No, You Probably Can't Guess That Dog's Breed — and a New Study Explains Why It Matters

Your phone rings. When you answer, your friend says, "Hi! I just got a new dog!"

And naturally, you respond, "That's great! What kind is it?"

Every dog lover in the world has had this conversation, or at least one along the same lines. But if the dog in question is a mixed breed, chances are good that the answer to that question will be somewhat (if not totally) inaccurate. In many cases, it really doesn't matter; you were simply curious. But in other circumstances, the answer can be the difference between life and death for a dog.

A recent study by the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida has shown that dog experts of all kinds have one thing in common when it comes to identifying predominant breeds in mixed-breed dogs: Their assessments are stunningly unreliable. This is confirmation of what many in shelter medicine already knew to be true, but the findings are far-reaching and affect everything from apartments and insurance companies that have breed-specific regulations to rescues trying to match pets to families. In addition, this inability to recognize what breed a dog is endangers dogs facing breed bans and can hinder properly identifying lost and found dogs in shelters.

To learn more about the study and its applications, we spoke to Dr. July Levy, DVM, a professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida and leader of the dog breed identification study.

What Kind of Dog Is That? DNA and Survey Results

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 13?

Top Responses: Border Collie, German Shepherd Dog, Basenji, Great Dane, Boston Terrier

DNA Results: 25% German Shepherd, 25% Staffordshire Bull Terrier, 13.36% Weimeraner, 7.29% German Wirehaired Pointer

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 88?

Top Responses: American Bulldog, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Dalmatian, Argentine Dogo

DNA Results: 25% Plott Hound, 25% Boston Terrier, 25% German Spitz, 11.68% Saluki

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 2?

Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, American Staffordshire Terrier, No Predominant Breed, Border Collie, Pointer (includes English Pointer)

DNA Results: 50% Catahoula Leopard Dog, 25% Siberian Husky, 9.94% Briard, 5.07% Airedale Terrier

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 68?

Top Responses: German Shepherd Dog, No Predominant Breed, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Belgian Malinois

DNA Results: 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, 25% French Bulldog, 25% American Foxhound, 22.13% Belgian Tervuren

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 57?

Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, No Predominant Breed, Golden Retriever, Anatolian Shepherd Dog

DNA Results: 25% Beauceron, 25% Siberian Husky, 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, 12.73% Schipperke

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 71?

Top Responses: Chihuahua, No Predominant Breed, Labrador Retriever, Border Collie, Schipperke

DNA Results: 25% Miniature Pinscher, 25% Brittany Spaniel, 25% Chinese Crested, 12.83% German Spitz

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 64?

Top Responses: Beagle, No Predominant Breed, German Shepherd Dog, Corgi (including Cardigan, Pembroke), Basenji

DNA Results: 50% Russell Terrier, 50% Plott Hound

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 99?

Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, No Predominant Breed, Pointer (includes English Pointer), Brittany, Foxhound (including American, English, Treeing Walker Coonhound)

DNA Results: 25% American Staffordshire Terrier, 25% Collie, 21.41% Black Russian Terrier, 19.86% Norwegian Buhund

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 7?

Top Responses: Labrador Retriever, American Staffordshire Terrier, No Predominant Breed, German Shepherd Dog, Staffordshire Bull Terrier

DNA Results: 25% Irish Water Spaniel, 25% Siberian Husky, 25% Boston Terrier, 8.33% Bull Mastiff

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 55?

Top Responses: Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, No Predominant Breed, Rottweiler, Dachshund (including miniature, standard, smooth coat, wirehair, longhair)

DNA Results: 25% Great Dane, 25% Schipperke, 12.5% Chow Chow, 12.5% Collie

Photos courtesy of UF Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program

What Breed is Dog 79?

Top Responses: No Predominant Breed, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Beagle, Collie

DNA Results: 25% Doberman Pinscher, 25% Wirehaired Dachshund, 12.5% Samoyed, 12.5% Miniature Schnauzer

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!