A new genetic study that looked at more than 2,000 dogs found that dog breed alone is not a good predictor of dog behavior.
The research was conducted by professors, students and researchers at the Chan School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts and is expected to be published in the scientific journal Science.
The results of the study contradict common beliefs that determine how aggressive, obedient or affectionate pets are. According to research, these stereotypes lead to breed-specific legislation such as restrictions and bans on the movement of certain dogs, such as pit bulls and German shepherds.
Poodles during inter-breed competition – Photo: John Minchillo / AP
The study’s authors, including Kathleen Morrell, wrote that despite accepted assumptions, genetic research showing this link between race and behavior is lacking.
To unravel all this, the experts used genome-wide association to search for common genetic variations that can predict specific behavioral traits in 2,155 purebred and hybrid dogs.
They combined this data with 18,385 surveys of pet owners from a database called Darwin’s Ark, with information on characteristics and behaviors reported by these owners.
In all, data from 78 strains were included. The researchers identified 11 loci on chromosomes with genes strongly related to behavior. However, none of them were race-specific.
According to the researchers, among the strongest behaviors predicted by genetics are dogs’ ability to achieve, and how well they respond to human directions.
Also according to the results presented by the study, the breed explains only 9% of the behavioral variance in dogs, with age and gender being the best behavioral indicators.
Researchers explain that modern subspecies appeared about 200 years ago. According to them, in the past, they were identified by their functional roles, such as hunting, guarding or herding. It was only in the nineteenth century that humans began to select them according to physical and aesthetic characteristics.
“Most of the behaviors we consider to be characteristic of certain modern dog breeds probably originated from thousands of years of evolution, from the wild wolf to domestic dogs, and eventually to modern breeds,” says Eleanor Carlson, one of the recent breeds and authors of the study. “These genetic traits predate our concept of modern dog breeds.”
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