Think you know exactly what sort of dog you’re getting when you adopt or shop for a particular breed? Think again. A dog’s breed is “generally a poor predictor” of a pet’s behavior, according to a new study.
Though some specific behaviors are more commonly found in certain breeds, a dog’s breed doesn’t provide much guidance in predicting their overall personality, researchers said in a study published in the journal Science last week.
Researchers studied the DNA of 2,155 purebred and mixed-breed dogs and compared those sequences to surveys submitted by owners of 18,385 dogs.
“Although many physical traits were associated with breeds, behavior was much more variable among individual dogs. In general, physical trait heritability was a greater predictor of breed but was not necessarily a predictor of breed ancestry in mutts,” the study notes.
Among behavioral traits, biddability, or how well dogs respond to human direction, was the most heritable by breed, though it varied significantly among individual dogs, the study found.
For less heritable, less breed-differentiated traits, such as how easily a dog is provoked by frightening or uncomfortable stimuli, a dog’s breed is mostly unhelpful, the study found. A dog’s behavior is also not largely informed by its size, the study found.
About 9% of a dog’s behavior can be explained by its breed, the study found. Dogs of the same breed varied greatly in behavior and personality “Thus, dog breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behavior and should not be used to inform decisions relating to selection of a pet dog,” the study noted.