The Working Dog Project

The Problem

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. Although there is a surging demand for highly skilled canines, their supply is strained worldwide and availability is dwindling. 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.   

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 new tools they need to accelerate the breeding and training of successful working dogs, as well as evaluating the genomic disposition that affects the capabilities and health of working dogs. In short, this program will leverage the power of genomics to support better working dog breeding and training programs to meet the intense shortage of working dogs in this country and around the world.

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