A dog's personality isn't determined by their breed

Three dogs in a field
Every dog is unique in their own way (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s fair to say that lots of people consider certain dog breeds more friendlier, chilled or moodier than others.

For example, golden retrievers tend to be viewed as big softies, while spaniels are pretty excitable and chihuahuas can be very chatty.

But a new study has found that these doggy stereotypes aren’t backed up by science.

Instead, a new study – published on Thursday in the journal Science – has found that dog personalities aren’t actually determined by their breed. Elinor Karlsson, a computational biologist at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, wanted to look into how much behavioural patterns are inherited and how much dog breeds are associated with distinctive and predictable behaviours.

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As a result, her team studied 18,000 dogs, and asked owners more than100 questions relating to everything – from a canine’s physical size and color to its sociability and lifestyle.

They then sequenced the DNA of some of the dogs to see whether ancestry could be linked to behaviour.

Three dogs lying on meadow.
Researchers found breed explained only around 9% of the variation in how a dog behaved (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While the team found ancestry can affect behaviour to an extent, it’s much less than many might think.

In fact, breed explained only around 9% of the variation in how a dog behaved.

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Even the traits that seemed to be breed-specific were found to vary significantly among individual animals within the same breed.

Researchers concluded that while some dog breeds do show tendencies towards certain traits, breed is not a good predictor of behaviour overall.

‘There is a huge amount of behavioural variation in every breed and, at the end of the day, every dog really is an individual,’ explains Elinor.

‘Anyone who’s owned eight dogs from the same breed will tell you all about their different personalities.’

Make sure your pet is in good company. Pets get lonely and depressed just like people do when they spend too much time alone. Cats are generally better on their own, but dogs and especially puppies don’t do well left to their own devices for extended periods of time.

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