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Embark Customers – Pioneers in Dog Wellness and Genetics

February 28, 2018

Take part in our next research survey on skin health and allergies

While conducting dog research for the last decade, I have come across many people interested in dog genetics, for all kinds of reasons. Some are just curious: Who is Fido and how did he get here? Does he have some hidden talent I might be able to discover, or some fascinating backstory? Many are curious as to how it can improve the health and lives of dogs – and people. Some are genetics nerds, some crazy (in a good way!) dog lovers, and some just “normal” people who happen to have a beloved four-legged family member or two.

Over the years my brother and I have had the pleasure to meet with thousands of dog lovers around the world. When we started Embark we had these people in the front of our minds. Our goal is to build the service they told us they wanted. Now as we are close to launching Embark’s genetic testing service, we finally have the chance to sign up people interested in our test and find out more about who they are and what they are most interested in.

Last week we sent a survey to everyone who has joined our reservations list, and we got a great response – we have an extremely engaged group!

Who are they?

Two-thirds of the Embark pioneers are women. Half are over 40 while most of the rest are 25-40.

Who are their dogs?

  • Two-thirds are mixed-breed dogs, one-third are purebreds
  • Dogs of all ages are up for testing, with about equal numbers <1 year old, 1-3 years old, 3-6 years old, and >6 years old.

And, most interestingly, what are their motivations?

While a lot of owners are interested in learning more about their dog’s breed, behavior, and ancestry, it is clear that almost everyone is very or extremely interested in helping their dogs to live healthier, longer lives.

We also learned that:

  • 61% want to participate in research to better understand dog behavior
  • 83% would share their dog’s vet records with Embark to further our research aims

It was interesting to see just how much is being spent on veterinary care for our precious pooches:

Very few respondents spent less than $250 on their dog’s veterinary care in the last year, and over half spent over $500. Obviously improving their dog’s health and reducing this cost over time would be great!

One result that we were especially happy to see:

  • 96% want to participate in research to improve dog health

While survey results are great, many folks had interesting, funny, and sometimes poignant answers to questions about why they are interested in Embark and why their dogs are so interesting. So without further ado, here are some of our customers in their own words:

Why are you interested in testing from Embark?

Some provided straightforward answers:
  • Curiosity.
  • I am hoping I find out what foods they each would benefit from the most, and what potential health pitfalls they each might have, so I can take preventive measures.
  • I would like to see if I can improve the life and longevity of my dog.
  • Inaccurate breed ID from Mars DNA test. I’d like an independent test.
  • Interested in identifying possible breeds in our wee dog.
  • To improve the health of my breed and to screen dogs for suitability for breeding to that end.
Some tugged at the heartstrings:
  • Max is the love of my life.
  • I want to know as much as I can about my dog – I love her!
  • My dog just got diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago. Information is empowering, and I want all I can get.
  • Want to know more about the kind of dog I have so I can find more like her.
Some really highlighted our mission and what makes us unique:
  • Like to be a part of something bigger than just getting my own results.
  • I am a veterinarian and would love to know more about genetics especially as it relates to health and preventing disease.
And some got us thinking about future studies, for better or worse:
  • I am hoping I find out what foods they each would benefit from the most, and what potential health pitfalls they each might have, so I can take preventive measures. (We’re working on the food with some promising genetic leads we’re currently following up on!)
  • I’m interested to know how sensitive my 4 pound chihuahua is to caffeine. (We all turned to my 3 month old puppy and laughed/shuddered at the thought of giving her coffee! Seriously though, dogs are more sensitive to caffeine than people are and giving a dog coffee grounds or looseleaf tea could even kill your dog, so don’t do it.)

Tell us something interesting about your dog

We got a lot of answers to this – and we loved them all! It’s always great finding out who our real customers are (the furry ones)!

We have superstars:
Hard workers with super-dog talents:
  • She can open deadbolted doors.
  • She is very smart and can play ball like a professional!
  • She goes to work with me every day at a vet hospital.
Those with mysterious or unusual origins:
  • One has a severe overbite. The other is of mysterious ancestry.
  • He was raised by cats during the first year of his life.
  • She was in the shelter for 8 months before we got her.
Dogs who are going to be interesting research challenges:
  • Boomer is far and away the largest of his litter – at 55lbs he is about double the size of his next sibling and way bigger than his mom. Since dad is unknown, it’s interesting hypothesizing what he could be.
  • One of my dogs is extremely fearful. I am interested in seeing if this is something that may show up in her genetic profile.
  • Her nipples are asymmetrical!
  • He’s a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and he sneezes when he meets you.
Unfortunately, some sad stories:
  • Last year, several vets told me that my dog Timothy’s had bladder cancer. It turned out after a removal of 80% of his bladder they found no cancer.
But also some hopeful stories:
  • Nico is one of a handful of Xolos in Atlanta – perhaps Embark can hook us up with a girlfriend for him! 🙂
And just the amazingly lovable stories of dogs that we can all relate to:
  • He’s Pawesome!
  • Max to me is similar to what “that” cat was to Michel de Montaigne :). Interesting ? Better than that – he taught me how to live.
  • Rhodesian ridgeback who loves people, likes to destroy things, and wants to kiss you.
  • He is a rescue, and still regularly eats dirt, despite feeding him very expensive dog food.
  • I have two Chinese Cresteds named Watson and Archer. Watson is almost 4 and Archer is almost 2 and couldn’t be more opposite from each other but they are best friends 🙂
  • Hates squirrels.

I wish we had space to write everyone’s replies. I read them all and shared many with the team. We can’t wait to work you and your dogs, and get to know you all even better!

If you would like to contribute, you can still take the survey – we will update these results when we get enough new responses