Genetic research confirms that your dog’s breed influences his personality, but so do you

For thousands of years steadfast friendship between humans and dogs, we have successfully created around 350 different breeds. We’ve relied on terriers for hunting, sheepdogs for herding, and everything for companionship, but how much are dog personalities defined by their breed? In a new article, researchers from the United States analyzed the genetic codes of more than 4,000 different dogs and surveyed 46,000 pet owners. They identified many genes associated with behaviors typical of certain breeds, such as terriers’ tendency to catch and kill prey.

Their findings ultimately suggest that breed type explains many aspects of a dog’s unique personality.

But dog owners also play a very important role in training their dogs. dog personality – for example, if they are playful, tolerant of others, seeking attention or barking quickly. So let’s take a closer look at how you can raise a good canine citizen.

What the investigation found

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Dog breeds they are a fascinating window into selective breeding, and some behavior patterns we see in different breed groups, for example herding and retrieving, are hard to explain. The new US document gives us clues as to how some of those patterns may have arisen.

The researchers analyzed DNA samples from more than 200 dog breeds. Based on the DNA data, they were able to narrow them down to 10 major genetic lineages, including terriers, shepherds, retrievers, sighthounds, bloodhounds, and pointers/spaniels.

Each lineage corresponds to a category of breeds historically used for tasks, such as hunting by scent versus sight, or herding versus guarding livestock.

This means that breeds that are not closely related, but are bred for the same purpose, may share common gene sets. This has been very difficult to show in the past.

For example, the paper identifies herding breeds, such as Kelpies or border collies, that are characterized by high “nonsocial fear,” which is fear of environmental stimuli such as loud noises, wind, or vehicles. Terriers, like Jack Russells, are characterized by a high predatory chase. And the hounds, like the Beagles, due to their low training capacity.

These align with what these dogs were bred for: herding breeds for their high environmental awareness and sensitivity, terriers for pursuing and killing prey, and bloodhounds for their independent focus on non-visual (scent) cues.

Researchers take a closer look at herders, due to their easily identifiable and often innate herding behavior.

Interestingly, the gene found to be common among herding dogs, called EPHA5, has also been associated with anxiety-like behaviors in other mammals, as well as with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) inhumans. The research team says this could explain the breed’s high energy and tendency to hyper-focus on tasks.

What dog owners need to know

The fact that dog behavior varies with breed has been generally accepted among researchers for some time, to varying degrees. But it’s important not to discount how a dog’s upbringing can also shape his personality.

In fact, a different genetic study earlier this year suggested that while a dog’s lineage influences behavior, it’s probably not the most important.

Those researchers emphasize that dog behavior is influenced by many different genes that existed in dogs before breeds were developed, and these genes are present in all breeds. They argue that modern breeds are distinguished primarily by their appearance, and that their behavior is likely influenced more by environmental factors, such as breeding and learning history, than by genetics.

So what does that mean for dog owners? Well, although a dog’s behavior is influenced by its breed, there is a lot we can do to make a good canine companion.

This job is particularly important during the first one to two years of a dog’s life, beginning with early socialization as puppies.

They should be exposed to all the stimuli we want them to accept when they grow up, such as children, vehicles, other animals, walks, weekend sports, travel, and grooming.

Then we must continue to train and guide the dogs to behave in ways that keep them and others safe as they grow. Just as human children and adolescents need guidance to learn to make good decisions and get along with others, our dogs need the same guidance from adolescence to adulthood (usually around age two).

While breed alone may not be a good predictor of any particular dog’s behavior, it’s certainly sensible to pay attention to the breeds they were originally bred for. The new study backs up that sentiment. Those behavior patterns that helped dogs do their original job for humans are probably still going strong in the population.

That means if you already have backyard chickens or pocket pets like rabbits, think carefully before adopting a terrier and plan what you will do if the terrier wants to hunt your small animals.

If you live in the city or in an apartment block where the environment is constantly busy, this is likely to be quite a challenge for a herding breed. And if you want a dog that’s very responsive to you, bloodhounds probably aren’t much of a bet.

Selecting a dog that fits your lifestyle is a game of odds. It is perfectly possible to find a very receptive and trainable hound, or a terrier that can live in peace, for example, with pet rats.

But if that’s something you specifically need from a dog, bet on starting with a breed developed for that lifestyle. Then put a lot of time and effort into socialization and training.

Dogs are mostly what we make of them, and they reward ten times the effort we put into their behavior.

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