The character of your dog determined by its breed? A study goes against the grain of clichés

It’s well known that Chihuahuas are aggressive, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers aggressive, while Labradors are affectionate. Except no. While many character traits can be inherited, race only partially predicts most behaviors. “Genetics play a role in the personality of any individual dog, but breed does not predict these traits effectively”says researcher Elinor Karlsson, co-author of a study whose results were published last week in the prestigious journal Science. “What we have demonstrated is that the criteria defining a golden retriever are its physical characteristics: the shape of its ears, the color and quality of its coat, its size. But not if he is affectionate”explains the researcher.

In other words, it would be above all a story of education. “I know little dogs who growl when the owner wants to sit on the sofa. They have to be trained well, even if they are small and seemingly very cute”, explains Dr Ariane Silder, veterinarian at the clinic of the Massila hospital center in Marseille, in the TF1 video at the top of this article. Prior to the 1800s, dogs were primarily bred for their role in hunting, to guard the home or herds. But the concept “Modern canine breeding, emphasizing physical ideals and purity of lineage, is a Victorian invention”, says the study. Dogs within a breed may behave differently, with some having inherited genetic variations from their ancestors, and others not.

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