The ritual has become familiar. Open the kit, spin the swab, dip it in the solution, and mix it, and then look forward to the result. Except that this time, it is in the hollow of the chin where the smear is done and, above all, it is not a screening of COVID-19 but a DNA test for dogs.
The popularity of these tests, which appeared fifteen years ago, has recently exploded in the United States, where about 40% of families have at least one of these furry companions.
Embark Vet, founded in 2015 and marketing one of the most popular kits in the United States, tells AFP, for example, that it has experienced 235% growth between 2019 and 2020. And the pandemic has further amplified the movement, says a veterinarian. .
They are not cheap, from $ 100 to $ 200 depending on the kit. But in the country where the dog is king, that’s no problem: Americans spent about $ 104 billion on their animals by 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association, the equivalent. .. of the GDP of Slovakia.
Once the sample has been mailed, the wait can be between two weeks and one month. The first goal is to be clear about the puppy’s breed.
Sometimes, when the master has acquired a purebred dog, it is a matter of checking that there has been no error in the merchandise. This is the case of Ashley Ternyila, who lives in New Jersey. The German shepherd who had bought a breeder looked a little too much like a wolf, despite his white coat, so “to put an end to the rumors, we had him try it,” he told AFP.
But for homeowners who have chosen to adopt shelters, it is more a matter of trying to fill in the gray areas of life before the person who is now an integral part of the family.
“Having a dog also means wanting to know where it comes from, what its history is,” says Mila Bartos, a 51-year-old lawyer living in Washington. He adopted his three dogs, Natty, Maisie and Mabel, and for each of them proceeded with a DNA test, thus providing an overview of his family tree.
He discovered that Natty, a mixture of pit bull, beagle, chow-chow, and German Shepherd, had a cousin who lived nearby, in Baltimore, or that Maisie, a half-Labrador with a bright brown coat, was descended from a long line. .
For his part, Levi Novey, a 42-year-old consultant based in Virginia, says the test allowed him to “better understand” the behavior of Summer, his 6-pound little black dog, “his energy, his hunting instinct “and” the way people choose to hug. “
It is in particular this “desire to understand, predict and anticipate the actions of their dogs” that reinforces the curiosity of owners regarding the breed of their puppy, analysis for AFP Allen McConnell, professor of psychology specializing in the relationship of humans. to your pets.
In fact, dog breeds carry stereotypes: “Farmers interact well with children, pit bulls are aggressive guard dogs” – which, while sometimes inaccurate, can help interpret dogs’ behavior, he explains.
Levi Novey was also reassured to see that Summer had no predisposition to any genetic disease. Because this is one of the selling points of these tests: the most expensive ones allow you to check your DNA for genes that cause heart abnormalities, impaired kidney function, premature deafness …
But beware, warns Sarah Bowman, a Washington veterinarian, it’s not because a dog has “the genetic marker (of a pathology) that the disease has.” At most, these tests allow us to be aware of the risk and be more vigilant in this area, he explains.
Contacted by AFP, the American Veterinary Association also encourages consulting one of its doctors “before making any decision based on the results of these tests.”
And then, test apprentices may also need to be aware of the legal repercussions. In the United States and elsewhere, certain breeds of dogs are considered aggressive, such as pit bulls or staffordshire terriers, and are therefore prohibited in certain apartments.
However, in this very procedural country, if the adopted dog is half pit bull, “it could be a problem” with an overly observant owner, warns Mila Bartos in her capacity as a lawyer. “And if you don’t want to know this information, you probably shouldn’t do a DNA test.”