Forget what you know about dogs!

There are certain dog stereotypes that society accepts as true. For example, prejudices such as “Chihuahuas are nervous”, “Border collies are hyperactive”, “Golden retrievers are great with children” have become stereotypes over time. But a paper published by scientists examining the link between genetics and behavior in dogs suggests that our preconceptions may be wrong.

A study in the journal Science found that breeds weren’t that important in predicting dog personality and behavior. Scientists said this also applies to the traits most associated with a dog’s personality, such as friendliness, friendliness to strangers, and aggression.

According to the study, dog breed only affects 9% of dog behavior, and no trait is entirely unique to a dog breed. Researchers believe that most differences between dogs are due to individual experiences, training, and other environmental factors.

Professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan School of Medicine. “We believe that almost all traits are influenced by both genetics and environment,” said Elinor Karlsson.


In the study, both Labrador and Golden Retriever breeds scored high on “human sociability,” a measure of a dog’s openness to strangers. This finding fits with these breeds’ reputation for being friendly dogs.

But the study found that pit bulls, which are banned in some cities and considered aggressive, also score high on human sociability. “We knew what we found didn’t match people’s biases and they thought it was their experience with dogs,” Karlsson said.

The study found that the size of dogs, like their breed, had almost no effect on behavioral differences between dogs. “You’ll never have a Great Dane-sized Chihuahua and you’ll never have a Chihuahua-sized Great Dane,” Karlsson added, “But you can definitely have a Chihuahua that behaves like a Great Dane and you can also have a Great Dane with the same personality as a Chihuahua.”

The association of certain traits with certain breeds is largely tied to functional behaviors such as howling, pointing, fetching, grazing, and playing with toys. On average, Beagles and Bloodhounds are more likely to howl. German Shorthaired Pointers are also more likely to point at prey. Border Collies and German Shepherds have a better understanding of commands or easier training than other breeds. Golden Retrievers also scored higher than other breeds for returning a toy. Yet many Beagles rarely howl, and some Golden Retrievers refuse to bring their toys. The study found that a dog’s breed does not justify any particular behavior.


Traits such as howling and herding are classified as “motor patterns” in the study, and these behaviors were present in dogs long before the emergence of modern breeds. The first dogs in existence appeared over 2,000 years ago when wolves evolved and developed traits that helped them live alongside humans. Here, instead of hunting, they were able to survive by eating human food scraps.

Humans helped promote desirable traits by feeding and caring for early dogs. This, in turn, helped human-friendly dogs live longer and give birth to more babies. The study authors said removing biases about our dogs can help people make more informed choices when choosing pets, as well as influence breed-specific laws and policies that prevent people to own certain dogs.

*All of the information in the above review was published in The Washington Post under Katie Shepherd’s byline, “Looking for a well-behaved dog?” Excerpt from the article “Race may not tell you much”

Source: Special Web

Leave a Comment