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Inbreeding in Dogs Explained


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When closely related dogs mate, it is defined as inbreeding. “Inbreeding is the mating of individuals or organisms that are genetically closely related, resulting in increased homozygosity and consequently an increase in the occurrence of recessive traits,” according to Nature. “This can lead to inbreeding depression: reduced biological fitness of the population.”

In this video, Aaron Sams, PhD explains inbreeding and how dogs are affected by it. If you’re curious about inbreeding and Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI), watch this quick introductory video.

“Inbreeding is, simply put, the mating of closely related individuals. More broadly, it is the mating of closely related individuals in a population over many generations,” according to Dr. Sams. “In all species that humans have domesticated, some level of inbreeding occurs in order to concentrate desired traits into a breed.”


At Embark, we care about and support healthy breeding and responsible breeding practices. An Embark Dog DNA Test enables you to learn about a dog’s breed ancestry, genetic health risks, COI, and more from a simple cheek swab. With a research-grade DNA genotyping platform, we look at 350+ breeds, 250+ genetic health risks, and 35+ traits. We also provide a family tree that goes back three generations, have veterinary geneticists on staff to answer questions, and are a research partner of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Embark made the first discovery in non-human direct-to-consumer genomics, which was covered by National Geographic and other publications. Our science team has also published research investigating the genetic effects of inbreeding in domestic dogs. We are actively conducting research to make new discoveries that can improve canine health. Every dog tested with Embark brings us one step closer to achieving that mission.

Embark for Breeders dog DNA test kits
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Learn more about dog inbreeding, its consequences, and its quantification in this article from Dr. Sams and Dr. Adam Boyko.

Are you a breeder? Explore our breeder tools, such as Pair Predictor, DNA Health Summary Report for puppy buyers, and more.

Aaron Sams, PhD Scientist

Dr. Aaron J. Sams is a Director of Scientific R&D at Embark. As a member of Embark’s leadership team, he is excited to be working with Embark scientists to conduct research and build products that are impactful to our customers and all dogs. He graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and received an MS and PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison prior to conducting postdoctoral research at Cornell University.

Read more about Aaron Sams, PhD

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