Discover your dog's ancestry

Do you have a cross-bred or mongrel but aren’t sure of its origins? It’s always fascinating attempting to work out which particular breeds may originally have contributed to your pet’s make-up.

Several years ago, I tried to come up with a formula to identify different characteristics for this purpose. It formed the basis of The Mutt Book: Decoding Your Mutt's Heritage. This was published in association with the Dogs Trust, the UK's largest canine charity. It pledges never to destroy stray or abandoned dogs, but seeks permanent, loving homes for them, running a nationwide rehoming scheme through its regional centres.

The features that I used weren’t scientific of course, but now, for the first time, you can take the guesswork out of the equation, as a DNA test is available which should reveal your dog’s true origins. All you need to do is to take a swab from your dog’s cheek, which is completely painless and easy to do, and then send it direct to the laboratory.

Neale Fretwell, director of research and development at Mars Veterinary which pioneered the test, points out that knowing your dog’s background is important, because there are significant breed differences, not just in terms of appearance but behaviour as well.

Within three weeks, you’ll receive your pet’s official ancestry report back. This will be based on a comparison with the DNA of over 170 breeds - the largest database of its type on the market. It is just one of a growing number of tests of this type available on the market.

According to Neale: “It’s not just about curiosity. The smarter you are about your dog’s past, the smarter you can be about his future. By knowing the breeds which contributed to your pet’s ancestry, so you will be able to meet its feeding, training and exercise requirements more effectively."