Your dog’s breed does not dictate personality, a major study finds

Image: A pinscher pup. Credit: sweetlouise

Data from more than 18,000 canines shows that pedigree has a limited role in behaviour.

A dog´s breed was responsible for less than one-tenth of differences in behavior among thousands of dogs, researchers say in a study published on Thursday, April 28, in the journal Science.

“When you adopt a dog based on its breed, you’re getting a dog that looks a certain way,” says co-author Elinor Karlsson, a computational biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, Massachusetts.

“But as far as behaviour goes, it’s kind of luck of the draw.”

The reason is partly because breeds are a modern invention. We have been shaping how dogs appear and behave since dogs evolved from wolves more than 10,000 years ago.

Labrador retrievers aren’t guaranteed to be docile and friendly, according to geneticists who analysed variations in the canine genome.

German shepherds were better at following orders than a random dog. And the genetic analyses showed that mixed-breed dogs with a particular ancestry were more likely to act in particular ways.

But, on average, breed explained only around nine per cent of the variation in how a dog behaved, a number “much smaller than most people, including me, would have expected,” says Karlsson.

Particularly low was the connection between breed and the probability of a dog displaying aggressive behaviour.

Dogs such as Rottweilers might be considered more aggressive because of sterotyped bias and individual experience, but behaviour of individuals within the breed is more diverse than people think, Karlsson said.

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Fergal MacErlean

Originally from Dublin, Fergal is based on the eastern Costa del Sol and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]