Research confirms what dog lovers know — every pup is truly an individual. But, it is now confirmed that pup breed really does define a dog’s personality.
Many of the popular stereotypes about the behavior of Chihuahuas, poodles, or schnauzers, aren’t science-proof. This is according to a new study.
“There is a huge amount of behavioral variation in every dog’s personality, and at the end of the day, every dog really is an individual”. This was from the study co-author and University of Massachusetts geneticist, Elinor Karlsson.
She said pet owners love to talk about their dog’s personality, as illustrated by some owners at a New York dog park.
How Did the Dog’s Personality Quest Come to Be?
Elizabeth Kelly said her English springer spaniel was “friendly, but she’s also kind of the queen bee.” Suly Ortiz described her yellow Lab as “really calm, lazy and shy.”
And, Rachel Kim’s mixed-breed dog is “a lot of different dogs, personality-wise. He’s super independent and really affectionate with me and my husband. But, he’s also pretty suspicious of other people, other dogs.”
That kind of enthusiasm from pet owners inspired Karlsson’s latest scientific inquiry. She wanted to know to what extent they inherited behavioral patterns. And, how much are dog breeds associated with distinctive and predictable behaviors?
The answer: While physical traits such as a greyhound’s long legs or a Dalmatian’s spots are clearly inherited, the breed is not a strong predictor of any individual dog’s personality.
The researchers’ work marshals a massive dataset to reach these conclusions.
But, the concept of dog breeds is much more recent. Around 160 years ago, people began to selectively breed dogs to have certain consistent physical traits. This included things like coat texture and color and ear shape.
It Doesn’t Stop There
The researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns.
They found that some behaviors — such as howling, pointing, and showing friendliness to human strangers —do have at least some genetic basis.
For example, they found golden retrievers that don’t retrieve.
Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may show a greater tendency to howl. But, many of these dogs don’t! Both the owner survey and genetic data showed.
The researchers could find no genetic basis for aggressive behaviors nor a link to specific breeds.
“The correlation between a dog’s personality and breed is much lower than most expected,” said Jeff Kidd, a geneticist at the University of Michigan, who had no role in the research.