Dog myth blown wide open as owners told your pet’s behaviour NOT linked to breed

RSPCA rescue dog Ellie still waiting for home after 450 days

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Over the years, dogs like Pitbulls and Rottweilers have earnt themselves a reputation for displaying aggressive and unpredictable behaviour. Well contrary to popular belief, a new study has indicated that it should make little difference to your pup’s obedience whether it is a German Shepherd or Golden Retriever. In a first-of-its-kind genetic study involving over 2,000 dogs and 200,000 survey answers from dog owners, researchers claim they have dispelled the myth that breed alone is a good indicator of a dog’s behaviour.

The experts used what are known as genome-wide association studies to find common genetic variations to predict behavioural traits in 2,155 purebred and mixed-breed dogs.

They then combined this data with 18,385 pet-owner surveys from an open-source database of dog traits and behaviours which get reported by owners.

The results included data from 78 breeds altogether.

While 11 genetic loci were closely linked with behaviour, none of these were specific to breed.

The findings suggest that the breed is only responsible for nine percent of the behavioural variation in individual dogs.

Instead, the study found that a dog’s age or sex were in fact better predictors of behaviour.

The study authors wrote: “Despite these widely held assumptions, there is a stark lack of genetic research illustrating a link between breed and behaviour.”

Elinor Karlsson, study co-author said in a news release: “The majority of behaviours that we think of as characteristics of specific modern dog breeds have most likely come about from thousands of years of evolution from wolf to wild canine to domesticated dog, and finally to modern breeds.

“These heritable traits predate our concept of modern dog breeds by thousands of years.”

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and is due to be published in the journal Science.

MSD Veterinary Manuel reports that an animal’s behaviour is influenced by a wide variety of factors.

These include genetic predisposition, experience and learning, environment, and physiology.

But it adds that a dog’s behaviour can be inherited to some degree, according to several studies.

The site explains: ‘Maternal influences can affect personality and temperament.

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“If puppies are separated from a fearful mother, the puppies are less likely to be fearful than if they are left with their mother.

“The effect of other puppies in the litter, the amount and type of human handling, and exposure to new objects and experiences all influence a dog’s behaviour.

The RSPCA says that a dog’s behaviour can depend on the way an owner treats them.

It recommends using rewards to train dogs how to behave from an early age.

The better the training, the easier it is to control your dog, the organisation says.

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