“Attention naughty dog,” behind this sign and the fierce barking that makes you jump, isn’t necessarily hiding a pit bull or a Rottweiler. Because no, the character of a dog does not depend on the breed, contrary to a widely held belief. This is according to a study published in April in the prestigious journal Science†
In the same way, it is difficult to bet on genetics to confirm that a Labrador is more affectionate than a German Shepherd… Indeed, the results of this study show that the stereotypes associated with dog breeds are mostly unfounded.
“Genetics play a role in each individual dog’s personality, but the breed does not effectively predict these traits”, says Elinor Karlsson, one of the authors of this study. To conduct this work, the scientists studied the DNA of more than 2,000 purebred or mixed-breed dogs and analyzed the reactions of 18,385 owners regarding their animals’ physical appearance, personality and personality traits.
“What we’ve shown is that the criteria that define a Golden Retriever are his physical characteristics: the shape of his ears, the color and quality of his coat, his size. But not if he’s affectionate”, adds the computational biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester. The animal’s behavior will have its origin in other factors, such as its environment, its gender or its age. Ultimately, according to the study, breed would explain only 9% of a dog’s behavioral variations.
“If you adopt a dog based on its breed, you get a dog that looks a certain way”explains Elinor Karlsson, “But as far as his behavior goes, it’s more like a lottery.”
The link between breed and a dog’s likelihood of aggressive behavior was particularly weak, which could have implications for how society treats “dangerous” dog breeds, says Evan MacLean, a comparative psychologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who was not involved. in the study.
Genetic analysis revealed 11 regions of the genome associated with specific behavior. A propensity to yell, for example, was associated with a region near two genes
That’s partly because races are kind of a modern invention. Humans have shaped the appearance and behavior of dogs since domestic dogs evolved from wolves more than 10,000 years ago. But for most of that time, those efforts focused on the dogs’ ability to work — their ability to herd livestock, protect themselves from danger, or pull sleds, for example.
“At first glance, it seems surprising that race is not a good predictor” of behavior, she says. “But when you consider how recent races are, it makes sense.”