Sunday, July 10, 2016

Darwin's Dogs

Have you heard about Darwin's Dogs yet? This is an amazing and ambitious project to search the canine genome for small differences that correlate with changes in behavior. They are tracking dog evolution by tracing when those changes occurred.
my dogs got mail
The dogs got mail.

When did Obsessive Compulsive Disorder first show up in dogs? Is there a sitting-on-people's-feet gene? Why are some breeds more prone to cancer? There are so many questions that could have answers in DNA. This is definitely a long-term project, and we're not expecting answers anytime soon. Still, it's a wonderful project to be a part of.

So far my favorite part of being a participant is filling out the surveys about my dogs. It was basically an opportunity to geek out about my dogs, and really think hard about their behavior. Now I can go back and see how their results measure up to the rest of the 7,000+ dogs in the study. Are my dogs less dog-friendly than average? Are they more comfortable with people than most dogs? Of course, our entire living situation has changed dramatically since I filled out those surveys back in December. I would probably answer some of the questions differently now.
dog DNA swab
DNA kit unboxing

About six months after signing up for the study, Brisbane, Sisci, and Ru all received DNA swab kits in the mail. Yes, the kits came addressed to the dogs. I found that absolutely hilarious.

Inside each cleverly-designed box was a collection swab with storage tube, a wonderful little tape measure, a return label, a questionnaire about physical attributes, and a Darwin's Dogs pen. Those tape measures are particularly awesome.

I swabbed and measured all three of my dogs, sent their answer sheets and samples back, and am waiting for whatever results the team finds someday. Want to contribute to a huge, broad, glorious understanding of dogs, genetics, behaviors, life, the universe, and everything? Go sign up and join Darwin's Dogs!

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