Do you want to know what breed your dog is? If you purchased a pedigree dog then it is straightforward and you already know. But what happens if you did not get your dog from a breeder and know nothing about their history?
Some dog breeds look very similar and can confuse anyone. Or maybe the dog you have adopted is a mixed breed and you have no idea what mix they are. In this article we share with you six simple ways to identify any dog breed!
Table of Contents
How To Tell What Breed My Dog Is
There are lots of different ways to identify a dog breed:
- Website Upload
- DNA Kits
- Identification Charts
- Physical Appearance
- Behavioral Traits
- Mobile Apps
Some are simple and take no time at all, while others are more complicated, time consuming and expensive.
Which method you pick depends on how certain you want to be of what breed your dog is.
Simpler methods like identification charts will give you a ball-park answer. Only a DNA test can help you if you want to be 100% certain and find your dog’s breed.
Here are the six most common methods you can try:
- Identification Chart: Dog breed identification charts are a good way to view lots of breeds at the same time. These charts show drawn pictures of various breeds, so you can easily scan through all the breeds to see if your dog looks anything like them. We have several identification charts later on in this article you can use.
- Behavioral Traits: Some breeds have very unique behavioral traits. Chihuahuas are known to be very sassy and attached to their owners, whereas Cocker Spaniels are very sweet and gentle and love just about anyone. No two dog breeds will act exactly alike or have the same temperament. This method requires that you know your dog very well and how they behave. These behavioral traits can then be compared to those found in other breeds.
- Physical Appearance: Each breed has their own unique physical characteristics that can tell you just what type your dog is. You cannot mistake the Poodle, with their undeniable poofy hair, or a Golden Retriever with their golden locks. By comparing the physical traits of your dog with that of pictures of specific breeds, you can try to figure out on your own which breed your dog is. Although this is not the most accurate, it is one of the easiest and can narrow down your options to 2-3 breeds.
- Mobile Apps: Using apps like Dog ID are the quick and easy way to identify your dog’s breed. They are very user-friendly, and all you need to do is upload a picture of your dog. Apps use information from hundreds of dog breeds to try to identify your dog. They can even identify mixed breeds!
- Website Upload: Another option is to upload an image of your dog directly to the internet. Microsoft has a Visual Search feature that tries to identify a dog’s breed by comparing your picture to those on the internet. This is a good option if you do not want to download or purchase an app and want to do a quick search of your dog’s breed.
- DNA Kits: This is the most accurate, reliable and useful method. These kits analyze your dog’s genetic code so you can know with 100% certainty what breed they are. Although DNA tests are expensive and take the longest to return answers, they are the most accurate and they give you a clear picture of who your dog is.
Now that you know all of the different methods that are available, let’s look at each one of them in depth to see how you can use them to identify what breed your dog is.
1. Identification Chart
Can you see any dogs that look similar to your dog in the chart above?
Using a dog breed identification chart is a good starting point as you can quickly scan different breeds and start ruling them out.
However, this is the least accurate out of all the methods, since it is hard to compare your dog to the images, and you do not get a ton of information. Charts do not tell you much about the breed, and sometimes it can be hard to look at a drawn picture and compare it to your dog.
2. Behavioral Traits
Each dog breed has their own behavior and temperament.
Although a lot of dog breeds are very similar in the way they act and behave, there are still key differences between them that can be used to identify them.
Even among working dogs, who are all highly energetic, trainable, and intelligent, each breed is unique and best suited for different roles.
Labrador Retrievers, with their enthusiasm and friendliness, are perfect for guide dogs and search and rescue. The Dutch Shepherd, with their independent nature and protective instincts, does not need anyone to tell them what to do or how to guard their loved ones, and this makes them a great police dog.
A German Shepherd is very loyal, attentive and a bit more patient with your commands, whereas a Belgian Malinois will just want to explode right into action and get the job done. Both are used as working dogs with similar behavioral traits, but they are totally different in personality.
If you want to know the temperament of your dog then you need to spend lots of time watching them.
What kind of things do they enjoy doing?
Are they a couch potato or do they love to play in the backyard all day? Are they super friendly around everyone, or are they shy around strangers but super loving at home?
This method won’t narrow it down to one specific breed, but it can help you make the pool of choices smaller. When you try to identify a dog breed by characteristics, it is best to also compare the physical appearance to get a more accurate result.
3. Physical Appearance
Just by looking at your dog and on the internet you can try to figure out which breed they are.
Observe your dog’s physical traits closely and try to find pictures on the internet of different dog breeds that look like your dog. Look at their ears, muzzle, skull, size, colors, and tail to tell exactly what breed a dog is.
Use specific search terms like pointy eared, short muzzled, or brindle colored dogs. This technique might not be the most accurate out of all of them, but you can easily look at different pictures and compare them to your dog to decide what breed they are.
If they are a purebred then it will be a lot easier to identify.
Mixed breeds like Golden Retriever Mixes are more difficult (especially when you do not know the history of the dog).
4. Mobile Apps
If searching the internet and comparing pictures on your own is too complicated, then there are apps you can use instead.
All you have to do is take a picture or video of your dog and then upload it to the app, or take a photo directly from the app. The program will then compare your dog to the data it has of many dog breeds and give you a result in just a few seconds.
There are many apps that are free and easy to use.
- Dog ID uses advanced computer vision techniques to analyze your dog and give you an answer in seconds.
- Dog Scanner is available on both Android and IOS, and uses AI to analyze the image to identify the breed or breeds of your dog.
- Smart Identifier is exclusive to Android and quickly scans your dog to give you not just basic information of the breed but also offers articles that you can read.
Although these free apps are very popular, features and accuracy will vary by app. In general they try to identify your dog’s breed based on their appearance. Some apps even have data on mixed breeds and can try to identify if your dog is a mix.
5. Website Upload
Your next option is to use Microsoft’s What breed is that dog visual search.
All you need to do is upload a photo of your dog. The image you use must be clear and the entire dog must be centered in the frame. Images where the dog appears with you or where they do not take up most of the picture will not give a result.
The program will then do a quick search and give you a result of the possible breeds with links to their Wikipedia page.
Although this method is super easy, it is not always accurate or reliable. Some dogs do not get any results or various mixed breeds are suggested for purebreds. Do not be discouraged if you do not get any results because this method still needs to be improved.
6. DNA Kits
DNA kits such as Embark take a sample of DNA from your dog’s saliva and then analyze over 200,000 genetic markers found in over 350 breeds. This kind of test is the most accurate.
No matter if your dog is purebred or mixed breed, DNA kits can easily decode your dog’s genetic makeup and tell you exactly what breed(s) they are.
After you purchase a kit, you take a sample of your dog’s saliva using a swab. The swab should be kept in your dog’s cheek or under the tongue for at least 30 seconds. This sample then gets mailed to the company’s lab and they will analyze the sample for you.
The results will then be delivered back to you in 2-4 weeks.
You can view the results on the company’s app, and on it you can find a breakdown of the breed your dog is, their ancestry, and if they have any relatives.
Most testing kits will cost around $129. Although DNA kits are the most expensive method and take the longest, they are the most accurate and will really give you a clear picture of who your dog is.
Dog Breed Identification Quiz
There are seven major dog groups: sporting, hound, working, terrier, toy, non-sporting, and herding.
Dogs are assigned to these groups under various criteria that can include their size, temperament, purpose and origin. Dogs within the same category do not all necessarily look alike.
Think you can guess which dog breed falls into each category?
Sporting dogs were originally bred for hunting.
Here are just a few questions you can ask yourself if you think your dog is a Sporting dog: Does your dog like to retrieve and play ball? Do they love to run and chase small animals? Are they highly active and enjoy outdoor activities?
Dogs within this category are the Retrievers, Spaniels, Pointers and Setters. Each dog has been bred to hunt different game but they all fall within the same category since their purpose is the same.
Retrievers are experts on waterfowl and were bred for swimming while Spaniels, Pointers and Setters are bred to hunt on land for quail, pheasants and other game birds.
There are actually two types of hound dogs: scent hounds and sight hounds.
Scent hounds were bred to sniff out small game like rabbits and foxes. They would then alert hunters of their prize with their loud barks. Sight hounds chase down jackrabbits and antelope and rely more on their speed than digging skills to hunt down their prey.
Dogs that are Hounds include Beagles, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Whippets, Basset Hounds, and Bloodhounds.
Does your dog have long, floppy ears and a big nose that just won’t stop sniffing things? Or super long legs and a sleek body that lets them run lightning-quick? Then you might just have a hound!
These dogs just love to work!
It is so ingrained in their DNA that they are not able to live happily if they do not have a job to do. Working dogs were made to assist humans, whether it is protecting the farm, guarding the flock and property, pulling sleds, or rescuing people.
If you want to know if your dog belongs to the working group, ask yourself: Are they highly energetic and get bored easily without having a task? Do they love to play and run all day? Are they aloof with strangers and very protective of the family?
A huge range of dogs fall within this group, including the Rottweiler, Great Dane, Doberman Pinscher, and Siberian Husky.
Terriers are fearless and strong-built dogs.
This category includes tiny dogs that were bred for burrowing in the ground and highly muscular and imposing dogs that are bred to face off against bulls.
While these dogs might not all look very similar, they all have in common that they are great at the sport of Earthdog.
Does your dog like to chase after small animals and dig into the ground? Are they highly spirited, eager to please, and barky? Do they act in a nurturing or protective way around children? Then you might have a Terrier dog.
Some of the most popular examples include the Norfolk Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier.
Is your dog as small as a child’s toy? Or as cute as a little fluffy teddy bear? Can you carry them with you wherever you go?
Dogs in the Toy group are usually less than 15 pounds.
They are known as toy dogs because of their tiny size and their role as lapdogs.
Toy dogs are not as energetic as other dogs like the working, herding or sporting breeds, but they are one of the easiest dogs to care for.
In this category you will find Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Shih-Tzus, Maltese, Toy Poodles, and Pugs.
What do non-sporting dogs have in common?
Nothing really except that they do not belong in any of the other groups!
Most dogs in the non-sporting group are companion animals, and they come in all different sizes, personalities, and appearances. You get everything from the highly watchful Chow Chow to the highly athletic Poodle to the tiny French Bulldog.
Other breeds that fall within this category are the Boston Terrier, Bichon Frise, Bulldog, Dalmatian, Shiba Inu and Lhasa Apso.
Non-sporting dogs are the hardest to categorize, because you first need to establish if your dog fits into any of the other six categories before you can confirm they belong to this group.
People often confuse the herding with the working group because of their similar temperaments.
In fact, up until 1983 the two groups were both considered working.
What makes the herding group distinct from the working group is their ability to keep a flock of animals together and move them. Breeds in this group were bred to herd and protect livestock. So what makes a dog a herding dog and not working?
Does your dog have a strong instinct to gather your family together? Are they very protective of your family? Suspicious of strangers? These are some of the questions you should consider if you think your dog might be a herding dog.
The Belgian Malinois, Old English Sheepdog and Pembroke Welsh Corgi are some of the most famous examples.
In this article we have shared with you all the steps you can take to find out what breed your dog is.
Each one of the methods differs in their accuracy, easiness, time, and cost.
Whichever one you choose will depend on the time you have, how much effort you want to put in, and how much you are willing to pay to know the breed of your dog.
If you have just adopted a new dog for your family, congratulations. Welcome to the world of dog ownership, full of thrills, wonders, joys, frustrations, and lots of love.
Whichever method you used we hope that it satisfied your own curiosity and that you now know what breed your dog is.