A group of specific genes, which play a central role in the characterization of dog breed behavior have been identified by American scientists.
The personality traits of dogs are usually easy to observe. For example, poodles are affectionate and faithful and golden retrievers are playful and obedient. Researcher Evan MacLean and his colleagues at the University of Arizona in Tucson compared behavioral data from dogs obtained from a survey of their owners with the genetic information of 101 breeds. Their results were published in the pre-print repository of bioRxiv.
The team was able to identify certain genes associated with specific traits, such as aggression and possessiveness. No less than 131 regions in the canine genome have been associated with 14 behavioral traits that vary from one breed to another. The regions would be associated, according to the researchers, with about 15% of the behavior of a breed of dogs. The ability to train, the ability to hunt and the tendency to aggressiveness would be the most heritable traits.
Nevertheless, environmental factors also play a major role in determining the personality of dogs. Some research shows that the best way to establish a dog’s aggression is to observe its relationship with its owner.
Some of these specific gene / behavior associations can also be observed in humans, say the authors of this work. According to them, levels of aggression in fox, dog and human would be associated with a particular set of genes found in all three species.
Future studies may help to better understand human conditions such as anxiety, and perhaps better treatments.
According to research published in Nature Communications in 2017, all dogs were descended from the same population of domesticated wolves 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.