Does the breed of a dog establish its behavior and personality? A study defends that it is not so decisive

Much has been said about the breeds of Potentially Dangerous Dogs (PPP), animals that are difficult to adopt because they are considered aggressive and because a license is required to keep them, in addition to the obligations such as wearing short leashes, muzzles and not being able to release them. But, Is his aggressiveness really directly related to race? A recent study published in Science claims that it is not.

Until this year, it has always been said that breeds such as Rottweiler, Pitbull or Akita Inu are potentially dangerous compared to others and, for them, these dogs have been treated differently, taking a series of precautions such as those mentioned above. However, it seems that the world is starting to change this perspective and to assess the danger through other means.

Specifically, the study published in the scientific journal and carried out by the team of Elinor Karlsson (Broad Institute and Chan School of Medicine in Massachusetts, United States) has interviewed owners of more than 18,300 dogs and has sequenced the genomes of more than 2,100 dogs to reach the conclusion that the race influences less than what is popularly believed when determining the behavior of a dog.

One of the findings that supports this claim is that the breed does not establish whether the dog is calm, aggressive or playful, based on the reactions that dogs have to new stimuli. Specifically, race accounts for only 9 percent of character variations.

“If you adopt a Border Collie, the probability that he will be easier to train and playful is higher that if you adopt a dog from the Pyrenees mountains”, explains the author of the study, who assures that there are differences between racesproduced by the culture of living with humans and earlier genetics.

The study details that it is possible that people have been choosing genetically present characters in specific dogs when it comes to crossing generations of them, in the same way that certain types of fur or different sizes have been chosen.

“Most of the behaviors that we consider characteristic of modern dog breeds were probably due to thousands of years of evolution of the wolf to the wild caninethen to the domesticated dog, and finally to modern races“, details the researcher.

Infographic of the study on the genome of dogs.
Infographic of the study on the genome of dogs.

These statements are given by the discovery of several genes (none in modern breeds) that influence behavior, including one about how social dogs are. For this same reason, when speaking of aggressiveness, Karlsson is blunt in stating that they did not see any significant racial effect after ask respondents if their dog reacted aggressively to certain situations. “It doesn’t seem to make much sense to talk about dangerous breeds of dogs,” he says.

A dog playing tug of war.

The aggressiveness of the dog depends more on the environment

Another of the study researchers, Kathryn Lord, considers that the problem that people have comes from the term “aggressive” as it “can mean different things to different people” and considers it more correct to speak of something more technical and measurable.

“In ethology it is used the term ‘agnostic behavior’ when it comes to social practices of fighting between animals and that depends a lot on the environment in which the dog is and its past experiences”, details Lord.

Whether right or wrong, the study is still one more reflection of how society is changing its perspective. An example of this change is the draft Law on the Protection and Rights of Animals that the Government of Spain will approve in the coming months and with which it will eliminate the list of potentially dangerous dog breeds and going on to determine the aggressiveness of a dog by a professional assessment of the sociability of all dogs.

A dog and a cat in a friendly attitude.