Q:

How can you tell what kind of dog you have?

A:

DNA testing provides the most conclusive results in the identification of a dog's heritage. A registered or pedigreed dog also comes with papers certifying its heritage. For mixed breeds or dogs with uncertain lineage, a 2012 University of Florida study found that physical characteristics can be misleading, even for professionals in the dog industry.

DNA tests examine the genes of dogs to determine their heritage with precision. Often, owners simply swab the inside of their dog's mouth and send this DNA sample to a laboratory. Results are then mailed to owners after analysis.

The American Kennel Club recognizes 180 distinct breeds of dog and maintains strict standards for the physical appearance as well as expected temperaments of each breed. Dog breeders can pay to register their litters, and owners can participate in competitions based on their dogs' conformation to breed standards, obedience, training, agility, tracking or performance in field events.

Although a dog's breed profile can often predict its personality and potential behavioral or health concerns, each dog is unique. Experience, age, training, exercise, hunger and abuse can shape how a dog behaves. To ensure a happy home for your dog and yourself, owners must make sure that their activity levels, lifestyle, family size, home size and budget support their dogs' individual needs.

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