cheek and gums for about 15 seconds. Ananda did try to slink away once during the process because she's a bit of a wimp, but the sample collection is actually very easy and painless.

When you finish the collection process, you have to let the swabs dry in the drying insert before replacing them in their plastic sleeves. You can use this time to label your sample and activate your test on the Wisdom Panel website. Then you just have to close the box, apply the shipping label, and mail the package back to the lab for analysis.

Collie German Shepherd mix
Photo by Allie Layos.

Results are sent by email. It generally takes 2-3 weeks to receive them, but Ananda's took a little longer, since I had purchased it as a Christmas gift ("for her") and it arrived at the lab during their busiest time of year. Still, I was able to track the sample's progress online, and the results arrived just after the three-week mark.

The report contained Ananda's unique genetic signature, ancestry, ancestry tree, breed characteristics and more, and in one sense, they were surprising. No Lab or Golden Retriever was detected at all. Instead, it showed that she really was mostly Collie (62.5%), but also had a significant amount of German Shepherd (25%) thrown in there as well. The remaining percentage was listed as "mixed breed" group, most likely from the hound or herding group.
Wisdom Panel report

Though somewhat surprising, the results make sense. Like a Collie, Ananda has always been vocal, sensitive, and shown significant herding instinct, and she shares many of the physical characteristics (coat, long nose etc.) of a Collie as well. But if you compare her to other Collies, it is clear that she is not a purebred. She is smaller, with a more concave profile and wider eyes. The German Shepherd really seems to make up for that physical difference.

Though 12.5% of her is still a mystery, I am thrilled to have this new information. Now when someone says, "She's beautiful! What kind of dog is she?" I can answer, "A Collie/German Shepherd mix!"

Have you DNA tested your dog? Tell us about it below!

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What It's Like to DNA Test Your Mixed-Breed Dog