A dog’s breed doesn’t determine much about its behavior

Elinor Karlsson has never had a dog. But ever since she was a graduate student, she’s been studying canine genetics. (They’re good models for studying genetic diseases in humans.) Some of that work involved collecting genetic and behavioral data from thousands of dogs. And all that data meant the research team was able to ask a question Karlsson had been wondering for years: Does the dog breed really say anything about how that dog behaves?

“Everyone assumed the breed was predictive of dog behavior,” said Karlsson, now the… director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard, during a news conference. “And that was never really well asked. And we could really do that.”

The answer they found goes against the stereotypes many people have about their dogs. dog breed not actually predict behavior, at least not in a significant way, according to a new paper published in the magazine on Thursday Science† The research found some genes linked to traits such as human sociability and crying frequency. But overall, only about 9 percent of dog behavior was explained by breed.

“Dogs are individuals,” said Marjie Alonso, study author and executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. “What a dog looks like isn’t really going to tell you how the dog is behaving.”

The study analyzed survey responses from nearly 20,000 dog owners about their dog’s behavior — asking about things like how they interacted with people, how easy they were to train, how they played with toys, and the times they behaved aggressively or withdrew from conflict. . It has also sequenced the DNA of more than 2,000 dogs. About half of the dogs were mutts, which made it possible to tell breeds and behaviors apart. If certain behaviors were genetically linked to certain breeds, mutts with more ancestors of a breed would have to share the behavioral traits of that breed. “Once we have the mixed-breed dogs in our study, we can try to dissect what is and isn’t related to breed in a way that we can’t in purebred dogs,” Karlsson said.

The study did find that some behaviors, such as crying, had stronger ties to different races. For example, beagles and bloodhounds were more likely to howl than other dogs. How receptive dogs are to clues also had some genetic links. Border collies were generally more responsive, and mixed-breed dogs of border collie descent were more likely to have that trait as well.

But other behaviors, such as how easily a dog is scared, had almost no connection with breeding, despite stereotypes surrounding some types of dogs being more or less easily startled than others. A dog’s size also had very little ability to predict how a dog would behave. Big dogs weren’t calmer than small dogs, as people sometimes assume.

In general, breed was not a good way to find out how a dog will behave, the study found. “What we found didn’t necessarily match people’s perceptions of dogs and the stereotypes people have of dogs,” Karlsson said. “People are very good at finding patterns. And I think they find patterns, even if there aren’t any.”

The findings follow with a common experience that many dog ​​owners have, Alonso said. Often people get new dogs that are the same breed as an older dog. Then they are frustrated when the new dog doesn’t do the same as the first.

“They get the same breed because they wanted the same dog,” Alonso said. “I don’t think we really need to decide that breeds are the things that will tell us whether or not we will be happy with a dog, or if a dog will be happy with us.”

SOURCE – www.theverge.com

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