Traits list

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

Coat Color

A number of genetic loci are known to affect coat color in dogs, and they all interact. In some cases, other genetic effects may also influence color and pattern.

  • E Locus (Mask, Grizzle, Recessive Red)

    Controls the characteristic melanistic mask seen in the German Shepherd and Pug as well as the grizzled "widow's peak" of the Afghan and Borzoi. Melanistic mask (Em) is dominant to grizzle (Eg) which is dominant to black (E) and red (e). Dogs that are EE or Ee are able to produce normal black pigment, but its distribution will be dependent on the genotypes at the K and A Loci. Dogs that are ee will be a shade of red or cream regardless of their genotype at K and A. The shade of red, which can range from a deep copper like the Irish Setter to the near-white of some Golden Retrievers, is dependent on other genetic factors including the Intensity (I) Locus, which has yet to be genetically mapped.

    Want to help us map I Locus? If you haven't already, complete your ee pup's Embark profile with a photo! Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!

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

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  • K Locus (Dominant Black)

    Causes a dominant black coat. Dogs with a dominant KB allele have black coats regardless of their genotype at the A locus; the coat color of dogs homozygous for the recessive ky allele are controlled by A locus. Alleles: KB > ky

    Citations: Candille et al 2007

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  • A Locus (Agouti, Sable)

    Determines whether hair pigment is produced in a banded red and black pattern or solid black. Fawn or sable (ay) is dominant to wolf sable (aw) which is dominant to black-and-tan (at), which is in turn dominant to recessive black (a).

    Citations: Berryere et al 2005, Dreger and Schmutz 2011

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  • D Locus (Dilute, Blue, Fawn)

    Lightens a black coat to blue and a red coat to buff. A dilute phenotype requires two copies of the recessive d allele.

    Citations: Drogemuller et al 2007, Bauer et al 2018

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  • B Locus (Brown, Chocolate, Liver, Red, Dudley)

    Lightens a black coat to brown, chocolate or liver. The brown phenotype requires two copies of the recessive b allele. Red or cream dogs that carry two b alleles remain red or cream but have brown noses, eye rims, and footpads (sometimes referred to as "Dudley" in Labrador Retrievers).

    Citations: Schmutz et al 2002

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  • Saddle Tan

    This is a modifier locus of the At allele at A Locus. For this mutation to have any effect on coat color, dogs must not be ee at E Locus, must be KyKy at K Locus, and must be either AtAt or Ata at A Locus, If dogs meet these parameters, read on!

    Being "NN" or "NI" at this locus increases the chance that dog will have the "Saddle Tan" pattern, which causes the black hairs to recede into a "saddle" shape on the back, leaving a tan face, legs, and belly, as a dog ages. The Saddle Tan pattern is characteristic of breeds like the Corgi, Beagle, and German Shepherd. Being "II" at this locus makes it more likely that a dog will be mostly black with tan points on the eyebrows, muzzle, and legs like what we see commonly in the Doberman Pinscher and the Rottweiler.

    Citations: Dreger et al 2013

Other Coat Traits

Furnishings, shedding and curls are all genetic! And they all interact, too. In fact, the combination of these genetic loci explain the coat phenotypes of 90% of AKC registered dog breeds.

For more information on the genetics of coat types you can refer to

  • Furnishings / Improper Coat (RSPO2)

    Confers the distinguished moustache, beard, and eyebrows characteristic of breeds like the Schnauzer, Scottish Terrier, and Wire Haired Dachshund; only one copy of the dominant F allele is required for furnishings. The FI genotype is furnished but carries one allele for no furnishings, or improper coat. A dog with two I alleles has improper coat. The mutation is a 167-bp insertion which we measure indirectly using linked markers highly correlated with the insertion.

    Citations: Cadieu et al 2010

  • Long Haircoat (FGF5)

    The FGF5 gene is known to affect hair length in many different species, including cats, dogs, mice, and humans! The "T" allele confers a long, silky haircoat as observed in the Yorkshire Terrier and the Long Haired Whippet. The ancestral "G" allele causes a shorter coat as seen in the Boxer or the American Staffordshire Terrier.

    Citations: Housley & Venta 2006, Cadieu et al 2010

  • Shedding (MC5R)

    This mutation affects shedding propensity. Dogs with the ancestral C allele, like many Labradors and German Shepherd Dogs, are heavy or seasonal shedders, while those with one or more T allele, including many Boxers, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas, tend to be low shedders. Note that dogs with furnished/wire-haired coats tend to be low shedders regardless of their genotype at this gene!

    Citations: Hayward et al 2016

  • Curly Coat (KRT71)

    Causes the curly coat characteristic of Poodles and Bichon Frises. Dogs need at least one copy of the "T" allele to have a wavy or curly coat; the ancestral "C" allele is associated with a straight coat.

    Citations: Cadieu et al 2010

  • Hairlessness (FOXI3)

    This mutation in the FOXI3 gene causes hairlessness over most of the body as well as changes in tooth shape and number. This mutation occurs in Peruvian Inca Orchid, Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless), and Chinese Crested (other hairless breeds have different mutations). Dogs with the "N/Dup" genotype are likely to be hairless while dogs with the "N/N" genotype are likely to have a normal coat.

    Please note that this is a linkage test, so it may not be as predictive as direct tests of the mutation in some lines.

    Citations: Drogemuller et al 2008

  • Hairlessness (SGK3)

    Hairlessness in the American Hairless Terrier arises from a mutation in the SGK3 gene. Dogs with the "DD" genotype are likely to be hairless while dogs with the "NN" or "ND" genotypes are likely to have a normal coat.

    Citations: Parker et al 2016

  • Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 2 - OCA2, Doberman Z Factor Albinism (SLC45A2)

    Dogs with two copies (D/D) of this 4 kilobase deletion in the SLC45A2 gene have oculocutaneous albinism type 2 (OCA2), a recessive condition characterized by severely reduced or absent pigment in the eyes, skin, and hair. Affected dogs sometimes suffer from vision problems due to lack of eye pigment (which helps direct and absorb ambient light) and are prone to sunburn. Dogs with a single copy of the deletion (N/D) will not be affected but can pass the mutation on to their offspring. 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. Please note that this is a linkage test, so it may not be as predictive as direct tests of the mutation in some lines.

    Citations: Winkler et al 2014

Other Body Features

We are discovering the genetic basis for an increasing number of other body features, including dew claws and the shape of a dog’s head. Take our surveys to help discover more!

  • Brachycephaly (BMP3)

    Affects skull size and shape. Many brachycephalic or "smushed face” breeds such as the English Bulldog, Pug, and Pekingese have two copies of the derived A allele. Mesocephalic (Staffordshire Terrier, Labrador) and dolichocephalic (Whippet, Collie) dogs have one, or more commonly two, copies of the ancestral C allele. At least five different genes affect snout length in dogs, with BMP3 being the only one with a known causal mutation. For example, the skull shape of some breeds, including the dolichocephalic Scottish Terrier or the brachycephalic Japanese Chin, appear to be caused by other genes.

    Citations: Schoenbeck et al 2012

  • Natural Bobtail (T)

    Whereas most dogs have two C alleles and a long tail, dogs with one G allele are likely to have a bobtail, which is an unusually short or absent tail. This mutation causes natural bobtail in many breeds including the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the Australian Shepherd, and the Brittany Spaniel. Dogs with GG genotypes have not been observed, suggesting that the GG genotype results in embryonic lethality.

    Please note that this mutation does not explain every natural bobtail! 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, these breeds do not have this mutation. This suggests that other unknown genetic mutations can also lead to a natural bobtail. If your dog does not have a CG genotype but was born with a bobtail, please email us at!

    Citations: Haworth et al 2001, Hytonen et al 2009

  • Hind Dewclaws (LMBR1)

    Common in certain breeds, hind dewclaws are extra, nonfunctional digits located midway between your dog's paw and hock. Dogs with at least one copy of the T allele have about a 50% of chance of having hind dewclaws.

    Citations: Park et al 2008

  • Blue Eye Color

    This mutation has been associated by Embark researchers with blue eyes in Arctic breeds like Siberian Husky as well as tri-colored (non-merle) Australian Shepherds. Dogs with at least one copy of a duplication (Dup) are more likely to have at least one blue eye. Some dogs with the duplication may have only one blue eye (complete heterochromia) or may not have blue eyes at all; nevertheless, they can still pass the duplication and the trait to their offspring. N/N dogs do not carry this duplication, but may have blue eyes due to other factors.

    Please note that this is a linkage test, so it may not be as predictive as direct tests of the mutation in some lines.

    Want to help us better understand eye color genetics? If you haven't already, complete your pup's Embark profile with a photo clearly showing their eyes and be sure to fill out the "Doggie Parts" survey in the research section of their results!

    Citations: Deane-Coe et al 2018

  • Back Muscling & Bulk, Large Breeds Only

    The "T" or "bulky" allele is associated with 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. The "T" allele is absent from leaner shaped large breed dogs like the Irish Wolfhound and Scottish Deerhound, who are more likely to have a "CC" genotype. Note that this mutation does not seem to affect muscling in small or even mid-sized dog breeds with notable back muscling, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, the American Pitbull Terrier, the American Bully, the Boston Terrier, or 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 80% of the variation in dog body size. It does not account for runting or stunting; nor does it account for the interactions between various genes both known and unknown.


Physical performance traits are interesting for all dogs, especially those that want to perform in more strenuous environments.

  • Altitude Adaptation (EPAS1)

    This mutation causes dogs to be especially tolerant of low oxygen environments (hypoxia). Dogs with at least one A allele are less susceptible to "altitude sickness." This mutation was originally identified in breeds from high altitude areas such as the Tibetan Mastiff.

    Citations: Gou et al 2014

Genetic Diversity

We also provide insights into inbreeding and genetic diversity.

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

Diversity of the maternal and paternal haplotypes 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 haplotypes—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.

  • Inbreeding Coefficient

    Our genetic COI measures the proportion of your dog's genome where the genes on the mother’s side are identical by descent to those on the father’s side.

  • MHC Class II - DLA DRB1

    A Dog Leukocyte Antigen (DLA) gene, DRB1 encodes a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) protein involved in the immune response. 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: Angles et al 2005

  • MHC Class II - DLA DQA1 and DQB1

    DQA1 and DQB1 are two tightly linked DLA genes that code for MHC proteins involved in the immune response. 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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