Summary of the steps:
The VGL has worked closely with Standard Poodle and Italian Greyhound breeders and breed organizations to develop a test panel that will simply and economically measure the genetic diversity that exists in a breed, that will determine internal relatedness (IR) of individuals of these breeds and that will compare IR of single dogs to the population as a whole. The ultimate goal is to select mates that will produce more genetically diverse offspring. Data for these two breeds indicate that sufficient genetic diversity still exists but that it is not well distributed across each breed. A minority of the diversity exists in a majority of individuals and conversely, a majority of diversity resides in a minority of dogs. It is therefore possible for these breeds to manage diversity in a much better manner with the intent of producing healthier animals due to a reduction in heritable disorders.
For more information about the test format and how it has been applied to Standard Poodles, see the Genetic Diversity Testing for Standard Poodles page.
Organizing the project
Genetic diversity testing using this same format can be directly applied to any breed. However, the most important tasks are to identify a cadre of breeders committed to diversity testing and to seek out all possible existing genetic diversity of the breed. As was the case for Standard Poodles and Italian Greyhounds, the VGL needs the collaboration of expert representatives from each breed to identify genetic diversity on a breed-wide scale and arrange for collection of DNA samples (buccal swabs). The breeders and/or breed organizations need to identify funding options to support development of the test. Breeds interested in doing routine genetic diversity testing should contact the VGL for details of how such testing can be implemented for their breed.
Building the baseline data
Depending on the breed, anywhere from 100 to 400 or more unrelated* dogs from disparate geographic regions should be tested to create the baseline data. The VGL will do this preliminary testing at a reduced rate, $50 per dog, and will make available an online order form for sample submission. When a sufficient number of dogs are tested to develop a reasonably complete database, the testing will become routine and priced at the regular rate of $80/test. Genetic data from new dogs will be added to the database as they are tested.
* The term "unrelated" is used to mean "as unrelated as possible." The intent is to get a wide, representative sampling of the population, as many lines and geographic areas as possible.
Funding the project
There are two options to conduct and fund baseline testing. First, participants pay on a per sample submitted basis. Second, breeders and breed organizations subsidize baseline testing by prepaying for a set number of tests, and participants are provided a coupon code.
Once the sampling and funding elements required to launch the genetic diversity baseline testing phase are in place for a breed, contact the VGL to finalize arrangements.