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Your dog’s personality may have little to do with her breed Science


Christina Larsson – AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Research confirms what dog lovers know – each puppy is truly individual.

Many of the popular stereotypes about the behavior of golden retrievers, poodles or schnauzers, for example, are not confirmed by science, according to a new study.

“There’s a huge amount of behavior variation in each breed, and after all, each dog is truly an individual,” said study co-author and geneticist at the University of Massachusetts Eleanor Carlson.

She said pet owners love to talk about the identity of their dog, as illustrated by some dog owners in New York City.

Elizabeth Kelly said her English Springer Spaniel was “friendly, but she is also a bee queen”. Sully Ortiz described her yellow lab as “really calm, lazy and shy”.

And Rachel Kim’s mixed breed dog is “a lot of different dogs, super-independent in person, really kind to me and my husband, but quite, quite suspicious of other people, other dogs.”

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Such enthusiasm of pet owners inspired Carlson to the latest scientific investigation. She wanted to know to what extent behavioral patterns are inherited – and to what extent dog breeds are associated with distinctive and predictable behavior?

Answer: While physical traits, such as long hound paws or Dalmatian spots, are clearly inherited, the breed is not a strong predictor of the character of any individual dog.

The researchers’ work was published Thursday in the journal ScienceA massive set of data has been collected to draw these conclusions, the most ever collected, said Adam Boyko, a geneticist at Cornell University who was not involved in the study.

Dogs became the best friend of mankind more than 14,000 years ago as the only animal domesticated before the advent of agriculture.

But the concept of dog breeds appeared much later. About 160 years ago, humans began selectively breeding dogs to have certain enduring physical traits such as coat texture, color, and ear shape.

The researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2,150 of their dogs to find patterns.

They found that some behaviors – such as howling, pointing fingers and showing friendliness to strangers – have at least some genetic basis. But this legacy is not passed down strictly along the lines of the breed.

For example, they found golden retrievers that do not extract, said co-author Catherine Lord, who studies animal behavior with Carlson.

Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may be more prone to howling. But many of these dogs do not, as shown by both a survey of owners and genetic data.

Researchers have been unable to find either a genetic basis for aggressive behavior or a link to certain breeds.

“The correlation between dog behavior and dog breed is much lower than expected,” said Jeff Kidd, a geneticist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study.

AP reporter Emma H. ​​Tobin of New York contributed to this report.

Follow Christina Larson on Twitter: @larsonchristina

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