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Dog breed does not determine their behavior, which depends mostly on genetic and environmental factors, a new study to be published Friday in the journal Science proposes.
The research, led by University of Massachusetts Medical School researcher Kathleen Morrill, cross-referenced data from genetic studies of more than 2,000 dogs of different breeds with 18,000 surveys of dog owners about their behavior.
According to the research, most behavioral traits can be inherited but vary only slightly between breeds. Breeds offer little predictive value in individuals, explaining only 9% of the variations.
As an example, the authors cite the popular belief that Labrador retrievers tend to be more sociable (a quick Wikipedia search yields the words “affability”, “gentleness” or “kindness”), as an example of a relationship that does not occur in real life.
Border collies, however, do seem to be more likely than other dogs to recognize and accept human commands.
This is not the only dog study to be published Friday in the journal Science.
According to research led by University of Glasgow researcher Rebecca Mancy, the high mobility of some dogs prevents rabies disease from disappearing, despite its low prevalence among communities.
The disease, which is usually transmitted by bites from dogs suffering from rabies, causes tens of thousands of deaths each year, particularly among children in low-income countries in Africa and Asia.
Despite vaccination campaigns and culling of affected populations, the virus continues to be transmitted.
According to the researchers, the key lies in the individual behavior of the dogs themselves, which is not very predictable.
Some act as “super-propagators” by traveling long distances and introducing the virus into previously unexposed communities.
Other infected dogs bite more than uninfected dogs, thus spreading the virus widely before they die.