Hi Linda, interesting question. We are looking for variations of the DNA in thousands of dogs and correlating these variations to the behaviors reported by owners. The dogs’ DNA will not truly change, but it will have these variations which could make a dog more susceptible to particular things, such as disease. The environment does indeed play a role potentially influencing behaviors, but that is all part of this elaborate puzzle. By seeing the DNA variations of each dog and relating it to behaviors that are reported we are excited to see the uniqueness of each dog.
The sequencing technology we are using doesn’t detect differences in epigenetic modifications that happen during a dog’s lifetime, only things that are inherited between generations. Some of these changes, though, might influence epigenetic changes. Epigenetic modifications such as methylation actually require a different technique to read. Epigenetic changes are a really exciting and brand new field of research and we are running a different study (outside of Darwin’s Dogs) to look at changes in DNA methylation.
It is wonderful that you took it upon yourself to research this topic and ask questions about it. I hope this helps you to better understand our research. Please let us know if you have anymore questions, and thank you for your support!