Paw’d Cast: Are dog breed genetic tests accurate? Is behavior genetic or environment?

Dr. Elinor Karlsson

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast: muttmix.org where you can now take a “Pup Test” that measures your ability to determine the various mixed breeds that are part of 31 example dogs. The answers are now displayed immediately and you can see how well the original Muttmix study participants did. I stopped even guessing after about six animals.

Their citizen science site is darwinsark.org

Animal behaviorist Marjie Alonso CDBC, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP and geneticist Dr. Elinor Karlsson, who managed the MuttMix Project for the International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants tell trainer Laura Pakis that almost everything I think I know about the links between breed, genetics, and behavior is wrong. A very fun segment!

Marjie was a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant and owner of City Dog Training in Somerville, MA. for decades, during which time she also served as Training Director, and then behavioral consultant for the New England Dog Training Club, the oldest AKC club in the US, and as a member of the America Humane Association’s Advisory Board for Companion Animal Behavior and Training.

Marjie is the co-founder of the Somerville Foundation for Animals, which hosts the Somerville Dog Festival each year. Marjie is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants; a Certified Training Partner of Karen Pryor Academy; a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers; an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, and a Professional Member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT)

Elinor is the director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is also an assistant professor in bioinformatics and integrative biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is excited by the potential for using our own evolutionary history to understand how the human genome works, and in how that knowledge can lead to advances in healthcare.

Karlsson’s current projects include the 200 Mammals Genome Project, an international effort led by the Vertebrate Genomics group at the Broad to compare hundreds of different mammalian genomes and identify critically important segments of DNA. She is also studying recent human evolution to find the genetic variation that makes some people resistant to ancient infectious diseases, like cholera. Karlsson has a special interest in diseases shared between humans and dogs. She recently launched the citizen science-driven Darwin’s Dogs project, which invites all dog owners to participate directly in research exploring the genetic basis of dog behavior, as well as diseases such as OCD and cancer.

Karlsson received her B.A. in biochemistry/cell biology from Rice University, and earned her Ph.D. in bioinformatics from Boston University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University before starting her own research group at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2014.

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