The breed of the dog says little about the temperament of the four-legged friend. According to recent research, many behaviors are hereditary, such as whether a dog is more playful, obedient or alert. However, differences between individual dogs are usually greater than between individual breeds, researchers led by Kathleen Morrill of the University of Massachusetts Chan School of Medicine (Worcester/USA) report in the journal Science.
Modern dog breeds are less than 160 years old – a blink of an eye in evolutionary history compared to dogs’ origins more than 10,000 years ago, scientists write. Humans have bred dogs for about 2,000 years, most of the time for roles they would perform, such as herding dogs, hunting dogs, or guard dogs. Only later were dogs bred according to the physical ideal and with the idea of pure lines. To this day, the behavior is attributed to the resulting races, which are also attributed to their earlier areas of application.
A large-scale study
Researchers have now tested whether this is true with the help of a large study. They collected information from 18,385 dog owners about the nature and behavior of their purebred and mixed-breed companions. They also analyzed genetic data from a total of 2,155 dogs and linked it to the dogs’ reported behavior.
Evaluation of research data has shown, among other things, that the differences in behavior between modern breeds are generally small. The breed alone explains only about 9 percent of the differences in the behavior of individual dogs, the researchers write. Values were higher for some behaviors, such as the tendency to howl or the desire to reach. Huskies, beagles and puppies especially like to howl, while border collies are especially obedient.
There is no unique behavior
The researchers did not find any behavior that was unique to one race. Although Labradors are considered a breed that rarely howls, some owners have reported that their pets do so sometimes or frequently. Greyhounds are said not to bury their toys, but this behavior has also been reported by some owners. In addition, behavior has changed with age: puppies of many breeds have been as playful as German shepherds, who are thought to be particularly obsessed with toys.
Analysis of genetic data showed that certain breeds have very few genetic characteristics. Breed has little value in predicting dog behavior, researchers write. Although most behaviors are inherited, they are influenced by multiple genes and the environment.
When choosing the right dog, looking at the breed as a whole is of limited help, explains Marjie Alonso of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (Cranberry Township, USA). “Breed will not determine whether we will be happy with the dog or the dog with us. Appearance simply says little about how the dog will behave.” (apa / dpa)