By Sarah Goldberg

These days, it seems there is a genetic test for just about everything. Companies sell DNA tests with claims that range from uncovering your wine preference to providing insight into the most effective skincare routine and seemingly everything in between.

Ancestry genetic tests – designed to help us better understand our geographic origins and connect with distant relatives – are among the most popular direct-to-consumer DNA tests, with more than 12 million kits sold.1

I often refer to these types of consumer offerings as recreational genetic tests – they can be fun, but they serve an entirely different purpose than the clinical health information we focus on at the Sarnoff Center: carrier screening and cancer risk education. With that in mind, I’m sharing my experience with an ancestry DNA test…. for my new rescue dog, Domino.

Domino’s name suits him. White with black spots, people stop us on walks almost daily to inquire about his breed and place their best guesses. Most often, people ask if he’s part Dalmatian or perhaps a Border Collie mix. For several months, my husband and I would sort of shrug and respond with our own theories: “He might be part American Staffordshire Terrier, part Australian Cattle Dog, and part Lab.”

Eventually my curiosity got the best of me. I jumped at a Black Friday deal on a dog ancestry test and a DNA collection kit arrived in the mail a few days later.

Similar to many human genetic test kits, it instructed us to collect cell samples from the participant’s cheek. As you may imagine, this proved a bit more challenging with a playful pup than with a consenting adult. After some bribery (and only minimal eating of the collection swab), I obtained a sample to mail off to the lab. Phew! Three weeks later, an email arrived with the results.

Any guesses before I reveal them?

According to the test, Domino is:

·       25% American Staffordshire Terrier

·       12.5% Boxer

·       12.5% Chow Chow

·       12.5% Great Pyrenees

·       37.5% Breed Groups2: Hound, Terrier, Companion, Sporting, and Middle Eastern and African

I’m certainly not alone in receiving ancestry test results that don’t align with my expectations. In Domino’s case, the results leave much of the ancestral question unanswered. But while his past remains a mystery in more ways than one, I don’t regret doing a dog DNA test. It provided a bit of insight into this sweet pup, and some fun along the way.


1.     MIT Technology Review: 2017 was the year consumer DNA testing blew up

2.     Wisdom Panel