Embark is offering refunds as it tries to fix its product, which said my dog's birth date occurred after he'd already been adopted.
Young woman holds golden retriever puppy in her arms like a baby
Credit: Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

A test to determine your dog's age seemed too good to be true until Embark released its Age Test in October, touting it as a first-of-its-kind product that could predict a dog's age within five months of their true birth date.

Similar to Embark's DNA tests, pet parents swab their dog's cheek and send the sample to the company to be sequenced. They are then given an estimated age of their dog—a dream for any rescue dog parent looking to celebrate a canine birthday. The tests rely on the field of epigenetics and DNA methylation technology to inform their results.

However, last week Embark announced it's discontinuing sales of the Age Test and removing test results from customer dashboards because the product "was not performing in a way that meets our scientific standards."

The company identified a calculation error in its data model, rendering the age predictions "less accurate." Unfortunately, that's what we found when we tested the product.

Testing Millie and Finn

Embark sent Daily Paws a few of its Age Tests last fall to test for ourselves, and I'll admit to being super skeptical. I have two rescue dogs, Millie and Finn, and we've never known their exact birthdays, so I was really excited to see their results—and determine how accurate these tests actually were.

When we adopted Millie, we were told she was 4 months old, so we estimated her birthday to be sometime in August 2017. Finn on the other hand was found alone in a field by a rescue organization in San Antonio that estimated he was around 1 year old at that time. (He was in pretty bad shape, so it was hard to get a true sense of his age, which is already difficult enough.) Some of our family members adopted him in the fall of 2020, and then he joined our home in December 2021. We estimated his birthday to be around December 2019.

Millie's test results said she was born in May 2017, which does fall within Embark's five-month range of her true birthday, though it contradicts what the rescue told us about her age. Finn's results, meanwhile, were way outside the five-month range. The test estimated his birthday in March 2021, but by that point, he had already been adopted and was living in his first home.

Embark dog age test results page
Credit: Abbie Harrison / Daily Paws

Embark's Response

I think it's quite common among rescue pet parents to want to know more about your pet's life before you got them, and getting a glimpse into how old they are is one tiny but important piece of that puzzle. I was excited to learn more about Finn and see if our birthday prediction was anywhere close to his actual birthday but was disappointed that the results were so inaccurate.

"We understand that Age Test results can spark a wide range of emotions for our customers, and that learning the test was not as accurate as was initially claimed may be disappointing," Embark CEO Ryan Boyko said in a statement. "We share those feelings and are determined to resolve this issue and help our customers provide the best, most personalized care to their dogs."

The company is offering two refund options:

  • Request a full refund at this time
  • Request a $30 partial refund and wait for the test to be fixed. Embark expects to have an update by March 31, and customers unsatisfied with the progress can request a full refund at that time.

Boyko told Daily Paws the new model will function similarly to the test released last fall but with an updated model for more accurate results. "Right now, we cannot say with certainty how long it will take. We are committed to delivering the updated test results as quickly as possible while ensuring the scientific integrity of the test," he says.

We will continue to follow this story and give an update on the status after the March 31 update from Embark. Boyko says Embark will rerun previously tested dogs through the updated Age Test model as soon as the update is complete, so we hope to be able to share Finn's accurate birthday in the near future.