Figuring out what makes dogs tick

Biologists have deciphered a poodle's DNA to learn about the genes that decide what dogs are like.

You may know a lot about your dog: what she likes to eat, where she likes to walk, how she likes to be petted. But do you know anything about the genes that make her that way?

For the first time, a team of scientists has scanned an entire set of genes in a dog—a poodle belonging to two of the researchers. The results are still somewhat incomplete, but the data already show remarkable similarities between dogs and humans. The information could help scientists learn more about the 300 or so diseases that we share with dogs.


Scientists have deciphered DNA from cells belonging to Shadow, a 9-year-old standard poodle.


The Institute for Genomic Research

Cells in every animal contain long molecules called DNA, which are made of even tinier units called nucleotides. You can think of nucleotides as letters and genes as words. An entire set of genes is called a genome, which is like a library of information about an animal. Most genes are very similar from individual to individual within a species.

In recent years, scientists have spelled out, or sequenced, the entire genomes of people, mice, rats, and a few other animals. Now, scientists from The Institute for Genomic Research and The Center for the Advancement of Genomics have found a quick and inexpensive way to do the same for dogs.

Already, the results show that the human and dog are much more similar to each other at the genetic level than to the mouse. At the same time, knowing the details of the DNA structure is important in understanding the genes that contribute to diseases and traits among various breeds of dogs.

You know how people sometimes start looking like their pets? Those similarities, it now appears, might be more than skin deep.

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