Genetic Testing for Breeding Candidates

Did you know that we do DNA testing on all of our breeding candidates before selecting them for our program?

NEADS recently began working with Embark Veterinary for this genetic testing. To kick off our partnership, we had a little fun testing the DNA of Honey, who belongs to one of our staff members. Honey’s genetics contain 6 different dog breeds.

When we tested Honey for fun, we were interested to know her breed composition. For our breeding candidates, we are much more interested in health genetics. We look for genes that indicate whether a dog is a carrier for or clear from various genetic diseases. Because we work primarily with Labrador Retrievers and Labrador/Golden Retriever crosses, we focus on the genetic diseases that are pertinent to those breeds.

This important information helps us breed healthy dogs that will go on to have long careers as Service Dogs. We keep extensive records of these test results to ensure that we never breed two dogs that are both carriers for any particular disease.

Embark makes this process really simple—once we order the tests, they send us a sterile swab in the mail, which we use to collect DNA from inside the dog’s cheek. Once the sample is collected, we carefully package it up, send it back to the Embark lab to be tested, and wait for the results to come in. Says Embark Founder & CEO Ryan Boyko, “Embark is proud to help improve the life and longevity of Service Dogs as the official DNA test for NEADS.”

Genetic testing is just one of the steps in our breeding health clearances that ensures we are responsibly breeding the next generation of World Class Service Dogs.