Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get a DNA kit?
Each dog is eligible for a saliva kit once 10 surveys have been completed for that dog. We cannot guarantee that every recipient of a saliva kit will have their dog's DNA analyzed.
In order to send you a kit we need to make sure we have a good mailing address for you. Please make sure to enter an address where USPS can deliver in your profile, and keep it updated if you move.
We have had a wonderful response from users quickly filling out surveys and we currently have a backlog of dogs eligible to receive saliva kits. Please be patient with us as we catch up in providing kits to all of our members.
Additional eligibility also includes US residency as we are currently only able to send saliva kits within the US.
What if I'm not a US resident?
Currently we are only able to send saliva kits out to US residents. We hope to expand to other countries in the future. If you are not a US resident, you are free to participate in the surveys, but we cannot be sure if or when we will expand the DNA sampling to your area. We will post announcements as we are able to expand to new countries.
When will my kit arrive?
The DNA collection kits go through several stages of design before going into final production. Once they do come into us, we then can send out the kits, as they come in by stock. We mail out the kits by order that the dogs were enrolled and have completed the surveys. Make sure you meat the eligibility criteria above so we can successfully ship it to you!
I have more than one dog ...
That is great, enroll them all!
Note that we do our best to stagger the mailings to homes with more than one dog. Generally this is by about a week. So assuming all of your dogs were registered at the same time and all of them have most of the surveys completed, you should receive a kit for your second dog about a week after the first, and for the third dog about a week after that, and so on. This is in order to minimize the chance of mixing up which kit is for which dog. The kits must be used only for the dog they are addressed to.
Will you tell me about my dog's breed ancestry?
We hope we can find out about each dog's ancestry. We should have ample information about your dogs DNA to do this, but there are a few hurdles such as having adequate reference data to compare them to. It might be easy to see where your dog's DNA is similar to a common breed (like a retriever for example) but to know that this variation wasn't also shared with less common breeds, we'd also need samples of all the less common breeds. Given that there are several hundred breeds, this is no small task.
So we are cautious to make any promises about this kind of information: we'll absolutely share with you anything we find, but this project isn't designed as a breed test. Committing to giving this sort of answer would put us in an odd spot in those cases where ancestry cannot be determined with a high degree of confidence as we'd either then let you down or have to bend the truth of the data. We don't want the former, and will not do the latter: anything we can share with you will be based on solid data that we are confident in.
So in short, we optimistically hope to learn about your dogs ancestry, but we'll let the data lead the way and not make promises of where it should go.
When will I get results from the DNA test?
We'll absolutely share your dogs genotyping data with you if/when we get it.
The results will take time as thousands of kits are coming into our lab. We will first extract the DNA when received, process the DNA on the genotyping chip, then there is computational work to turn the raw genotyping data into meaningful information. Each stage of taking the surveys, shipping kits, genotyping, and providing the data back, will take time. We hope to make this process as easy as possible, and are thankful for your participation. We look forward to getting your results back to you.
What will you learn from the DNA?
We will be using a new genotyping technology to look at many places in the genome where we know there to be variation in dogs. Despite knowing that these parts of their genomes tend to be different from each other, we don't know much. We are interested in taking the behaviors that you can tell us about, and checking whether any of these variable parts of the genome might be associated with those behaviors. We're trying to match up the unknowns about behavior with the unknowns about genetics in a way that can provide new information for both fields.
Can I edit my answers to survey questions?
Once a survey is submitted the answers should not be revised.
If something has gone particularly wrong we can - on a case by case basis - reopen a specific survey for a given dog. If you are concerned this is the case, feel free to us the "Request A Redo" link on the right side of the main survey page.
Do you accept donations?
We would love to, but not yet.
We have been brainstorming ways of allowing our participants to contribute financially. We are committed to keeping the Darwin's Dogs project free to anyone who is willing to participate, but with the cost of the genotyping this means we currently have to pick-and-chose which dogs to genotype based on the grant funding support we can receive. We are considering options to allow participants to contrbute to offset those costs.
How can I contribute to the project?
Sign up your dog and tell your friends and family! We would love to hear from you on our forum discussion section. Share thoughts, comments, information and ask questions about your dog.
Can my mixed-breed dog participate?
Absolutley! These mixed-breeds will be extremely valuable in pinpointing the genetic variation for given traits. Mixed breeds most likely have more shuffling of genetic variants, so they can help us identify what is really associated with a behavioral trait. Mixed and purebred dogs certainly can be signed up for this research!
Can you tell me about my dog's health?
While the idea of personalized / precision medicine is intriguing, promising, and something we hope to contribute to, it is not clear to what degree, if any, your dogs genetic data could inform their veterinary care. If your veterinarian can use such data, we will gladly provide it to them to discuss with you.