Personal DNA services are quite commonplace these days—but what about our pets? The fact is, for many dog owners, their pooche’s lineage is an intriguing mystery that a new service, DNA My Dog, is helping to solve. We spoke to founder Mindy Tenenbaum about the genetic testing process and all of its barking benefits! —Noa Nichol
Hi Mindy! Tell us a bit about yourself, and your passion for pooches.
I have worked in canine rescue for over 15 years. I am currently on the board of a canine rescue organization in Ontario and have served on various other boards of rescue organizations in the past. I also do field work with the ASPCA for some of their cases. I have a degree in veterinary forensics which I use when I can to assist various agencies with any animal cruelty cases they may need our help with. Most of us at DNA My Dog love dogs and it makes it a pleasure to get to work with so much of the dog-loving population every day.
How did you get the idea to start DNA My Dog?
When I first learned of DNA testing for breed identification for dogs I got involved as a way to help canine rescues raise money. When I saw how popular it was becoming I turned it into a full-time business. I have always been actively involved in canine rescue so when new canine genetic science began emerging in the early 2000s I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. It is the perfect marriage of being able to help pet owners and being able to be part of new and emerging DNA testing. The opportunities we have available today would have been unheard of even 5 or 6 years ago. Being able to combine my passion for pooches into this service is like a dream for me.
Any challenges in obtaining a dog’s DNA versus a human’s?
Obtaining a dog’s DNA is essentially exactly the same as getting DNA from a human. It’s like what you see on a CSI type show but for a dog. Of course some dogs are easier than others and while it is a relatively simple process for most dogs, some dogs can be quite challenging to get a sample from.
How does the DNA My Dog process work (take us through it)?
The customer uses the swabs we provide to get a buccal swab (cheek swab) from their dog. They send it back to us and we extract and sequence the DNA and match it to the canine breeds we have in our database. From there we report back all matches, by level percentage, found in the dog’s DNA. As soon as our results are ready we send the customer an email with a certificate and breed analysis report with all of the breeds found.
Why should dog owners DNA their dogs? What are the benefits?
Besides the benefits of knowing all of the breeds in the dogs, owners can use this information to ensure the well-being of their dogs by being proactive about any possible genetic health issues in the breeds found and also by being able to provide appropriate training and nutrition targeted to the exact breeds in their dog.
Can other pets/animals be tested through your service?
We only test for dogs at this time. We experimented with cats in the past but the canine test is a lot more popular.
What is the most interesting/surprising or heartwarming story that has come out of the service you provide?
We are privileged to hear amazing stories every single day. Since a majority of the dogs we test are rescues they each come with their own special story. Customers will send us photos of their beautiful dogs in a nice dog bed, all clean and happy and then show us the before photos of when they found the dog abandoned in a dumpster, etc and tell us how much it means to them to now know the final piece of the dog by knowing its breeds. It makes us so happy to know that the breed information will go a long way in making that dog’s life even better! We also enjoy customers who get breed results they were not expecting that surprise them and then the light bulb goes off and the results explain everything to them about their dog!
Win! A DNA My Dog Kit!
We have a winner! Congratulations to Hannah B. of Vancouver, who won a DNA My Dog kit, valued at approximately $70!