In this talk, Jessica explores the current and future landscape of the acquisition of dogs. An increase in demand for dogs has made finding a good dog challenging and this looming crisis has come to a head as demand has spiked during the pandemic. A lack of puppies or behaviorally sound adult dogs in shelters, irresponsible breeding, multi-year waiting lists, and dog breeds riddled with genetically mediated health issues are among the many concerns that make finding an acceptable dog, let alone a good dog, very challenging. In a culture where an owner’s expectations of what a “good” dog means may differ from what breeders and shelters think is reasonable, how can a dog owner feel confident that they will find a healthy, long-lived dog who will make a behaviorally sound pet or sport dog? Many social rules define appropriate and ethical breeding, but how might these rules change in the future to make it easier for ethical breeders to produce healthy, behaviorally sound dogs destined for pet and casual sport homes?
Where Will the Good Dogs Come From?
9:00 am PT
Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD (she/her) is a veterinary researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and teaches online classes about the biology and genetics of canine behavior. Jessica received her PhD in Animal Sciences (Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics) in 2017 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied canid behavioral genetics. Previously, Jessica graduated from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 with a dual DVM/MS degree. Her Master’s work was on the behavior and cortisol responses of healthy dogs to being hospitalized overnight. She also completed a shelter medicine veterinary internship at the University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program. Jessica’s current work focuses on the genetics of behavior in both pet and working dogs through a citizen science approach. Jessica is passionate about using genetics to discover how brain function differs between confident and anxious dogs.
Jessica lives in Raymond, New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, a 40-something data nerd and musician, who she trains to do household chores, and their three dogs: Jenny, a 10-year-old mixed breed who still enjoys her walks in the woods; Dashiell, a 3-year-old English shepherd who she trains in nosework and fitness; and Fitz, a 2-year-old border collie who is new to the family and hopes to do agility when he settles in.