Get ready for your designer dog

September 4th, 2008 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 4 (IANS) If you want a dog with specific looks, coat, colour, size and behavioural traits, then science and breeding could design one for you. Such characteristics can spell the difference between a dog becoming a much loved and pampered pet, or a mistreated and neglected animal.

Monash University researcher Pauleen Bennett said “for many people the dog is the only living animal with which they have any form of regular personal contact and of course, many pet dogs are treated like royalty.

“Yet, animal welfare shelters are forced to put to death thousands of unwanted dogs each year, and many pets are still subject to cruelty, neglect or inappropriate care.

“Even the most well-intentioned owner can place their dog’s wellbeing at risk through exposure to the stresses of high density living, anxiety triggered by long hours spent alone, and even obesity or diabetes caused by overfeeding.”

Characteristics people want in their pet dogs include being friendly, obedient, affectionate and healthy, while undesirable behaviours included nervousness, destructiveness and excitability.

“Canine behavioural traits are highly heritable, so in theory at least, we can genetically fix desirable characteristics in dog breeds. Just as we have previously produced dogs able to herd sheep or pull sleds, so we should be able to breed dogs better suited to their role as companions,” Bennett said.

“Successfully matching the dog, its requirements and behavioural traits with the understanding and desires of the owner should mean the animals are more likely to enjoy good welfare throughout long, healthy and happy lives.”

“The whole issue of animal welfare is gaining momentum socially and Australia is well-placed to lead the world in developing socially responsible relationships with animals,” Bennett said.

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