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Dog Behaviour Not Solely Determined by Breed, Study Shows

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A recent study, published in Science, challenges the commonly held belief that a dog’s behaviour is solely determined by its breed. The research suggests that genetics only play a minor role in shaping a dog’s temperament, emphasising the significance of individual experiences and environmental factors.

Scientists analysed data from over 17,000 pet dogs, representing 101 different breeds, and examined various behavioural traits. They discovered that breed alone accounted for just 5% of the variation in behavioural differences among dogs. “We find very, very little evidence that there’s a consistent thread across a breed,” says Evan MacLean, a cognitive scientist at the University of Arizona, as quoted in Nature.

The study’s findings emphasise that it is crucial to consider each dog as an individual. Factors such as early life experiences, training, socialisation, and the owner’s behaviour play pivotal roles in shaping a dog’s behaviour. According to Elaine Ostrander, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, “There’s no substitute for spending time with the dog. You can’t just look at the breed and make an assumption,” as reported in The Smithsonian.

The limited influence of breed on behaviour suggests that breed-specific legislation, which imposes restrictions or bans based on breed, may be ineffective and unfair. It highlights the need for a more nuanced approach that focuses on individual dogs and responsible ownership.

Additionally, the study suggests that crossbreeding may not enhance overall health and behaviour. While crossbred dogs did exhibit some variations in behaviour compared to purebred dogs, the differences were relatively small.

Understanding that behaviour is multifaceted and influenced by various factors can help promote better dog training and enhance owner-dog relationships. It encourages a shift in focus towards responsible ownership practices, training techniques, and early socialisation.

The study’s results not only provide valuable insights into dog behaviour but also have broader implications. They challenge preconceived notions about breed-based stereotypes and emphasise the need for individualised assessments and targeted interventions to address behavioural concerns. Jessica Hekman, a veterinarian, and geneticist explains in The Verge, “What we should do is judge every dog as an individual,”.

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