The Working Dog Project: Investigating the genomics of working dog performance. Significance: The Working Dog Project will apply cutting-edge genomics to investigate how genetic variation influences two key working dog behaviors: scenting and retrieving. Through this new initiative, we propose to promote, and enable, large-scale, collaborative research into the genetics of dog behavior, with the goal of providing the working dog community with the new tools they need to accelerate the breeding and training of successful working dogs. Problem Statement: Dogs and people have lived side by side for tens of thousands of years in a mutually beneficial relationship, with humans selectively breeding dogs to perform useful jobs. Even today, working dogs fill critical roles in a wide range of fields, from ensuring public safety to easing anxiety. While demand for highly skilled animals is only growing, their availability is limited. Despite decades of pedigree analysis and focused breeding programs, the training success rate for service dogs hovers at only around 50%; for high-performing scent dogs, success rates are even lower. This leads to significant issues including wasted training dollars, puppies pushed into roles in which they cannot succeed, unmet client needs, and, in the military, dogs that cannot fulfill the elite requirements to protect and serve. Genetic tests focused on behavior or temperament would help solve the central challenge: accurate prediction at an early age of potential for successful training. They could help identify which dogs should be trained for particular jobs, and would support more successful breeding programs. Indeed, the potential power of behavioral genetics in dogs was a major factor motivating the Dog Genome Project, which led to the publication of a reference dog genome in 2005. Yet, despite this early enthusiasm, only a handful of genetic loci have been associated with canine behaviors in the last ten years.
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