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News Article

Canine behaviour only slightly influenced by breed, study finds

Breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behaviour

A study of purebred and mixed-breed dogs, published in Science, suggests that behavioural traits are not specific for breed.

The study, led by researchers at University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, involved a diverse cohort of pet dogs enrolled through the community science project Darwin’s Ark. The researchers surveyed owners of 18,385 dogs and sequenced the DNA of 2155 dogs.

It was shown that most behavioural traits are heritable, but behaviour only subtly differentiates breeds. Breed offers little predictive value for individuals, explaining just 9% of variation in behaviour.

In total, the researchers identified 11 locations on the dog genome strongly associated with behavioural differences, none of which were specific for breed; and another 136 suggestively associated with behaviour.

The researchers say, “Breed offers only modest value for predicting the behaviour of individual dogs. For more heritable and more breed-differentiated traits, like biddability [how well dogs respond to human direction], knowing breed ancestry can make behavioural predictions somewhat more accurate in purebred dogs. For less heritable, less breed-differentiated traits, like agonistic threshold, which measures how easily a dog is provoked by frightening, uncomfortable, or annoying stimuli, breed is almost uninformative.”

Article: Morrill, K., Hekman, J., Li, X., Mcclure, J., Logan, B., Goodman, L., Gao, M., Dong, Y., Alonso, M., Carmichael, E., Snyder-Mackler, N., Alonso, J., Noh, H. J., Johnson, J., Koltookian, M., Lieu, C., Megquier, K., Swofford, R., Turner-Maier, J., White, M. E., Weng, Z., Colubri, A., Genereux, D. P., Lord, K. A., Karlsson, E. K. (2022) Ancestry-inclusive dog genomics challenges popular breed stereotypes. Science, 376(6592), doi: 10.1126/science.abk0639

Article details

  • Date
  • 05 May 2022
  • Source
  • University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals