• A mixed-breed dog is like a box of chocolates: You never know exactly what you’re going to get. But while some dog owners relish the mystery behind their mutt, others are curious to answer that age-old puzzling question: “What kind of dog is that?”

    Revealing the breed composition of your melting-pot variety can simply be fun. But the results of DNA testing may also provide clues to a dog's behavioral traits and quirks, and even help identify breed-specific health problems, or determine whether it’s from a shelter or breeder.

    Canine breed identification tests have come a long way in the last few years. Still, genetic testing is not an exact science, which means you may end up just where you started. And the tests cannot confirm if your dog is a pure breed.

    Four U.S. companies currently market mixed breed genetic analysis tests, which range from approximately $60 to $150.

    All of the available tests require either a swab from your dog’s cheek or a blood sample drawn by your veterinarian.

    Tests that require a check swab sample include Canine Heritage®, by MMI Genomics, Inc., the DNA Breed Identification Kit from BioPet Vet Lab, and the Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel™ Insights. DDC Veterinary offers a cheek swab DNA testing kit available through its Web site. All of these mail-in kits retail between $60 and $90.

    Mars Veterinary also offers a blood DNA test that is only available through veterinarians called Wisdom Panel Professional. The cost of this test to the dog owner will vary depending on the veterinary office that draws the blood, but expect to pay about $150.

    Factors to consider when choosing a test include: the type of test, your budget, and the number of breeds it can identify. It is often helpful to know which breeds a product can identify when making a choice.

    Genetics experts say there is no truth to the rumor that a blood test is a more accurate method of collecting a DNA sample than a cheek swab. The advantages of cheek swab samples are that they are non-invasive, painless, can be done at home and cost less.

    Canine genetic testing is still in its infancy. But as an understanding of DNA, the size of the sample databases, and the technology behind the science all gain speed, it’s likely that the tests will one day be able to pinpoint the exact stuff your dog is made of.

    BioPet Breed ID: Cheek swab

    • $59.99
    • Can identify 63 breeds.
    • Expect results within 2 weeks.
    • The Certificate lists the breeds by the level of DNA of that breed on a scale of 1 to 5. Also included is a list of each breed’s behavioral traits and common health problems.

    Mars Wisdom Panel™ Insights: Cheek swab

    • $79.99
    • Can identify over 185 breeds, or 97 percent of AKC breeds.
    • Certificate with detailed breed information, categorized in 3 levels - Significant, Intermediate & Minor.

    Mars Wisdom Panel™ Professional: Blood test

    • about $150 through veterinary offices.
    • Can identify 225 breeds, including all AKC breeds.
    • Results expected within 2 to 3 weeks.
    • Owners and veterinarians receive a report that includes the dog's breed analysis, a prediction of his adult weight range, and information about any potential breed-related risks for developing certain genetic diseases.
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    Revealing the breed composition of your melting-pot variety can simply be fun