The study confirms that a dog’s breed does not predict its behavior

In their work, researchers Elinor Karlsson and Kathleen Yates of the MIT Broad Institute (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) used genome-wide association studies to look for common genetic variations that could predict individual behavioral traits in 2155 purebred and mixed-breed dogs.

They then combined this information with the 18,385 responses listed in an open database (Darwin’s Ark) engaged in canine behavior reported by its owners.

The results of these analyzes, which included data from 78 races, identified 11 variations in DNA sequences strongly associated with behaviors, but none were race-specific.

Our results invalidate the hypothesis that some races are more aggressive, more obedient, or more affectionate than others.the authors of this work point out in a press release, details of which are published in the journal Science (New window) (in English). Link-study

This research confirms the conclusions of a meta-analysis published in 2015 (New window) bringing together four decades of studies devoted to the heritability of behavioral traits of dog breeds.

All studies on the subject say the same thing. This is the most complete and complex on the subject to date.says Dr. David Silversides, a professor at the University of Montreal’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

The results of the study show that the breed accounts for only 9% of the variation in behavior between individual dogs. For some behavioral traits and some survey questions, the age or sex of the dog are better predictors of behavior.

This work has also shown that the behavioral characteristics attributed to modern breeds are influenced by various genes, as well as by the environment, and are found, to varying degrees, in all races.

Reference points

  • The genetic inheritance of the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) was completely deciphered in 2005.
  • It has made it possible to establish genetic similarities with humans, but also particular differences between the different breeds of dogs.
  • Dogs have about 19,300 genes.

From wolf to dog

A study published in NaturaComunicaciones (New window) (in English) in 2017 showed that the domestication of the dog would have taken place between 20,000 and 40,000 years before our era from the same population of domesticated wolves.

Initially, dogs were probably selected for very specific functions such as hunting or grazing livestock.

Most of the behaviors we consider characteristic of certain modern dog breeds are probably the result of thousands of years of evolution, from wolves to wild dogs, then to domesticated dogs, and finally to modern breeds.points out Elinor Karlsson.

Races shaped by humans

Today’s purebreds only appeared in the 1800s as a result of genetic manipulation whose goal was to fulfill a physical ideal and maintain the purity of the lineage.

Today’s breeds are assigned temperaments and behaviors based on the estimated function of their ancestral population. By extension, the ancestry of a dog’s breed is supposed to predict his temperament and behavior.the authors argue.

This popular assumption has led some municipalities to pass laws banning certain breeds after high-profile incidents with aggressive dogs.

Dr. Silversides believes that these bans are often lost because they are not based on science. We are always looking for simple solutionshe says. We are not saying that genetics is not involved, but with current techniques [pour les phénotypes complexes comme les comportements]a region of the genome responsible for a behavior cannot be clearly identifiedexplains Professor Silversides.

A quick test [comme pour la COVID] would be the solution! But there are no quick tests to assess the genetics of dogs. »

A quote from David Silversides

In contrast, the environmental and social factors that contribute to the good (and bad) behavior of dogs are well known. For example, the dog’s lack of socialization can lead to problems in the presence of other animals or strangers. It can be stressful, anxious, but also aggressive.

Therefore, it is necessary to perform an individual assessment of a dog’s behavior to see if it has problematic behaviors. And owners also need to be educated, because bad behavior is not race-related.says Dr. Silversides.

The College of Veterinarians of Quebec also offers training to its members to improve their knowledge in their assessment of the canine danger that is increasingly demanded by municipalities and which must be performed by a veterinarian.

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