WASHINGTON: Everyone knows that pit bulls and Rottweilers are aggressive and Labradors are kind.
According to a new study published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, the stereotypes of these dog breeds are largely unfounded.
Many behaviors can be inherited. But race only partially predicts most behaviors — or does not even predict some traits, such as affection or anger.
“Genetics play a role in the personality of any individual dog, but the breed does not effectively predict these traits,” said Elinor Carlsson, co-author of more than 2,000 dogs and more than 200,000 responses from owners.
“We have shown that the defining criteria for a golden retriever are its physical characteristics – ear shape, color and coat quality, size. But not if it is kind,” she added.
However, such stereotypes sometimes fall into the law, such as banning pit bulls in the UK and many US cities.
Researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,155 purebred or local dogs to find common genetic variations that could help predict their behavior. They combined these results with answers to questions from 18,385 dog owners.
The site used is called “Darwin’s Ark” and is a free database that combines information provided by owners about the behavior of their animals.
In their analysis, the researchers took into account stereotypes that may affect responses.
They established fixed definitions of certain behaviors, such as obedience, camaraderie, or interest in toys. Physical features were also studied.
Finally, scientists have found 11 places in the genome associated with behavioral differences, including obedience, the ability to reach an object or even howl.
In these cases, the breed really played a role: beagles and bloodhounds howl more, Border Collies are more obedient than Shiba Inus.
But research has shown that there are exceptions every time.
So, despite the fact that Labradors howled the least, 8% of them still howled. And if 90% of greyhounds did not hide their toy, 3% did so often.
Moreover, looking at the answers to several questions about the possible aggressive reactions of dogs, “we did not see any effect from the breed,” said Elinor Carlsson.
Overall, race explained only 9% of behavioral variations. Thus, age better foresaw certain traits, such as having fun with a toy.
Physical traits could be predicted five times better than race than behavior.
Until the 1800s, dogs were mainly bred for their role in hunting, to protect housing or herds.
But the concept of “modern dog breed, which emphasizes the physical ideals and purity of the genus, is a Victorian invention,” – said in a study.
Dogs within a breed can behave differently, with some inheriting genetic variations from their ancestors and others not.
Interesting fact: sociability towards humans is very hereditary in dogs, although it does not depend on the breed.
The researchers found a spot in the dog’s DNA that could explain 4% of the differences in communication between people. And this place corresponds to the fact that in the human genome is responsible for the formation of long-term memory.
“Perhaps understanding dogs’ camaraderie helps them understand how the brain develops and learns,” said Kathleen Morrell, lead author of the study, at a news conference.
The next step, she said, will be to consider behavioral disorders in dogs and their possible links to disorders in humans.
“You can’t ask dogs what they have problems, thoughts, anxieties, but it is known that they live a rich emotional life and suffer from disorders that manifest themselves in their behavior,” – said the researcher.
Thus, understanding the relationship between race and behavior can help determine which genes are responsible for certain mental disorders in humans, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.