Your dog is a good boy, but that’s not necessarily because of its breed

Labrador retrievers fetch, border collies herd, huskies howl. Conventional wisdom holds that many dog breeds act in certain ways because they have been bred to do so over the course of many generations. But a new study has found that while certain dog behaviors are indeed tied to specific breeds, they play a negligible role overall.

Researchers surveyed the owners of more than 18,000 dogs and sequenced the DNA of about 2,100 dogs for a new study analyzing dog behavior and breed. They found breed explains only about 9 percent of the variation in an individual dogs’ behavior.

Border collies, for instance, seem to be more ready to respond to human direction than other breeds. Owners of beagles, bloodhounds, coonhounds and Siberian huskies will not be surprised to learn that those breeds had a tendency to howl. The same goes for mixed-breed dogs: the higher the percentage of border collie in a mutt, the more responsive it was to human commands.

So Why dogs may not behave like others of the same breed? Across individual dogs of the same breed, the researchers found huge variations in behavior. For example, although golden retrievers are, on the whole, more likely to fetch than many other dogs, there are plenty of lazy goldens that sit and watch as their owners fruitlessly toss tennis balls.

The most likely explanation is that many modern dog breeds are relatively new, in the evolutionary scope of things. Organized dog breeding, with kennel clubs and other groups that regulate physical traits has existed in its current form only since the mid-19th century. By contrast, humans have been helping to shape dog behaviors for thousands of years, by giving helpful dogs food and shelter, thus allowing them to more easily have puppies, and then later by intentionally breeding.

So the best way for dog owners is to make a list of what they want to do with their dog and then try to find a dog that meets those needs. Each dog is a study of one, and they need to accept their dogs for who they are.

Hopefully, this paper will help aspiring dog owners shift their mindsets about how to choose a dog.

Published On: December 10th, 2022Categories: Dog knowledge