More and more Americans are examining their own genetic information to find answers about health issues and family history. And more and more are also doing the same for their dogs.

Genetic testing for dogs has increased in recent years. Several companies offer in-home DNA tests that are similar to those designed for humans. These tests offer a deep look at an animal’s genetic history. The tests require just a small amount of material collected from inside a dog’s mouth. More than 1 million dogs have been tested in the last 10 years.

Lisa Topol of New York has two dogs: Plop and Schmutzy. The two animals are mixed-breed, meaning their genetic history includes many different kinds of dog. Topol recently had both dogs genetically tested. She told the Associated Press that the results “put some pieces of the puzzle together.”

Test results showed what Topol already believed: her high-energy dogs are more Australian cattle dog than anything else. But part of Schmutzy’s genetic information showed some unexpected things, including large amounts of Labrador retriever and Doberman pinscher.

Topol said the results “make me understand them better.”

The testing of dog DNA goes back over 20 years. In the past, it was mostly done to test for medical conditions and other purposes. But the industry grew quickly in 2005, after scientists mapped a full set of dog genes and published the results.

The tests have led to greater research possibilities. They also have helped animal rescue groups; they can use DNA results to help possible owners know more about their dogs. DNA can also be used as proof that a dog’s family history only includes one breed, and help breeders end some common diseases.

One concern is that tests can show genetic conditions that are linked to disease in some breeds but have unknown effects in the breed being tested. This means the tests in themselves cannot necessarily tell pet owners how much they should worry. They also cannot tell professional dog breeders whether or not a dog should reproduce.

But test companies say their work offers many benefits and useful information, such as whether a dog’s genes suggest bad reactions to some medicines.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

genetic (adj.) /dʒəˈnɛtɪk/ - of, relating to, or involving genes

  • There are fears that genetic techniques could be abused.

breed (n.) /briːd/ -  a particular kind of dog, cat, horse, etc.

  • The collie is a working breed.

benefit (n.) /ˈbɛnɪfɪt/ - An advantage or profit gained from something.

  • Enjoy the benefits of being a member.

rescue (v.) /ˈrɛskjuː/ - Save (someone) from a dangerous or difficult situation.

  • Firemen rescued a man trapped in the river.


Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

1. What do in-home DNA tests discover?

2. How many dogs have been tested?

3. What are Lisa Topol's dogs called?

4. When and why were the tests first developed?


Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

genetic, breed, benefit, rescue


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.


1. What do you think about DNA tests for dogs?

2. Have you heard of in-home DNA tests before? Would you like to do one?

3. Do you own a dog?

4. What dog breeds are popular in your country?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.