To best understand this article in the context of the visual breed identification literature, please see National Canine Research Council's complete analysis here.
Voith, V. L., Trevejo, R., Dowling-Guyer, S., Chadik, C., Marder, A., Johnson, V., & Irizarry, K. (2013). Comparison of visual and DNA breed identification of dogs and inter-observer reliability. American Journal of Sociological Research, 3(2) 17-29. doi: 10.5923/j.sociology.20130302.02.
National Canine Research Council Summary and Analysis:
This study looked at both inter-observer reliability and validity of visual breed identifications, even among experienced dog professionals. Both were very low. Fewer than half of the participants were able to correctly identify the predominant breed (as little as 12.5% match based on DNA analysis could qualify as “predominant”) for 14 of the 20 dogs. Moreover, for 3 of the dogs visual identification did not match any (major or minor) DNA breed identification. The experts were unable to agree with each other or with the DNA identification. For only 7 dogs (35%) could even half the observers agree on a predominant breed. Researchers and public policy makers should very carefully examine studies that link breed and behavior; if breed was reported without DNA confirmation or pedigree, the data cannot be considered reliable.
A large sample of dog professionals (n=923) participated, including individuals from a variety of canine-related backgrounds (e.g., animal control, veterinarians, shelter agencies, dog clubs professions which often provide breed identification and documentation.). The twenty dogs from Voith et al. (2009) were used as the subjects of this study, along with their original DNA results, which determined all breed contributions that comprised at least 12.5% of a dog’s genetic makeup. Participants watched 1-minute color videos of each dog and were told each dog’s sex, weight, and age. Practically speaking this means that all aspects of the dog commonly used to identify breed (ears, tail, build, size, activity level and way of moving) were visible so that the participants would have access to similar identifying features as those in the earlier study (the adoption agency workers who originally breed labeled the dogs for adopters). In fact, the length of time spent viewing the dog (one minute) is not dissimilar to the amount that a shelter worker or veterinarian might use when determining breed.
After each video, participants completed a questionnaire in which they indicated what breed or breeds they believed each dog to be. Specifically, they answered whether or not they believed each dog was purebred, and if so, what they believed the breed is. If the respondent indicated that the dog was not purebred, they were asked to identify the most predominant and second most predominant breeds. If they were unsure of the second breed they could respond, “mix.”
Link to Full Text of the Original Article: