Bdog breeders and owners often talk about behaviors and personalities supposedly specific to different dog breeds. But these popular stereotypes are actually poor predictors of whether a puppy is friendly, aloof or easy to train, according to a new study published yesterday (April 28) in Science.
“There is an enormous amount of behavioral variation in every breed, and at the end of the day, every dog is really an individual,” Elinor Karlsson, study co-author and geneticist from the University of Massachusetts, told the Associated Press.
Karlsson tells the AP that pet owners’ enthusiasm for talking about their pet’s personality inspired his latest research on dog behavior. She was curious to know how much behavioral patterns are inherited and how much a dog’s breed is associated with distinctive and predictable behaviors.
The researchers compiled a massive dataset of physical and behavioral descriptions provided by more than 18,000 dog owners, then sequenced the genomes of 2,155 of their dogs to determine if a dog’s genetics influenced their behavioral patterns. To the researchers’ surprise, they found that breed only accounted for 9% of the variation in a dog’s behavior. Also, no behavior was restricted to a single race, reports The New York Times. The research confirms what dog owners have observed for themselves: On average, dog breeds differ in their behavior, but there’s a lot of variation within breeds, said Adam Boyko, a canine geneticist at the ‘Cornell University which did not participate in the study. Scientific News.
That’s not to say that race can’t predict certain things, Karlsson tells the Time. The study suggests that certain breeds are more likely to exhibit certain behaviors. For example, border collies are more likely to be interested in toys and are likely to be easier to train than other breeds. But it’s not without exceptions – within races, individual behaviors vary widely. Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, show a greater tendency to howl, but most members of both breeds do not. Study co-author Kathryn Lord, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts, told the AP they’ve even found golden retrievers that don’t recover. The researchers also noted that they were unable to link aggressive behavior to any particular breed or specific genetic signature.
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When the researchers looked at the dogs in their study, they found that certain traits, including behavioral traits, such as sociability, are strongly inherited, even though they are not breed-specific. Researchers say Time that this likely means that many canine behaviors predate modern breeding, which dates back to the 19th century, before breeding focused primarily on physical characteristics. The researchers suggest that owners may want to look beyond breed when choosing their next pet.