Traits list

Learn why your dog is unique from the shape of their nose to the tips of their toes

Coat Color Modifiers

A number of genes are known to affect coat color in dogs. They all interact and in some cases other, often unknown, genetic effects may also influence color and pattern.

  • Hidden Patterning

    K (Dominant Black) Locus

    Gene: Canine Beta-Defensin 103 (CBD103)

    This gene helps determine whether the dog has a black coat. Dogs with a kyky result will show a coat color pattern based on the result they have at the A (Agouti) Locus. A KBKB or KBky result means the dog is dominant black, which overrides the fur pattern that would otherwise be determined by the A (Agouti) Locus. These dogs will usually have solid black or brown coats, or if they have ee at the E (Extension) Locus then red/cream coats, regardless of their result at the A (Agouti) Locus. Dogs who test as KBky may be brindle rather than black or brown.

    Did You Know?

    Even if a dog is “dominant black” several other genes could still impact the dog’s fur and cause other patterns, such as white spotting.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/black.htm

    Citations: Candille et al 2007
  • Body Pattern

    A (Agouti) Locus

    Gene: Agouti Signalling Protein (ASIP)

    This gene is responsible for causing different coat patterns. It only affects the fur of dogs that do not have ee at the E (Extension) Locus and do have kyky at the K (Dominant Black) Locus. It controls switching between black and red pigment in hair cells, which means that it can cause a dog to have hairs that have sections of black and sections of red/cream, or hairs with different colors on different parts of the dog’s body. Sable or Fawn dogs have a mostly or entirely red coat with some interspersed black hairs. Agouti or Wolf Sable dogs have red hairs with black tips, mostly on their head and back. Black and tan dogs are mostly black or brown with lighter patches on their cheeks, eyebrows, chest, and legs. Recessive black dogs have solid-colored black or brown coats.

    Did You Know?

    The ASIP gene causes interesting coat patterns in many other species of animals as well as dogs.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/tan.html

    Citations: Berryere et al 2005, Dreger and Schmutz 2011
  • Saddle Tan

    Gene: RALY

    The RALY gene is responsible for the Saddle Tan coat pattern, where a dog's black hairs recede into a "saddle" shape on the back as the dog ages, leaving a tan face, legs, and belly. This gene only impacts dogs that have atat at the A (Agouti) Locus, do not have ee at the E (Extension) Locus, and do not have KB at the K (Dominant Black) Locus. Dogs with one or two copies of the normal "N" allele are likely to have a saddle tan pattern. Dogs that with a II result (where "I" represents the mutant allele) are more likely to be mostly black with tan points on the eyebrows, muzzle, and legs as commonly seen in the Doberman Pinscher and the Rottweiler.

    Did You Know?

    The Saddle Tan pattern is characteristic of breeds like the Corgi, Beagle, and German Shepherd.

    Citations: Dreger et al 2013
  • Merle

    M (Merle) Locus

    Gene: PMEL

    This gene is responsible for mottled or patchy coat color in some dogs. Dogs with an M*m result are likely to have merle coat patterning or be "phantom" merle (where the merle allele is not obvious in their coat). Dogs with an M*M* result are likely to have merle or double merle coat patterning. Dogs with an mm result are unlikely to have a merle coat pattern.

    Did You Know?

    Merle coat patterning is common to several dog breeds including the Australian Shepherd, Catahoula Leopard Dog, and Shetland Sheepdog.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/merle.html

    Citations: Clark et al 2006
  • Facial Fur Pattern

    E (Extension) Locus

    Gene: Melanocortin Receptor 1 (MC1R)

    In addition to determining if a dog can develop dark fur at all, this gene can give a dog a black “mask” or “widow’s peak,” unless the dog has overriding coat color genetic factors. Dogs with one or two copies of Em in their result will have a mask, which is dark facial fur as seen in the German Shepherd and Pug. Dogs with no Em in their result but one or two copies of Eg will instead have a "widow's peak", which is dark forehead fur.

    Did You Know?

    The widow’s peak is seen in the Afghan Hound and Borzoi, where it is called either “grizzle” or “domino”.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/masks.html

    Citations: Schmutz et al 2003, Dreger and Schmutz 2010, Ollivier et al 2017

Base Coat Color

A number of genes are known to affect coat color in dogs. They all interact and in some cases other, often unknown, genetic effects may also influence color and pattern. The base coat color genes are linked to whether your dog will have any dark fur at all and, if they do, whether that dark fur is black, brown, grey, or light brown.

  • Color Dilution

    D (Dilute) Locus

    Gene: Melanophilin (MLPH)

    This gene helps determine whether a dog has lighter “diluted” pigment. A dog with a Dd or DD result will not be dilute. A dog with a dd result will have all their black or brown pigment lightened (“diluted”) to gray or light brown, and sometimes lightens red pigment to cream. This affects their fur, skin, and sometimes eye color.

    Did You Know?

    There are many breed-specific names for these dilute colors, such as “blue”, “charcoal”, “fawn”, “silver”, and “Isabella”. Dilute dogs, especially in certain breeds, have a higher incidence of Color Dilution Alopecia which causes hair loss in some patches.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/dilutes.html

    Citations: Drogemuller et al 2007, Bauer et al 2018
  • Brown or Black Pigment

    B (Brown) Locus

    Gene: Tyrosinase Related Protein 1 (TYRP1)

    This gene helps determine whether a dog produces brown or black pigments. Dogs with a bb result produce brown pigment instead of black in both their hair and skin, while dogs with a Bb or BB result produce black pigment. Dogs that have ee at the E (Extension) Locus and bb at this B (Brown) Locus are likely to have red or cream coats and brown noses, eye rims, and footpads, which is sometimes referred to as "Dudley Nose" in Labrador Retrievers.

    Did You Know?

    “Liver” or “chocolate” is the preferred color term for brown in most breeds; in the Doberman Pinscher it is referred to as “red”.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/liver.html

    Citations: Schmutz et al 2002
  • Dark or Light Fur

    E (Extension) Locus

    Gene: Melanocortin Receptor 1 (MC1R)

    This gene helps determine whether a dog can produce dark (black or brown) hairs or lighter yellow or red hairs. Any result except for ee means that the dog can produce dark hairs. An ee result means that the dog does not produce dark hairs at all, and will have lighter yellow or red hairs over their entire body.

    Did You Know?

    If a dog has a ee result then the fur’s actual shade can range from a deep copper to yellow/gold to cream - the exact color cannot be predicted solely from this result, and will depend on other genetic factors.

    Learn More: http://www.doggenetics.co.uk/masks.html

    Citations: Schmutz et al 2003, Dreger and Schmutz 2010, Ollivier et al 2017

Other Coat Traits

Furnishings, shedding, and curls are all genetic. Several genes are at work here, and they all interact. In fact, the combination of these genes explains the coat traits of 90 percent of AKC registered dog breeds. For more information on the genetics of coat types click here.

  • Furnishings

    Gene: RSPO2

    This gene is responsible for “furnishings”, which is another name for the mustache, beard, and eyebrows that are characteristic of breeds like the Schnauzer, Scottish Terrier, and Wire Haired Dachshund. A dog with an FF or FI result is likely to have furnishings. A dog with an II result will not have furnishings. We measure this result using a linkage test.

    Did You Know?

    In breeds that are expected to have furnishings, dogs without furnishings are the exception - this is sometimes called an “improper coat”.

    Citations: Cadieu et al 2010
  • Coat Length

    Gene: FGF5

    This gene is known to affect hair/fur length in many different species, including cats, dogs, mice, and humans. In dogs, a TT result means the dog is likely to have a long, silky coat as seen in the Yorkshire Terrier and the Long Haired Whippet. A GG or GT result is likely to mean a shorter coat, like in the Boxer or the American Staffordshire Terrier.

    Did You Know?

    In certain breeds, such as Corgi, the long coat is described as “fluff.”

    Citations: Housley & Venta 2006, Cadieu et al 2010
  • Shedding

    Gene: MC5R

    This gene affects how much a dog sheds. Dogs with furnishings or wire-haired coats tend to be low shedders regardless of their result for this gene. In other dogs, a CC or CT result indicates heavy or seasonal shedding, like many Labradors and German Shepherd Dogs. Dogs with a TT result tend to be lighter shedders, like Boxers, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas.

    Citations: Hayward et al 2016
  • Coat Texture

    Gene: KRT71

    For dogs with long fur, dogs with a TT or CT result will likely have a wavy or curly coat like the coat of Poodles and Bichon Frises. Dogs with a CC result will likely have a straight coat—unless the dog has a "Likely Furnished" result for the Furnishings trait, since this can also make the coat more curly.

    Did You Know?

    Dogs with short coats may have straight coats, whatever result they have for this gene.

    Citations: Cadieu et al 2010
  • Hairlessness (Xolo type)

    Gene: FOXI3

    This gene can cause hairlessness over most of the body as well as changes in tooth shape and number. This particular gene occurs in Peruvian Inca Orchid, Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless), and Chinese Crested; other hairless breeds are due to different genes. Dogs with the NDup result are likely to be hairless while dogs with the NN result are likely to have a normal coat. We measure this result using a linkage test.

    Did You Know?

    The DupDup result has never been observed, suggesting that dogs with that genotype cannot survive to birth.

    Citations: Drogemuller et al 2008
  • Hairlessness (Terrier type)

    Gene: SGK3

    This gene is responsible for Hairlessness in the American Hairless Terrier. Dogs with the ND result are likely to be hairless. Dogs with the NN result are likely to have a normal coat.

    Citations: Parker et al 2016
  • Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 2

    Gene: SLC45A2

    This gene causes oculocutaneous albinism type 2 (OCA2), also known as Doberman Z Factor Albinism. Dogs with a DD result will have OCA2. Effects include severely reduced or absent pigment in the eyes, skin, and hair, and sometimes vision problems due to lack of eye pigment (which helps direct and absorb ambient light) and are prone to sunburn. Dogs with a ND result will not be affected, but can pass the mutation on to their offspring. We measure this result using a linkage test.

    Did You Know?

    This particular mutation can be traced back to a single white Doberman Pinscher born in 1976, and it has only been observed in dogs descended from this individual.

    Citations: Winkler et al 2014

Other Body Features

We are discovering the genetic basis for an increasing number of other body features, including hind dew claws and the shape of your dog’s head.

  • Muzzle Length

    Gene: BMP3

    This gene affects muzzle length. A dog with a AC or CC result is likely to have a medium-length muzzle like a Staffordshire Terrier or Labrador, or a long muzzle like a Whippet or Collie. A dog with a AA result is likely to have a short muzzle, like an English Bulldog, Pug, or Pekingese.

    Did You Know?

    At least five different genes affect snout length in dogs, with BMP3 being the only one with a known causal mutation. For example, the muzzle length of some breeds, including the long-snouted Scottish Terrier or the short-snouted Japanese Chin, appear to be caused by other genes. This means your dog may have a long or short snout due to other genetic factors. Embark is working to figure out what these might be.

    Citations: Schoenbeck et al 2012
  • Tail Length

    Gene: T

    This is one of the genes that can cause a short bobtail. Most dogs have a CC result and a long tail. Dogs with a CG result are likely to have a bobtail, which is an unusually short or absent tail. This can be seen in many “natural bobtail” breeds including the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the Australian Shepherd, and the Brittany Spaniel. Dogs with GG genotypes have not been observed, suggesting that dogs with such a result do not survive to birth.

    Did You Know?

    While certain lineages of Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, Rottweiler, Miniature Schnauzer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Parson Russell Terrier, and Dobermans are born with a natural bobtail, it is not always caused by this gene. This suggests that other unknown genetic effects can also lead to a natural bobtail.

    Citations: Haworth et al 2001, Hytonen et al 2009
  • Hind Dew Claws

    Gene: LMBR1

    This is one of the genes that can cause hind dew claws, which are extra, nonfunctional digits located midway between a dog's paw and hock. Dogs with a CT or TT result have about a 50% chance of having hind dewclaws. Hind dew claws can also be caused by other, still unknown, genes. Embark is working to figure those out.

    Did You Know?

    Hind dew claws are commonly found in certain breeds such as the Saint Bernard.

    Citations: Park et al 2008
  • Eye Color

    Gene: ALX4

    This gene is associated with blue eyes in Arctic breeds like Siberian Husky as well as tri-colored (non-merle) Australian Shepherds. Dogs with a DupDup or NDup result are more likely to have blue eyes, although some dogs may have only one blue eye or may not have blue eyes at all; nevertheless, they can still pass blue eyes to their offspring. Dogs with a NN result may have blue eyes due to other factors, such as merle or white spotting. We measure this result using a linkage test.

    Did You Know?

    Embark researchers discovered this gene by studying data from dogs like yours. Who knows what we will be able to discover next? Answer the questions on our research surveys to contribute to future discoveries!

    Citations: Deane-Coe et al 2018
  • Back Muscling & Bulk (Large Breed)

    Gene: ACSL4

    This gene can cause heavy muscling along the back and trunk in characteristically "bulky" large-breed dogs including the Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Rottweiler. A dog with the TT result is likely to have heavy muscling. Leaner-shaped large breed dogs like the Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, and Scottish Deerhound generally have a CC result. The TC result also indicates likely normal muscling.

    Did You Know?

    This gene does not seem to affect muscling in small or even mid-sized dog breeds with lots of back muscling, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, and the English Bulldog.

    Citations: Plassais et al 2017

Body Size

Body size is a complex trait that is affected by both genetic and environmental variation. Our genetic analysis includes genes that, together, explain over 85 percent of the variation in dog body size.

  • Body Size 1

    Gene: IGF1

    This is one of several genes that influence the size of a dog. A result of II for this gene is associated with smaller body size. A result of NN is associated with larger body size.

    Citations: Sutter et al 2007
  • Body Size 2

    Gene: IGFR1

    This is one of several genes that influence the size of a dog. A result of AA for this gene is associated with smaller body size. A result of GG is associated with larger body size.

    Citations: Hoopes et al 2012
  • Body Size 3

    Gene: STC2

    This is one of several genes that influence the size of a dog. A result of AA for this gene is associated with smaller body size. A result of TT is associated with larger body size.

    Citations: Rimbault et al 2013
  • Body Size 4

    Gene: GHR - E195K

    This is one of several genes that influence the size of a dog. A result of AA for this gene is associated with smaller body size. A result of GG is associated with larger body size.

    Citations: Rimbault et al 2013
  • Body Size 5

    Gene: GHR - P177L

    This is one of several genes that influence the size of a dog. A result of TT for this gene is associated with smaller body size. A result of CC is associated with larger body size.

    Citations: Rimbault et al 2013

Performance

Physical performance traits are interesting for all dogs, especially those that want to perform in more strenuous environments. These traits also shed light on the history of dogs and what they have been bred for. For example, the high altitude mutation we test for causes similar changes in oxygen usage as a mutation found in people from the Himalayas!

  • Altitude Adaptation

    Gene: EPAS1

    This gene causes dogs to be especially tolerant of low oxygen environments, such as those found at high elevations. Dogs with a AA or GA result will be less susceptible to "altitude sickness."

    Did You Know?

    This gene was originally identified in breeds from high altitude areas such as the Tibetan Mastiff.

    Citations: Gou et al 2014

Genetic Diversity

Inbreeding is known to impact health and longevity in dogs. Inbred dogs can certainly live long, healthy lives; however, in general, dogs that are less inbred tend to live longer, healthier lives, on average. Our scientists are working to understand if there are parts of dogs’ genomes where inbreeding is particularly harmful.

  • Inbreeding

    Gene: n/a

    Inbreeding is a measure of how closely related this dog’s parents were. The higher the number, the more closely related the parents. In general, greater inbreeding is associated with increased incidence of genetically inherited conditions.

  • Immune Response 1

    Gene: DRB1

    Diversity in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) region of the genome has been found in some studies to be associated with the incidence of certain autoimmune diseases. Dogs that have less diversity in the MHC region—i.e. the Dog Leukocyte Antigen (DLA) inherited from the mother is similar to the DLA inherited from the father—are considered less immunologically diverse. A High Diversity result means the dog has two highly dissimilar haplotypes. A Low Diversity result means the dog has two similar but not identical haplotypes. A No Diversity result means the dog has inherited identical haplotypes from both parents. Some studies have shown associations between certain DRB1 haplotypes and autoimmune diseases such as Cushing's disease, but these findings have yet to be scientifically validated.

    Citations: Gershony et al 2019
  • Immune Response 2

    Gene: DQA1 and DQB1

    Diversity in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) region of the genome has been found in some studies to be associated with the incidence of certain autoimmune diseases. Dogs that have less diversity in the MHC region—i.e. the Dog Leukocyte Antigen (DLA) inherited from the mother is similar to the DLA inherited from the father—are considered less immunologically diverse. A High Diversity result means the dog has two highly dissimilar haplotypes. A Low Diversity result means the dog has two similar but not identical haplotypes. A No Diversity result means the dog has inherited identical haplotypes from both parents. A number of studies have shown correlations of DQA-DQB1 haplotypes and certain autoimmune diseases; however, these have not yet been scientifically validated.

    Citations: Angles et al 2005

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