A new DNA test for dogs will be available in July at What’sMyDog.com. So if you took in a stray, or adopted a dog from the local shelter, you can now find out which breeds make up your mixed-breed mutt. The test is 95% accurate and can isolate 130 different breeds. Well, doggie DNA testing is going one step further – and it’s controversial.
According to the New York Times, some dog breeders, in their quest for the perfect specimen, are now picking and choosing which genes they want in their dogs. Their hoping to tailor the way a dog looks, improve its health, and athletic performance. For example, some Labrador breeders are using DNA tests for coat color to guarantee the sought after exotic silver-coated retrievers. Mastiff breeders test for genes that make shaggy fur – so they can avoid undesirable dogs born “fluffy.” The goal for breeders is, if they can test dogs ahead of time for desirable and undesirable traits, they can make a more informed decision about which dogs to mate – or not to mate.
But here’s where the problem comes in. Genes are often tied to multiple traits. So the deliberate selection of them can backfire. For instance, the silver-coated retrievers coat color is also tied to skin problems. Even though you mate two dogs with certain genes, their offspring could still have undesirable traits and be destroyed. Also, if a dog that had been genetically programmed won an agility competition or a dog show, is that really fair?
On the positive side, breeders can also test for genetic diseases and screen out the dogs that carry them. Some scientists also want to test dogs for traits like scent detection, to create a new breed of dogs to patrol subways and airports. They say it could be done in a few years – instead of the centuries it took shepherds to breed the sheepdogs that patrol their flocks.