DNA Coat Test

Sometimes there is a good reason to want to know exactly what kind of coat a cockapoo puppy will grow up to have. Some people want a specific coat for maintenance purposes (and ease of) and sometimes people want to ensure they get a non-shedding dog for allergy or asthma reasons. Other times a family is really in love with one coat variety over the other. Many people love both looks and enjoy the fun of discovering which type of coat their puppy will have and for others it is quite important to select one or the other.

It is, however, impossible to visually determine coat type until the puppies are 6-12 weeks of age (and usually on the older end of the range). Even with a really experienced eye, various experimental methods and a genuine desire to find a “fool proof” method, I have simply been unable to give any kind of reasonable guess with any trustworthy accuracy. Perhaps there are more visually talented breeders out there that can guarantee coat type because occasionally I see such guarantees. But I haven’t found a trick or method yet.

I continue to guess and devise new methods to guess but it is really just for fun because there is no reason to guess at all. A DNA test can be run on a newborn puppy that will tell us exactly what kind of coat a puppy will have. For $110 (which is a fraction of what you are going to spend on your dog over his/her lifetime) you can be absolutely certain that the puppy you pick out is the right one for you. Little is worse than falling in love with a puppy only to discover 7 weeks down the line that you either have to change your mind about coat preference or wait for another litter of puppies.

Science to the rescue! There are lots of genetics laboratories at universities and other business-laboratories that perform these tests for this nominal fee.

The Procedure

We have our “why” reasoning for this test (and if coat type matters to you at all then what I really want to ask is “why not?”) so now we can go about finding out what kind of coat a puppy has. When people decide to test a puppy with an Eden Orchards’ litter I will always test two puppies that fit what the family is looking for the most. This is so that we have a better chance of ensuring you have at least a little choice when it comes to selecting your future buddy. I also delay the test until 2 weeks of age for ease of sample collection but also so that the testing family can be sure they pick the two puppies that are closest to what they’re looking for.

Test Preparation

We want to collect our puppies about 10-15 minutes after they’ve eaten a decent meal. Now their little tummies are full and they’ve had some time for it to settle. They will be sleepy and it will be easy to ensure the whole adventure is as pleasant as possible for the little guys.

We are going to collect a few cells from the inside of the puppy’s mouth, on the inner cheek. We want to be sure we test our puppies’ DNA and not accidentally send in a sample of their mother’s DNA. To be sure we aren’t sending in a sample of Mom’s milk I take our little test subject and very carefully rinse his/her mouth out with warm water.

DNA coat test 001

I have to be careful not to choke the puppy or get water back up into the  nasal cavities. I tilt their little nose down and keep their mouths open so the water will drain onto a towel.

What are you doing with that, people Mommy?

What are you doing with that, people Mommy?

(In these photos I am only modelling and not actually rinsing out this puppy’s mouth. She had  her mouth rinsed an hour before these photos were taken).

The puppies are usually pretty good about swallowing or letting the water fall out and to date we haven’t had a puppy choke. It is important to just dribble the water in and not force in a stream or gush. I rinse the inside of both cheeks.

Rinsing the puppies’ mouths isn’t strictly necessary, just a little extra precaution I choose to take to ensure our samples are right the first time we send them.

DNA coat test 003

The Waiting Room

Now we set our puppy test subjects into a warm basket where their mother cannot reach them. I usually line a high-walled basket with a heated blanket on low. The puppies snuggle up and take a nap during this time. These little guys will wait for an hour to give their mouths time to wash away the water and any milk I may have missed. This way we’re extra sure we’re sending in our puppies’ individual DNA samples for accurate test results.

The Test

We take each puppy (one at a time) and go through the whole process start to finish  before moving on to the next puppy. This is to be sure that I’m not mixing up samples or paperwork. Each puppy must have four samples sent in, secured in an individual envelope, stapled to that puppy’s paperwork.

DNA coat test 007

I use these little inter-dental brushes. They are about $3-5 for a pack of four. (I pay for these myself).  I use the “wide” brushes so that I have as much brush surface area as possible. I stick with the brand-name brushes because sometimes the cheaper knock-off brushes have pointy wire or sharp plastic on them and I would never want to injure a puppy. Getting a reliable brand name on dental products is usually a good idea.

I take a brush and place it in our puppy test subject’s mouth. I place the tip of the brush against the cheek of the puppy (as much as that is possible, it usually ends up being the side of the brush to the cheek, which is more intuitive).

DNA coat test 004

I swirl very gently with very little pressure applied first clockwise for about 8 turns

DNA coat test 005

and then counter-clockwise for about 8 turns.

Then the brush is gently waved in the air side-to-side to dry (about 20 seconds). The brush gets its little plastic cap placed on and is loaded into the envelope with that puppy’s name and test-ID number.

Then I do the same thing with the remaining three brushes. Two samples from the left cheek and two from the right.

DNA coat test 013

Sample collection over.

These are sent off at the post office . I overnight them because I’m as impatient as they come and 20$ at the post office will get me confirmation via email from the lab the very next day that samples have arrived safe and sound and unspoiled by weather or temperature. Then we wait about 2-10 days (depends on how busy the lab is) and we get our results. Bearded puppy or smooth puppy? Any guesses for our little girl Helen pictured above? I guess bearded. We shall see in a few days what the lab says.

And that’s all there is to it, folks. Easy as pie.

How do the Puppies Feel About the Test?

The puppies are never thrilled with having little tooth brushes put in their mouths and swirled around. Look at our puppy’s body language. She is definitely not enjoying herself, but she isn’t panicking or crying or turning her head side to side in an effort to rid herself of me and my brush. I place my hand firmly against her and she strains  backwards against my hand a little but that is the extent of her protest. She doesn’t even push hard enough to move the towel under her on the table.

DNA coat test 006

I don’t get crying or fierce struggles and I take as much time as needed to ensure the experience is pleasant. I find that this is a good part of over-all puppy handling anyway. The puppies that aren’t DNA tested still need to experience tooth brushes and dental appliances because they will (hopefully) be having their teeth cleaned as part of grooming maintenance. And doubtless the puppies will all have their mouth and teeth inspected by veterinarians many times over the course of their lives.

So all puppies have their teeth wiped down and inspected by me as soon as they begin to erupt in their little gummy puppy jaws anyway. The DNA test is just a little preview of things to come 🙂





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