The diversity of dogs does not predict their behavior, according to a large genetic study

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Recent analyzes have shown that the appearance of genetic factors in the origin of various dog behavioral traits has preceded modern breeds for thousands of years.

A revealing analysis

While the distinction between dogs and wolves dates back to about 15,000 years, it was not until the 19th century that people began to choose their mates based on certain physical and aesthetic characteristics that we associate with modern descendants. These traits are still considered reliable indicators of a dog’s manners and behavior, with some distinctions viewed as quick to train, affectionate, or very active, for example.

For this study published in the journal Scienceresearchers from MIT and in Harvard seeks to fill their perceived gap in our understanding of this relationship, pointing to the lack of genetic studies linking traits to ancestry. To do this, they analyzed the genomic sequence of more than 2,000 dogs and matched data from 200,000 responses to owner surveys about the behavior and physical characteristics of their pet, comprising 78 different breeds.

This analysis reveals that behavioral characteristics are influenced by a combination of environmental factors and dog genetics, but modern breed classification plays little role. The team identified 11 unique regions of the canine genome that are strongly related to trait, and found that none of these are specifically associated with any particular modern breed. According to the researchers, the contribution of a difference in a dog’s behavior is even small (about 9%).

“While genetics plays a role in every dog’s personality, the specific breed of the dog is not a good predictor of these traits. “, emphasized Elinor Karlsson, lead author of the study. ” A dog’s personality and behavior are shaped by many genes as well as their life experiences. Such traits are hardly selective by breeding. »

The result of thousands of years of evolution

Other traits are more strongly associated with factors other than race. Age is a better indicator of the likelihood that a dog will play with its toys, and sex than the likelihood that it will raise its foot to bark. Scientists have also not found behaviors that are exclusive to any species. Even though Labradors have the least tendency to scratch, 8% of owners still report this behavior.

Most of the behaviors we consider to be characteristics of some modern dog breeds are likely the result of thousands of years of evolution, from wolves to wild dogs, then domesticated dogs, and finally of modern races. “, appreciated Karlsson. ” These inherited traits have dominated our concept of modern dog breeds for thousands of years. Each breed inherits the genetic variation carried by older dogs, even if not always at the same frequencies. Today, these differences are reflected in personality and behavioral differences observed in a certain proportion of representatives of the same race.. »

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“In most cases, purebreds are very different from other dogs”

The study also suggested that there are some differences in certain behaviors between mixed-breed and purebred dogs. If the ability to obey, that is, the way they react to human commands, is more likely to have something to do with race, whether it’s about sociality in the end or the possibility that they are afraid, race is almost irrelevant.

In most cases, purebreds are very different from other dogs “, Explanation Karlsson. ” Although friendliness is the trait we often associate with golden retrievers, we have found that the distinguishing elements of these dogs are their physical characteristics, the shape of their ears, the color and quality of their clothing. , their size and not making them friendly. A Golden Retriever is less likely to be friendly than a mixed breed dog or other purebred dog, such as a Dachshund.. »

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