Study Shows That Personality Traits Are Not Linked to A Dog's Breed

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic
Dora Zett/Shutterstock

No one can deny that there are plenty of stereotypes that follow dog breeds – such as their temperament and character. How many times did you automatically think that all Labrador Retrievers are goofy and friendly, Chihuahuas feisty and prone to nipping, or Poodles smart and classy? Well, it seems that these preconceptions are far from the truth – a study done on over 2,000 purebred and mixed-breed dogs revealed that behavioral traits are not connected to a dog’s breed.

Published in the renowned journal Science, the study was focused on dog genetics, or more specifically, the possible connection between behavior and genetics. The research involved surveying owners of 18,385 dogs (49% purebred) and sequencing the DNA of 2155 dogs, in hopes they’ll be able to isolate breed-differentiated traits. What they’ve found, however, is that while certain behavioral traits can definitely be considered hereditary, they are a product of thousands of years of evolution, not a dog’s breed. In other words, how friendly, smart, or aggressive a dog is doesn’t depend on his or her pedigree, but rather their parentage and the environment they are brought up in.

Does that mean that breed plays no part in a dog’s personality and temperament? While, yes, this study shows that breed won’t fully dictate a dog’s traits, there are some factors that have been noticed – e.g. biddability in dogs with Border Collie ancestry – that can be said to have been influenced by breeding, but overall, the key takeaway is that behaviors we perceive as breed-specific, are actually a product of the evolutionary process and are common for dogs of all breeds and lineages. 

This leaves us with an important question to analyze – do our preconceptions of breed-specific dog personalities actually shape how certain dogs behave? For instance, if we treat every Chihuahua as a nervous, anxious dog from the get-go, are we setting them up for failure? The key is to be aware of the things that your dog’s breed can actually influence (such as their health) and don’t get stuck on perceived breed-specific traits, but rather focus on rearing a happy, balanced dog that will reach their potential and develop all those positive personality traits that thousands of years of evolution have made possible. 

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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