Are DNA tests for dogs one big scam?

Our sister site, the Daily Dachshund and Dog News has sniffed out a potential scandal. It seems DIY Dog DNA kits are labeling a suspiciously high number of mutts as part Afghan and Mastiff — even purebred Dachshunds. Doxie Mama told the Daily Doxie, “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.”

We suggest your friend demand her money back.

Updated January 2013: This Wisdom Panel Dog DNA test kit gets some pretty decent reviews on Amazon. Maybe things have advanced in the years since the Daily Dachshund review. Your call.

26 thoughts on “Are DNA tests for dogs one big scam?

  1. I saw A DNA test kit hanging at the check out stand of Petsmart the other night. I don’t know if it was this particular one or not though. The price was around $60.00
    Rachel in California.

  2. It sounds like a job for Consumer Reports…! We were half considering trying a DNA test just out of curiosity for our rescue Scottie pup who is growing to look not quite 100% Scottie …weren’t too sure because of the cost in the 1st place but this is also off-putting…! Thanks for bringing this to light!

  3. i’ve never believed these doggie DNA testing things were anything but a scam. for one: i have trouble believing they can do DNA tests for what they’re charging, quite frankly (having at least a little knowledge in how police labs work, costs, etc.).

    and second, if these tests truly are legit, why on earth do they require you to provide a photo of your dog? they shouldn’t NEED one. that’s like detectives giving the lab a photo of their suspect so that the lab can match their findings accordingly.

    but hey, maybe it’s just me – the supreme skeptic.

    1. Illona, not all test require a photo. We did the Mars Vet Wisdom Panel Insight from Petsmart and all they required was a couple of swabs of our dogs saliva. And only asked our dogs name and our name and address. To me, that does sound like a scam.

    2. Should send them some DNA from a Chihuahua and a picture of a bull mastiff and see what they say

  4. I recently adopted a Siberian husky mix from the humane society. I was curious what the mix was since so many people thought that she was part Akita. I purchase a Biovet DNA test from Petsmart. I only had to provide the name of the puppy and date of birth. They did not ask for a picture nor a description of the dog. The results just came back and she is listed as Siberian Husky and Great Dane. I am happy with the results because just by looking at her the Siberian husky is a given, especially the blue eye. Great Dane….well now I guess I know the reason for those really long legs and long body. In my case I believe the test was correct or at least with the part of the Siberian Husky…..

  5. I just go my test results back from Biopet and what I had guessed was a goldie and beagle mix is supposedly mostly Siberian Husky and Boston Terrier! I think it’s got to be a scam.

  6. I run a pit bull rescue in Kentucky. I recently adopted my third dog, Siris, who came through my rescue with his 11 brothers & sisters as well as his mother. His mom was a pit bull & he and many of his siblings were chocolate tri color. I was curious if there was any red-rust king doberman in him…and curious about the DNA tests, so I sent one off. It came back today. Parson Russell Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog & English Setter. He is quite obviously NONE of these and I have demanded my money back. It IS a big scam & should be canceled. The only good thing I can see coming from this is fighting the BSL anti pit bull laws…now I can say "No, it's not a pit bull, it's a Parson Russell Terrier/Sheltie/English Setter mix. I have the papers to prove it." That's the only good thing I can see about the DNA test, but I am STILL demanding my money back!!

  7. We too wanted to know what our 55lb+ pit bull mix was mixed with…got the test, and it came back 34-74% Boston Terrier, and 10-19% Border Collie, Boxer, and Poodle. I think it's a total scam!!!

  8. I've done a little reading on these tests and since Pit Bulls are not recognized by the AKC the name will not show up in the results. The test at Petsmart only uses 62 breeds to compare to so they say the pit bull mixes will likely be related to the nearest match boxer, bulldog, mastiff. I would go with the tests that use over 100 breeds for comparison.

  9. People need to remember that first of all the only dogs that are typically listed with any DNA company are AKC registered dogs. A 'pit bull' is NOT a registered breed it is a general term. Staffordshire terriers, etc will be able to be matched because it is a 'registered' breed. And it is true that there are only so many breeds in the system as of yet. We should all know that the lists are growing as we speak and keep in mind if your dogs specific dna is not listed in the breeds available it will give you the closest breed it possibly can and this may be something you dont expect. I dont think its a scam just not perfected as we would all like it to be.

  10. For a truly accurate DNA analysis, I would recommend the Wisdom Panel MX test. This is a test performed with blood, not a swab, and is reported to be greater than 90% accurate. It identifies over 150 breeds.

      1. Lucia, the blood tests need to be done at the vet…but many of the check swab tests now test for almost as large a number of breeds.

  11. This is a scam. I’ve done one in Canada called DNAmyDog.com.
    Paid $59+tax and delivery, it came to $75! I know that my puppy is mostly Border Collie with some German Shephard from the father, but looks NOTHING like a German Shephard. She looks exactly like a purebred Border Collie, and acts just like one too. Did the first test, it came back Level 2 German Shephard, Level 4 Chihuaha and Dachsund, Level 5 Greyhound! No Border Collie? I demanded a retest! Got the retest 3 weeks later, same results only they added Border Collie in the Level 4 and moved the Dachsund to Level 5 (took away the Greyhound which was the only one that made a little bit of sense). It’s like they manually adjusted the results to add the BC to appease me. It’s a SCAM!!!

  12. Border Collies, Pitbulls and Jack Russels are not kennel club recgonized breeds which is why you don’t see them in the show ring. If your dog has any of those in the mix then it won’t show up in the results.

    I tested my Miniature Schnauzer with the DNAmyDog and she came back Level 1 Schnauzer.

    They are definitely limited and since I purchased mine from a rescue group trying to raise money I feel it was worth while.

  13. Jade is correct, if you look at the breeds that each of these DNA will test for they only test for AKC registered breeds and not all of them. A Pittbull was originally bred from terriers and boxers so the test would probably register any type of dog in those breeds. We purchased one for our dog and received the results we expected. As with any purchase do your homework.

  14. Jade is NOT correct as far as Border Collies being kennel club registered. They are registered with the AKC. I know Pittbulls are not registered but Jack Russells are. However, she is correct that if a type of dog is not covered by the test, they will show as something else.
    I personally think these tests are scams. I did a Wisdom Panel check swab test on my most likely pure bred Aussie. She is a rescue dog but the man that owned her before did tell the rescue that she was an Aussie. Since her ears are pricked, a flaw in Aussie, I suspected she may have some Sheltie or Border Collie (all three of which were covered by the test) so decided to test her. Her results came back 5/8 mixed breed, 1/8 Cavalier KIng Charles Spaniel, 1/8 Rough Collie and 1/8 Aussie. What a farce! Even other Aussie owners that I know think she is pure or at least majority Aussie. I complained but have had no resolution as of this time.

  15. In May of 2011 I posted that I had my Aussie Dna tested and it came back weird, so I felt the DNA testing was a scam. I did complain, as I mentioned, but have since had some resolution. Not only did Wisdom Panel’s customer service call me, but they had the dna results sent to their geneticist to hand do the results. Apparently the results are figured by a computer. For example, if the results show a 40% probablity that the gene sequence it is looking at is from an australian shepherd and a 40.2% probability that the same gene sequence is from a german shepherd, it will pick the 40.2% probability, regardless of what other sequences show. If a person does it (as the redo was in my case) they look at the whole picture and can get the best fit. The geneticist called me personally after the redo and spoke with me for 45 minutes to explain everything. I ended up most pleased with the job done by Mars Wisdom Panel. They went above and beyond!

  16. Essentially, the “testers” have positive controls which show a spread of bands they picture. They run the DNA through something called PCR in order to search for markers(bands) present in your dog, usually indicated by size. Dirty DNA can lead to bad bands, hard to read bands, and in the long run, bad calls. What many people don’t realize is that the test only determines how much a dog is of a certain species. These means that if the dog turns out to be 25% beagle, this DOES NOT mean one of the grand parents was a 100% beagle. This means that your dog has 25% beagle in him, which could theoretically be possible if you have two half beagles breed. Also note that recessive genes carry through, so even though all the dogs they determined in your lineage are big dogs, this in no way means your dog can’t be small or vice versa. So just because 50% of your dog is Great Dane, yet your dog looks like a poodle, doesn’t necessarily mean the test failed, as you have 50% of your potentially dominant DNA unaccounted for from any number of breeds. Likewise, a dog could have a parent with 50% beagle and end up with essentially no beagle in them. This is simple genetics. In reality, two dogs, both 50% beagle could theoretically have a dog with no significant beagle DNA, or a dog with 100% beagle DNA(although unlikely as the genes that make up a breed are a little more complex than a punnett square)..

    This test DOES NOT determine lineage… merely the higher percentages of DNA present in the animal. They might call them “parents” and “grandparents”, but that is just a reference for “has X% DNA” and has no baring on what the parentage is. This also means that any breed that makes up less than app. 12.5% of your animal simply doesn’t show up. So a true heinz 57 dog with 20 species of dog in it’s genetic makeup would render no result.Furthermore, there is no way to determine what your dogs parents are, unless your dog turns out to be exactly 50% one breed and 50% the other.

  17. I tested my dog with this product, who is clearly a Wheaton Terrier/Poodle mix; the results said he was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Golden Retriever mix. Defiantly a SCAM.

  18. I have not tried any of the DNA tests mentioned above in past comments, but do have my opinions about them. First off, i don’t see how a commercial big name pet store could possibly provide proper analysis in determining my dog’s breed mix with a “99.99%” accurate result for only $60-$75. It seems like a bogus claim to me as i feel proper testing would consist of more than just a swab of saliva and whatever else they “need to know” before testing.

    Second, even if they DID/DO use proper test work on the DNA provided, i feel like they are getting unprofessional feed back from some lab tech who “knows it all”. A scam? Quite possibly in my mind, but let’s also consider another factor in all of this.
    Provided these tests actually ARE conducted in a proper and professional lab setting, who are we to question or judge the results given? After all, we are sending these test kits because we ourselves are unsure of the mix in the first place. This would seem to be a case of denying the truth when we don’t get the result we’d hoped for.

    But also to be considered (if this has any correlation to the test results being given), we might be seeing a mix up in “pure bred” dogs and what their DNA holds. For example, a doberman pinscher is a mix of many terrier and hound breeds to finally create the breed we know and recognize as a “pure bred”. If you don’t know, it is surprising to see what breeds were mixed to create this elegant yet powerful breed.
    So even though the labs are using AKC registered breed lists as a reference and data usage, i believe we can be seeing results from other mixes that make up “pure bred” dogs, and don’t realize that it could be in the DNA of our pets. Maybe if you own a pitbull or staffordshire terrier, you could be getting results back showing dominant DNA lines from hence they were mixed to create the pure bred.
    But i have no idea as i am not a scientist nor professional. Either way, i don’t know if i would trust a pet store to give me results on a DNA test. I would believe my vet and a blood test rather than a DIY kit sent out to who knows where.

    1. Most of the dna test kits I have seen at a pet store were not actually done by the pet store but sent off to another company, such as wisdom panel being sold at petsmart. As I mentioned in my May and July 2011 comments, I, at first, was also a skeptic after testing my rescued, likely purebred. Australian Shepherd. The results were not close to what I had been told (by her previous owner) that she was. But discussions and reevalluation of my sample by their geneticist changed my mind. When I rescued another supposed Australian Shepherd in 2012, I also had him tested (no pictures or any identification as to breed supplied in either case plus a new email, postal addresss for the second). Although the test is not supposed to be for pure breeds, he came back as all Australian Shepherd. I am now a believer, at least in the wisdom panel brand!

    2. I agree, IMO you cannot erase genes, matter is neither created nor destroyed. Puerbred is a technical term for a specific conformation.

  19. ACTUALLY, although it seems like a scam, IT IS NOT and here is why:
    “The problem with trying to guess what breeds of dog make up a mixed breed is that the traits associated with specific breeds are controlled by surprisingly few genes in the dog genome. In humans, we know that identical twins look the same becauses they share the same DNA. It is natural to assume that dogs with a similar visual physical appearance probably share the same DNA, but genetic studies have shown us why that assumption is incorrect….. Unlike humans, in which identical twins share all of their DNA, in dog breeds, like German shepherds, there are surprisingly few genes controlling the physical appearance of them members of the breed. This unexpected result means that when you see a mixed breed dog about the size of a German shepherd, with a long snout, erect ears and long black hair – it isn’t necessarily a German shepherd, in fact, it may not even have any German shepherd ancestors because those visual traits may be the result of about 10 genes in the dog’s genome. Considering that there are more than 20,000 genes encoded in a canine genome, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get when trying to guess what make up a mixed breed dog.”
    This is an article from a Pitbull terrier magazine, Dr. Kristopher Irizarry is an Associate Professor of Bioinformatics, Genetics and Genomics at the Western University College of Veterinary Medicine.
    So your tests ARE probably accurate, and the only “scam” is just a misunderstanding of how dog genetics differ from ours.

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