From Domestication to Inbreeding: Population Genetics and Companion Animals
Part Three of the Genetics for the Behavior Consultant series
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
- 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
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.
||Listen to lectures
Read weekly assignments
||6 (valid for IAABC, CCPDT and KPA)
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
For questions email