Massey University’s AL Rae Centre for Genetics and Breeding is leading a Government-backed project to breed top-notch working dogs. Professor Matt Littlejohn says the study seeks to understand behaviour traits, such as a dog’s natural drive to work stock. He says the study will be the largest to link a dog’s DNA to its working performance. He says what makes this project unique is that heading dogs and Huntaways are NZ’s only true Kiwi dog breeds. Professor Littlejohn says New Zealand farm dogs haven’t benefited from the large research projects happening overseas, so the genetics of these dogs and recessive genes they carry are unknown. Former Ag Minister Damien O’Connor announced the $1.77 million three-year project in July and says it will be the most detailed genomic investigation of New Zealand working farm dog breeds to date, with potential to improve dogs’ health, welfare and working performance.