How Connected Are a Dog's Breed And Its Character?

How Connected Are a Dog's Breed And Its Character?

Author WDF Staff


While humans initially tinkered with the appearance of dogs by breeding for a variety of physical characteristics, over time, we began to assign distinct personalities to different breeds. New research now challenges this long-held belief, claiming that a dog's personality is more influenced by their environment than their breed.

Adding personality traits to specific breeds

Humans and dogs initially worked together on tasks like hunting, guarding, and herding. However, over time, dogs' contributions to our lives became less significant. As dog shows such as Crufts saw dog owners and breeders adore things like purebred Chihuahuas dancing, breeders and dog lovers started connecting certain breeds with specific personality types. However, are those personality types valid for all individual dogs within a breed, even if they're not trained to dance?

There are advantages to predicting an animal's temperament based on its ancestry, such as determining if it would make a good pet or working animal for a household or farm. However, laws like the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 could be considered ineffective if incorrect assumptions about a breed are made.


Disproving the theory

Scientists from the community science project Darwin's Ark sequenced more than 2,000 dogs to determine whether a dog's breed influences its personality. There were various breeds in the study. Their DNA sequences were matched to owner surveys to look for correlations between genotype (DNA) and phenotype (behavioral traits). Basically, scientists studied the connection between a breed's appearance and behavior.

Their findings showed that while the physical characteristics of dogs are easily linked to specific breeds, behavioral traits were less well established. Biddability – the ability to follow human commands – was the most genetically linked of the behaviors that appeared to be associated with certain breeds.

This type of behavior was discovered to be strongly linked to the Border Collie breed. However, individual differences were still present, as demonstrated by the Genius Dog Challenge participants. Retrievers' "human sociability" or "friendliness" was discovered to be unrelated to the breed's genotype. This trait is often associated with this breed.

puppy retriever in mud

In conclusion

An individual dog's breed was described in this study as,

"a poor predictor of individual behavior and should not be used to inform decisions relating to the selection of a pet dog."

The researchers said that based on the study's findings that breed had little to no impact on the participants' behavior. Instead, dogs' personalities will most likely be shaped by their surroundings.

What should you keep in mind? Well, getting a dog is not like shopping from a catalog. Elinor Karlsson, the director of vertebrate genomics at the Broad Institute, who oversaw the research, said that each dog is a one-of-a-kind creature. Their future owners will play a huge part in shaping their future pets' character.

World Dog Finder team

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