Can a registered purebred dog appear as mixed breed on a DNA Test?

January 24, 2020

Dog fanciers are rightly passionate about their breeds, and the unique attributes that define breed type, characteristics, temperament, and ability. Generations of careful breeding and selection have helped to refine these breed-specific traits and allow everyone to enjoy the remarkable variation that is represented in the world of purebred dogs!

 At Embark we celebrate and support the dog breeders who have worked tirelessly, and with great passion, to produce exceptional dogs. We share their mission and appreciate the opportunity to contribute our expertise in genetic health to this age-old pursuit.

Therefore, we understand that it can be concerning when a purebred dog is tested using Embark’s DNA Test for Breeders, and the results indicate the dog is a mixed breed. While this is uncommon and can be an indication of crossbreeding, there are also situations where truly purebred dogs receive this result. 

When Embark conducts a DNA Test on a purebred dog, we use a proven scientific approach to assess the genetic makeup of the dog using a process involving reference panels. A reference panel is a group of dogs that have all been registered as purebred in a particular breed, and Embark’s reference database of tens of thousands of purebred dogs is the largest and most diverse in the world. This database is used to identify a genetic signature unique to the breed, but of course does not include every dog in every breed. 

For a variety of reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registration body. In fact because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed!

For additional reading on why and how a purebred dog’s DNA may diverge from that of the reference panel, please see this article by Embark’s Senior Scientist Aaron Sams: https://embarkvet.com/resources/dog-genetics/dog-dna-diverges/ 

Reference source for purebred dog definition: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/