WASHINGTON (AP) — Research confirms what dog lovers know — every puppy is truly an individual.
According to a new study, many popular stereotypes about the behavior of golden retrievers, poodles or schnauzers, for example, are not supported by science.
“There is an enormous amount of behavioral variation in every breed, and at the end of the day, every dog is truly an individual,” said study co-author and geneticist Elinor Karlsson from the University of Massachusetts.
She said pet owners like to talk about their dog’s personality, as demonstrated by some owners at a New York dog park.
Elizabeth Kelly said her English Springer Spaniel was “friendly, but she’s also kind of a queen bee”. Suly Ortiz described his yellow lab as “really quiet, lazy and shy”.
And Rachel Kim’s mixed-breed dog is “a lot of different dogs, personality-wise – super independent, really affectionate with me and my husband, but pretty, quite wary of other people, other dogs.”
That kind of enthusiasm from pet owners inspired Karlsson’s latest scientific investigation. She wanted to know to what extent behavioral patterns are inherited – and to what extent are dog breeds associated with distinctive and predictable behaviors?
The answer: Although physical traits like the long legs of a greyhound or the spots of a Dalmatian are clearly inherited, breed is not a reliable indicator of a dog’s personality.
The researchers’ work, published Thursday in the journal Science, brings together a massive dataset to reach these conclusions – the most compiled ever, said Adam Boyko, a geneticist at Cornell University, who was not involved in the study. study.
The dog became mankind’s best friend more than 14,000 years ago, as the only domesticated animal before the advent of agriculture.
But the concept of dog breeds is much newer. About 160 years ago, people began selectively breeding dogs to have certain consistent physical traits, like coat texture and color and ear shape.
The researchers interviewed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns.
They found that certain behaviors – such as yelling, pointing and showing kindness to human strangers – have at least a genetic basis. But this heritage is not strictly transmitted according to the races.
For example, they’ve found golden retrievers that don’t recover, said co-author Kathryn Lord, who studies animal behavior with Karlsson.
Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may show a greater tendency to howl. But many of these dogs don’t, as both owner survey and genetic data have shown.
The researchers could find no genetic basis for the aggressive behaviors or a link to specific breeds.
“The correlation between dog behavior and dog breed is much lower than expected,” said University of Michigan geneticist Jeff Kidd, who had no role in the research.
AP reporter Emma H. Tobin in New York contributed to this report.
Follow Christina Larson on Twitter: @larsonchristina
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.