Study Proves the Breed Doesn’t Really Affect Dog Behavior

Study proves a dog's breed doesn't impact a dog's behavior

“Blame the deed, not the breed!” For years, this has been the mantra of those of us who oppose breed-specific legislation (BSL) — unfair laws that single out dogs based solely on their breeds or looks.

A new study published in the journal Science now confirms what we knew all along: A dog’s breed is not helpful in determining how that particular dog will behave. (Told ya!)

To come to this conclusion, researchers sequenced the DNA of 2,155 dogs and also surveyed 18,385 dog owners through Darwin’s Ark, the world’s largest pet citizen science project. The study was diverse, including mixed breeds as well as purebreds.

The purpose of the study was to find out if dog breeds have certain behaviors and personalities. “The answer: not really – it turns out that breed really is, for the most part, just ‘skin deep,'” writes one of the researchers, Elinor Karlsson, director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. “There is so much variation in behavior and personality in every single dog breed, it’s impossible to accurately predict the behavior of any individual dog from its breed alone.”

None of a dog’s 11 genome regions that affect their behavior — such as whether they’re social or if they like to howl — were associated with a specific breed.

In fact, a dog’s breed has only a 9% effect on their behavior, according to the study. One example of the minor behavioral differences among breeds is that herding breeds are more likely to want to play with toys. “These differences can (sometimes) be traced back to the types of dogs used to start the breed, suggesting the behaviors are much older than the breeds,” Karlsson notes.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers also found zero evidence that dog breeds like Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous. Genetics do not impact a dog’s aggressiveness or the extent to which they can be provoked by stressful situations.

These findings provide even more evidence that BSL is ineffective and unfair. Fortunately, many cities, like Denver, have seen the light and no longer ban certain dogs.

To help Darwin’s Ark continue its efforts to improve the lives of dogs, you can participate and/or make a donation via its website.

Photo: ericaribeiro

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!