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What Breed Is My Dog?

brown short hair dog smiling outside

While no two dogs are exactly alike, our pets do have genetic characteristics that contribute to their behavior and their predisposition for certain health concerns. This is just one reason it’s important for future dog owners to spend time researching the best breed for their family before adopting a new best friend.

For many dog owners, knowing your dog's breed is not an issue. Responsible breeders should provide new owners with health and pedigree papers, and there are certain breeds more common at animal shelters and rescues. But if you’re considering adopting or have a mixed-breed dog, it can be a challenge identifying the various breeds that make up your dog.

Why Is It Important to Know a Mixed-breed Dog's Ancestry?

An estimated half of all dogs are mixed-breed, and each of these breeds is characterized by unique behavioral traits. When training or trying to solve behavior problems, knowing what breed characteristics influence your best friend's behavior can help you and your trainer leverage those characteristics to produce a more pleasant household environment.

Additionally, when taking your dog to the vet, informing the doctor of your dog’s breed makeup will help them tailor the correct diet, exercise and preventive medicine regimen. All of this leads to a more informed owner — and a healthier and happier dog.

black dog with very pointy large ears in forest

How to Determine Your Mixed-breed Dog’s Lineage

Here are a few ways to help solve the mystery of your mixed-breed dog’s ancestry.

Research Your Dog’s Physical Characteristics

The way a mixed-breed dog or puppy looks can be a big indicator of their lineage. In fact, shelter staff often make educated guesses about a mixed-breed dog’s makeup.

To start, make a list of your dog’s physical traits:

  • Body: How big is your dog? Are they short or tall? Thick and muscular or slender and long?
  • Muzzle: Does your dog have a short, average or long face?
  • Tail: Is their tail docked or bobbed? Long, short, curly, pointy?
  • Ears: Does your pup have floppy or erect ears? Long or short?
  • Coat: What color or pattern is your dog’s coat? Is their hair or fur soft or wiry? Long, medium or short?

Once you have a list of your dog’s characteristics, you can begin researching and connecting the dots between your dog’s traits and common breed attributes.

Explore Breed Group Behavior

Many dog breeds were originally bred for specific tasks, which can affect how certain breeds behave — and can even be helpful in identifying your mixed-breed dog’s lineage.

Note any behaviors your pup frequently displays. Does your canine best friend chew the furniture, love retrieving toys, hide their food or point at hidden birds or rabbits? Each of these traits is identified with certain breeds

Here are just a few behaviors that can indicate breed group:

  • Herding the family cat. If your dog tends to circle or stare, nip or bark at other pets or children, they may belong to the herding group. Originally bred to herd sheep and cattle, some breeds in this group include collies, Pembroke Welsh corgis and German shepherds.
  • Chase small (or large) animals. If your canine companion has a strong prey drive, they might have lineage from a breed in the hound group. Greyhounds, Ibizan hounds, beagles and basset hounds are a few of the breeds in this group of dogs originally bred for hunting.
  • Digging in the yard. Dogs in the terrier group were bred to hunt vermin, leaving them with a penchant for digging and burrowing. If your dog exhibits this behavior, they may have breeds such as Russell terrier, Boston terrier or Scottish terrier in their background.

man sitting in front of laptop holding small dog

Order a Dog DNA Test

It can be difficult to know the various breeds that make up your dog based on their behavior or the "eye test" alone.

To determine a mixed-breed dog's ancestry, perform a safe Wisdom Panel™ Dog DNA Test. With the simple swipe of a cheek swab, the DNA sample can determine the ancestry of a mixed-breed dog by testing for more than 170 breeds. Within three weeks, dog owners are emailed an official ancestry report that reveals the dog's genetic background.

To learn more, go to

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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