Genomic testing reveals most common shelter dog breeds

You walk into the room and hear a chorus of barks, yips and yowls. At once, a dozen dogs rush to their kennel doors, happily — or aggressively — greeting you. Offhand, you can identify a few different breeds here at the animal shelter — a black lab here, a pit bull there. But what are the rest of these guys?

Scientists at Arizona State University set out to identify the breeds of shelter dogs on a large scale, performing genetic testing on over 900 shelter dogs to identify their breed heritage. In their tests, the scientists used the Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test from Mars Veterinary.

The scientists found widespread genetic diversity. On average, each dog matched with three breeds, with a total of 125 breeds identified in the entire sample set. That’s a lot of breeds. For reference, the American Kennel Club recognizes 192 breeds.

Which were the most common breeds at the two shelters that the scientists visited? The American Staffordshire Terrier, the Chihuahua and the Poodle were the most frequently appearing breeds, but still they accounted for less than half of the dogs in each shelter. About 95% of the dogs tested were mixed-breed.

In the study, the scientists also found that breed labels written up by shelter staff weren’t always accurate. In fact, evaluations made by visually identifying the breed were accurate only in 10% of cases. Evidence shows that breed labels can impact how long it takes for a dog to be adopted, so the study organizers hope that their findings might lead shelters to re-evaluate how they approach labeling.

How dog DNA testing works

A dog DNA test works like this: a small sample of cells is collected from a dog’s cheeks and gums. The sample is then sent away to a lab. The lab extracts the dog’s DNA from the samples and performs genomic testing.

Genomics is the analysis of the genome, or the entirety of the DNA of a species. Researchers at the lab compare the DNA sample to over 300 places in the canine genome that have been matched to specific breeds. Using this information, they pinpoint the breeds in the heritage of the sampled dog.

Neogen is a global leader in companion animal genomic testing and provides quick and reliable results to curious pet owners, responsible breeders, veterinarians and researchers. Neogen is proud to process the Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test. For more information, see our website.

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