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Please note that genetic age is different from calendar age. We cannot (yet) estimate calendar age—how long since your dog was born—from DNA. To learn how vets estimate calendar age you can read How old is your dog? How veterinarians estimate dog age.
The genetic age that we report is an estimation of where your dog is in his or her healthspan. Dogs age at very different rates due to a number of genetic and environmental factors. Body size is a strong genetic influence: for example, a seven year old Great Dane is at the start of his golden years, but a seven year old Pomeranian is just learning what "slow down" means. Just within this example, you can see that the old "one doggie year = seven human years" adage isn’t going to work. And yet, knowing your dog’s age is important: it informs what your dog needs as far as food, frequency of veterinary checkups, and exercise. So how do you best determine how old your dog is?
Embark's genetic age feature calculates how old your dog would be if he or she were aging at an average human rate (using humans in the USA as the baseline). So going back to our Dane/Pom example, we'd estimate a seven year old Great Dane at about 80 years old (senior citizen), but a seven year old Pom would be about 42 (adult). Makes way more sense, right?
|Calendar age||Genetic age|
|1 year||17 human years|
|2 years||25 human years|
|3 years||31 human years|
|4 years||37 human years|
|5 years||44 human years|
|6 years||50 human years|
|7 years||57 human years|
|8 years||63 human years|
|9 years||70 human years|
|10 years||76 human years|
All we need from you is a calendar age. It's okay if this is an estimation: it is just a starting point. We then factor in your dog's breed composition, information at certain genes that affect size, and their inbreeding coefficient to calculate genetic age. Like in humans, in dogs females tend to live longer than males (so an “80 year old” female dog = 80 year old woman). Exercise and diet also play a role in how long your dog will live. Nevertheless, genetic age is the primary risk factor for numerous diseases in dogs, including cancer, kidney disease, osteoarthritis, cataracts, cardiac disease and cognitive decline. It can help you and your vet know what you should feed your dog, what screenings to get, and other aspects of your dog’s care.
Most dogs have wolfiness scores of 1% or less. We find populations and breeds with higher scores of 2-4% occasionally, and unique dogs with scores of 5% or above more rarely.
Your dog’s Wolfiness Score is not a measure of recent dog-wolf hybridization and does not necessarily indicate that your dog has some recent wolf ancestors. (If your dog has recent wolf ancestors, you will see that in the breed mix report.) Instead, the Wolfiness Score is based on the number of ancient genetic variants your dog has in our unique Wolfiness marker panel. Wolfiness scores up to 10% are almost always due to ancient wolf genes that survived many generations, rather than any recent wolf ancestors. These ancient genes may be a few thousand years old, or may even date back to the original domestication event 15,000 years ago. They are bits of a wild past that survive in your dog!
Your dog’s Wolfiness Score is based on hundreds of markers across the genome where dogs (or almost all of them) are the same, but wolves tend to be different. These markers are thought to be related to "domestication gene sweeps" where early dogs were selected for some trait. Scientists have known about “domestication gene sweeps” for years, but do not yet know why each sweep occurred. By finding rare dogs carrying an ancient variant at a certain marker, we can make associations with behavior, size, metabolism, and development that likely caused these unique signatures of “doggyness” in the genome.
For people with puppies, you probably want to know how big of a crate to buy or just how big to expect your dog to become. But genetic weight is also useful for people with fully grown dogs. Just like with people, overweight and obese dogs suffer reduced length and quality of life. They can develop chronic health conditions and suffer from limited mobility and other issues. While over half of American dogs are overweight or obese, fewer than 15% of their owners realize it. By comparing your dog’s weight to their genetic predicted weight you have one more piece of information about their ideal weight. With this and other pieces of information like weight history and body condition, you and your veterinarian may want to discuss your dog’s diet, exercise, and weight control plan to give your pup the longest, healthiest life possible.
Our test is the only dog DNA test that provides true genetic size not based just on breed ancestry but based on over a dozen genes known to influence a dog’s weight. It uses the most advanced science to determine your dog’s expected weight based on their sex, the combination of these genes, and breed-specific modifiers.
Unlike in people, healthy weight in dogs is controlled largely by only a few genes. Our algorithm explains over 85% of the variance in healthy adult weight. However, due to a few as-yet-undiscovered genes and genetic interactions that affect size, this algorithm sometimes misses. Occasionally it misses by a fairly large amount especially when a dog has a breed with an unknown size-influencing gene.
Haplotypes are particular DNA sequences that are inherited entirely from a dog’s mom (maternal) or dad (paternal).
Because they are inherited whole, your dog and his or her mom share the exact same maternal haplotype. If you have a male dog, your dog and his dad share the exact same paternal haplotype (female dogs don’t inherit paternal haplotypes).
Because most breeds were started with only a few individual dogs, many breeds are dominated by only one or a few haplotypes.
Haplogroups are groups of similar DNA sequences (called haplotypes) that are inherited entirely from the mother (maternal) or father (paternal) and don’t get shuffled up like other parts of your dog’s genome.
These groups all originally descend from one male or female wolf, usually one that lived tens of thousands of years ago. Because they are inherited whole and not shuffled like other DNA, they can be used to trace the ancestral routes that dogs took around the globe en route to your home.
Only male dogs have paternal haplogroups because they are determined by the Y chromosome, which only male dogs have. Both males and females have maternal haplogroups, which come from a part of DNA called the mitochondrial DNA.
All dogs are related and share some DNA. Siblings share lots of their DNA (half of it in fact), cousins share a bit less (an eighth), and so on. Because dog breeds are made up of a closed group of dogs, all dogs in that breed share a lot of their DNA, typically about as much as second cousins, though it varies by breed. Different breeds that are closely related share somewhat less DNA, and dogs from very different breeds share even less DNA (but still much more DNA than either dog shares with a cat).
DNA is inherited in pieces, called chromosomes, that are passed along from parent to offspring. Each generation, these chromosomes are broken up and shuffled a bit in a process known as recombination. So, the length of the segments your dog shares with his ancestors decreases with each generation above him: he shares longer segments with his mom than his grandma, longer segments with his grandma than his great-grandma, and so on.
We can use the length of segments Hank shares with our reference dogs to see how many generations it has been since they last shared an ancestor. Long segments of DNA that are identical to known purebred dogs tell Embark's scientists that Hank has, without a doubt, a relative from that breed. By testing over 200,000 genetic markers, we build up his genes one DNA segment at a time, to learn the ancestry with great certainty. Other dog DNA tests look at many fewer genetic markers and have to take a guess at breed ancestry based on that.
Look closely and you'll probably find Hank has some physical and/or behavioral resemblance with his ancestor's breeds. The exact similarity depends on which parts of DNA Hank shares with each breed. Some traits associated with each breed are listed in the Breed & Ancestry section of our website. Embark will tell you even more about Hank's traits soon!
P.S. In a small proportion of cases, we find dogs that don’t share segments with other dogs we have tested, indicating the presence of a rare breed that is not part of our reference panel or possibly a true "village dog" without any purebred relatives at all. In these rare cases we contact the owner to find out more and let them know about their unique dog before they get their results. With this in-depth detective work, we are pushing science forward by identifying genetically unique groups of dogs.
Yes! Some dogs descend from other dogs that were themselves mixed breed. These other dogs can give small contributions to the ancestry of your dog, so small that they are no longer recognizable as any one particular breed. We call this portion unresolved or “Supermutt” since it confers super powers! Just kidding. But we do think supermutts really are super!
“Hank, our sweet, silly boy, was rescued from the euthanasia list at a shelter in Georgia before making his way up to our family in Massachusetts. He is a loyal, snuggly, smart, happy little hippo who makes us laugh every day with his pig snorts and “potty time” dance moves.”
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Our algorithms predict this is the most likely family tree to explain Hank’s breed mix, but this family tree may not be the only possible one.
Through Hank’s mitochondrial DNA we can trace his mother’s ancestry back to where dogs and people first became friends. This map helps you visualize the routes that his ancestors took to your home. Their story is described below the map.
A1a is the most common maternal lineage among Western dogs. This lineage traveled from the site of dog domestication in Central Asia to Europe along with an early dog expansion perhaps 10,000 years ago. It hung around in European village dogs for many millennia. Then, about 300 years ago, some of the prized females in the line were chosen as the founding dogs for several dog breeds. That set in motion a huge expansion of this lineage. It's now the maternal lineage of the overwhelming majority of Mastiffs, Labrador Retrievers and Gordon Setters. About half of Boxers and less than half of Shar-Pei dogs descend from the A1a line. It is also common across the world among village dogs, a legacy of European colonialism.
Part of the large A1a haplogroup, this rare haplotype occurs in dogs with European ancestry.
Some other Embark dogs with this haplotype:
Through Hank’s Y-chromosome we can trace his father’s ancestry back to where dogs and people first became friends. This map helps you visualize the routes that his ancestors took to your home. Their story is described below the map.
For most of dog history, this haplogroup was probably quite rare. However, a couple hundred years ago it seems to have found its way into a prized male guard dog in Europe who had many offspring, including the ancestors of many European guard breeds such as Doberman Pinchers, St. Bernards, and Great Danes. Despite being rare, many of the most imposing dogs on Earth have it; strangely, so do many Pomeranians! Perhaps this explains why some Poms are so tough, acting like they're ten times their actual size! This lineage is most commonly found in working dogs, in particular guard dogs. With origins in Europe, it spread widely across other regions as Europeans took their dogs across the world.
Part of the A1b haplogroup, the Ha.43 haplotype occurs most commonly in Great Danes, Portuguese Podengo Pequenos and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. We've also spotted it in American Village Dogs.
Some other Embark dogs with this haplotype: