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Do dog DNA tests really work? This is the question I've been trying to answer for years. I've had my dogs DNA tested three times now. THREE TIMES! Why so many? Because I wasn't 100% certain so I tested my dogs using three different companies and here is what I learned.


We have mixed breed dogs and that's okay with me because I love our mutts. Yeah, I've heard a few times that the term “mutt” is now considered offensive. Pardon me while I roll my eyes for about 10 minutes.

Now that I'm finished, let me point out that our dogs don't care what we call them as long as we care for them and I love my mutts. I mean, really, I have a blog about them, two freezers full of food, and I sleep with the pack every night.

I'll call them “mutts” if I want to!

But despite my love of their mutt status, I'm always curious about their breed mix. Why? Because, to me, it's cool to look at my dogs and think “I see the Border Collie and you definitely act like an Australian Shepherd” or whatever breeds make up a mutt. But I've never been curious enough to pay for a DNA test for all of our dogs.

In 2016, a company offered to test our dogs for free and I was excited. Finally, I would learn my dogs breed mixes. We were pretty confident in what our dogs were, but the first company's results told us that we were very wrong.

Embark Dog DNA Tests - Do dog DNA tests really work? This is my third time testing my dogs - why so many? Learn why here.

What Breeds We Thought Our Dogs Were

Initially, we got our breed mix information from where we got our dogs, however, when it comes to rescuing (and accidental litters) it's rare that you know the exact breed so we are often provided with the best guess.

  • Rodrigo: Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) mix
  • Sydney: Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) mix
  • Scout: Catahoula Leopard Dog / Australian Shepherd Mix
  • Zoey: Catahoula Leopard Dog / Australian Shepherd Mix

International Biosciences DNA Results

The first test results shocked the hell out of me, but since they were delivered by scientists and the scientist I spoke with was confident in the results, I shrugged my shoulders and went with it.

IB DNA Test Results: Rodrigo

  • 80% Border Collie
  • 20% Great Pyrenees

IB DNA Test Results: Sydney

  • 50% Italian Greyhound
  • 50% Great Pyrenees

IB DNA Test Results: Scout

  • 35% Chinese Shar-Pei
  • 35% Australian Shepherd
  • 15% American Eskimo Dog
  • 15% Border Collie

IB DNA Test Results: Zoey

  • 71% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 20% Border Collie
  • 9% Border Terrier

As you continue to read the various results I have, you'll come to the realization that the first DNA tests were not accurate. I mean, they got a couple of things right – Rodrigo is part Border Collie and Scout and Zoey do have Australian Shepherd and Border Collie DNA. Everything else was wrong.

According to Wisdom Panel and confirmed by Embark Vet.

Wisdom Panel DNA Test Results

I went with Wisdom Panel because I was able to purchase four tests for a great price. I've tried Wisdom panel in the past when we tested Blue, and we loved the report and felt confident in the results.

Plus, the rescue group I work with uses Wisdom Panel and we've never been disappointed in the results. So the decision to re-test my dogs was a no brainer.

Wisdom Panel DNA Test Results: Rodrigo

  • 25.0% American Staffordshire Terrier
  • 12.5% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 12.5% Australian Shepherd
  • 12.5% Border Collie
  • 12.5% Shetland Sheepdog
  • 12.5% Siberian Husky
  • 12.5% of the following breed groups (Herding, Companion, Terrier, and Sporting)

Wisdom Panel DNA Test Results: Sydney

  • 12.5% American Staffordshire Terrier
  • 12.5% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 12.5% Australian Shepherd
  • 12.5% Border Collie
  • 12.5% Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • 12.5% Clumber Spaniel
  • 12.5% Shetland Sheepdog
  • 12.5% of the following breed groups (Herding*, Companion*, Mountain Dogs)

Wisdom Panel DNA Test Results: Scout

  • 12.5% American Staffordshire Terrier
  • 12.5% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 12.5% Australian Shepherd
  • 12.5% Collie
  • 12.5% German Shorthaired Pointer
  • 12.5% Labrador Retriever
  • 12.5% Siberian Husky
  • 12.5% of the following breed groups (Herding, Sporting, Companion, Terrier)

Wisdom Panel DNA Test Results: Zoey

  • 25.0% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
    12.5% Australian Shepherd
    12.5% Collie
    50.0% of the following breed groups (Sporting, Herding, Guard, Companion)

Now that's more like it. The Wisdom Panel tests made more sense to us. Although Scout and Zoey still don't have a stitch of Catahoula in their DNA, we can now see that each set of our littermates have several breeds in common. I know that a female dog can carry a litter conceived with the help of multiple male dogs, but I still expected Scout and Zoey to have clear commonalities.

You can purchase a Wisdom Panel Dog DNA Test on Amazon or Chewy.com.

After publishing the results, everyone kept mentioning the Embark dog DNA test. And I'll be honest, I really wanted to order the tests.

Embark Dog DNA Tests - do they really work? Are they really worth the investment? Now I know the answer.

EmbarkVet DNA Test for Dogs

EmbarkVet is the powerhouse of DNA tests. For years, I've seen pet bloggers and pet parents publishing their positive experience with Embark and in my envy, I was asking…“How the hell do these people afford $200 DNA tests?”

Yeah, these tests are $199 each! And I've seen them as low as $189 each.

Compare that to four tests that I got for free and four that I paid less than $60 each for (got them on a special) and you can see why I was hesitant to fork over $199 for four dogs.

That's 796 Dollars!!!

I decided to watch and wait for a discount and it came in the form of Amazon Prime Day when they were $135 each! Still an investment, but I wanted to experience this amazing company for a blog post. The one you're reading RIGHT NOW!

The processes of sending in DNA to the company was easy.

  • You set up an account for your dog on their website.
  • You rub a q-tip (provided) on the inside of the cheeks and along the gums for a while.
  • Package the DNA up (packaging provided) and ship it off to the company (shipping provided).

What came afterward BLEW MY MIND. But first, let me share the results.

Embark Vet DNA Test Results

Embark Vet DNA Test Results: Rodrigo

  • 20.2% Border Collie
  • 19.3% Australian Shepherd
  • 18.5% American Pit Bull Terrier
  • 12.3% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 10.3% English Springer Spaniel
  • 7.4% Shetland Sheepdog
  • 5.5% Rottweiler
  • 6.5% Supermutt (German Shepherd and Siberian Husky)

Embark Vet DNA Test Results: Sydney

  • 18.6% Australian Shepherd
  • 18.5% Border Collie
  • 17.7% American Pit Bull Terrier
  • 12.6% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 10.1% English Springer Spaniel
  • 8.7% Shetland Sheepdog
  • 6.5% Rottweiler
  • 7.3% Supermutt (German Shepherd and Chesapeake Bay Retriever)

Embark Vet DNA Test Results: Scout

  • 16.0% American Pit Bull Terrier
  • 15.3% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 14.9% Australian Shepherd
  • 13.0% German Shorthaired Pointer
  • 11.4% Border Collie
  • 9.6% Labrador Retriever
  • 4.3% Collie
  • 15.5% Supermutt (Russell-type Terrier, Lancashire Heeler, Bullmastiff, Boxer)

Embark Vet DNA Test Results: Zoey

  • 20.3% Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
  • 15.8% Australian Shepherd
  • 11.7% American Pit Bull Terrier
  • 11.7% Border Collie
  • 9.4% German Shorthaired Pointer
  • 8.4% Labrador Retriever
  • 6.1% Collie
  • 16.6% Supermutt (American Staffordshire Terrier and Miniature Australian Shepherd)

Embark Vet DNA Test Results: Apollo

  • 50% Golden Retriever
  • 50% Siberian Husky

Finally, DNA results that seem to recognize that my dogs are littermates! Oh, and they create a cute video for each dog too.

Learn about the Wolfiness Score given on the Embark dog DNA test.
a pack of wolves in snow

Embark Vet Wolfiness Score

Now this, the wolfiness score, and everything else I share was a pleasant surprise.

True Confessions Time: I'm a huge fan of wolves and my dream of dreams is to live on a 100 acres of private land with my wolf pack. Yep, too many paranormal/shifter books. I just love the idea of having a wolf and this is why I've always been so attracted to Huskies although I don't have the right personality for a Husky.

Part of the Embark Vet test results is this thing called a Wolfiness Score.

“The Wolfiness Score is based on the number of ancient genetic variants your dog has in our unique Wolfiness marker panel. Wolfiness scores up to 10% are almost always due to ancient wolf genes that survived many generations, rather than any recent wolf ancestors. These ancient genes may be a few thousand years old, or may even date back to the original domestication event 15,000 years ago. They are bits of a wild past that survive in your dog!”

Embark Vet

And, yes, there is science behind this, which Embark goes on to explain.

My Dogs' Wolfiness Scores

According to Embark Vet, most dogs have scores that are 1% or less.

  • Rodrigo – 1.8% (high)
  • Sydney – 0.9% (medium)
  • Scout – 0.9% (medium)
  • Zoey – 1.2% (medium)
  • Apollo – 4.7% (high)

Although I know that this doesn't mean that my dogs are part wolf, but I think it's pretty cool that Rodrigo scored high on his Wolfiness.

Compare Embark Dog DNA Tests. Which one is best for your pup?

Genetic Health Conditions

The health portion of Embark Vet is what people rave about and I thought that this is one of the reasons the Embark DNA test is more expensive than others on the market. The information is invaluable.

This is what I learned about each of my dogs.

Rodrigo & Sydney (littermates):

  • May have lower ALT numbers on their complete blood panel.
  • Has an MDR1 drug sensitivity, which is common in some herding breeds.
  • Are carriers for a condition called DNM1, which results in exercise-induced collapse.

Scout & Zoey (littermates):

  • May have lower ALT numbers on their complete blood panel.
  • Are carriers for a condition called Collie Eye Anomaly, Choroidal Hypoplasia.

Apollo:

  • Is a carrier for a skin disorder called Ichthyosis, which results in thick, darkly pigmented scales of skin on areas like the nose and paw pads.
  • No health issues or risks.

The Embark website offers an option to forward these results to your veterinarian, which I think is convenient and smart.

What Weight Should My Dog Be?

And, if you've ever wondered what weight your dog should be, Embark Vet can help with the “predicted adult weight.” I didn't agree with all of their findings, but it's still great information to have.

  • Rodrigo – 59 pounds (he currently weighs 52 pounds)
  • Sydney – 43 pounds (she currently weighs 71 pounds)
  • Scout – 69 pounds (he currently weighs 72 pounds)
  • Zoey – 47 pounds (she currently weighs 61 pounds)
  • Apollo – 69 pounds (he currently weighs 65 pounds)

However, due to a few as-yet-undiscovered genes and genetic interactions that affect size, this algorithm sometimes misses. Occasionally it misses by a fairly large amount especially when a dog has a breed with an unknown size-influencing gene.

~ EmbarkVet

Although I think there were some misses, a couple being way off, I still found the Predicted Adult Weight fascinating. I don't have plans to make Sydney drop nearly 30 pounds or Scout drop three pounds. However, I am actively helping Rodrigo put on weight because he too skinny for my comfort.

The goal weights I'm going for are:

  • Rodrigo – 57-59 pounds (thanks, Embark!)
  • Sydney – 69 pounds
  • Scout – 72 pounds
  • Zoey – 57-59 pounds
  • Apollo – not sure, he's still a puppy.
Compare Embark Dog DNA Tests. Which one is best for your pup?

Health & Wellness Assessments

Embark Vet provides an opportunity to participate in several assessments and surveys. Some gave me more information about my dogs, tips on changes I could make to their diet, exercise, etc. And others appear to be giving Embark Vet information to help improve their reports. I was stunned by this opportunity because the first company didn't offer it and I don't recall this being offered by Wisdom Panel.

There is a nutrition assessment that I found helpful and spot on with my dogs. The assessment requires that we know how many calories our dogs consume daily and I have this information for my dogs. They don't have an option for raw feeding, but I don't think it's necessary at this time.

I plan to complete the assessments for each of my dogs (there are several) because the more information we share, the better the data for our dogs.

More Results from the Embark Vet DNA Test

Embark doesn't stop with telling us about breed and health characteristics. There is a section that lists the traits of our dogs (the likeliness and unlikeliness that they'll have blue eyes, long coat, etc.)

Hanna's Puppies, FurKidz 911 Connection, PetFinder.com

Embark Vet Connects Us With Extended Family

Not only have I finally found a DNA test that recognizes that Rodrigo and Sydney are littermates, but Embark also helps us get in touch with our dogs' relatives. Rodrigo and Sydney were rescued from a property in Oregon that had over 100 neglected dogs. I've already sent a message to one family who has one of their cousins. I haven't found any more dogs from their litter.

I'm disappointed that the person didn't respond, but I won't stop hoping.

I'm really interested in seeing if anyone who purchased a puppy from Scout and Zoey's litter join Embark. So far, I've only found their cousins.

Save 10% when you buy 2 kits! Use Code: MULTIPACK ! Not valid on Breeder kits.

The Cons of Embark Vet DNA Test

So the following are going to be things that I was disappointed in with regard to the test. Please keep in mind that this is a personal blog and this is one person's experience and not reflective of everyone who invests in Embark Vet.

There were no cons to the Embark Vet DNA test. I feel that this was worth the money I spent and I will do it again with future dogs. Yeah, I'm surprised too, but I haven't been happier with these tests.

Image of four raw fed dogs laying in the yard on a sunny spring day taken by Keshia Lynn Photography
Sydney has lost 15 pounds since this picture was taken.

Are You Considering the Embark Vet DNA Test?

If you're considering investing in the Embark Vet DNA test, I want to give you a few suggestions to help you get the most out of the test.

1 – Complete your dog's bio as thoroughly as possible. The only thing I didn't add was where my dogs are now because that's a little too much information. Although, as a blogger, people can find me easily – but my blog isn't connected to their profiles.

2 – When doing multiple dogs, take your time and complete each dog from start to finish. It can be easy to mix up the packages when sending in DNA for more than one dog, which I nearly did when I was sending in poop samples for AnimalBiome. For this test, I completed all the steps for each dog, one at a time.

3 – Since you spent the money, use their website! Over the past couple of months, I've been playing around on the EmbarkVet website and blown away by the information that they provide about my dogs. It's a lot of fun and fascinating.

And, like the human tests (I did 23andMe and learned that I'm a lovely mix of African and Irish), the EmbarkVet website is constantly improving the data, which means that we'll continue to learn about our dogs DNA, health, characteristics, and more.

If you are interested in testing your dogs, you can buy a test directly on Amazon, Chewy.com, or their website (recommended).

Discount Code for Embark Vet DNA Tests for Dogs

Embark Vet was kind enough to offer a discount code for Keep the Tail Wagging readers. Between now and January 31, 2020, when you use the code TAILWAGGING at check out, you will save an additional $20 off Embark Breed + Health Kit.

  • Code: TAILWAGGING
  • Valid: Now – January 31, 2020
  • Shop Today!: Embark Vet

Do Dog DNA Tests Really Work?

So, do DNA tests work or not? I personally think they do if you go with a reputable company. The reason so many people recommend Embark Vet offers the most accurate results because they have 100x more genetic information than any other dog DNA test currently on the market. Embark has a research-grade genotyping platform built and managed by the world's top canine geneticists and this team prioritizes offering detailed results that serve to educate pet parents about their dogs health and DNA, but to also contribute to research to help improve the lives of dogs and the humans who love them.

Even my integrative veterinarian recommends Embark and told me that this is the most accurate on the market. Thanks to her recommendation, I'm going to test our fifth dog as well.

I think all raw feeders should invest in an Embark Vet DNA kit for their dog because we share the company's mission to end preventable disease in dogs. By testing for over 170 genetic health conditions, Embark Vet offers a detailed veterinarian report that we can share with our veterinarian (I sent mine in) that will help them provide even better care. And, as I stated above, Embark's site also provides us an opportunity to connect with our dogs' relatives.

By testing for traits and over 250 dog breeds, including wolf and coyote, Embark Vet is able to cover more than 98% of dogs in America.

Long story short – yeah – Embark Vet really works! Get Your Kit Now!

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