Correlation between dog breed and behavior

Retrievers that don’t retrieve and Papillons that point are all possible because the genes that shape dog behavior predate modern breeding that focuses on appearance, researchers find.

Sounds interesting, but it’s behind a pay wall.

I’ll have to read the actual study. I’m not really getting the point.

From the study:

“We surveyed owners of 18,385 dogs (49% purebred) and sequenced the DNA of 2155 dogs. Most behavioral traits are heritable [heritability ( h 2) > 25%], but behavior only subtly differentiates breeds. Breed offers little predictive value for individuals, explaining just 9% of variation in behavior. For more heritable, more breed-differentiated traits, like biddability (responsiveness to direction and commands), knowing breed ancestry can make behavioral predictions somewhat more accurate (see the figure). For less heritable, less breed-differentiated traits, like agonistic threshold (how easily a dog is provoked by frightening or uncomfortable stimuli), breed is almost uninformative.”

I’ll have to read again, but I’d be very curious to see this study replicated with dogs that are actually purpose-bred and proven, versus backyard pets, most of which are not purebred.

From the article:

Kathryn Lord, an evolutionary biologist also of the Broad Institute and the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, and another author of the paper, said, “German shorthaired pointers were slightly more likely to point or golden retrievers were slightly more likely to retrieve or Siberian huskies to howl.”

I just posted a video of my purebred pointing breed pointing at a cucumber, and he wasn’t bred from a true hunting line. So…sort of confused but I will read further.


One of the points is that breed biases focused on behaviors, say towards pit bulls, do not appear to be justified.

I’m more skeptical about the study because it appears to rely on self reporting and volunteered information so not a true random sample. That said, I think it’s interesting.


My former roommate’s Springer-Cocker mix used to point her rabbit and I doubt he was purpose-bred for anything.


It’s not remotely new “news”. If you are planning on owning any breed of just about anything and want to bet on its success merely by virtue that it is X breed,
you should pay heed to Darwin’s famous phrase; " there is more variation within the species then among the species."

It holds equally true in breed variations.

Simply put, 100 border collies are statistically more likely to hold all the breed characteristic of a border collie than 100 German shorthair pointers. That’s the across species (breeds) part. As a group they are statistically homogeneous.

Does this mean that no GSP can herd and no border collie can point? No, that’s the within the species (breed) part. Within any breed there is tremendous diversity. Some borders are anything but intense, work driven type A personalities. Not every GSP is worth talking out in the field. Pick any trait within any breed standard and it’s a given you can find that exception with very little work. But again, overall, BCs are very BC-like.

The key to finding your ideal characteristics within any dog is to work with a person who has skill at reading puppy temperament and then personally have the skill to not screw it up. If you would like to further stack the deck in your favor, you should probably start with a breed noted for whatever those characteristics might be. In other words, if I’m looking for the next great family dog that handles strangers with ease and can do some duck hunting, given any 100 labs or 100 chows, it’s a given I should start with reputable lab breeders and not waste the chow breeder’s time. But somewhere out there, there is a chow that fits that description. 8 billion labs do as well, but that doesn’t mean a chow can’t be that dog or never has been.

Can you tell I rolled my eyes hard when I read the article?


he, personally not, but both his ancestors’ tree is full of purpose bred hunters.


I rolled my eyes too. I was trying to figure out the point. Like…ok…duh? Of course I wouldn’t buy a border collie if I wanted a hunting dog. Could one hunt? Of course - they are dogs. But, I’d seek out a breed that has been further selected for those traits.

And yes - I own a purebred dog with a versatile pedigree, but even I would choose a different breeding of my breed if my goal was All-Age Field Trials versus Pointing Dog Hunt Test. I would seek out a breeder who is selecting for that kind of drive and temperament. Because even though my dog’s drive and temperament is well within the range of “normal” for my breed, and very trainable for hunting, the type of hunting you want to do might require even further selection.

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Yep, just lots of words adding up to yeah, I mean…duh.

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Somebody finagled a bunch of funding for this. Ugh.

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I had a Great Dane that pointed. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, actually he was the dumbest dog I’ve ever owned, but he was such a sweetheart. I still miss him.


Well, the article was presented by the New York Times. So… :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:

You mean these people?

The New York Times is an American daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership.[6][7] It was founded in 1851 by Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones, and was initially published by Raymond, Jones & Company.[8] The Times has since won 132 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any newspaper,[9] and has long been regarded within the industry as a national “newspaper of record”.[10] It is ranked 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the U.S.[11]

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As I have said before on other threads - it’s not even a shadow of its former self. Let’s just say its journalistic standards have been steadily plummeting down the toilet for the last 30 years or so - and especially so over the last decade. :upside_down_face:

Absolutely. Sight hound or scent hound? Fox or hare or rabbit? Setter or pointer? Upland game bird or waterfowl?

Household of two English Cockers. One (who does have field lines on her sire’s side) is really, really “birdy”. When we go walking she absolutely wants to go for every bird she sees. We had a bird nesting in some tall shrubbery in the front yard last winter; after two weeks of her endlessly circling the shrub every time she was out, the bird decided to up stakes and relocate.

The other Cocker? Could not care less about birds. He’s conformation-bred. However, he probably could have been field-trained and likely would have had a flatter learning curve than, say, a Pug.


AKC’s response to this study popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday:

I haven’t read it yet but will be interested to see the rebuttal.

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I wouldn’t exactly call it a rebuttal, more of a commentary on sensational headlines and journalists not correctly summarizing scientific studies. It does not challenge the actual study at all.

I went back and reread the NY Times article and wanted to quote this bit for those who may not have read it:

I’ll agree that the headline from the NY Times article is a tad misleading in that it could be interpreted as saying genetics has nothing to do with disposition or other behavior, but that is cleared up if one reads the article.

If one agrees that early humans selected canines that were easier to get along with in general and later started selective breeding for other characteristics, it’s hard to get excited about this.

FYI, The New York Times won the most Pulitzer Prizes this year of any outlet, including in the international reporting, national reporting and criticism categories.

Yeah they were specific evaluating traits that AREN’T selected for to differentiate breeds. It’s right in the study intro but seemed to be missed in most discussion I’ve seen (Including elsewhere)

So yeah, vast majority of, say greyhounds, will be fast and inclined to chase things that move. But they have different opinions on house cats, other dogs, how outgoing they are, how startled by sounds, etc. Is there a general trend for these non-selected* traits that’s tied to breed seems like an interesting and valid question. (Greyhounds are a bad example because they mostly have a very different upbringing before becoming pets.)

  • yes I know breed standards describe temperament and may exclude extremes, but no one’s racing dog breeding program is based on selecting pleasantly aloof vs pleasantly outgoing dogs.