A dog’s breed doesn’t determine its behavior, researchers say

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Research confirms what dog lovers know: every puppy is an individual. Many popular stereotypes about the behavior of golden retrievers, poodles or schnauzers, for example, are not supported by science, according to a new study.

“There is an enormous amount of behavioral variation in every breed, and at the end of the day, every dog ​​is truly an individual,” said study co-author and geneticist Elinor Karlsson from the University of Massachusetts.

She said pet owners like to talk about their dog’s personality, as exemplified by some owners at a New York dog park.

Elizabeth Kelly said her English Springer Spaniel was “friendly, but she’s also kind of a queen bee”. Suly Ortiz described his yellow lab as “really quiet, lazy and shy”. And Rachel Kim’s mixed-breed dog is “a lot of different dogs, personality-wise – super independent, really affectionate with me and my husband, but pretty, quite wary of other people, other dogs.”

That kind of enthusiasm from pet owners inspired Karlsson’s latest scientific investigation. She wanted to know to what extent behavioral patterns are inherited and to what extent are dog breeds associated with distinctive and predictable behaviors?

The answer: Although physical traits like the long legs of a greyhound or the spots of a Dalmatian are inherited, breed is not a reliable indicator of a dog’s personality.

The researchers’ work was recently published in the journal Science. He compiled a massive dataset to reach these conclusions – the most compiled ever, said Adam Boyko. He is a geneticist at Cornell University and was not involved in the study.

The dog became man’s “best friend” more than 14,000 years ago, being the only animal domesticated before the start of breeding.

But the concept of dog breeds is much newer. About 160 years ago, people began to selectively breed dogs to have certain physical traits, such as coat texture and color and ear shape.

Researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the full gene set of about 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns.

They found that certain behaviors – such as yelling, pointing and showing kindness to human strangers – have at least a genetic basis. But they also found that inheritance is not strictly transmitted by race.

For example, they’ve encountered golden retrievers that don’t recover, said co-author Kathryn Lord, who studies animal behavior with Karlsson. The breed is easy to train, according to the American Kennel Club.

Certain breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may show a greater tendency to howl. But many of these dogs don’t, as survey of owners and genetic data have shown.

The researchers could find no genetic basis for the aggressive behaviors or a link to specific breeds.

In general, the study results were surprising, according to Jeff Kidd, a geneticist at the University of Michigan, who had no role in the research. “The correlation between dog behavior and dog breed is much weaker than expected.”

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