Cloning is the way of the future for working dogs, study finds


A new scientific study indicates that cloning working dogs may be more effective than trying to train new traditional breed dogs.

Of course, training dogs to work in specialized areas is a time-consuming and expensive process. For example, drug-sniffing dogs in police departments not only need a strong sense of smell, but a specific temperament to endure the nature of the job. Unfortunately, selective breeding programs are only partially successful in transmitting these desired traits.

According to the authors of the study,only about half of all trained dogs can qualify as working dogs through conventional breeding management, as proper temperament and health are required in addition to their innate ability to detect scent.

Posted in PubMed, The study authors set out to find out if somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) – a process by which the nucleus of a cell in the body is implanted into an unfertilized egg – could help solve the problem.

Clone dogs?

For this study, researchers hypothesized that cloning working dogs with the desired traits would result in puppies with the same traits and behaviors.

In order to investigate the possibilities of cloning working dogs, scientists focused on a small project in South Korea. In this project, scientists collected cells from a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever. Subsequently, they produced seven genetically identical puppies. Of these seven, six puppies passed the detection dog aptitude test. Unfortunately, the one pup that didn’t make it couldn’t make it due to a broken leg.

Based on these amazing results, the Korean government created a plan to manage its inventory of working dogs. In 2011, various Korean government agencies deposited working dog cell samples in a national cell bank. Since then, the cell bank has successfully cloned over two dozen dogs for various uses. Most notably, scientists successfully cloned a cancer-sniffing dog with a 93.9% success rate in detecting breast cancer.

Ethics of cloning

Naturally, there are concerns about the safety and ethics of cloning dogs. Aware of this, the study authors tracked certain health markers to note any abnormal or concerning changes in the health of their cloned puppies. Specifically, the study found that the birth weight of cloned puppies was slightly higher than that of normal breed dogs. However, the authors claim that the smaller litter size of the cloned pups may explain this. Otherwise, the growth and development of cloned dogs was indistinguishable from their natural-bred brethren.

Although animal cloning is still a very controversial area, these results are promising. Hopefully cloning can provide a solution to lack of quality service animals. Most importantly, it can ensure the health and well-being of these hard-working dogs.

Bette C. Alvarado