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Open AccessArticle

Homozygosity for Mobile Element Insertions Associated with WBSCR17 Could Predict Success in Assistance Dog Training Programs

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, NJ 08550, USA
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc., Williston, FL 32696, USA
Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Genes 2019, 10(6), 439;
Received: 28 April 2019 / Revised: 29 May 2019 / Accepted: 4 June 2019 / Published: 9 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Canine Genetics)
Assistance dog training programs can see as many as 60% of their trainees dismissed. Many training programs utilize behavioral assays prior to admittance to identify likely successful candidates, yet such assays can be insconsistent. Recently, four canine retrotransposon mobile element insertions (MEIs) in or near genes WBSCR17 (Cfa6.6 and Cfa6.7), GTF2I (Cfa6.66) and POM121 (Cfa6.83) were identified in domestic dogs and gray wolves. Variations in these MEIs were significantly associated with a heightened propensity to initiate prolonged social contact or hypersociability. Using our dataset of 837 dogs, 228 of which had paired survey-based behavioral data, we discovered that one of the insertions in WBSCR17 is the most important predictor of dog sociable behaviors related to human proximity, measured by the Canine Behavioral Assessment Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ©). We found a positive correlation between insertions at Cfa6.6 and dog separation distress in the form of restlessness when about to be left alone by the owner. Lastly, assistance dogs showed significant heterozygosity deficiency at locus Cfa6.6 and higher frequency of insertions at Cfa6.6 and Cfa6.7. We suggest that training programs could utilize this genetic survey to screen for MEIs at WBSCR17 to identify dogs with sociable traits compatible with successful assistance dog performance. View Full-Text
Keywords: Canis; genetics; transposons; hypersociability; domestication Canis; genetics; transposons; hypersociability; domestication
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Tandon, D.; Ressler, K.; Petticord, D.; Papa, A.; Jiranek, J.; Wilkinson, R.; Kartzinel, R.Y.; Ostrander, E.A.; Burney, N.; Borden, C.; Udell, M.A.R.; VonHoldt, B.M. Homozygosity for Mobile Element Insertions Associated with WBSCR17 Could Predict Success in Assistance Dog Training Programs. Genes 2019, 10, 439.

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