If you purchase your puppy from a breeder, the chances are you’ll know what breed of dog they are and who the parent breeds are. However, if you choose to adopt, this can be a lot more difficult! Many dogs that live in shelters are mixed breeds and often their history and breed types are unknown.
Of course, you can always test your dogs DNA to get an accurate idea of what breeds their parents were, but this can be expensive and time consuming. If you’re looking to identify your dog’s breed, you’ve come to the right place. Below we will be taking a look at face shape, ear type, coat type and color among other traits so you can get a better idea of your dog’s heritage just by sight.
What Breed Is My Dog?
There are hundreds of different dog breeds out there — some are purebred and some are mixed breed. With every breed differing in some way, it can be difficult to know which breed of dog yours is. Luckily, we can look at a few things that help us to differentiate between breeds. This includes head shape, ear shape, coat, color and pattern, tail shape, body types and some other miscellaneous characteristics. Take a look below in more detail.
There are three major skull type classifications for dog breeds. These are dolicocephalic, brachycephalic and mesocephalic.
Dolicocephalic breeds have a longer muzzle or a longer head, such as the Greyhound or the Collie.
Brachycephalic breeds have a short, flattened face, like the Pug. This can sometimes be the cause of breathing problems when they exercise.
Dogs with a mesocephalic skull type are somewhere in-between the dolicocephalic and the brachycephalic breeds. These are dogs with an average nose length, such as the Labrador or Dalmatian.
Dog ears also normally come in three shapes — erect, floppy and long. Erect ears stand on the top of the dogs head, such as the German Shepherd’s ears. Dog’s such as the Golden Retriever’s are floppy and hang down.
Long eared dogs also have floppy ears, but they normally belong to scent hounds. These include breeds such as a Bassett Hound or Bloodhound. Their long ears help them to pick up smells better by trapping them.
Working breeds tend to have erect, short ears because it helps them to hear threats sooner. Breeds that were historically known for swimming would have had flat, floppy ears that prevented water from getting in.
Coat types are a big indicator as to what breed your dog could be because it relates to its history.
Dogs with double coats are usually originally working breeds who used to work out in the elements. The soft undercoat would keep them warm while the thicker outer coat was coarse and would protect them from rain or snow. These breeds include the Labrador Retriever, Siberian Husky and Bernese Mountain Dog.
Some dogs have wiry coats because it helps to keep them clean. These are also normally double coats and show the breed has a working history. These dogs mostly include Terriers along with Schnauzers and Cocker Spaniels.
Dogs with single, smooth coats usually needed a coat that didn’t weigh them down. This includes the Poodle, a historic water dog, as well as breeds such as the greyhound or whippet that needed a streamline coat to help them with their speed.
Dogs with single coats are usually lower shedding than those with double coats. Other single coated dogs include the Bichon Frise, the Maltese and the Havanese.
There are many different coat colors that dogs can have. The most common coat colors are solid and are usually brown, black, red, white, yellow and blue.
There are variations within each colorway that gives even more colors. Brown dogs might have a liver or chocolate brown, red dogs might be orange, rust, cinnamon and ruby and yellow dogs might be blonde, honey or apricot.
Alongside the different coat colors, there are a lot of different coat patterns too. While a solid coat is the most common, but bicolored dogs are a close second. These dogs have two colors on their body, with the most common color variations as black and tan or white and black. Breeds with these colors include the German Shepherd and the Border Collie.
Tri-colored dogs have three colors on their coat. These pups normally have white on their underbelly and chest, and then two different colors along their back and around their face. Merle coats have a patch pattern of different colors, normally everywhere but on the dog’s stomach.
Dogs with harlequin coats, such as the Great Dane, have uneven spotting across the body. This is different to the spotting seen on other dogs such as the Dalmatian. Saddle patterns are normally seen on the German Shepherd, which the saddle area of the dog a different color to the rest of the body.
Sable coloring is becoming more and more common within dogs. This is when the hairs have a darker end, normally black, and stand out against the rest of the lighter coloration.
There are many different types of tails that a dog breed can have and a tail’s shape, length and thickness can give us a lot of information about a breeds history.
Fist of all, it is important to know the difference between a bobbed tail and a docked tail. Working breeds have their tail docked at a young age to prevent injuries. These breeds include Dobermans and Boxers.
There are also working breeds that have a bobtail genetic mutation, such as the Australian Shepherd and the Jack Russell Terrier. These dogs differ from breeds that have a natural bobtail such as the Boston Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer and King Charles Spaniel.
Some breeds have a corkscrew tail like the Pug, while other breeds, particularly water breeds, have an otter tail. The otter tail is thicker than many tails and is used like a rudder to propel dogs through the water. Breeds with otter tails include the Labrador Retriever.
There are also two other types of tail — the sickle tail and the ringtail. The ringtail is full and arches back over the dog. The sickle tail does the same, yet points towards the dog.
The body type of your dog is often one of the biggest giveaways in terms of figuring out what breed of dog they might be. If your dog short or tall? Are they thick and boxy or is their body long and slender? Are they muscular? Do they have long legs or short legs? What is their average weight and how big are they a one year old?
All of these factors will help you to determine which breed of dog your pup might descend from.
Mixed breed dogs can often posses a ridge in their back. This is a ridge of hair along a dog’s back running in the opposite direction of the coat.
Dog’s can have different shaped paws, particularly webbed paws and dewclaws. Webbed paws are a sign that your pup was originally a water dog. Dewclaws are vestigial digits between the inner wrist and elbow or inner ankle and knee and are usually a trait seen in larger dog breeds.
Some dogs have a plain pink tongue while other breeds have a spotted tongue. The Chow Chow and Chinese Shar-Pei have spotted tongues. Other dogs that can have spotted tongues include the Akita, the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Shepherd.
This is a rare condition where a dog’s eyes are two different colors. This a trait normally seen in breeds like the Husky and Australian Shepherd.
Chondrodysplasia is when the dog has a long, low body with short legs. Their legs are sometimes often bowed and their low body helps them out in the field. This is most commonly seen in Dachshunds and Corgis.
If you want to find out for definite what breed your dog is and what breeds are in their lineage, you can do a dog DNA test. This normally consists of taking a cheek swab of saliva from your dog and sending it in for analysis. These tests normally cost around $60.
There are many different companies that do DNA testing for dogs. Once you have sent in your sample, you can expect to wait around 2 to 4 weeks for the results. The test will show how much of a purebred breed exists in your pup.
It is difficult to know how accurate these tests are when it comes to breed identification. They rely on a database of information about different breeds and, if your dog is a very mixed breed or a rare breed that doesn’t yet exist in the database, you may not get the answers you were looking for.
While DNA testing is certainly a simpler way to identify your dog’s breed and history, the tests are not always accurate and can be expensive. If you’re looking for a way to identify your dog by sights, hopefully our guide above has helped you and shown you the traits to look for within your pup. Focus on their head shape, their coat, their body type and any extra characteristics your dog may posses and you should be able to get a good idea of their pedigree.