Your dog’s personality has little to do with breed!

A new study launched recently and it confirms that your dog’s personality has little to do with their breed! (We all knew this already!)

“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 University of Massachusetts geneticist Elinor Karlsson, co author of the study. She mentions that dog owners love to talk about their dog’s personality (noted when she visited a New York dog park).  The enthusiasm sparked the inquiry into the extent of behavioral patterns are inherited. Are distinctive and predictable behaviors linked to breed? 

The answer: Physical traits such as spots on a Dalmatian or the long lean legs of a Greyhound are clearly inherited, breed is not a strong predictor of an individual dog’s personality!

They gathered a massive amount of data from 18,385 dogs (49% purebred) and sequenced the DNA of 2155 dogs to look for patterns that indicated breed would lend towards certain behaviors. 

They found, “Most behavioral traits are heritable [heritability (h2) > 25%], but behavior only subtly differentiates breeds. Breed offers little predictive value for individuals, explaining just 9% of variation in behavior. For more heritable, more breed-differentiated traits, like biddability (responsiveness to direction and commands), knowing breed ancestry can make behavioral predictions somewhat more accurate (see the figure). For less heritable, less breed-differentiated traits, like agonistic threshold (how easily a dog is provoked by frightening or uncomfortable stimuli), breed is almost uninformative.”

They found 11 regions in the genome that are significantly associated with behavior – howling & human sociability were inherited (makes sense as dogs were the first domesticated animal and have lived with humans for 20,000+ years…). But regions associated with behavior are not linked to breed! The study found that behavioral characteristics found in modern breeds are environmentally influenced (aka polygenic) and found with variable prevalence… in ALL breeds! 

The thought is these behaviors marked as characteristic of modern breeds come from thousands years of environmentally influenced adaptation that predates modern breeds. There are some behavioral variances that are defined by dog breed (ie biddability) though overall breed is NOT a reliable predictor of individual behavior (such as agnostic threshold – which measure how easily a dog is provoked by frightening, uncomfortable, or annoying stimuli). 

Thusly, most components of behavior & personality are not defined by breed! 

If you want to read the study: Published Thursday April 28th in the journal of Science. (The featured image is from Darwins Ark related to the study!)

Do you think your dog’s breed defines his or her personality? Or not?