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Genetics, Personality, Neuroscience, & Resilience

Part 1: The Genetics of Dog Personality
Saturday December 10, 2022 - 11am to 12:30pm EST
What do (and don't) we know about how genetics affects canine personality traits like sociability or aggression? In this webinar, Jessica Hekman will take a deep dive into her area of research - how genetics affects behavior traits in dogs. How much of canine personality is due to genetics and how much to the environment? How do researchers track down genes related to personality? Have any such genes yet been found? Can we expect a genetic test for dog aggression any time soon? What are all the factors that go into the development of a personality? There will be something for everyone, so come listen and ask questions, whether you are just starting to wrap your head around genetics or whether you're a confirmed science geek!
Program Agenda:

  • Breed differences in behavioral traits, without a genetic perspective
  • The Russian Tame Fox study
  • Finding genes associated with behavioral traits
  • Candidate gene approach
  • Genome-wide associations studies
  • Challenges in finding genes
  • Findings from a large-scale GWAS study (Darwin’s Ark)
  • Contributions of “environment”:
  • Parental effects
  • Early life experience and breed-specific socialization periods
  • What to expect from the future
  • Learning Objectives:

  • What is the Russian Tame Fox study and what does it tell us about breeding for specific behaviors in dogs?
  • What are some research approaches to finding genes associated with behaviors? What are some of the challenges of each approach?
  • How many genes have we found associated with behavior?
  • Do we ever expect to be able to test for aggression?
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Part 2: The Genetics of Resilience - Breeding, selecting for, and developing resilience in dogs
Saturday December 17, 2022 - 11am to 12:30pm EST
Resilience is an individual's ability to withstand, and recover from, adversity. Within the home that might mean a dog’s ability to cope with changes to routine. For sports and working dogs that might mean the ability to continue to focus after slipping or tripping. Whatever the example used, resilience is generally considered to be an advantage, being associated with improved well-being and performance.
There are many factors involved in resilience, some being genetic, some environmental, and some resulting from an interaction of the two ie epigenetic. In this webinar, we will explore what is known about factors from these three categories, and their influence on an individual’s resilience. Can we selectively breed for increased resilience? If so, how would we do that? Is it possible to select a dog based on its resilience, and how does a dog’s personality relate to its resilience?
Join us for this guided tour of the canine literature, bringing together topics such as breeding for resilience, personality traits associated with resilience, and how they might interact with environmental factors, including training methodology, to modify resilience.
Program Agenda:
  • This seminar will review the scientific literature and assess what is relevant to clinical animal behavior. Providing clinicians with the information they need to be able to create evidence-based advice for breeders and owners alike.
  • The genetics and epigenetics of resilience in humans and animals will be looked at, to understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying an individual's resilience.
  • What is known about the genetics of resilience in dogs will be reviewed and related to canine personality traits, enabling clinicians to understand the interactions which can lead to both increased or decreased resilience. Through this understanding, we will identify risk factors for low resilience, including how training methodology may interact with personality as a risk factor, and go on to identify methods for selecting for, and building, appropriate levels of resilience in dogs.
  • Learning Objectives:
  • Attendees will gain knowledge and understanding about the neurobiologically of resilience.
  • Attendees will gain knowledge and understanding of the genetic and epigenetic factors which influence resilience, and the implications for the selection of animals for breeding.
  • Attendees will be able to integrate the knowledge gained to produce evidence-based advice for clients wanting to breed or select for resilience. And importantly, for clients wanting to optimize the environment for building resilience.
These webinars are suitable for veterinary professionals, animal trainers, animal behaviorists, dog sports teams, shelter and rescue staff and volunteers, and anyone with an interest in evidence-based behavior intervention.
Meet the instructor

Dr Kathy Murphy

Dr. Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon and neuroscientist. She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two post-graduate clinical qualifications, in Veterinary Anaesthesia (altered states of consciousness) and Analgesia (pain management) and Laboratory Animal Science.
She brings her passion for providing science communication
and evidence-based, up-to-date information to clinicians, animal professionals, and their clients.
Patrick Jones - Course author
Meet the instructor


Jessica graduated from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine with a joint DVM/MS degree in 2012. Her Master’s work was on stress in hospitalized dogs. She completed a specialty internship in veterinary shelter medicine at the University of Florida’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program in 2013. She studied for her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, investigating the genomics of two lines of foxes, one bred for tameness and one for aggression. After receiving her Ph.D. in 2017, she went to work for the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, studying the genomics of behavior in pets and working dogs as part of the Darwin’s Ark project and the Working Dog Project. Jessica also teaches online and in-person seminars on the biology of behavior. She is passionate about supporting ethical breeding and changing the conversation around what makes a reputable breeder and founded the FDC in 2020. She lives in Raymond, NH with her husband and three dogs.
Patrick Jones - Course author