We have two dogs — a 10-year-old scruffy white mixed breed named Olive and an 11-year-old purebred Smooth Brussels Griffon named Millie. Olive looks like a cross between a Powderpuff Chinese Crested and a Gremlin (the cute, fuzzy, don’t feed-them-before-midnight version), and Millie looks like… a Smooth Brussels Griffon (although many people mistake her for a skinny Pug).

Because Olive has such a unique appearance, we were eager to learn more about her ancestry and the quirks of her breed mix, so we did an at-home dog DNA test on her a few years ago. When the results came in, it all made sense. As it turns out, her crazy underbite and crowded teeth come from the Shih Tzu in her background. And she also has some Poodle mix in her, which might account for her swirly fur. 

When it comes to Millie’s ancestry, however, I’ve never thought there was anything to unpack. As a purebred dog, we’re confident in her lineage. So there’s no need to speculate what mom and dad looked like. I’ve always assumed her DNA results would read, pretty much: “what you see is what you get.”

However, dog DNA tests have come a long way since we tested Olive. And, as it turns out, there are plenty of new and worthwhile things your dog’s DNA can reveal, beyond their breed or breed mix. At least, that’s what we discovered when we tried out the Embark Dog DNA Test for Purebred Dogs — a fun and fascinating way to learn important info about purebred dogs who might seem like open books, but who still have more to reveal.

What is a Dog DNA Test?

Dog head tilted outside

A dog DNA test is a great tool for pet parents who want to learn more about their dog’s unique genetic blueprint. The test can be performed at a veterinarian’s office using a blood sample or in the comfort of your own home, using a convenient at-home testing kit with a simple saliva swab. Depending on the specific test, sample analysis can reveal detailed information about your dog, including their breed breakdown and ancestry, as well as traits and potential health risks.

What is Embark?

Dog holding an Embark DNA test

A leader in the field of dog DNA testing, Embark Veterinary Inc. produces best-in-class dog DNA test kits that are highly rated among pet parents and veterinarians, alike. Embark kits test for more breeds than any other DNA test, identifying over 350 breeds, types, and varieties, as well as more than 210 genetic health risks.

In addition to the insights Embark dog DNA test kits provide, two other things really set Embark apart from other dog DNA testing companies. First, its proprietary, research-grade genotyping technology, developed in conjunction with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, makes Embark kits the most advanced dog DNA test kits on the market. The company analyzes twice as many genetic markers as the competition, leading to more accurate results.

Second is the Embark mission: to use kit insights to help end preventable diseases for all dogs and help them live healthier and longer lives. To that end, Embark has created the world’s largest database of canine health and biological information to help fuel research into genetic associations to health-related conditions affecting dogs.

How to Choose an Embark Dog DNA Test

Dog taking a DNA test

There are three different types of Embark dog DNA test kits to cover a broad range of testing needs, from ancestry and breed identification to the health of your dog.

  • Embark Breed Identification Kit – This DNA kit is best for pet parents with mixed breed dogs who want to learn more about their dog’s breed breakdown. It provides information about a dog’s breed mixes, ancestry, and more with a simple cheek swab.
  • Embark Breed + Health Kit – This kit is a good fit for pet parents with mixed breed or designer dogs who want to learn more about their dog’s breed breakdown and get a profile that covers more than 210 potential genetic health risks.
  • Embark DNA Test for Purebred Dogs – With this DNA test, purebred pet parents receive a complete sense of their pet’s health to share with their veterinarian, plus actionable health insights so they can give their dogs the best possible care.

How Does the Embark Dog DNA Test Work?

Embark DNA Test for Purebred Dogs

Embark makes it easy for pet parents to learn more about their pups. Once you decide on the right kit for your needs, Embark sends you the kit, along with a cheek swab and step-by-step instructions for collecting and returning the sample. Using the cheek swab is quick and easy, especially with dogs who are comfortable getting their teeth brushed. The swab is then placed in a tube with a stabilizing fluid and mailed back in a provided pre-paid return envelope. Results are typically ready in two to four weeks. 

Putting the Embark Dog DNA Test for Purebred Pets to the Test

Embark purebred DNA test with Millie

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I was excited to try out the Embark DNA Test for Purebred Dogs so I could find out even more about a dog I’ve loved for over a decade. Millie came to us through an “open adoption” by people who purchased her from a breeder but were unable to keep her. While I know she’s 100 percent Brussels Griffon, I don’t have access to her health records from the breeder. I was eager to discover more about her lineage and (even though I was nervous about it) any possible hereditary disease predispositions she could face. 

The kit arrived promptly and was well packaged and easy to understand. That said, I encountered a little operator error in my haste to get started; I focused on the sample collection and mailing, but forgot to activate my account! This led to some confusion (on my part) about when the results would arrive. Luckily, that was easily fixed once I realized my mistake.

As for the sample collection, it couldn’t have been any easier. The instructions advised waiting at least 30 minutes after a meal before collecting the sample. So (being an overachiever), I waited hours. Millie was a pro during the 30 seconds of swabbing while her saliva soaked the sponge. Once I was done, I popped the wand in the stabilizing fluid with the tip down, closed it, shook the tube 10 times as instructed, and placed the whole thing in the postage-paid envelope. And Millie got a treat for being such a good girl!

Since I mailed my kit off during the holiday season, I expected a long wait for results. So the text alert that her results were ready came as a happy surprise. I logged into my account and was amazed by just how much information Embark was able to discover about the dog I thought I knew so well! The results were divided up into four sections — health, breed, traits, and (best of all) relatives. 

Embark Dog DNA testing kit box

First and foremost, I was relieved to learn that Millie is not at increased risk for genetic health conditions. I also learned that she has solid genetic diversity in her background, which is important since less inbred dogs have been shown to lead longer, healthier lives. 

I loved the section talking about Millie’s appearance and size, down to her coat colors and fur type. (Yup, they nailed it.) The test even noted that Millie was likely to have light to moderate shedding. Even though you wouldn’t know it by looking at Millie’s short coat, our bedsheets prove that she skews on the heavy side of moderate! 

The “other body features” section was all accurate as well, noting features like her (adorable) short muzzle. The section indicating her tail type bummed me out, though it had nothing to do with the test itself. Brussels Griffons are born with long tails, but the breed standard requires that they’re cropped short. The Embark Purebred DNA test pointed out that Millie has the genotypes to have a “normal-length tail,” but, unfortunately, she’s stuck with a stubby one. (I prefer natural tails and ears!)

My hands-down favorite part of the Embark DNA Test was the section about her relatives. Due to my haste to get the analysis started, I somehow missed that this was part of the test. So it was the most adorable surprise! When I clicked on the section, I was greeted by a long list of the names and photos of Millie’s relatives, including a handsome boy named Walter who is considered “immediate family” and is as closely related to her as human siblings or a parent and child would be. Plus, she has a sister-adjacent relative named Olive, just like her real sister! I loved scrolling through the photos of the other familiar-looking pups, and I even reached out to the pet parent who has both of her closest relatives. Fingers crossed for a furry family reunion!

Things We Like 

There’s a lot to love about the Embark Purebred DNA Test. Here are some of the aspects I most appreciated:

  • Clear instructions
  • Easy-to-use swab
  • Text updates on the sample’s progress once received
  • Speedy results
  • Easy navigation on the website
  • Explanations for all results, answering the question “what does this mean?”
  • Downloadable results
  • Information about relatives, with the option to contact them through Embark’s website
  • Users have the option to participate in ongoing genetic research that can contribute to overall dog wellness
  • Discount codes available

Things to Consider

  • The cost might be a factor for some (the Purebred kit retails for $199, but you might luck out with a sale)
  • If you’re focused on the mechanics of collecting the sample, the “activate” step could be easy to overlook. (Or maybe that’s just me!)

Embark Purebred Dog DNA Test: Our Verdict

Happy dog in a meadow

My Embark Purebred Dog DNA Kit review? Four big paws up for this fun test! I now have peace of mind knowing that Millie is a healthy senior (and I can easily share the results with her veterinarian). Plus, I got the delightful surprise of finding her furry family. 

From the ease of use to the fascinating results, I’m a huge fan of the way Embark allowed me to unleash Millie’s full story!