Study: Dog breed tied more to looks than behavior

Recent study results suggest a dog’s breed is more of a measure of appearance than how a dog will act.

The findings, published in the April 29 issue of the journal Science, indicate the behaviors attributed to certain dog breeds likely developed over thousands of years predating modern breeds. Those behaviors “are polygenic, environmentally influenced, and found, at varying prevalence, in all breeds,” it states.

Four dogs of different breeds sitting on a bench in the woods

The authors examined survey results from owners of about 18,000 dogs—about half of them purebred—and sequenced DNA from 2,155 of those dogs. The authors found high variability in behavior within dog breeds and breed was almost useless in predicting, for example, how easily a dog would be provoked by frightening, annoying, or uncomfortable stimuli.

Breed ancestry was, however, a more accurate predictor of some characteristics, such as a dog’s ability to respond to directions and commands, the article states. Yet, biddability, which was the most heritable behavior trait by breed, varied significantly among individual dogs and thus wouldn't be considered a reliable predictor.

A summary of the article is available in the April 29 print edition of Science, and the full version is here.