Dog breed hardly determines dog behavior
Study Clever Collie, faithful Boxer? Breed hardly determines dog behavior
Gentle Great Danes, docile Collies and lively Dachshunds – different breeds of dog are associated with different character traits and temperaments. But is that true at all? An American research team has examined this question
The race of a dog says only little about the temperament of the quadruped. According to a recent study, many behaviors are hereditary, such as whether a dog is playful, docile or alert. However, the differences between individual dogs are usually greater than those between individual breeds, reports a team around the first author Kathleen Morrill of the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School (Worcester/USA) in the scientific journal "Science".
Modern dog breeds are said to be less than 160 years old – a blink of an eye in evolutionary history compared to the origin of dogs more than 10.000 years, the scientists write. Humans have been breeding dogs for about 2000 years, most of the time with a view to the tasks they were to perform, such as herding dogs, hunting dogs or guard dogs. Only later were dogs according to a physical ideal. With the conception as pure as possible lines were bred. The resulting breeds are still attributed with behaviors that are also attributed to their former areas of use.
Data from 18.385 dogs evaluated
Whether this is true, the researchers now tested in a large-scale study. They collected data from 18.385 dog owners on the nature and behavior of their purebred and mixed-breed companions. In addition, they analyzed the genetic data of a total of 2155 dogs. Linked them with the reported behaviors of the dogs.
Animal behavior What head tilting tells us about a dog's intelligence
When their owners talk to them or when they hear an unfamiliar noise, dogs often tilt their heads to the side. Attentively the four-legged friends try to decipher what they hear. Researchers have now gained new insights into the typical head movement of dogs
The analysis of the survey data showed, among other things, that behavioral differences between modern breeds are basically only slight. The researchers did not find any behavior that is exclusive to one breed.
Labradors, for example, are considered a breed that hardly howls, but some owners nevertheless report that their animals 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, the behavior changed with age: puppies of many breeds were about as playful as the sheepdogs, which are considered particularly toy-obsessed.
Race has hardly expressiveness over the nature of a dog
Analysis of genetic data showed that individual breeds had very few genetic peculiarities. Breed has little value in predicting a dog's behavior, researchers write. Most behaviors are hereditary, but they are influenced by several genes and by the environment.
The race alone explains only about nine per cent of the differences in the behavior of individual dogs. In some behaviors, such as the tendency to howl or the desire to retrieve, the values were higher. Huskies, Beagles or bloodhounds howled particularly gladly according to that, Border Collies showed up particularly docilely.
Humans and animals The long road to death: How to say goodbye to a beloved pet successfully
Who lives with an animal, should be prepared for the fact that sometime the time of the parting of its protege comes. Naturalist Elli H. Radinger explains how to deal with death and grief successfully
When choosing a suitable dog, however, looking at the breed as a whole is of only limited help, explains Marjie Alonso of The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (Cranberry Township, USA). "The race will not decide whether we become happy with a dog or the dog with us. Appearance simply says little about how the dog will behave."
Indications that certain behaviors are a consequence of the breeding of the breeds, the scientists did not find. Most of the behaviors considered to be characteristics of certain modern dog breeds most likely originated thousands of years earlier, senior author Elinor Karlsson said in a press release.