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The battle between nature and nurture might never be decided, but a new study certainly dispels some common myths about breeds and how our dogs behave. Researchers consulted more than 18,000 dog owners and evaluated the DNA of 2,100 pooches with an eye to behavior and physical traits.
The researchers concluded that only about 9% of the variation in a dog's behavior can be attributed to its breed. A dog's personality can be influenced by many factors, including its environment and its treatment by humans. In other words, it's unfair to stereotype pitbulls as mean and beagles as sweet.
"Genetics matter, but genetics are a nudge in a given direction. They're not a destiny," said Evan MacLean, director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona. "We've known that for a long time in human studies, and this paper really suggests that the same is true for dogs." The study found that while certain tendencies might be more commonly associated with particular breeds, there are no traits unique to any one breed. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks, regardless of whether it's a German Shepherd or a chihuahua.
About dog breeds:
- The American Kennel Club listed the Labrador Retriever as the most popular dog breed in the United States in 2020.
- The greyhound is the fastest breed of dog, running at speeds of up to 45 mph (72 km/hr).
- The Akita is typically considered the oldest dog breed, with origins dating back about 10,000 years.