A Dog’s Breed Doesn’t Predict Traits, Study Findings


After studying the DNA of dog breeds, researchers believe that many behavioral traits may be inherited, but the breed only partially predicts behavior.

Everyone knows Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are aggressive and Labrador is affectionate. Except no. These stereotypes associated with dog breeds are largely unfounded, according to a new study published in the prestigious journal Science at the end of April.

Many behavioral traits can be inherited. But breed only partially predicts most behaviors—or even none at all for certain traits, such as a tendency to irritability.

“Genetics plays a role in any dog’s personality, but breed does not predict these traits effectively”Explained Elinor Karlsson, one of the authors of this study, which included more than 200,000 responses from more than 2,000 dogs and owners.

“What we show is that the criteria that define a situation are Golden Retriever physical characteristics – the shape of his ears, the color and quality of his fur, its size. But not if he’s not kind”she loved it.

physical characteristics and behavior

The researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,155 pedigree or crossbred dogs to find common genetic variations that could help predict their behavior. They combined these results with answers to questions from 18,385 dog owners.

The site used is called Darwin’s Ark and represents a free access database that aggregates information from owners about the behavior of their animals.

The researchers took into account the stereotypes that likely influenced the answers in their analysis.

They established fixed definitions for certain behaviors, such as obedience, sociability, or interest in toys. Physical properties were also examined.

Obedience and the ability to retrieve an object

Scientists have finally found 11 sites in the genome associated with behavioral differences such as obedience, retrieving an object, or howling.

In these cases, the breed played a role: beagles and hounds tend to howl more, border collies are more obedient than shiba inus.

But the study still showed that there are exceptions every time. So even though Labradors were the least likely to howl, 8% still howled. And if 90% of greyhounds didn’t bury their toys, 3% did so often.

Also by observing the answers to various questions about the possible aggressive reactions of dogs, “We did not see the effect of race”Elinor Karlsson explained.

Physical traits are five times better predicted by race than behavior

Altogether, race explained only 9% of the behavioral differences. Age thus better predicted certain characteristics, such as having fun with a toy.

Physical traits are five times better predictable by race than behavior. Before the 1800s, dogs were bred primarily for their role in hunting, guarding homes or herds.

But the research points out that “the modern concept of dog breeds that emphasize physical ideals and purity of ancestry is a Victorian invention.”

Dogs within a breed have genetic variations, some inherited from their ancestors, while others may behave differently.

Sociability towards humans is very hereditary in dogs

Interesting fact: Sociability towards humans is very inherited in dogs, although it doesn’t depend on breed. Researchers found a spot in dog DNA that could explain 4% of differences in sociability between individuals. And this place corresponds to the place in the human genome that is responsible for the formation of long memory.

“Understanding sociability in dogs versus humans may help to understand how the brain develops and learns”Kathleen Morrill, lead author of the study, said at a press conference.

According to him, the next step would be to look at behavioral disorders in dogs and their possible links to humans. “You can’t ask a dog what their problems, thoughts, concerns are, but they have been known to live rich emotional lives and suffer from disturbances that show up in their behavior.”explained to the researcher.

Understanding the links between race and behavior may therefore help identify which genes are responsible for certain psychiatric disorders in humans, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.


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