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A chow-chow might not always be aloof with strangers and a golden retriever isn’t automatically inclined to be friendly, according to a new and vast study on canine behavior that said a dog’s personality is not strictly determined by its breed.
A research team collected survey data from owners of more than 18,000 dogs and analyzed the DNA of more than 2,100 pooches to determine if breed and behavior were related, the Los Angeles Times reported.
But the findings showed that the breed explained less than 10 percent of the variation in behavior among the pets. The team came across different responses when owners of purebred dogs and mixed ones – known as mutts – answered questions about their animals’ behavior.
For example, owners of purebred golden retrievers would describe their pets as friendly toward strangers – meaning they stuck to preconceived descriptions associated with the breed’s reputation. On the other hand, owners of breeds with golden retriever heritage were no more likely than owners of mutts with no golden retriever DNA to describe their pups as unafraid of strangers.
Instead, the researchers posited that a dog’s age and gender were often far better predictors of its behavior. They added that while physical traits were strongly inheritable, behavior was determined by a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors in which breed plays an almost insignificant role.
Even so, the American Kennel Club – which holds the biggest registry of purebred dogs in the United States – disagreed with the conclusions.
Still, dog breeding historians contended that throughout time, breeders’ preferences for specific physical qualities often came at the expense of original behaviors.
“(The study) certainly will make a lot of people stop and think about dogs a bit differently,” said Danika Bannasch, a specialist in animal genetics who was not involved in the study.