Dog Breed Identification FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I collect the DNA samples myself?
Yes, the collection process is very simple and can be performed at home by following the enclosed instructions. The DNA collection is painless and the sterile, gentle polyester tipped swab minimizes any chance for infection or irritation.


How long does it take to get the results?
Results are normally available via email 3 weeks from the receipt of your sample.


How do you know which breeds are present in my dog?
Our laboratory has invested a considerable amount of time in the science of DNA knowledge, analysing DNA from purebred dogs to build a comprehensive database that highlights the differences between different breeds. By comparing your dog’s DNA with our database we can identify which breeds are present in your dog.


Does the price of the test include the processing fee?
Yes. The price of your test includes the full service package offered by DNA Ireland.


Why are several breeds listed on my certificate, and what do the levels mean?

In processing, breeds are detected as ranges rather than absolute values. These are then listed on your certificate as Levels, which are defined as follows: Level 1: Over 75% of the DNA found in your dog is from the breed listed. Level 2: Each breed listed represents between 37-74% of your dog’s DNA Level 3: Each breed listed represents between 20-36% of your dog’s DNA Level 4: Each breed listed represents between 10-19% of your dog’s DNA Level 5: Each breed listed represents less than 9% of your dog’s DNA.


What if there are breeds in my dog that are not in your database?
We believe that our database of validated breeds covers the most common breeds you will find in the mixed breed dog population. If your dog contains DNA from a breed that is not in our database the DNA represented in that part of your dog’s genetics will be assigned to the foundation breed or breeds of your dog or the most closely related breed or breeds. If you believe your dog to be a breed not in our current database please contact us and we can let you know the status of the breed and discuss your options for testing.


Will you be adding more dogs to your database?
As new breeds become more popular in the mixed breed population our lab endeavors to include them in our database as quickly as possible. We are actively working on adding more breeds to the database.


Can you confirm that my dog is pure bred?
No. The DNA Breed Identification test is designed for the sole purpose of identifying breeds found in the genetic composition of mixed breed dogs. If only 1 breed is detected, it could mean that a parent was a mixed breed but your dog only inherited this one particular breed. Technically this dog is not a purebred.


Can I use your test to register my dog in a breed club?
In most cases you cannot use a Breed Identification test to register your dog.


Why is pit bull not on your list?
The DNA Ireland Validated Breeds are based on breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club® (AKC). The term “pit bull” has come to describe several types of dogs, often of mixed breed, that share similar physical characteristics. There are several AKC breeds with characteristics often shared by dogs referred to as “pit bull” that are in our database, such as American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Boxer, Bulldog, Bull Terrier and Mastiff, so these breeds could be identified.


How does the test actually work?
When a sample is received by our lab it is put into a solution that takes the cheek cells off the swab and releases the DNA. Once you have the DNA in solution, it is mixed with a number of chemicals and copied by a process called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). This basically makes millions and millions of copies of the bits of the DNA that are needed for analysis, and we call those pieces of DNA “markers”. Once we have the amplified DNA markers, we analyse the information from those markers and compare it to our reference database. The comparison database is really the key to the whole process. During the comparison process, the results for the DNA markers from your mixed breed dog are compared with DNA marker information from thousands and thousands of pure bred dogs.

This matching process is performed on a computer through a sophisticated program that repeats the analysis thousands of times to assure an accurate result.


How was the test developed?
Research into the Dog Genome has been ongoing for several years. It began with a hope that a better understanding of the dog genome would help the fight against human cancer as it had been shown that there were many similarities between canine and human cancers. Completion of the Dog Genome Project in 2005 has enabled scientists to discover segments of the DNA molecule that produce differences between various breeds of dogs, such as the shape of the tail, size or color. (reference: The Dog Genome: Survey Sequencing and Comparative Analysis Ewen F. Kirkness, Vineet Bafna, Aaron L. Halpern, Samuel Levy, Karin Remington, Douglas B. Rusch, Arthur L. Delcher, Mihai Pop, Wei Wang, Claire M. Fraser, and J. Craig Venter Science 26 September 2003 301: 1898-1903)


How many breeds does your test recognise and how did you choose those breeds?
Our test recognises breeds in the most commonly found mixed breed dogs in the North American and European dog population according to historical trends in dog popularity. The breeds that we detect are the most common breeds you see, such as Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Yorkshire Terrier or Chihuahua, for example. These common breeds are the ones most likely to be present in a mixed breed dog or in the increasingly common designer dogs. The rarer breeds are unlikely to be present in a regular mixed breed, so breeds like Komondorok, Kuvasz or Wirehaired Pointing Griffon will not be seen in many mixed breed dogs.

For more than 99% of the samples we have received, we have been able to match the samples to our breeds.


I have read that the number of markers is critical for accurate breed identification, is that true?
While the number of markers is important, it is not the only important factor. We also need to consider the amount of information that each marker will give us. For example, if you have a choice between using 10 markers that will only identify one breed each and one marker that will help to identify 15 breeds, we believe that you would choose the marker that helps to identify the 15. In our opinion just quoting the number of markers that are used does not really help you know the precision of the test. Since it is important to know how much information each marker will give you and the precision of the analysis being performed, basing a comparison on the number of markers used in the test is not necessarily valid.


Is the size of my dog controlled by the same markers as the breed?
One interesting genetic discovery about dogs is that there is a specific size gene for the dog. This is the reason why you can have dogs with an identical appearance except different size! The Poodle family (Toy, Miniature and Standard) illustrate this point perfectly. As an extreme example if you crossed a Great Dane and a Yorkshire Terrier it would be possible to have a dog that looks like a Great Dane but is only 6 inches tall. (reference; A Single IGF1 Allele Is a Major Determinant of Small Size in Dogs Nathan B. Sutter, Carlos D. Bustamante, Kevin Chase, Melissa M. Gray, Keyan Zhao, Lan Zhu, Badri Padhukasahasram, Eric Karlins, Sean Davis, Paul G. Jones, Pascale Quignon, Gary S. Johnson, Heidi G. Parker, Neale Fretwell, Dana S. Mosher, Dennis F. Lawler, Ebenezer Satyaraj, Magnus Nordborg, K. Gordon Lark, Robert K. Wayne, and Elaine A. Ostrander Science 6 April 2007 316: 112-115)


Do you perform any quality control tests in your assay?
Having an effective quality control system is essential for a lab to process large numbers of DNA samples correctly. To confirm that our test continues to perform properly, we run a number of control dogs every day. These are dogs that we know and have access to on a regular basis so we know what their results should be. By running a sample from these dogs alongside every group of customer dogs we are able to check that our processes are working properly. If our control dogs fail or give results that are different from previous runs, we retest all the customer samples that were processed at that same time.


Do I need to send a photo along with my dog’s sample?
Sending a photo is entirely up to you. Photos are used solely for the DNA Certificate you receive with your results. If you don’t send a photo it will not affect your test. Your DNA Certificate will be sent to you without a photo.

Do you test for Wolf or Coyote? We are not able to test for these types of Canids. Their DNA is too diverse for a test like ours and varies greatly from region to region. There are many subspecies of Wolf, for example, and the DNA of a Wolf in one area can be significantly different from another Wolf a short distance away.


Can you test the DNA from a deceased dog?

If your dog is deceased and you want a test we can provide you with results. Contact us on 1890 989556 for further information.

If a sample is received from a dog that is very recently deceased we will do everything we can to provide results. We are not able to extract DNA from fur. An ideal sample is taken when the dog is still alive. If this is not possible the best results will be obtained from a cheek swab, kept dry. (Do not use an Amies Charcoal Transport swab).

If a cheek swab is not possible we can also use a blood sample, preferably EDTA or heparinised blood.

Your Vet may contact us for the best methods of providing a sample.


Can you determine the sex or age of my dog with your test?
No. Our test is measuring the breeds in your dog and does not test for other factors such as age or sex.


Can I test my Puppy with DNA Ireland? Is there a minimum age?
You can DNA test your dog at any age. If you are testing a young puppy who has not been weaned yet we recommend waiting for the puppy to be weaned to avoid cross-contamination from the dam’s milk. If this is not possible please make sure the pup has not fed from the dam or been in oral contact with the other pups for approximately 1-2 hours before taking a sample.


My dog destroyed one of the swabs, what should I do?
Your kit includes two sterile swabs. One of these is used for back-up. If you are only able to send us one of the swabs we will likely be able to get your results for you. If both swabs have been destroyed please contact us and we will send you another set of swabs.


What if my results don’t make sense to me?
We want you to be happy with your results and to understand them. If you need any clarification on your results please contact us at info@dnaireland.ie so we can go over them with you.


What if I have a question not answered here? We are always happy to answer your questions. You may contact us at info@dnaireland.ie or call us at 1890 989 556.