Dog breed isn’t really a predictor of behavior, study finds

A new genetic study of more than 2,000 dogs and 200,000 survey responses from dog owners has found that a dog’s breed is a poor predictor of behavior per se.

The first-of-its-kind peer-reviewed study, conducted by faculty, students and researchers at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, is set to appear this month in the journal Science.

The key findings challenge popular beliefs that breed plays a role in how aggressive, obedient or affectionate a dog is. These stereotypes can result in breed-specific legislation, insurance restrictions, and domiciliary bans for certain dog breeds, including Pit Bulls and German Shepherds.

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“Despite these widely held assumptions, there is a distinct lack of genetic research illustrating a link between race and behavior,” the study authors write.

The study authors used genome-wide association studies to search for common genetic variations that could predict specific behavioral traits in 2,155 purebred and mixed breed dogs. They combined this data with 18,385 surveys of pet owners from Darwin’s Ark, an open-source database of owner-reported canine traits and behaviors.

The results of these tests, which included data from 78 breeds, identified 11 genetic loci strongly associated with behavior. Yet none of these were breed-specific. According to the results, breed explained only 9% of behavioral variation in individual dogs, while dog age or sex were the strongest predictors of behavior.

“The majority of behaviors that we consider to be characteristics of specific modern dog breeds are most likely the result of thousands of years of evolution from wolves, to wild dogs, to domestic dogs, and finally to modern breeds,” he said. said author Elinor Karlsson in a statement. “These inherited traits predate our concept of modern dog breeds by thousands of years.”