Thanks to research
performed by canine genomicist Elaine Ostrander and post-doctoral student Jaemin Kim, scientists now understand the genes that affect athleticism. Through studies performed at the National Human Genome Research Institute, 59 canine genes were identified that directly correlated to a dog’s athleticism. Among sporting dog breeds, these 59 genes controlled everything from pain perception to heart rate and were shown to have less variability for sporting dogs than in non-sporting groups. The findings from this research shows that dogs in the sporting group have evolved to be better suited to their “jobs” than companion breeds.
Furthermore, when dogs from the sporting group were compared, only one gene was significant in determining athletic ability. This gene, ROBO1, is linked with the dog’s learning ability. Therefore, the most athletic dog among a group of canine athletes will be the one with the greatest capacity for learning.
When choosing a dog for sporting purposes, it may not be as important to know the parent dogs’ athletic ability as it is to know whether they were good learners.