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From Domestication to Inbreeding: Population Genetics and Companion Animals

Self-Study Course
Part Three of the Genetics for the Behavior Consultant series

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Presenter: Jessica Hekman, DVM, MS

How does evolution work and what do we know about how domesticated animals evolved, particularly those highly studied dogs? How do we learn about evolutionary changes that happened thousands of years ago, before recorded history? How do new traits, like new coat colors, spread through populations? And what does all this mean for how we breed domesticated animals today?

This course will help you:

  • Evolutionary theory, especially as applied to questions about domesticated animals
  • How traits like coat color or different behaviors spread through an animal population?
  • How, when, where, and why did animal domestication occur? What does recent research tell us (particularly about dog domestication)?
  • How do population genetics approaches help us understand the health of breeds of animals?
  • "Genomic selection," a new technique that could help us breed healthier animals

Class schedule: This class is a self-study course and may be started any time a student signs on to it. Students will be expected to complete the assignments within six months of their sign-on date.


  • All reading assignments will be available free online.
  • Several mini-lectures or other video viewing (less than one hour weekly) will be available on the course website.
  • Short multiple-choice quiz based on the reading assignments and videos will be required each week. Students must answer all questions correctly, but will have unlimited chances to do so and will receive automated feedback on incorrect answers.

Prerequisites: This class presumes no previous knowledge of genetics. However, the curriculum design is intended to be flexible and to support students learning at different levels. Specifically, the student-driven question structure is intended to give you the chance to learn about the related topics that interest you.

Requirements Listen to lectures
Read weekly assignments
Weekly quiz
CEUs 6 (valid for IAABC, CCPDT and KPA)
Member Cost $60
Non-Member Cost $75

Online Course Cancellation Policy:

  • Courses cannot be refunded once purchased.

About the Presenter

Jessica is a veterinarian currently pursuing a PhD in genetics. After eleven years working as a computer programmer, she decided to go back to school to research the causes of behavior problems in dogs. She received her veterinary degree from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, where she also received a Master's degree for her work on stress behaviors in hospitalized dogs. After graduation, she completed a year-long internship specializing in shelter medicine at the University of Florida Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program. She is now enrolled in a PhD program in genetics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her lab studies a group of foxes (often known as the "Siberian silver foxes") which have been bred over many generations to be friendly to humans. Her ultimate goal is to find genetic causes of fearfulness in dogs, to work with behaviorally challenged shelter dogs, and to help people better understand the science behind dog behavior.

She lives in Urbana, Illinois with her husband and two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @dogzombieblog or read her blog at http://dogzombie.blogspot.com.

For questions email courses@iaabc.org.

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