Estimated genetic parameters for growth traits of German shepherd dog and Labrador retriever dog guides

S. K. Helmink, S. L. Rodriguez-Zas, R. D. Shanks, E. A. Leighton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A desirable dog guide weighs 18 to 32 kg and measures 53 to 64 cm in height at the withers as an adult. Heritabilities and genetic correlations were estimated for birth weight, 42-d weight, mature weight, and mature height for 2,334 German shepherd dogs and 2,028 Labrador retrievers raised by the Seeing Eye, Inc., Morristown, NJ, from 1979 to 1997. Data included 5,006 observations for German shepherd dogs from 113 dams and 33 sires and 4,123 observations for Labrador retrievers from 89 dams and 29 sires. A mixed effects model was considered with sex and birth year as fixed effects. Random effects were animal, maternal, and litter incorporating all pedigree information available. A derivative-free REML method was used to estimate parameters. The maternal component was higher than the additive genetic component for birth weight. Heritability of mature weight was estimated as 0.57 ± 0.07 for German shepherd dogs and 0.44 ± 0.07 for Labrador retrievers. Mature height heritability was estimated as 0.35 ± 0.08 for German shepherd dogs and 0.46 ± 0.08 for Labrador retrievers. Selection for lighter dogs at maturity is predicted to decrease the average mature height, and selection for taller dogs at maturity is predicted to increase the average mature weight. The estimated genetic parameters will aid in the development of strategies to increase the probability of breeding dogs for optimum mature size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1450-1456
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2001


  • Body weight
  • Dogs
  • Height
  • Heritability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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