The Connection Between Dogs and Humans Might Be Genetic!
30 September, 2016

Scientists have found a handful of genes that they may be linked to the tendency for dogs to seek human help and contact and explain the strong bond between dogs and humans.   The results revealed variations within two gene regions that appear to be linked with dogs need for human contact, according to The Journal of Science

The study was conducted to see how dogs came to be sociable from domestication

Scientists say they have found a handful of genes that appear to be linked to the tendency for dogs to seek human help and contact.  The goal was to try to understand the genetic underpinnings of domestication: what is it that has helped to turn the wolf, which is really not interested in humans to start off with, into this extremely sociable creature which is the dog?” said Per Jensen, co-author of the research from Linköping University in Sweden. “We think we have at least found some of the genetic background of this process.”

Writing in the Journal of Scientific Reports, the scientists describe how they sought to probe the genetics behind canine behavior by enlisting the help of 437 beagles bred and raised in laboratory conditions.

The dogs were given treats and a few minutes to retrieve them and videotaped to see reaction

Each dog was placed in a room with a researcher they did not know and presented with the same task. The dogs were given three minutes to retrieve the treats with their behavior recorded on video and scored for the frequency and duration of various behaviors, such as jumping up at the researcher or making eye contact.

The 95 dogs with the top and bottom scores were selected to have DNA samples taken

The 95 dogs with the top scores and the 95 with the bottom scores for social interactions were then selected, and DNA samples taken. Their genomes were then analyzed and compared in what is known as a genome wide association study, with variations across the genome checked for an association with scores for specific behaviors, such as the length of time in which the dog was in physical contact with the researcher.

Five genes were found that might be influencing the sociability of dogs

The results revealed variations within two gene regions that appear to be linked with a canine want for human contact, within which five genes were identified as being the most likely to be associated with the behavior.

But, Jensen admits, it is unlikely to be the full picture. “There are probably plenty of genes interacting with these five,” he said, adding that it is also unknown exactly how the five genes might be influencing doggy sociability. The team are now looking to see if the same results can be found in other breeds of dog, including Labrador retrievers.

The relationship can also be due to the dog’s experience

While the new study offers some clues to doggy sociability the authors caution that there are other factors at play. “We also know that the genetic contribution to this variation is only about 30%, so 70% of the variation has to do with things like experience,” said Jensen.

The study just continues to show us how closely our dogs bond with humans, whether it’s genetic or not!

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