Jan 23

It’s all in the genes, or is it? Dog breeds and their genetic markers.

For humans, it’s a pretty common thing to talk about our genetic makeup, our DNA. We learn all about it in high school science classes, our genes are passed down to us and determine a lot of different things like hair or eye color, skin pigment, and other factors of our individuality. Well, surprise surprise, dog breeds aren’t much different. Now a new study has used crowd-sourcing in an attempt to map and identify possible behavior characteristics in different dog breeds.

The Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire or (C-BARQ) asks a series of questions about your dog or dogs you might be caring for. The questionnaire asks you to rate your dog on a scale pertaining to things like excitability, aggression, or fear and anxiety. Researchers compared the personalities of 17,000 dogs of various breeds in an attempt to identify different traits associated with certain dogs. They found 131 DNA markers with 14 different personality traits. According to the researchers, that tells them that while not all goldens will act exactly like all the other goldens, it does suggest that you can have a good idea about a breed before you start its training.

So what does this mean for you? Dogs are a product of both nature and nurture. Some genes may make certain dogs predisposed to certain activities, habits, or traits, but it’s most certainly not a one-size-fits-all situation. There’s a great deal learning, both passive and active, that dogs take in at a young age which can direct their behavior down the road. But understanding that a hunting dog was bred to… well, hunt – can absolutely help you understand what they’re thinking while you start, and continue, their training.

Do your research when you can, know what makes your new puppy tick on a genetic level and that can help you read their mind and give you a leg (or four) up when bringing a new friend into your home. This could give you some important things to keep in mind. A working dog will always be looking for a job, even if you don’t give them one. A retriever will typically bring you things they think you need, even if it’s your underwear in the middle of a fancy dinner party. Huskies are closer to wolves, it’s instinct for them to want to roam the wild countryside. They can’t help it just like we can’t help what color eyes we were born with.

All that being said, there’s always the exception to the rule. Never think all pit-mixes are mean and never think all goldens are sweethearts because who they really are might surprise you. Research like this is important and should tell you how to tailor your training aspect, but it’s certainly not gospel.

– Colin Carlton
Marketing Manager