The Working Dog Project: working dogs are mission critical!

PUBLISHED ON September 4, 2018 by jessica hekman

The Working Dog Project has been running for a year now – we’ve found our feet and things are really starting to move!

As the project’s team leader, I wrote about the Working Dog Project last year; today we are very pleased to show you this new video about the WDP. Made by the Theriogenology Foundation, our flagship grant partner, this video explains the importance of working dogs and what the WDP can do to help meet our unmet needs for these amazing animals.

Over the past year, we’ve gotten lots done:

Our partner organization Guiding Eyes for the Blind has graciously given us access to their behavioral and pedigree records, which we are using to calculate which behavioral traits are the most heritable – in other words, the most controlled by genetics (rather than environment) and therefore the best for starting a genetic study. This will get us ready to start analyzing working dog DNA sequences.

Which we now have! Over the past year, we’ve collected hundreds of DNA samples of working dogs, and the first ones are coming off of the sequencer over the next few weeks. Very soon, I’ll take my first dive into the world of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to compare genetic markers in these dogs’ genomes with their behavioral traits. This will start the process of finding genetic markers associated with those traits that we want to see in our working dogs – resilience to stress and behavioral health. I’m looking forward to letting you all know what I find!

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