Jim and Sue, clients of mine (and also good friends) called me after hearing the news about the successful cloning of Trackr, an exceptional search and rescue German Shepherd famously known for his work at the World Trade Center. They were excited to find out that there is an option for cloning the excellent genetics of their own protection dog, a CCK9 Level II German Shepherd named Dexter, and plan to investigate.
Cloning mammals is not new. The technology, called nuclear transfer, involves transferring genetic material into an egg that has been stripped of its own DNA. It’s a method that has been around since the 1950’s and has resulted in the cloning of rats, pigs and even sheep. Dog cloning, however, has proven more difficult since canine ova are less mature when released from the ovary than other mammal’s. Unpredictability of the canine ovulation cycle made egg collection complicated. The material is hard to work with and thus dog cloning was stunted – until now.
The first clone was an Afghan Hound in 2005. The South Korean firm that accomplished this is now partnered with the California business Bioarts International. Together, they are responsible for cloning Trackr, which resulted in five doppelganger puppies. I’m excited about the new technology, especially the implications it has for other types of cloning such as human organs.
Genetics plays a vital role when it comes to selecting dogs for protection work and really is the foundation on which our training rests. I like to think that all of our CCK9 dogs possess the genetics to make them ‘cloneable’.
Cloning is expensive and not within everyone’s reach yet. The technology costs about $140K. Jim and Sue are aware of it but it doesn’t make a difference. And really, with a German Shepherd like Dexter, how could it?