The citizen science organization Darwin’s Ark sequenced the DNA of over 2,000 purebred and mixed breed dogs to study how genetics intersect with breed characteristics. The findings show that while genes are closely associated with physical traits, genetics is not a reliable predictor of any given dog’s personality.

The Darwin’s Ark study surveyed over 18,000 dog owners and studied the DNA of over 2,100 dogs. They found that when it comes to canine behavioral traits, breed accounts for only around 9% of the variation of behavior among dogs.

One behavioral trait—biddability (responsiveness to commands)—was found to be more closely related to genetics than most other personality traits. The researchers point to Border Collie ancestry as an example of this.

Other traits that we associate with certain breeds, such as sociability with humans in the Labrador Retriever, were not found to be strongly tied to genetics.

Genetic analysis of mixed breed dogs found that most of them had ancestors from 4 or more different breeds. The most common breeds to go into mutts are the American Pitbull, Labrador Retriever, Chihuahua, Beagle, and German Shepherd.

The physical traits most closely aligned with genetics are size, ear shape, and fur length. Some traits, known as motor pattern traits, can be associated with certain breeds: howling, retrieving, and pointing.

But when it comes to canine behavior, the researchers found that breed is not a reliable predictor. Some dogs may behave in a way that conforms to the stereotypes of a breed, but others will not. They also report that knowledge of the stereotypical behavior of a breed may influence an owner’s perception of their own dog.

You can read the full study HERE and sign your dog up for the Darwin’s Ark community science project HERE (a cat project is coming soon!).


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