“Bully whippets” (pictured here) are muscle bound dogs that have a genetic mutation that enhances muscle development and makes some of these dogs run faster. Some whippet breeders are using DNA testing to keep the speed but lose the big muscles of these bully whippets.
The use of genetic research is increasing among dog breeders especially with companies offering specific DNA tests to “tailor the way dogs look, improve their health and, perhaps soon, enhance their athletic performance.” Some Labrador breeders are using these tests to ensure silver-coated retrievers.
Geneticists say that soon there can be tests for big and small dogs, curly-tailed dogs, or even dogs that cock their heads when they look at you. Many breeders also hope that using this genetic research will curtail the number of recessive diseases in purebred dogs due to inbreeding.
Breeders do see a definite downside to making the perfect breed. Since genes are often tied to multiple traits, deliberate selection of certain ones can backfire. For example, the gene responsible for silver-coated Labradors is also connected to skin problems. Breeders also have to deal with the consequences of undesired dogs.
Still some say that a genetic test cannot predict a dog’s intangible qualities that make a dog a loving and great companion.