Advisor: What will happen if I clone my dog?

rubypiggy.jpgHave you ever considered cloning your dog? I have. Ruby is so cute and sweet, but she probably won't be around a decade from now. Since I don't know how to find her family and she can't have babies, maybe it's the only way possible to keep a part of her near me forever.

I contacted RNL Biostar, a Maryland-based company that has successfully cloned several dogs already, to find out how exactly it would work. The company's director of strategic planning, Jin Han Hong, broke it down to me as four main steps:

1. The vet obtains small samplings of skin and fat tissue. The tissue samples are placed in separate containers with sterile saline and antibiotics, then shipped in a Styrofoam box with pre-frozen ice bags overnight to RNL's lab in Maryland.

2. RNL does a feasibility check, which takes one to three weeks. Researchers isolate stem cells from the tissue and attempt to culture them into millions of cells. If this works, the living cells are cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees celsius — this allows them to be preserved for shipment overseas or for long periods of time, usually 15+ years.

3. The cryopreserved cells are sent to a cloning facility in Seoul, Korea. There, researchers make embryos using donor cells and enucleated eggs from egg donors. They're zapped with electricity, at which point they begin to divide and grow. The completed embryos are transplanted into surrogate mother dogs.

4. Approximately two months later, the surrogate gives birth to a healthy cloned puppy.

Hong tells me that it will take three to six months from the day the sample is submitted until I receive my Ruby clone. The whole procedure normally costs $150,000 but, he says, "If you can make a commitment for dog cloning within a few weeks, we can offer you great rate."

I'm not really going to clone Ruby — I realize that nothing lasts forever, and that even if I did artificially bring Ruby's physical existence back to life, her spirit may not necessarily follow. There are so many dogs in the world who need homes, and I don't really have $150K to be playing around with like that.

I am curious, however, to find out what would happen if I cloned Ruby now, and then kept the clone as a pet, too, while Ruby is still alive. Would they become best friends? Nemeses? Co-conspirators against human domination? Would the world come to an end?

Advisor is a column about how to juggle technology, relationships, and common sense. Got a story to tell? Email me at lisa [at] boingboing [dot] net.


  1. Not that I think Lisa is saying this (or saying it seriously) in her post, but I’m disturbed by how people who clone their pets (or who intend to do so) seem to think that they’re getting “the original pet” back again. As if they actually have the original dear old Fido back in their lives — same identity, same awareness, same “soul.” I want to stand on a rooftop with a megaphone and announce: “Guys! A clone is like a twin, or like offspring. Different organism! Different individual!” In fact, I think I will go do that now.

  2. This American Life did an episode about a man who cloned his beloved bull. The clone bull had a terrible disposition and almost gored the man to death.

      1. Yes, but if someone clones your body, you won’t be resurrected from the dead. You’ll be dead. You’ll just happen to have a new identical-twin sibling.

        He won’t even be physically identical, as he’s going to be incubated in another womans womb, she will have different health and nutrition to your mother, and after birth he will have different health, disease, nutrition, etc history, resulting in different physical development.

        Seriously, sometimes I want to hunt down the sci-fi author who popularized the meme that “clones are duplicates” and SMACK HIM SO HARD.

  3. Word of warning, though:

    Don’t forget that while your cloned dog is just a puppy, its genetic material is still as old as the original dog was at the time of sampling(assuming the dna gets frozen). DNA is coded with a “death gene” (for lack of a better term) so if you clone your 6 year old dog then then cloned dog should live about 6 years less than the original would.

  4. Clones are often quite different from the original, because even though the genes are the same, they aren’t expressed in the same way because they weren’t produced by the original process. It’s not just the environmental differences after birth; the embryonic development isn’t going to come out the same way.

    For example, the first cat ever cloned was a calico cat, but the clone wasn’t calico, and it was found that this is always true: you can’t clone a calico cat to produce a calico cat. See this link for a more detailed explanation.

  5. If you pay me $50,000, I promise I can clone your dog. No guarantee on how old it’ll be when I get it to you though. Isn’t that a great rate?

  6. You should check out a NYT article from this summer. They wrote about the exact thing: cloning dogs. Some California bio-tech dude cloned his mom’s dog, and produced two offspring. They didn’t look exactly like the original dog, b/c the surrogate mom’s womb chemistry can actually affect coat length, texture, etc… And the markings on both clones were different from each other and their mom. One clone had a longer coat than the other.

    The guy’s mom detested the clones and refused to keep one that was not behaviorally like her original dog. The guy kept one of the clones, and farmed out the second. The clones were nothing alike in terms of behavior.

  7. It’s also disturbing how many people think that by getting the same breed of dog as their previous pet, they are getting a dog with the same personality and habits. This is one of the main reasons animal shelters are filled with pure bred dogs. Unless a person is looking for a show dog or a breeding dog with papers, there’s absolutely no reason to pay more than a shelter adoption fee for any dog.

    1. I agree that the same genetics doesn’t result in the same personality. My mom likes to buy pure-bred pups of the same parents. She has two Havanese and one is 50% larger than the other and their personalities are completely different; one is a real snooty-pants and the other is mega-affectionate.

  8. $150k is a lot to clone a pet, and someone who has that much money to burn really should look at their own separation anxiety issues rather than cloning. That having been said, the only thing you would get is a new dog that looks exactly the same, but it would be its ‘own’ dog. As of now, science has yet to clone/copy a “personality,” a “soul,” or the memories of any living thing. But if we are getting into cloning or copying memories/personality/soul you then are opening up a can of moral worms, where one side will say “yes, do it for science!” and the other will say “no, we shouldn’t play at being god!”

  9. It’s so weird to read this right now–there’s some maniac on a roof shouting about cloning two blocks over.

  10. Sounds creepy, not to mention cruel. Inducing pregnancy in surrogate dogs with no guarantee of the conditions they’re kept in?

    As #1 points out, there are millions upon millions of animals who are without homes. Ugh, consumerism.

  11. Were I to clone a dog, I would ideally get the new puppy at least a year or two before the original animal died, then put them together.

    Dogs are the most effective animal trainers because of the pack mentality. To give you a dog with the personality traits you loved in your original one, have the original one be a big part of the new puppy’s life.

  12. Cloning is not so clean and horror-free as poster describes. The “surrogate” is actually a large pool of possible surrogates. Dolly was the result of a pool of ~300 different surrogate attempts. The rest were miscarried.

    Not to mention, if you get “lucky” and get ten Rubies, they probably just exterminate nine.

    This is the central reason why human cloning has not been attempted. Where can you find hundreds of women willing to miscarry for a small amount of money and some mutant baby that won’t even belong to them?

    1. When you walk through a storm
      Keep your muzzle up high
      And don’t be afraid of the park.
      At he end of the leash
      Is a golden hydrant
      And the sweet silver song of a bark.

      Walk on through the wind,
      Walk on through the rain,
      Tho’ your kibble be tossed and blown.
      Walk on, walk on
      With hope in your heart
      And you’ll never walk a clone,
      You’ll never walk a clone!

      (Thank you, Rogers, Hammerstein, Elvis and Jerry Lewis.)

  13. Can’t help myself. I have to echo the thought that spending ANY resources ($15 or $150,000) on cloning a dog or cat is sick.

    You can never *replace* a deceased pet, and while this commentary acknowledges this, there are others who do not. Fooling oneself into thinking a clone is a copy (personality-wise) of the original pet wastes resources and robs another dog/cat of a home. If one ever does have $150,000 to spend on cloning a pet, donate it to the Humane Society, adopt an animal from a shelter, and start a new relationship with an equally loving but different companion.

    1. Why would spending $15 to clone a pet be sicker than, say, paying a breeder? I mean, assuming you understand what a clone actually is.

      1. Yes, Moriarty, I do understand what a clone is, thanks.

        Despite your somewhat snarky way of stating your question in response to my comment, your point is well taken. I wasn’t going to go into the breeder issue, but since you’ve asked, I don’t think that’s right either.* My point was that I find it wrong to create more pets when so many go homeless. It’s even more sad when money that could be helping the homeless pets is also being used to encourage such things.

        *An exception might be for someone with allergies who couldn’t locate the particular traits they required for health reasons, or maybe for breeds of dog who perform as service animals or police dogs, etc.

  14. apart from the obvious moral/legal implications it would be great to clone a human though.
    or even better, selective breeding of humans.
    we could build whole hives of workers, runners, thinkers, basketball players etc.
    it would make a great scifi story

  15. “I am curious, however, to find out what would happen if I cloned Ruby now, and then kept the clone as a pet, too, while Ruby is still alive. Would they become best friends? Nemeses? Co-conspirators against human domination? Would the world come to an end?”


  16. Surely somebody in Korea must have figured out that they can make $150K a pop just by tracking down puppies that look like the owners’ original dogs.

  17. I second what chairboy said @ 13. If you want to keep a piece of Ruby in your life, get her a buddy and let her impart some of her charming quirks to the other dog.

  18. i spent a week nursing my cat back to health when i rescued her, and she’s been glued to me ever since. a clone might be totally indifferent to me.

    1. Well, duh — obviously you have to get the clone ill too. Haven’t you seen (or read) “The Boys From Brazil”? It wasn’t enough to clone Hitler — they were trying to give the clones crappy childhoods to make sure they turned out evil.

  19. “May”?!? Her spirit _may_ not necessarily follow? This whole article would have been unnecessary if actual science education would be more commonplace. Listen, if you clone any being, all you get is an identical twin – in the purest biological sense. To even imply you can get an ounce of what makes a person unique (or a dog as the case may be) across from one body to the next is nothing if not fraudulent.

    Sorry, I know I’m harsh. But it needed to be said. Feeling better now.

    1. But let’s not go overboard – I mean, aren’t certain breeds known for certain dispositions? So if you really like a playful Maltese or a sleepy hound, wouldn’t a clone also have those same basic breed-traits?

      Of course, this doesn’t mean that cloning is better than simply adopting a dog of the same breed – it’s much more costly for the humans and tragic for the shelter dog that goes unadopted. But I think at least an ounce of personality might come through.

      He’s not gonna remember how to sit up, though.

  20. Agreed to all the ‘twin’ comments, but I must also say, IT’S A LIE! No one has ever cloned anything and if you think they have, you need to reexamine their brilliant techniques, like putting denucleated and re-enucleated eggs together in a petri dish and then electrocuting it. Yeah, like that’s gonna work.

    So, to sum up, re-enucleated eggs, probably works. Egg fusion is so far unproven. Null sperm can be neither created nor identified.

  21. Dog breeds do have natural tendencies that cannot be trained out of them, and that is the real reason why so many dogs end up in shelters. Too many people who get high energy dogs that have hundreds of years of breeding to do those jobs, try to keep them as house pets alone 8 hours a day, and are surprised when the dogs tear up the place and can’t be trained with the hour a day they have to dedicate to them. I know a girl who bought a dog to carry in her purse and was surprised when it acted like a puppy and peed everywhere and chewed stuff up.

    I can’t imagine cloning my dogs, even though I love them dearly. I have a 14 year old dog, and when she was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago we did our research and ended up going back to the same breeder we had got her from and got a puppy. I prefer to get my dogs from a breeder so I know their health background and the temperament of the parents, and my dogs have been raised with love and care their whole life, and are carefully socialized. We’ve had some bad luck with previously abused shelter dogs. But even getting a pup from a good breeder, and knowing the parents, there’s still a surprise to find out what the dog will be like, and so much of a dog’s personality is written in the early socialization stages during the dog’s first four months of life. Even if your dog was a clone, there would be no way to replicate that socialization phase to come out with the same dog.

    I’m interested to hear more about this ‘death gene’, I’ve never heard that, though I do seem to remember those cloned sheep didn’t live very long.

    And my final thought: What must people in South Korea think of crazy Westerners spending that kind of money to clone a dog?!

  22. Go read about the first cloned dog. The owner doesn’t enjoy the clones because they are young and hyper and don’t know her as their long-term owner. It was clearly a case of science son wanted to get into cloning and step-dad adored his wife who loved her dog. I had always toyed about getting a dog cloned until I read everything on the project and realized the same cells don’t make for the same dog.

  23. Mortality frames animal lives as it does human lives. Cloning a pet isn’t a celebration of what makes that pet special. Quite the opposite. It’s an insistence that such a unique relationship can be replicated exactly. Which is sad and misguided.

    The best way to celebrate the memory of a beloved dog is to give your friendship and the benefit of your experience as a companion to another dog, one who’s already alive and desperately in need of you.

  24. as a person whose dog just recently passed away – this was something I looked into before looking for a new snuggly puppy. My dog had a genetic defect that caused serious hip problems – we never bred him but cloning was not a real option for us.

    I swear – you “get a dog from a shelter” people need to get over it. A shelter dog comes with behavioral & emotional problems as well as an unknown history. I was very lucky with ONE, count that, ONE shelter dog. Every other one I have lived with has had major problems – one room mate’s spitz was afraid of men with black shoes, another room mate’s dog didn’t like rose perfume or heavy make up and went full on Cujo if any female came in to our home that met either of those criteria.

    Dogs are in shelters because their owners are irresponsible, not because we need to have every dog neutered. Would you neuter people if they couldn’t take care of themselves?

  25. “The tissue samples are… overnight[ed] to RNL’s lab in Maryland”

    “The cryopreserved cells are sent to a cloning facility in Seoul, Korea”

    You should think about the environment and self-sustainability and only clone local. :-)

  26. Cue the Ramones:
    “I don’t want to be buried in a Pet Sematary,
    I don’t want to live my life again”

  27. Hmmm…it occurs to me what while we don’t have even doggy-style Greg-Eganesque brain monitoring implants, you probably could get sufficiently detailed video recordings of your pet that someone could take a clone or similar puppy from birth and intensively train it to replicate the behavior of that dog. If nothing else, you could take a large number of starting dogs and pick the one from the bunch that best replicated the behaviors of the old dog at its prime, then delivers it to you after a few months or so.
    Bound to be cheaper than 150k.

    Shouldn’t be too much longer before you could just avoid the whole random personality issue by having a chip installed in the dog during puppyhood that _guides_ its behavior along a replicable format…

    1. If we are installing chips in the brains of pets (in the new future of course) then we can very well program them to do what ever we want. Robo-Ruby crap on the floor? There is a line of code to fix that. Robo-Ruby chew up your slippers/shoes? Theres a line of code to fix that.

      Hell you could program your pet’s every behavior, from the time it wakes or goes to sleep to the time it relieves itself either in the backyard or a litter box. Your pet could be extra affectionate or like a particular spot scratched, it would all be a matter of programing it.

      1. Yes, and if we can program our pet’s every behavior, why don’t we eliminate the middleman and program an “I don’t need a pet” preference into our own chip-implant.

  28. #33 – “I prefer to get my dogs from a breeder so I know their health background and the temperament of the parents… We’ve had some bad luck with previously abused shelter dogs.”

    A breeder history is no guarantee. The way you raise the dog is the guarantee. My friend bought a German shepherd complete with detailed family tree, health guarantees and litter visits before take home -all indicators of a very reputable breeder. None of this prevented the dog from eating a sock and then dying of a bowel obstruction at 4 years of age. How long will my shelter dogs live? I have no idea…but certainly longer than they would have lived if left at the shelter. It was a risk I was willing to take.

    #39 -“I swear – you “get a dog from a shelter” people need to get over it. A shelter dog comes with behavioral & emotional problems as well as an unknown history. I was very lucky with ONE, count that, ONE shelter dog. Every other one I have lived with has had major problems ”

    You’ve failed to indicate if you and your room mates kept these so called problem shelter dogs or if you just dumped them once you realized they had ’emotional problems’. Do shelter dogs require patience to become suitable pets? Definitely. Guess what? So do purebred puppies. So what’s the difference? Hundreds of dollars that’s what. Just because you buy a shiny new papered puppy from a breeder does not guarantee that it will not have, or develop ‘behavioral & emotional problems’ from living with you. That assumption is why dogs end up in shelters in the first place. My own purebred papered Sheltie came to me seemingly free of behavior problems, we marveled at the fact that he didn’t bark. By the time he was a year old, it was impossible to shut him up. He and I won obedience training competitions but I could not convince him that it was pointless to attack people’s heels when they tried to leave the house.

    Just because you think you had a bad shelter dog experience doesn’t mean you should go brand all shelter dogs as being broken and at a higher risk for health and behavior problems, because it’s not true in every case. In fact, it’s not true in the majority of cases. My shelter dog came to me afraid of men and apparently not house trained. She would slink away whenever my dad spoke, turning her head like she was expecting to get slapped in the face. After about a month, she got over it. She also got over her habit of doing her business in the house once she learned how things rolled in the household (what time we got up, when we got home) and decided on an effective means of letting us know when she wanted out. Shelter dogs just need time and patience and an owner willing to give it to them.

    #39 -“Dogs are in shelters because their owners are irresponsible, not because we need to have every dog neutered.”

    By refusing to adopt them because of their apparent behavior issues, we’re making shelter dogs accountable for human failings with their very lives. Awesome. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t feel the need to ‘get over it’.

  29. I despair when I see so much ignorance in so few sentences.

    What will happen when a dog is cloned? Nothing. that is what.

    You get a new dog that looks identical to the original one, which then proceeds to develop its own character traits which will be moulded according to its own experiences.

    We have countless examples of this with a species we are pretty familiar with: Homo Sapiens.

    Exact genetic twins are clones, they are never robotic replicas of each other, and of course they don’t “share a soul” (souls does not exist BTW, we don’t need magical thinking to explain natural phenomena).

    1. @Tzctlp:
      You get a new dog that looks identical to the original one…

      Actually that’s not true either. A lot of your dog’s appearance is influenced by essentially random factors that have nothing to do with its genetic code. If your dog has spots then its clone will have a different spot pattern, just as twins have different freckles and fingerprints.

  30. Dude, dogs don’t have spirits. However, they see in black and white, which makes my moustache look cool, so based on that they’re all-right in my book.

  31. An important part of life is learning to let go and move on. I’ve thought often about the fact that some day my beloved dog is going to die, and I’ll have to deal with it, but I don’t for a moment think that getting a puppy that happens to share her DNA would do anything to help. Go get another puppy. If you want to keep this dog’s DNA, put some of its hair on some scotch tape and put it in a scrapbook, then love your new dog.

  32. I think people are a bit misled when it comes to the capabilities of current technology to produce “clones”. Clones (as we have been able to create thus far) are not “identical copies” of the original organism. Here’s why:

    Cloning techniques currently involve removing the nucleus of a cell from “patient one”, forcibly injecting it into the empty (no nucleus) egg cell of “patient two”, and inserting it into a surrogate mother. The egg cell is then stimulated, and (hopefully) division occurs. This is a technique called “reproductive cloning”.

    Unfortunately, the DNA from patient one is not necessarily “clean”. Minor mutations can (and often do) occur during the many divisions over a cell’s lifespan, so this can lead to discrepancies between the original and the clone.

    Telomeres in the cells of the parent organism “cap” DNA chains and thereby prevent abnormalities during cell division. Each division shortens the length of the telomeres and therefore introduces a limit on the number of cell divisions. A clone produced from a cell with diminished telomeres has a lowered initial cell division limit which increases the probability of incidental cell mutations.

    Mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA are also not passed during the cloning process. Mitochondrial DNA is passed maternally, i.e. from mother to offspring, so a clone would be more akin to a sibling from another mother than an “identical twin”. Mitochondria are responsible for numerous cell functions that would be pertinent to a discussion on donor/clone similarities: apoptosis (programmed cell death), signaling (microenvironmental response), differentiation (conversions from a less to a more specialized cell type), and generalized cell growth.

    Epigenetics, or “gene expression” can introduce changes due to environmental influences, which would be nearly (if not completely) impossible to recreate for a cloned organism.

    So far, the closest thing we have to an “identical duplicate” is in the case of monozygotic twins. Monozygotic twins (also known as “identical twins”) share the same nucleic and mitochondrial DNA, and so these organisms (originating from the same cell) share the greatest number of similarities. Even then, environmental influences induce changes even before birth. Permutations in the womb influence embryonic development to the point that “identical twins” don’t even share the same fingerprints.

  33. I saw a more detailed report on BioArt’s program at

    This is a strange company. I don’t think they have any idea that what they are doing is feeding on peoples love for a member of their family. Next they will be cloning your relatives.

    1. @55: “I don’t think they have any idea that what they are doing is feeding on peoples love for a member of their family.”

      Sadly, I believe that they have the -precise- idea that this is what they are doing. This is why people would even consider paying 150,000 dollars to clone a family pet. Having lost a beloved pet I can understand the overwhelming desire to just have a little more time.

  34. I realize that nothing lasts forever, and that even if I did artificially bring Ruby’s physical existence back to life, her spirit may not necessarily follow.

    her spirit “may” not follow? that “her spirit” (assuming basically you mean her personality) will not follow is a foregone conclusion and we all know it.

  35. If Buffy the Vampire Slayer has taught us anything, it’s that we should never try to bring things back from the dead.

    Joss Whedon be with you.

  36. The technology impresses me, but I’m against this. Too many stray animals, ready to adopt from shelters and even available if you put a plate of food outside your house.

    What we should do is only adopt animals. If we must have a specific breed, visit the breeder and be prepared to pay a premium. Do NOT buy from a pet store unless it facilitates adoptions. (sells for the price of the vet fixing and giving rabies vaccination) Do NOT buy from the person selling from a box of puppies outside a toy store, if they really are a “Spare Litter” they want to give them away. The pound has plenty of animals as do the streets.

  37. Quote:”Brainspore | #22 | 09:14 on Mon, Nov.23 | Reply
    Report Surely somebody in Korea must have figured out that they can make $150K a pop just by tracking down puppies that look like the owners’ original dogs.”

    Circle gets the square for the win.

  38. I love how even 40+ posts in, so many people feel the need to repeat the same correction over and over (new dog != old dog). WE GET IT.

  39. Cloning from a scientific survival of the species perspective is not a good thing, imo. Clones have problems and don’t live as long. Honestly, the whole genetic manipulation thing is not a great idea. Hybridization and cross breeding and selection seems ok with me. Three eared Monsanto corn, screw that.

  40. I think that cloning will increase parasitic cancers. These are cancer cells that clone themselves and spread by contact, (and have spread even without direct contact in laboratories.) There has long been a type of this cancer in dogs, and a newly emerged, more deadly type is threatening to wipe out the Tasmanian Devil species. These cancers emerge in populations lacking genetic diversity, but once they do, they persist even after the gene pool is more diverse. They have been experimentally shown have the capability of inter-species transmission.

    Currently only two types of these cancers are known to exist outside laboratories. Do we want more?

  41. i really want to clone my bulldog he is so awsome and complex i think that one day i will and name him junior but also donate to animal facilities in the area nearby me

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