How to Determine Your Dog's Breed

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Some dogs fit into a specific breed at first glance, yet other mixed breed dogs stand out and leave us scratching our heads. We search for certain markings to help us identify the breed, but sometimes we are still left wondering, "what breed is our dog?"

How Can You Determine the Breed Without DNA Testing?

Certain traits and behaviours will help you identify your breed. When you first get your dog, whether a puppy or an older dog, pay close attention to the following items for several weeks before trying to determine the breed:

  • How often do they like to go outside, and the duration of time spent outdoors versus indoors
  • What triggers them to bark
  • When they wag their tail, and when hair stands up on their back
  • How well they get along with other people and animals
  • How determined they are to escape from closed areas (crates, gates, fences, etc.)

Next, look at colour(s) — eyes, fur and tail can help you determine what breed or mix of breeds. Using the combination of markings and behaviours, you can usually narrow down the breed possibilities to under five options. You may be able to figure out your dog's breed by consulting the Kennel Club or discussing the behaviours and markings you notice with your veterinarian.

Is DNA Testing Necessary?

Although there are mixed reviews on the reliability of DNA testing for dogs, according to Fortune, it is an option for dog owners who really can't figure out what type of dog they have through behaviour and physical markings. A reason some pet owners really feel the need to know their dog's breed is that health problems related to certain breeds need to be watched for early on for best treatment. Knowing the breed can also be helpful for learning the best way to train your dog. Some methods of training work better for some breeds than others.

What If You Never Find Out?

In the end, having a few possible ideas of your dog's bloodline can help you determine how big they might get, how much exercise is needed, and what types of tricks or special agility training they may do well with. However, it is possible that you will never be able to figure out what breed your dog is — and that's okay!

One thing to keep in mind is that even within the same breed (and even the same litter), dogs can develop their own personalities and behaviours that may not even be typical for their breed. The environment a dog is raised in can impact behaviour greatly — so even if you learn the breed and try to cater to best practices with that breed, you may have to try new things or even get the help of a professional trainer to help your dog overcome certain behaviours that resulted from their environment. However, there is one thing that can be said of all breeds, they're all worth your love. So, even if you are never able to quite narrow down your dog’s breed, know that they are now part of your family, and that's a lineage that you can certainly trace.

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.