How much does a dog’s breed determine its behavior?


According to the American Kennel Club, poodles, German shepherds and French bulldogs were among the most popular dog breeds of 2021. People pay thousands of dollars for these prized pups to get a dog with the perfect demeanor. New research published in the journal, “Science,” found that breeds don’t determine a dog’s behavior or personality. LA Times reporter Corinne Purtill told Lisa McRee about the study.

“Researchers led by a team at UMass (Chan) Medical School and Harvard looked had an open-source project called Darwin’s Ark, in which they asked dog owners to submit information about their dog. They collected pretty detailed information on the breed and behavior of 18,000 dogs. They took 2,000 dogs from that study and looked at their DNA. From that, they were able to see real correlations between what dogs genes show us and then what their owners report, their behavior,” Purtill said.

Findings showed breed is a poor predictor of a dog’s behavior.

“Genetics account for about 9% of the different ways that dogs behave,” she said. “It’s stronger with certain traits. Biddability is how well a dog takes commands, and it seems to be slightly more tied to a dog’s specific breed. … Things like age or sex are far better predictors of how that dog is going to act.”

Until about 200 years ago, people categorized dogs by their jobs, such as hunting and guarding. Behaviors associated with the tasks the dog excels at are more tied to their breed. Purtill explained researchers found the aggressiveness of certain dogs had more to do with their environment than anything.

“The primary thing that the researchers were trying to get through with this study is that it is not that there are no friendly golden retrievers, or brilliant poodles, or any of these things that we love about our dogs. It’s just that there is no guarantee that the dog you bring home is going to demonstrate those behaviors just because it comes from a breed that we like to associate with those things,” Purtill said.

The American Kennel Club did not agree with the researchers’ findings.

“Fundamentally, they say that the American Kennel Club believes that these traditional behaviors that dogs once were grouped by actually are more significant than they believe the study’s authors are giving them credit for and do play a role in the way that the modern descendants of those dogs are behaving now,” Purtill shared.

Click the arrow above to watch the full interview.

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