Tech UPTechnologyThe personality of each breed of dog could be...

The personality of each breed of dog could be written in the genes

If you have decided to have a dog, surely before buying -or better, adopting- your new pet, you will have to decide which breed you prefer based on your way of life and your own personality. There are dogs with a more aggressive or dominant character, others are meek and cheerful, some need a lot of space to run and play, others are calmer …

This strong variation in the personality of different dog breeds provides a unique opportunity to investigate the evolution and biological bases of complex behavioral traits. A study published in bioRxiv shows how these characteristics have a strong genetic behavior. Furthermore, the findings may also shed light on the origin of human behavior. Although it is the most complete study carried out to date, it is necessary to clarify that bioRxiv is a pre-printing service for works that have not yet been published in scientific journals that follow a peer review process, which means that other experts in the matter they still have to contribute their comments to guarantee the rigor of the work.

The researchers, who are part of a multidisciplinary team from several American universities, took advantage of the Canine Behavior Research and Evaluation Questionnaire, a large database that has been operating since 2003 and that collects the results of a survey conducted on more than 50,000 dog owners. Through it, fourteen dog personality traits are evaluated, analyzed from questions such as “What does your dog do when a stranger knocks at the door?”


Analysis of 101 dog breeds

This work took advantage of behavioral data from more than 17,000 dogs belonging to 101 different breeds, and the scientists found that personality differences between breeds are highly inherited. This means that breed grouping based on behavior very accurately recapitulates the genetic relationships between races.

The team identified 131 areas of the dog’s DNA that are related to fourteen key personality traits. Together, these regions of the genome account for approximately 15% of a dog’s breed personality. According to this, the ease to assume a training, the persecutory character and the aggressiveness in front of strangers are the most inherited characteristics.

Furthermore, the locations of these DNA ‘hot spots’ make sense: some are in or near genes linked to aggression in humans , and the DNA associated with the dog’s trainability is found in genes that in humans are associated with intelligence and information processing.

Although the findings suggest that behavior could be defined by the same genes in different species, these results need to be viewed with caution. The same authors warn of the limitations of the study : “the genotypic and phenotypic data were not taken from the same individuals, but from independent data aggregates”, they affirm. This implies that breed-specific behavioral tendencies cannot be linked to any particular gene. Future research using genotypic and phenotypic data from the same individuals and including race-specific personality traits will undoubtedly shed much more light on this exciting topic about which there is still much to discover.

Reference: McLean et al. Highly Heritable and Functionally Relevant Breed Differences in Dog Behavior. 2019 bioRxiv

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