Contrary to popular belief, your dog’s behavior does not depend on its breed. This is shown by a large study published in Science. The famous American magazine has even decided to make the cover of its edition dated April 29, illustrated by a gallery of portraits of doggies.
“Kathleen’s work Morrill and his team show that almost none of the behaviors commonly associated with a dog breed – from affectionate Labradors to aggressive pit bulls – are truly innate.” reports Science in an article intended for the general public. On average, only 9% of personality differences between two dogs can be linked to their breed, according to this study. “Except for a few very old traits, environment seems to play a much bigger role than pedigree,” says the scientific journal.
For Elaine Ostrander, canine genetics specialist at the American Institute for Human Genome Research, who was not involved in the work, “vsis a major breakthrough in our way of thinking about dog behavior”. She insists :
“No race has its own unique behavior. ”
The study relates to the comparison of the results of surveys carried out among the owners of 18,385 dogs (49% of pure lineage) and genetic data – including fully sequenced genomes – of 2,155 of them, collected as part of of the Darwin’s Ark project. A total of 128 pure or mixed breeds are represented.
DNA governs appearance
When it comes to the appearance of these animals, genes rule. The team found that at least 80% of their physical traits can be traced back to DNA. But behavior is another story. Most of these, like being playful or even circling before defecating, could not be explained by genetics.
However, some behaviors seem more “heritable” than others. This is the case of sociability with humans or the ability to retrieve objects. Characteristics that could have been selected by our ancestors at the beginning of the domestication of dogs.
However, the conclusions of this study are not unanimous. After decades of dating countless breeds, the American Kennel Club’s (the largest canine federation in the United States) chief veterinarian, Jerry Klein, takes issue with them. According to him, most dogs conform to their breed’s personality standard. He adds :
“Older breeds like Tibetan mastiffs and basenjis – poorly represented in this study – might have more distinct personalities because they have been around longer.”
In its article, the team specifies that it has found eleven new regions of the genome significantly associated with behavior, such as the frequency of howling or sociability with humans. “In humans, these same regions are related to language and long-term memory, respectively,” precise Science. This leads researchers to say that “behavioral traits in dogs are a potentially powerful natural model for human neuropsychiatric diseases”.
Finally, complete Science by way of presentation of the choice of its coverage:
“Studying the full diversity of dogs is the best way to understand the interactions between genetics, ancestry, and complex traits such as behavior.”