Genetics Studies

The health and well being of the Shiloh Shepherd is very important to the ISSDC. 

The ISSDC Genetics Study is currently underway. We are partnering with Genoscoper (Opitmal Selection/Wisdom Panel) here in North America and MyDogDNA overseas to begin the DNA Genetics Studies for Shiloh Shepherds focusing on Diversity, Outcrosses, and Health.

Genetics Diversity Study Q&As

What is the ISSDC Genetic Diversity Study?

The ISSDC Genetics Diversity Project (also referred to as the Genetics Study) is a multi-part project that will help give our club a sense of how genetically diverse our breed is, what lines are associated with different genetic diseases and traits, and what steps we can take to improve the genetic health of our breed.

What are the different phases of the project?

There are three basic project phases.

  1. The first phase of the Genetic Diversity Project is underway, and consists of studying at least 30 (but, ideally, at least 100) of our most diverse dogs. This is the very first step, but provides limited information for the individuals being studied (e.g., coat type, ear set, etc.). The ISSDC subsidized testing for ISSDC members to participate in this phase of the process.
  2. The second phase of the project can only begin once we have sufficient data to help understand the genetic diversity and health problems of our breed. If there is sufficient diversity within the breed, the project will help allow us to identify which breedings can help maintain diversity throughout the breed. If there is insufficient diversity, however, we could then work with our testing partner (Genoscoper) to help identify breeds for outcrossing that can improve the genetic health of our breed, while preserving the traits and avoiding introducing new issues.
  3. The third phase of the project involves a more detailed health study, that first requires a substantial number of samples (about 100 dogs tested). Any dog that is tested in the early phases will be used in this phase as well. As a result, the more tests that are conducted, the more useful information will be available for everyone. 
What is the current status of the project?

So far, just over 30 dogs have been tested, and the ISSDC is hoping that more breeding and
potential breeding dogs will participate, to better map the future genetic health of the breed.

Are there any study limitations that owners should be aware of?

Yes. The testing process does take some time, meaning that participants should expect long waiting periods (potentially months) before receiving test results. Also, the initial feedback from
test results is limited while we are building a database for the breed. The benefits from comprehensive testing come as we build up a more complete set of data–which will allow us to better plan for the future health of the breed!

How does the project help plan for the future health of the breed?

Once we have a robust set of data, we can understand several key things:

  1. What is our overall level of inbreeding?
  2. Which genetic lines are associated with more health problems?
  3. Do we need outcross support–and, if so, what kind?
Why has the ISSDC decided to become involved in a genetic study of our Shilohs?

Under the ISSDC’s Constitution, the purpose of our club is to “engage in the education of Shiloh Shepherd owners, Shiloh Shepherd breeders, the general public, and to promote the well being of
Shiloh Shepherds as well as all other dogs.”

Are we in good shape as a breed to survive (and thrive!) in the future?

There is no clear answer, as there is not yet enough data to know for sure. Part of the answer depends on whether the breed has sufficient genetic diversity to maintain and improve the health of our breed. This is where genetic testing comes in and you and your Shiloh can help.

How can owners participate?

Owners can participate by getting their dogs tested! Testing entails a few steps to help ensure that all necessary information is both completed and tracked.

  • First, an owner contacts the ISSDC Genetics Committee (, indicating which dog(s) they
    would like to have tested.
  • Second, the owner will be sent a link to fill out a detailed survey and provide registration and (if appropriate) ISSDC membership information. Once the survey and other materials are
    received, the information is provided to Genoscoper and a bill is sent to the owner. Note: The club has negotiated a discount price for the kits and has pledged additional funds to lower the price even further for club members. Pricing is:

    • $70 per ISSDC member, and
    • $110 per non-member (for the first 100 dogs).
  • Third, the owners pays Genoscoper for the testing. Once the bill is paid, the ISSDC Genetics Committee sends the owner a cheek swab kit.
  • Finally, the owner swabs their dog and the kit is sent to Genoscoper for analysis. As noted above, it can take a few months to receive results after the kits are completed and sent.

The more dogs we have involved in the study, the more information we gain about our Shilohs generally, as well as about the participants tested. Do we have a wide variety of genetic
material or are we headed into a bottle neck? Can we make better breeding choices with more data available? Can we pinpoint genes or alleles that contribute to some of our most serious health
issues to avoid breeding pairs that could result in those issues? There are so many exciting possibilities.

We hope you will join in the program and help move our Shilohs into a brighter future.

Part 1 Diversity

  • Diversity of the individual dog tested.
  • Diversity of the overall breed population.
  • Diversity of the overall breed population compared to the diversity of other related breed populations.

Genoscoper has suggested the initial study group to be at least 30 of our most diverse dogs so we can have a clear picture of where our diversity stands. To find the most diverse dogs we will be using a calculation similar to COI called Mean Kinship. While COI shows how related a dogs parents are to each other, Mean Kinship shows how related the dog is to the rest of the population. By using this scale we can take the dogs with the lowest scores, who are either breeding now, or tested and ready to be bred, to paint the best picture of what diversity there is in our gene pool today.

Each dog tested will receive information from Optimal Selection Breeder Analysis which will include 

  • Results for 180+ genetic diseases, reported in terms of known relevance to the specific breed evaluated. Included, but not limited to, DM (Degenerative Myelopathy), MDRI (Multi Drug Resistance), vWD (von Willebrand’s Disease), and DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy).
  • Testing for more than 20 traits including coat colors, coat types and morphology.
  • Genetic diversity information for each dog, the overall breed population and compared to related breed groups. (i.e. how we would compare to the German Shepherd Dog)

Pricing. Big bang for our buck with testing. The DM test alone through OFA is $65 US. When the blood testing through a vet for vWD was priced out it was around a $100. There are various different prices to choose from when it comes to coat color testing and those are usually per allele. This is exciting to be able to package all of this into one test for as low as $117 US!! With each dog that is tested we also increase the chances of finding new markers for diseases that are not yet mapped. As this generation of dog breeders, not just in our breed but as a whole, do more and more
testing the unknown becomes closer to being the known. It is truly an exciting time for dog breeders!

  • $70 per ISSDC member
  • $110 per non-member, for first 100 dogs

Part 2 Outcross Study

Once we have some DNA with Genoscoper they will be able to help direct us to breeds that have the most different DNA from our dogs.We will need to submit a list of traits that we as a breed wish to keep, such as straight tails and prick ears. Or traits/disorders we wish to avoid bringing into the breed, such as more eye issues. We will then set parameters for Genoscoper to use as guidelines in helping us find appropriate breeds to use as outcrosses providing us with wanted traits and diversity.

To view our breeds results Optimal Selection offers a free online breeding tool that enable breeders to look at all the dogs tested who are marked public or shared. Each breeder has the ability to make their dogs results/profile public (to other people using the online tool, which is password protected) or private. SO if a breeder prefers to keep their results private until after they receive them, they can. They can also make them public at any time. The great thing about this is that the dogs suggested for outcross will also all have their breeds testing and results shown in the online breeding tool software. Each breeder can then view all the results for themselves and we can also discuss them as a group.

  • includes a measure of diversity of our breed
  • custom DNA genetic marker/disorder panel testing
  • custom list of goals we want to achieve by bringing in outcross and what we don’t want to sacrifice (for example we can tell them we hope to add diversity, reduce the risk of EPI and not sacrifice height. They will give us outcross suggestions to best achieve the goals we give them. Will suggest more then one option so we can choose.
  • online breeding tool for breeders with mate recommendations

Part 3 Health Study

There is one more part to this study! A health study is also going to be done by this company for us. The issues that we have asked their help with are GSDIVA/IVT, EPI and SAS. At this time Genoscoper has reached out to a partner research facility, the  University of Helsinki, that is currently already doing a study on arhythmias. We havebeen invited to join their research!

Together with Genoscoper we would provide as much clinical test results to that study in the hopes to get some answers for our breed. Alba medical had previously also agreed to co-operate with us and a university type study which is even more great news. Hopefully with breeders and owners co-operation they can perhaps shed some new light on this problem. We are excited to start communicating with them on this study!! Details will be shared as we get them.

The other health issues mentioned are still on the table and Genoscoper is looking for another research partner to pair up with to make the most of the information we can provide them. We will keep everyone posted about that news as it develops. The genetic pedigree database will also be provided to them so they will have the relationship status of the dogs within the study groups.

We are told that in most cases it does take usually at least a year to get any results for health studies of this kind. A study group of about 100 dogs (tested clear and affected) will be needed for these kinds of health studies.

The panel testing that they do will look for all the known genetic disorders they already test for in GSD as well as other markers since there may be others present in Shilohs. Some of these include, but are not limited to, 

  • Degenerative Myelopathy, (DM)
  • Multi Drug Resistance (MDR1)
  • von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)
  • Cone Degeneration, (CD) or Achromatopsia; mutation originally found in German Shepherd Dog
  • full results for coat loci (Locus' E-Extensions, K-Dominant Black, A- Agouti, I-Intensity, S-white spotting, M-merle, B-Brown, D-Dilution, H-Harliquin)
  • Hair length (there are 5 known mutations in dogs) and Curly coat gene
  • Morphology: Prick ear gene and snout/skull length markers

Keep checking back as we will post more information as it becomes available.