Aggressiveness Gene Research in Dogs is All Bark, No Bite
Scientists at the Center for Molecular Human Genetics in the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital think they are on to something. They knew there were human genes that were related to the expression of anxiety and they decided to test for genes that express aggression.
The only way to do this in the beginning is to test it with dogs. There are dogs that are aggressive to other dogs. Other dogs are aggressive to people. And other dogs are aggressive to their owners. Perhaps there was a gene that would explain dog aggressiveness.
They actually found 12 different aggressiveness genes that could cause aggression in the dogs. Interestingly aggressions aimed at different humans or other animals were apparently handled by different genes. For example, if Fido is aggressive about squirrels, that’s a different gene than the gene for aggression against Fido’s owner.
The genes somehow communicate with a neural pathway in the brain between the amygdala, the place where emotions are handled, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis. No one knows exactly how this happens at this time.
What Many Geneticists Really Think
The underlying idea of many geneticists is that genes are set in stone and will produce whatever they are coded for. If you have a gene that is for breast cancer, then you will end up with breast cancer later. There’s no arguing with it – your genes are more powerful than everything else you do. This idea can be an inciting factor when people make decisions like having the breasts removed before they get cancer in the first place.
What’s Missing From the Aggressiveness Gene Study
But what is often overlooked is that genes are turned on and off at different times during one’s life, depending on what you are doing. You have the control to get genes turned on or off. The cell is not controlled by genes. It’s the perception of the environment by the cell’s proteins that controls the genes.
In other words, don’t fall for the idea that if your dog has an aggressive gene against his owner, he’s going to lash out against you sometime in life – unless you give him the drug that rescues you from the potential harm. Who does this make sense to?
A dog with genes for aggression needs to be investigated from a completely different perspective. How about looking at the history of the dog’s pedigree and exposure to chemicals? Chemicals turn on destructive genes, such as ones for disease.
Was it malnutrition that turned on the genes for aggression? A magnesium deficiency clearly causes aggression. Did they test this in the dog’s pedigree or even in the dogs that were found to have the aggressive gene? No, they didn’t… which is why the study findings should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Ultimate Expression of Aggressiveness Gene Research
Here’s another problem with a study like this: it gets added to the list of reasons why certain dog breeds should be banned, and all pets with the aggressiveness gene must be euthanized.
A few years back, there was talk about people who had a “warrior gene” were more likely to end up in prison because of violent tendencies. Do we lock up every person with this gene? Why are some people who have this gene able to live normal, non-aggressive and law-abiding lives?
Before jumping on the bandwagon of any research study, it’s important that we dig deeper into the topics for ourselves. Go find some of the original research, or even news reports on these topics. You’ll then be able to come to your own conclusions.
Yes, I’m anti-genetics research. I think it should all be banned until their ‘science’ can be proven and other factors such as environmental toxins and nutritional status are considered. And until these factors are considered, I won’t trust any bit of genetics research I read. And I won’t be applauding them for finding 12 aggressiveness genes.
[Source: Science Daily]
More by Donna Schwontkowski