Dog lovers, you probably already know this. But now research has confirmed that a given dog’s personality is based on much more than just their breed.
It might not fit popular stereotypes about behavior of, say, golden retrievers, poodles or schnauzers, but these aren’t supported by science, according to a new study.
“There is an enormous amount of behavioral variation in every breed, and at the end of the day, every dog is really an individual,” said University of Massachusetts geneticist Elinor Karlsson, co-author of the study. published in the journal Science. .
Karlsson wanted to know to what extent behavioral patterns in pooches are inherited and to what extent dog breeds can actually be associated with distinctive and predictable behaviors.
The answer: Although physical traits like the long legs of a greyhound or the spots of a Dalmatian are clearly hereditary, breed is not a reliable indicator of a dog’s personality.
The researchers’ work brings together a massive dataset to reach this conclusion — the largest amount of data ever compiled, according to Adam Boyko, a geneticist at Cornell University who was not involved in the study.
The dog became mankind’s best friend more than 14,000 years ago, as the only domesticated animal before the advent of agriculture. But the concept of dog breeds is much newer. About 160 years ago, people began selectively breeding dogs to have certain consistent physical traits, like coat texture and color and ear shape.
To determine if the resulting breeds are related to behavior, researchers interviewed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns.
They found that certain behaviors – such as yelling, pointing and showing kindness to human strangers – have at least a genetic basis.
But this heritage is not strictly transmitted according to the races. For example, they’ve found golden retrievers that don’t recover, said co-author Kathryn Lord, who studies animal behavior with Karlsson.
Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may show a greater tendency to howl. But many of these dogs don’t, as survey of owners and genetic data have shown.
The researchers found no genetic basis for the aggressive behaviors or any links to specific breeds.
“The correlation between dog behavior and dog breed is much lower than expected,” said Jeff Kidd, a University of Michigan geneticist who was not involved in the research.