The domestic dog offers a unique opportunity to explore the genetic basis of disease, morphology and behaviour. We share many diseases with our canine companions, including cancer, diabetes and epilepsy, making the dog an ideal model organism for comparative disease genetics. Using newly developed resources, whole-genome association in dog breeds is proving to be exceptionally powerful. Here, we review the different trait-mapping strategies, some key biological findings emerging from recent studies and the implications for human health. We also discuss the development of similar resources for other vertebrate organisms.