Visual Identification of Dogs

Even the most experienced animal experts cannot reliably determine a dog’s ancestry based on their appearance. 

The Aha! Moment

If you still think you can accurately identify non-purebred dogs,
these images will make you think again.

Scott (1)
Scott (2)
In a 1985 study, researchers crossed a purebred Basenji with a purebred Cocker Spaniel. The resulting offspring did not resemble either purebred parent.

Scott, J.P., & Fuller J.L.

 Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog

of the time animal professional are wrong when guessing a dog's ancestry
dogs are given labels by shelter staff that are incorrect
of the dogs had DNA that matched to the breed the shelter staff guessed
of the one or two specific breeds identified by animal professionals in dogs did not correctly identify the main breed
of observers agree on a predominant breed in only 35% of the dogs.

Looks don't equal Breed in Mixed Breed Dogs

If you have a dog, you’ve probably been asked, “what kind of dog is that?” And you’ve probably asked the question yourself, whether you own a dog or not. If you don’t already know the answer, breed-guessing begins. But the fact is that we just aren’t good at this breed-guessing game,

Breed-guessing Impacts public policy

Dogs receive their breed labels in various situations, such as at a vet visit, when they arrive at a shelter, or by their owners. But without a pedigree, those labels are most often guesses. Even guesses of shelter workers and veterinarians are neither accurate nor reliable. This unreliable information then makes its way into databases sometimes used in research studies. These studies can influence public opinion and effect policies about certain breeds.

Many, even academic, studies use unreliable data to make claims about breed and behavior. These findings can lead to unfair treatment of people who own certain dogs as well as the dogs themselves. Overall, scientists, media, veterinarians, shelter staff, and policymakers should not make broad statements about dogs who look a certain way or pass judgment about an individual dog’s behavior based on their looks.

Even mixed breed dogs with the same predominate breed in their DNA can look very different.

What you see on the outside represents only 50 of a dog's 20,000+ genes. While pedigreed dogs are readily identifiable this is not the case for non-purebred dogs.

DNA Example (2)

Can you guess the breed mix?

Would you identify these mixed breed dogs as something different than what's in their DNA?

Find the Lab

Find the Pit Bull

Find the German Shepherd