Discovering Our Dog: Learning About Dog Breeds with Canine DNA Testing

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"Mommy, what kind of dog is Griffey?" My almost 4 year old asked a question that I've been wondering myself for almost 8 years. So when I got the opportunity to work with Wisdom Panel® to have Griffey's DNA tested to find out his ancestry and share our results, I couldn't resist.

See what we learned about our shelter mutt when we gave him a Wisdom Panel Canine DNA test! A fun activity to help kids learn about dog breeds & ancestry and a great way to learn more about your dog too. You'll never guess what our mixed breed dog is!

We've made lots of guesses about Griffey's breed, as has everyone who has met my shelter mutt, but no one knew for sure. Thanks to Wisdom Panel, I was about to find out! Not only was I able to solve a mystery that had been on my mind for years, but I was able to create a fun learning activity for my kids too.

All About Our Dog

We adopted Griffey from our local animal shelter nearly 8 years ago, when he was just 10 weeks old. He had been dropped off at the shelter in a laundry hamper with his litter mates, and he was the lone white puppy in a family of speckled pups who looked like they might be part Australian Cattle Dog. Griffey looked a little like a Lab puppy, but with a funny curly tail that we thought might be part Siberian Husky. As he grew, we had no idea what gave him his floppy ears, goofy grin, pink freckled nose, or wintry double coat. All we knew was that he was our awesome, happy, sweet dog and that we loved him. But I always wondered, as my kids now did, what breeds had come together to make up our boy? And now I could find the answer.

I was so excited when our Wisdom Panel® Canine DNA Test arrived in the mail. It was really simple to do at home (no blood required!). All I had to do was take two swabs of Griffey's cheek. He didn't mind a bit and I felt totally cool, like I was on CSI. 

After doing the swabs, I sealed everything up and dropped the kit into the mail. I knew it would take 2-3 weeks for our results to arrive, so I decided to get the boys ready with a trip to the library.

Learning About Dog Breeds

While we were waiting for Griffey's results, we decided to learn a little more about different breeds of dogs. We picked up an awesome book on dog breeds at the library, and began our research. Wisdom Panel tests cover over 250 breeds, types, and varieties of dogs and provides ancestry back to the great-grandparent level, so there was no telling how many breeds we would find in Griffey.

I had the boys try to guess which kind of dogs might be Griffey's parents and grandparents and we had a wide range of possibilities. Did you know that even professionals are only correct 25% of the time when it comes to visually identifying dog breeds? That means they are wrong 75% of the time. That's why we were so excited to actually have scientific proof of Griffey's breed(s). Wisdom Panel tests use more than 1800 genetic markers, making them over 90% accurate.

While my boys are a bit young to understand the scientific details of DNA, you could easily expand this activity for older kids who are learning about genetics. It would make a wonderful basis for a Science Fair project too!

Griffey's Family Tree

When our results arrived, we eagerly downloaded our report. It turns out that Griffey is a mix of American Staffordshire Terrier, Chinese Shar-Pei, White Swiss Shepherd, Old English Sheepdog, and Shetland Sheepdog. What a combination!

I wasn't surprised that he was part Shepherd, but I really thought that he had some Husky mixed in there too. And I'll admit I teared up a little when I saw that he was part Old English Sheepdog - that was the breed of dog that I had growing up and it made my heart happy to think they were somehow related.

To help the boys understand Griffey's ancestry, we moved on to the next part of our project - building Griffey's family tree.

I printed a copy of our report and a photo of Griffey. We cut out Griffey's photo, along with the photos in the report of the dogs that represent each of his breeds. I gave the boys some glue and invited them to create Griffey's family tree.

As we added each photo, we compared it to our photo of Griffey (and Griffey himself of course). They immediately noticed that his curly tail must have come from his Shar-Pei ancestor, and his thick coat was probably from the Sheepdog side of the family!

This project was such a fun way for my boys to learn about dog breeds as well as how our ancestors contribute to who we are. It was a wonderful introduction to genetics and comparing/contrasting physical characteristics as well as behavior and health.

A Mystery Solved

As much as I loved the learning aspect of this project, it had a deeper and more important result too. You see, since Griffey was a puppy, we have worked with him on some behavior challenges. He has always been afraid of strangers - though with positive training and the help of behaviorists and our veterinarian, we have helped him to cope and be the wonderful dog that he is today. However, a little part of me had always wondered why he exhibited this behavior. Now knowing his ancestry, it turns out that being wary of strangers is a common trait in more than one of his breeds. I feel a great peace of mind knowing that this was just part of his nature. I only wish that I had done the Wisdom Panel test sooner so that I could have had this piece of the puzzle years ago. Knowing his breeds could have helped us to be more proactive in developing his training plan (and would have saved me a few sleepless nights).

I'm so glad that we were able to find out a little more about Griffey thanks to Wisdom Panel, and I love that I was able to give my boys an early lesson in dog breeds, DNA, and ancestry. What a great way to not only help us gain valuable information about one of the members of our family but to also learn some science too!

Want to try Wisdom Panel yourself? Click here to learn more and let me know about your dog in the comments below! Or send me a message on Facebook - I'd love to see your photos too!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Wisdom Panel®. All ideas & opinions are my own.

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