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Does A Dog's Breed Predict Their Behavior?

There are approximately 350 recognized dog breeds in the world today that serve many purposes from herding, to guard work, to hunting, and beyond. Dogs were the first domesticated animals (this happened around 15,000 to 40,000 years ago) and have the most variation in looks/structure as well as behavioral traits of any land mammal. Modern dog breeds are only around 160 years old, which is a lot of structural and behavioral change packed into a very short period of time!

The most likely behavioral trait that a dog can inherit based on their breed is the ability to follow human direction. With that being said, the strength of that ability is entirely dependent on the dog as an individual. Because of this, a dog's breed is generally a poor predictor of an individual's behavior. There is so much variation when it comes to a dog's individual levels of affection towards humans, their ability to follow human direction, their prey drive, their interest in play, etc.

According to a recent study where 2100 dog's DNA was sequenced, breed only explained about a 9% of variation in behavior, which means breed offers little predictive value for individuals. For behaviors that can been genetically inherited (like a dog's ability to follow human direction), knowing what breed(s) make up an individual can be valuable information when it comes to predicting behavior. For behaviors that are less likely to be genetically inherited and less likely to differ between breeds (like how easily a dog is provoked by something scary or uncomfortable), knowing what breed(s) make up an individual provides almost no information.

Canine behavioral characteristics can be based on more than one gene in their makeup, are influenced by what happens in their environment, and are found in varying levels in all breeds. Researchers concluded that behaviors that are typically perceived as a known trait of certain breeds were instead developed over the thousands of years that occurred before breeds were created. Modern breeds are mainly distinguished by their looks (how big they are, their color, length of nose, etc).


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