never judge a book by its cover. Do not judge a dog by its breed.
A group of researchers reported after conducting owner-opinion surveys of 18,385 dogs and sequencing the genomes of 2,155 dogs. Variety of findings in Science Thursday, including predicting certain dog behaviors, breeding is basically useless and, for most people, not very good. For example, one of the clearest findings in the large, multifaceted study is that breed has no appreciable effect on a dog’s reactions to something it finds new or strange.
This behavior is related to what non-scientists might call aggression and appears to cast doubt on breed stereotypes of aggressive dogs, such as bulls. The only thing bulls score in high points is socializing with humans, which has come as no surprise to anyone who has seen videos online of loving pit bulls. On the other hand, the Labrador Retriever breed does not seem to have any significant relationship with human social contact.
This does not mean that there are no differences between breeds, or that the breed cannot predict some things. If you adopt a Border Collie, the likelihood that training and interest in toys will be easier will be higher than if you adopt the Greater Pyrenees,” said Elinor Carlson of the Broad Institute and University of Massachusetts Chan School of Medicine, an expert in canine genomics and author of the report.
But for any dog you don’t know—on average, breeding accounts for only about 9 percent of the differences in any given dog’s behavior. And the behavior was not restricted to any one breed, even howling, although the study found that the behavior was more closely related to breeds such as Siberian huskies than to other dogs.
However, in what may seem paradoxical at first, the researchers also found that patterns of behavior are strongly inherited. The behaviors they studied had a 25% heritability, which is a complex measure indicating the influence of genes, but it depends on the group of animals studied. But with enough dogs, heritability is a good measure of what is being inherited. When comparing the complete genomes, they found several genes that clearly influence behaviour, including genes for dogs’ friendliness.
What the study means is that dog behaviors are strongly inherited, but the genes that make up whether your dog is friendly, aggressive or aloof date back well before the 19th century when most modern breeds were created, such as those recognized by the American Kennel Club. . Since then breeding has been primarily for the sake of physical characteristics.
Catherine Lord, an evolutionary biologist also at the Broad Institute and University of Massachusetts Chan School of Medicine, and another author of the paper, said, “German shorthaired pointers were more likely to point or golden retrievers were more likely to retrieve Siberian or Siberian huskies howl.”
But beware the buyer or the adoptive dog. “I’ve known Labradors who howled, Papillons who pointed and Greyhounds who recovered as well as retrievers who didn’t,” said Dr. Lord.
The results probably won’t surprise people who work closely with dogs, such as Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Otto, who was not involved in the report, said the study “does make perfect sense to me. I think there are some big picture behavioral traits that are more common in some breeds than others, but individual variation is very high within the breed.”
For example, she said, breeders preferred frontier colleges that are easy to train, which may explain why they are so easy to train. But, she added, “certainly within border colleges – there is still significant individual variance.”
Research in the new study began about eight years ago, Dr. Carlson said, and the original goal was to compare the genomes of mutants with that of dogs of the breed in what is called a genome-wide association study, to look for regions of DNA or associated genes. certain behaviours.
The large number of mixed dogs in the study, or what the authors might call mutations, was a major strength, said Kathleen Morrell, an author of the research paper with the Broad Institute and Chan Medical School.
“Refugees were actually an ideal type of dog for exploring the links between breed and behaviour,” she said, because their DNA is so mixed up that it is easy to separate appearance from behaviour.
“This is one of the first research papers to actually do impressive work on canine genomics using mixed-breed dogs,” said Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Center for Canine Cognition at the University of Arizona, who was not involved in the study. These dogs have a diversity that makes genetic comparisons more robust, he said, but they were excluded from a lot of previous studies. “This paper just shows how valuable these populations can be,” he added.
The researchers found 11 specific regions of DNA associated with behaviour. This finding could help in the study of human genomes, although the researchers are only scratching the surface of the relationship between the genomes of both species. The area that affected the likelihood of a dog howling, for example, correlates in humans with the development of language. The region associated with enjoying being around humans is also in human DNA, where it is associated with long-term memory.
Contrary to most scientific research, any dog owner can help with this project.
The researchers got A wealth of information from Darwin’s ship, a project that Dr. Carlson and her colleagues created by asking owners of any breed or mutt to submit DNA swabs of their dogs and answer questionnaires. They are still looking for more dogs.
“Anyone from anywhere in the world can register,” Dr. Carlson said.