When using DNA tests such as Embark or Wisdom Panel for breed identity, it is essential to understand that they may not always provide accurate results. Several factors can contribute to potential inaccuracies:
Genetic Variation: DNA tests rely on databases and reference panels that contain genetic markers associated with specific dog breeds. However, the genetic makeup of individual dogs can vary, and there may be instances where a dog possesses genes that are not well-represented in the reference panel, leading to ambiguous or misleading results.
Mixed Ancestry: Dogs with mixed ancestry, such as mixed breed dogs or hybrids like Goldendoodles, can present even greater challenges for accurate breed identification. The presence of multiple breeds in a dog's lineage can make it more difficult for DNA tests to determine the specific breed composition accurately.
Limited Genetic Markers: DNA tests analyze a set of genetic markers associated with breed-specific traits. However, the number of markers used in these tests varies, and some tests may have a more limited marker panel, which can impact the accuracy of breed identification.
Lack of Breed Representation: Certain dog breeds may have less representation or genetic diversity within the reference databases of DNA tests. This can lead to limited data for accurate comparisons and lower reliability when identifying breeds.
Breed Ancestry Limitations: DNA tests can only identify the presence of breeds within a specific generational timeframe. They may not capture more distant or less common breed ancestry accurately.
It is crucial to approach DNA tests for breed identification with an understanding that they provide estimates based on available genetic data. While these tests can provide valuable insights, they should not be considered definitive or the sole basis for breed determination.
This issue is even more confounded when understanding that dog breeds are a human construct rather than a biological classification. Unlike species, which have a clearer biological definition, breeds are created and defined by human selection for specific traits, appearances, or purposes.
Breeds are groups of dogs with common ancestry and have been selectively bred to possess desired characteristics. The concept of breeds allows for categorization and standardization within the dog population, enabling breeders to produce dogs with specific traits consistently.
However, breed distinctions are not rooted in scientific taxonomy but rather in cultural and historical considerations.
The genetic diversity within and between breeds is a reminder that dogs are inherently variable and that breed classifications are a human attempt to categorize and organize this diversity for various purposes.
In addition to the factors mentioned earlier, dog clades must be considered when interpreting DNA test results. Clades refer to groups of genetically related dog breeds that share common ancestry.
These clades can sometimes result in DNA test results showing breeds that are closely related or fall within the same clade, even if they are not the exact breed composition that the breeder represents.
Dog breeds within a clade may share specific genetic markers or similar traits, making it challenging for DNA tests to differentiate between them with absolute precision. This can lead to instances where breeds within the same clade are detected or identified instead of the specific breed representation that the breeder intended.
For example, if a dog has a lineage from a breed in a particular clade, the DNA test may also identify other breeds within that clade, giving the appearance of a different breed composition. This does not necessarily mean that the dog is not the breed composition the breeder represents them to be. The broader genetic relationships, limitations sampling to create these tests, and confounders due to the genetic closeness within clades must be considered when interpreting DNA test results.
Guaranteeing Breed Composition
Due to the potential for inaccuracies and the complex and imperfect nature of breed identification through DNA testing, we cannot guarantee any dog from our breeding program will have a specific breed identity when tested.
The testing systems currently available are good, but still flawed, and can sometimes produce results that may not necessarily be representative of the actual breed composition. Additionally, since the concept of breed is a human construct rather than a biological classification, it further complicates the ability to provide guarantees regarding breed identity.
We must acknowledge the limitations and uncertainties associated with DNA testing and recognize that the notion of breed is not firmly defined in biological terms. Therefore, we cannot and do not make guarantees based on breed identity as determined by these imperfect testing systems.