To date, DNA sequences for 29 dog DLA-DRB1 alleles have been reported. However, no data exists on the frequencies of these alleles within the general dog population, nor is there any indication of whether there is interbreed variation of allele distribution. We have addressed this by establishing a molecular based sequence-specific oligonucleotide probing (SSOP) method to identify all of the known broad DRB1 types and we have used this to type a random panel of dogs. A series of oligonucleotide probes were designed to detect known polymorphisms in the three DRB1 hypervariable regions, together with two distinctive motifs in other regions of exon 2. This set of probes enabled us to assign broad DRB1 types. Two hundred and eighteen dogs were SSOP typed for DRB1. All but 4 of the published DLA-DRB1 alleles were identified in these animals. Interbreed variation in both allele distributions and allele frequencies were observed, which may be useful in the study of genetic variation between breeds. This variation also has implications for the selection of control groups for studies aimed at identifying MHC associations with disease susceptibility in the dog.