Pet owners are using DNA tests to learn more about the identity of their adopted dogs.

By Kate Hogan
Updated January 05, 2009 10:24 PM
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Pet adoption is a beautiful thing. You’re given the chance to potentially save the life of an animal whose past is uncertain, and give him or her the loving home every pet deserves. While most shelters provide adopters with as much information as possible, the breed of your new pet can often times be a mystery.

Jennifer Silva, a New York-based PEOPLE staffer, fell in love with a mutt puppy up for adoption on the street. Told that her new dog (pictured, above) was a German shepherd, she took her home, named her Sophie, and raised her.

This year, Sophie turned 7, and Jennifer decided she wanted to find out what breed – or breeds – her dog was, “just for fun,” she says. After reading a story in PEOPLE about pet DNA testing and doing some research online, she contacted vetdnacenter.com and purchased their $88 at-home testing kit. She rubbed a cotton swab inside Sophie’s mouth, sent the sample off for testing and two months later, received results. What she saw surprised her – not only was Sophie zero percent German shepherd, she was actually parts Bull Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Afghan hound, Border collie and Maltese. “I think she ate a Maltese for breakfast!” jokes Jennifer. “I wouldn’t have ever thought she was part Maltese.” Though she’s glad she tested Sophie’s DNA, Jennifer says it hasn’t changed the way she takes care of her dog at all. “If anything, it’s just funny to think about how this mix came about,” she says. “And of course I love her regardless.”

Janet McCulley of Muttropolis.com had a similar urge to learn of her dog’s breed. After rescuing her pup Lulu (pictured, right) from a Tijuana animal shelter five years ago, she was barraged with questions from passersby about the rare breed of her beautiful dog. She chose to use the Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis, a new type of dog DNA test that detects the “signatures” of the 134 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds. Janet took Lulu to the vet for a quick blood draw ($30), and then sent the sample – and $125 – to the company. Two weeks later she learned that Lulu was various parts Cocker-Pekinese-Basset-Griffon-Clumber-Terrier, and the mystery was solved.

“I definitely understand some of her behavior and mannerisms more, now that I know where she gets it from,” says Janet. “My overall care hasn’t really changed that much, but I am sure that I could learn more about how to best care for her unique mix of breeds. It’s fun learning about her behavioral tendencies.”