To what extent does a dog’s breed determine its behavior?

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Poodles, German Shepherds, and French Bulldogs were among the most popular dog breeds of 2021, according to the American Kennel Club. People pay thousands of dollars for these precious puppies to get a perfectly behaved dog. New research published in the journal “Science” has found that breeds do not determine a dog’s behavior or personality. LA Times reporter Corinne Purtill spoke to Lisa McRee about the study.

“Researchers led by a team from UMass (Chan) and Harvard Medical School had an open source project called Darwin’s Ark, where they asked dog owners to submit information about their dog. They collected fairly detailed breed and behavior information from 18,000 dogs. They took 2,000 dogs from this study and looked at their DNA. From there, they were able to see real correlations between what the dogs’ genes show us and then what their owners report, their behavior,” Purtill said.

The results showed that breed is a poor predictor of a dog’s behavior.

“Genetics accounts for about 9% of the different ways dogs behave,” she said. “He is stronger with certain traits. Biddability is how a dog takes command, and it seems to be slightly more tied to a dog’s specific breed. …Things like age or gender are much better predictors of how that dog is going to act.”

Until about 200 years ago, people classified dogs according to their work, such as hunting and guarding. The behaviors associated with the tasks the dog excels at are more related to its breed. Purtill explained that researchers have found that some dogs’ aggressiveness has more to do with their environment than anything else.

“The main thing the researchers tried to get across with this study is that there are no friendly golden retrievers, or bright poodles, or any of those things that we love about our dogs. It’s just that there’s no guarantee that the dog you bring home is going to exhibit these behaviors just because they come from a breed that we like to associate with these things,” Purtill said.

The American Kennel Club disagreed with the researchers’ findings.

“Basically, they’re saying that the American Kennel Club believes these traditional behaviors by which dogs were once grouped are actually more important than they believe the study authors attribute to them and play a greater role in the way modern descendants of these dogs behave now,” Purtill explained.

Click the arrow above to watch the full interview.

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