Dogs' Breed Affects Personality Less Than You Think

Researchers find a relatively low correlation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 28, 2022 5:49 PM CDT
Dogs' Breed Affects Personality Less Than You Think
Elizabeth Kelly plays with her English springer spaniel, Louise, at McCarren Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York.   (AP Photo/Emma H. Tobin)

New research makes the case that every pup is truly an individual. Many of the popular stereotypes about the behavior of golden retrievers, poodles or schnauzers, for example, are not supported by science, according to the study published Thursday in Science. “There is a huge amount of behavioral variation in every breed, and at the end of the day, every dog really is an individual,” said study co-author and University of Massachusetts geneticist Elinor Karlsson, per the AP. The researchers' work marshals a massive dataset to reach these conclusions—the most ever compiled, said Adam Boyko, a geneticist at Cornell University, who was not involved in the study.

The researchers surveyed more than 18,000 dog owners and analyzed the genomes of about 2,150 of their dogs to look for patterns. They found that some behaviors—such as howling, pointing, and showing friendliness to human strangers—do have at least some genetic basis. But that inheritance isn’t strictly passed down along breed lines. For example, they found golden retrievers that don’t retrieve, said co-author Kathryn Lord, who studies animal behavior with Karlsson.

Some breeds, such as huskies and beagles, may show a greater tendency to howl. But many of these dogs don't, as both the owner survey and genetic data showed. The researchers could find no genetic basis for aggressive behaviors nor a link to specific breeds. “The correlation between dog behavior and dog breed is much lower than most expected,” said Jeff Kidd, a geneticist at the University of Michigan, who had no role in the research.

(More dogs stories.)

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