A new study shows that a dog’s breed does not determine its behavior

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, new scientific knowledge suggests you shouldn’t judge a dog by its breed.

Released on April 29, 2022, a new study led by Kathleen Morrill indicates that breed has much less to do with dog behavior than previously thought. Their article appeared in Science and gained national attention for his startling findings.

Morrill’s study surveyed owners of “18,385 purebred and mixed-breed dogs” to track the correlation of behavioral traits with breed. They found that only “9% of behavioral variation” in dogs can be explained by breed. Half of the dogs interviewed were mixed-breed dogs.

These results seem to indicate that the previously assumed link between individual dog behavior and ancestral function – what the breed may have been used for historically – is weak. Instead, Morrill suggests that the races are “distinguished primarily by aesthetic traits.”

To support their findings, Morill opens his article by saying that “modern dog breeds are less than 160 years old, a nod in evolutionary history to the origin of dogs more than 100 years ago. 10,000 years”. In short, Morill argues that their findings better support the hypothesis that dog breeds share more commonalities when it comes to behavioral traits than differences; their common ancestry is too ancient to be significantly influenced by modern breeding.

According to Morill’s data, a dog’s behavior is more likely to be explained by its history, development, and the immediate genetics of its parents.

Morill’s main conclusion about dog behavior and breed is that “mutts” or mixed-breed dogs are no more likely to have behavioral problems than purebred dogs. The same goes for breeds with a bad reputation when it comes to temperament and behavior.

A press release from Best Friends Animal Society, a local Utah advocate for no-kill shelters, says these findings can help people see that “all dogs are individuals.” They hope this will increase adoption rates for “large breed dogs” and mixed breed dogs.

The Best Friends Animal Society is well known for the “Vicktory Dogs”, Michael Vick’s fighting dogs who have been mostly reinstituted into loving homes. “Vicktory dogs are a great example of how we should never judge a dog by its appearance,” says Julie Castle, CEO of BFAS.

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