If you want to know how to find out what breed your dog is, we’ve put this guide together with the various methods that owners have used to help identify breeds.
Some of the methods are going to be more reliable and accurate than others, whilst some are going to be great ways to of supporting or querying information you gather from one of these more scientific way.
The list will particularly be helpful for those with mixed breed dogs or those wanting to confirm they have a pure breed.
Let’s take a look …
(NOTE: this is an informational and educational guide/list only. It is not professional advice)
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How To Find Out What Breed Your Dog Is
9 different options you might explore to find out what breed your dog is are …
1. Look at the physical traits of your dog and match them to a breed
The first thing you could do is look at your dog’s physical traits. Make notes of things like:
Long or short hair
Straight or curly hair
How often do they shed?
What is their body size
What is the shape of their head
How long is their face or nose
What is the shape and angle of their back
Once you’ve studied your dog, you can start matching their physical traits to the primary breeds you think they might belong to.
A good place to start might be with a dog breed identification chart online which shows you what different pure breeds look like – you can narrow the breeds down from here.
Even if you can narrow your dog down to a type of dog, like the terrier family for example, you can start looking at terrier type breeds and make some discoveries from there.
2. Look at behavioral or performance traits of your dog and match them to a breed
The second thing you can do is observe your dog’s behavioral or performance based traits.
For example, a herding type dog might try to herd you or your friends by circling you or nipping at your heels.
A Terrier type dog might always be on the hunt for rats and rodents.
A retriever type dog might be great in the water and good at retrieving objects from the water and in general.
Getting breed specific, a German Shepherd might be wary of strangers and loyal/protective. A labrador might be super friendly.
Look at the behavioral traits of your dog, and try to match them to groups of dogs (working, herding, retrievers, hounds, toy dogs etc.), or breeds of dogs.
3. Investigate lines of a particular breed and compare with your dog
Once you think you have found a primary breed or a couple of main breeds that your dog belongs to, research the lines within that breed.
How closely does your dog look like and act like one particular line from that breed?
For example, the German Shepherd has variants of the working and show line German Shepherds, and the German and American line German Shepherds.
Working lines tend to have straighter backs and thicker bodies, whereas show lines have more angled or sloped backs with dropped hips and narrower bodies.
Being able to research lines within a breed and cross match with your dog can be a good indicator that your dog might belong to a breed.
4. Get a dog DNA test from the vet
Vets are the people to give you qualified and expert advice on DNA tests, which can tell you more about the genetic profile and info of your dog.
Analysing the ‘markers’ in the chromosomes in your dogs DNA can allow you to gain an idea of the breed profile of your dog – what % of each breed your dog has in them.
A vet might collect a blood, hair or saliva sample from your dog, which is sent away to be analysed.
5. Do an at home dog DNA test
There are also at home dog DNA tests you can do yourself, such as this one:
All they require is for you to swab the inside of your dog’s cheek – collecting saliva and skin cells – and to mail the sealed swab back to the lab in a postage paid envelope. 6-8 weeks later you get a detailed report.
The Embark report gives you the breed profile of your dog (%’s of each breed it has in it), the family tree of your dog going back to it’s grandparents or great great grandparents, the related breeds to your dog’s breed, and their maternal lines.
Many owners choose to discuss the results of these tests with their vet.
Note that different tests are able to test for a different number of breeds, and have different capabilities.
An affordable option is the:
- Wisdom Panel 3.0 Breed Identification Dog DNA Test Kit (on Chewy)
- Wisdom Panel 3.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit (on Amazon)
Read more about at home dog DNA test kits in this guide.
6. Look at registration certificates you were given from a breeder or previous owner
Registration certificates may give you an indication of the breed of your dog.
To obtain a registration certificate, a puppy must simply have parents that are registered with the relevant recognised dog organisation.
The puppy can then be registered by the breeder, or by the new owner who is given registration documentation to be filled out by the breeder and owner.
In America, that is the American Kennel Club, who have an online registration system available.
The issue with this approach is that registration organisations only go back one generation (the parents of the puppy), and registration is entirely self reported.
This means registration relies on the honesty and knowledge of the breeders.
We’ve given one example of what breed registration certificates for a German Shepherd might look like in this guide.
7. Look at pedigree papers you were given from a breeder or previous owner
You might have been given purebred papers when you purchased or adopted your dog.
Purebred papers include:
A family tree for your dog which shows his or her bloodline going back four or more generations with the registered names of all the dogs.
It may also record titles the dogs have won and other information such as colors, bloodlines and other notable info
This is a strong indicator your dog is a purebred of a particular breed.
8. Do an online dog breed identification quiz
Online dog breed quizzes can vary in reliability and quality – but they are available if you search for them.
If you intend on researching your dog’s breed yourself, they can be helpful in giving you somewhere to start in narrowing down your dog’s breed.
Based on the answers you give to the quiz questions, you get an answer at the end of one or several breeds your dog might belong to.
9. Use a Dog breed identification app
There are dog breed identification apps that might be able to identify your dog’s breed from photos.
You either upload photos to the app, or take photos in the app of your dog, and the app matches visual markings on your dog to matching markings they have in their database on different breeds.
They usually give you a % relatedness of your dog’s image to the information they have on different breeds in their database.
These apps like online quizzes aren’t perfect, but can be somewhere to start.
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