Christina Larson, Associated Press
Published Thursday, April 28, 2022 2:45 PM EDT
WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Research confirms what dog lovers know — every puppy is really an individual.
Many popular stereotypes about the behavior of golden retrievers, poodles or schnauzers, for example, are not supported by science, according to a new study.
“There is a huge amount of behavioral variation in every breed, and at the end of the day, every dog is really an individual,” said study co-author and University of Massachusetts geneticist Elinor Carlson.
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 that her English Springer Spaniel “was friendly, but she’s also like a queen bee.” Sully Ortiz describes her yellow Lab as “really quiet, lazy and shy.”
And Rachel Kim’s mixed breed dog “There are so many different dogs, personality-wise — super independent, really affectionate with me and my husband, but pretty, very suspicious of other people, other dogs.”
That kind of enthusiasm from pet owners inspired Carlson’s latest scientific investigation. She wanted to know to what extent behavioral patterns are inherited – and how closely are dog breeds associated with specific and predictable behaviour?
Answer: While physical traits such as the Greyhound’s long legs or Dalmatian’s spots are clearly inherited, breed is not a strong predictor of any dog’s personality.
The researchers’ work, published Thursday in the journal Science, marshals a vast dataset — the most compiled — to reach these conclusions, said Adam Boyko, a geneticist at Cornell University who was not involved in the study.
Dogs became humanity’s best friend 14,000 years ago, as domesticated animals were the only domesticated animal before the advent of agriculture.
But the concept of dog breeds is much more recent. About 160 years ago, people began selectively breeding dogs for certain consistent physical traits, such as coat texture and color, and ear shape.
Researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of nearly 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns.
They found that some behaviors – such as gestures, gestures and showing friendliness towards human strangers – have at least some genetic basis. But that legacy is not passed down strictly along breed lines.
For example, they found golden retrievers that do not retrieve, said co-author Katherine Lord, who studies animal behavior with Carlson.
Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may show a greater tendency to howl. But many of these dogs do not, as both owner surveys and genetic data have shown.
The researchers found no genetic basis for the aggressive behavior nor a link to specific breeds.
“The association between dog behavior and dog breed is much less than most expected,” said Jeff Kidd, a geneticist at the University of Michigan who had no role in the research.
Associated Press reporter Emma H. in New York. Tobin contributed to this report.