Researchers seek genetic keys to canine behavior

Two companies are working on what they call the world’s largest canine behavioral genetics study

Two start-up companies are embarking on what they call the world’s largest canine behavioral genetics study.

Finding out what makes dogs tick is a joint effort between Embark Veterinary, a canine DNA-testing service based in Austin, Texas, and Dognition, an online platform for assessing canine cognition.

The research is led by Embark co-founder Adam Boyko, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dognition co-founder Brain Hare, Ph.D., an associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at Duke University.

The professors and their teams will look at:

  • Where behavioral tendencies originate from.
  • The best training methods for dogs of different ages and stages of development.
  • How much environment and breed affect behavior.
  • Cognitive decline rates based on genetics and breed.

“This is a great opportunity to give owners insights into their dogs while driving scientific discoveries,” Dr. Boyko said.

“Because dogs are all so different behaviorally, they’re ideal for uncovering the genes behind behavior, and the genes we find in dogs will be important in studying people,” he added.

Behavior expert Nicholas Dodman, BVMs, Dipl. ACVA, Dipl. ACVB, professor emeritus at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said the project could be groundbreaking.

“The ability to marry vast quantities of genetic and behavioral information in dogs will propel canine research into new territory and make a major contribution to many fields of animal health, including veterinary medicine, animal behavior research, nutrition and animal psychiatry,” he said.

More than 5,000 dogs from multiple breeds are expected to participate in the study.

Originally published in the December 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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