A Dog’s Breed Doesn’t Determine its Behavior

Labrador retrievers fetch, border collies herd, huskies howl: It’s conventional wisdom that many dog breeds act in certain ways because they’ve been bred to do so over the course of many generations.

But a new study to be published in the journal Science finds that though some dog behaviors are indeed associated with particular breeds, breed plays less of a role overall than that conventional wisdom holds.

A genetic study involving more than 2,000 dogs, paired with 200,000 answers from dog owners on related surveys, suggests that breed alone is not an accurate way to predict the personality of your four-legged friend.

The findings, published in Science, challenge current assumptions surrounding dog breed stereotypes — notions used to explain why some breeds are more aggressive, obedient, or affectionate than others.

According to the findings, breed explains only about 9 percent of the variation in an individual dog’s behavior. For certain behavioral traits and survey items, age or dog sex were the best predictors of behavior. Investigators failed to find behaviors that were exclusive to any one breed.

Despite being one of the humans’ oldest animal companions, almost all modern dog breeds were only invented about 200 years ago. Before this time, dogs were primarily selected for traits central to their functional roles, like hunting, guarding, or herding. It wasn’t until the 1800s that humans began selecting dogs for their breed-defining physical and aesthetic traits.

Today, most modern dog breeds are ascribed characteristic temperaments associated with their ancestral function. As such, the breed ancestry of individual dogs is assumed to be predictive of temperament and behavior.

Despite these widely held assumptions, there is a stark lack of genetic research illustrating a link between breed and behavior.

Researchers found no behavioral trait was present in all dogs in a breed or missing from all of them either. In other words, though some behaviors are more likely to pop up in some breeds, breed alone cannot predict the disposition of a particular dog. Instead, personality and other behaviors, like aggression has more to do with the environment in which a dog is raised than its genes.

Published On: December 21st, 2022Categories: Dog knowledge