A Dog DNA testing company allegedly reports woman as part Alaskan Malamute

A Toronto-based dog DNA testing company reportedly may be in the proverbial doghouse after returning some surprising (and mistaken) results in an investigative report about the accuracy of dog breed identification tests.

DNA My Dog, located on Kingston Rd. in Toronto, states that it can identify all the breeds in a dog with a home DNA cheek swab test. On its website, the company states that it has the largest breed reference library, and they can test over 350 breeds to accurately pinpoint a dog’s unique makeup. The company also offers services to identify a dog’s allergies and genetic age.

How it works is that the customer orders a test kit (between $79.99 and $199.99) and registers it online; the customer takes the pup’s swab sample and sends it in. Results take up to 2 weeks.

Sounds easy enough—but the WBZ I-Team in Boston, Mass., decided to send in swabs to the Toronto company, as well as other pet DNA services, to see how accurate these tests are. The testing claims are, of course, for dog DNA. But, this isn’t what was sent.

Last year, the WBZ I-Team reportedly sent a human cheek swab sample to DNA My Dog, and the results showed that she was part bulldog.  Jessica Barnett, the DNA My Dog Service Director, reportedly told the team at the time that the “second sample did in fact yield canine DNA…The results provided would not be possible on a human sample”.

This year, I-Team reporter Christina Hager swabbed her own cheek and sent samples to DNA My Dog as well as two other companies.

One company, Orivet, reported that the sample failed to provide the data necessary to perform the breed ID analysis. Another company, Wisdom Panel, noted that the sample didn’t provide enough DNA to produce a reliable result.

But the results from DNA My Dog allegedly reported that Hager was “40% Alaskan Malamute, 35% Shar-Pei, and 25% Labrador” according to the I-Team, who shared a photo they were given of the dog’s official breed breakdown.

According to a Global News report, in an email sent to Global News on Thursday, Barnett said that it was unfortunate that the accuracy of their canine DNA test has been called into question over the repeated submission of human DNA samples. She added that their test is designed to measure canine DNA specifically, not DNA from humans or any other species.

“These non-canine samples have absolutely no bearing on the accuracy of our canine breed identification testing, and to say so would be a false equivalency,” Barnett wrote.

She said that when the I-Team sent samples taken from Hager’s cheek, the first sample failed their analysis and was non-canine DNA.

“The second sample submitted yielded a strong genetic match to canine breed markers, indicating that this sample was, in fact, a canine DNA sample,” Barnett wrote, adding that if a sample contains non-canine DNA, the algorithm may either report no results at all or provide erroneous dog breed results.

According to the DNA My Dog website, they use a method called Copy Number Variations (CNVs) for their analysis.

“The correlating number of CNVs and their ability to measure genetic diversity, phenotype variation and even disease susceptibility are some of the most novel discoveries in the canine genome to date,” the company’s website states, noting that the characterizing patterns of canine structural variation offer prime examples of the measurement of diversity between breeds.

“Traits such as the short legs of the Basset Hound and Corgi, the inability of the Basenji to bark, the 6+ variations of the Dachshund, to the leopard pattern of the Catahoula Leopard Dog are all prime of examples of the diversity among breeds.”