What type of pet dog is good for your family? A new study published this month in Science indicates that a dog’s breed only determines nine percent of its behavior. It is easiest to manage genetic material from puppies because they like to chew the swabs.
“Dog breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behavior and should not be used to inform decisions relating to the selection of a pet dog,” reads the study’s conclusion.
The findings, published in the 29 April issue of Science, challenge current beliefs surrounding dog breed stereotypes — notions used to explain why some breeds are more obedient, aggressive, or caring than others.
Breed explains less than 10% of the behavioral variation in individual dogs, according to the results; for certain behavioral traits and survey items, age was the best predictor of behavior. In addition, investigators failed to find behaviors only for any breed.
What also makes this study remarkable is its method: Where others have depended on first-hand observations by researchers, this one solicits behavioral data by surveying owners and requests genetic material from them for DNA sequencing. The published findings are based on behavioral surveys of 18,385 dogs and DNA data about 2,155 of them.
The study’s owner survey breaks behaviors into specific categories like human biddability, sociability, and toy-directed motor patterns. Next, it uses multiple questions in each category to form a depth of understanding of those behaviors. It then compares those ranked answers across breeds to choose correlation.
The study says, “Behavioral aspects show high variability within breeds, indicating that although breed may affect the likelihood of a particular behavior, breed alone is not instructive enough to signify an individual’s disposition.
In brief, every dog is an individual. You cannot predict one golden retriever to repeat the behavior or personality of another. Yet, leading dog researcher Marc Bekoff is quick to point out that the study’s findings do not imply that genetics don’t play a role in specifying behavior; they just play less of a role than the famous perception of pure breeds may indicate.
“Breeds can hint at what a dog’s personality might be,” says Bekoff. “But ultimately, its nature and nurture that combine to determine the end result.”