Many behavioral traits can be well inherited. But race does not partially prevent most behaviors, or even not at all for certain character traits, such as affection or the propensity to get angry.
“Genetics plays a role in the personality of any individual dog, but the breed does not predict these traits efficiently,” said Elinor Karlsson, one of the authors of the study, which involved more than 2,000 dogs and plus 200,000 responses from homeowners.
“What we have shown is the criteria that define a golden retriever are its physical characteristics: the shape of its ears, the color and quality of its coat, its size.” But not if he is affectionate, ”she added. Such stereotypes are sometimes found in the law to ban pit bulls in the United Kingdom and many American cities.
“No effect” on aggression
The researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,155 purebred or crossbred dogs, in order to find common genetic variations that could allow them to predict their behavior. These results are combined with answers to questions from 18,385 dog owners.
The site used is called Darwin’s Ark, and is a database for free access, gathering information provided by owners on their animal behavior. The researchers considered in their analysis the stereotypes that possibly affect the responses. Fixed definitions have been established for certain behaviors, such as fatigue, sociability, or interest in players. Physical characteristics were studied.
Scientists eventually found 11 places in the genome associated with behavioral differences, including obedience, the ability to report an object, or howling. In these cases, the breed played a role: beagles and limes tend to howl more, border collies are obedient, much more so than shibas inus.
But the study nevertheless showed that there were exceptions every time. Thus, even though labradors were the least prone to howling, 8% of them still did. And while 90% of greyhounds do not bury their toy, 3% do so frequently. In addition, looking at the answers to several questions about the possible aggressive reactions of dogs, “we saw no effect on the breed,” said Elinor Karlsson.
In total, race accounted for only 9% of behavioral variations. Age made it possible to better predict certain traits, such as having fun with a toy. Physical traits could be five times better predicted by race than behavior.
Sociability is very hereditary
Before the 1800s, dogs were first selected for their hunting roles, to keep the house or herds. More than the concept of “modern canine breed, emphasizing physical ideas and purity of lineage, is a Victorian invention,” the study points out. Dogs within a breed may have different behaviors, some having inherited genetic variation from their ancestors, and some not.
Interesting fact: sociability towards humans is very hereditary in dogs, although not dependent on the breed. Researchers have located a place in the DNA that could explain 4% of the differences in sociability between individuals. And this place corresponds to the one in the human genome responsible for the formation of long memory. “Understanding human sociability in dogs helps to understand how the brain develops and learns,” Kathleen Morrill, lead author of the study, told a news conference.