Owning a dog is influenced by genetic make-up

**Owning a dog is influenced by our genetic make-up
Credit: Chris Packham

A team of Swedish and British scientists have studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. The new study suggests that genetic variation explains more than half of the variation in dog ownership, implying that the choice of getting a dog is heavily influenced by an individual's genetic make-up.

Dogs were the first domesticated animal and have had a close relationship with humans for at least 15,000 years. Today, dogs are common pets and are considered to increase the well-being and health of their owners. The team compared the genetic make-up of twins (using the Swedish Twin Registry—the largest of its kind in the world) with . The results are published for the first time in Scientific Reports. The goal was to determine whether dog ownership has a heritable component.

"We were surprised to see that a person's genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members around the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others," says Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

Carri Westgarth, lecturer in human-animal interaction at the University of Liverpool and co-author of the study, adds, "These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied."

Studying twins is a well-known method for disentangling the influences of environment and genes on biology and behaviour. Because identical twins share their , and non-identical twins on average share only half of the , comparisons of the within-pair concordance of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog. The researchers found concordance rates of dog ownership to be much larger in than in non-identical ones—supporting the view that genetics does play a major role in the choice of owning a dog.

"These kinds of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership. The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to and other factors such as allergy" says Patrik Magnusson, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

"The study has major implications for understanding the deep and enigmatic history of dog domestication" says zooarchaeologist and co-author Keith Dobney, chair of human palaeoecology in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. "Decades of archaeological research have helped us construct a better picture of where and when entered into the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data are now allowing us to directly explore why and how."

Explore further

Autoimmune diseases are related to each other, some more than others

More information: Tove Fall, Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Keith Dobney, Carri Westgarth, Patrik K.E. Magnusson (2019) 'Evidence of large genetic influences on dog ownership in the Swedish Twin Registry has implications for understanding domestication and health associations' Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-44083-9 , http://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44083-9
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Provided by Uppsala University
Citation: Owning a dog is influenced by genetic make-up (2019, May 17) retrieved 23 October 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-05-dog-genetic-make-up.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

May 17, 2019
I have always thought real "dog persons" as totally different kind of people. Like you can tell them by the way they talk and behave in public. It's good that now there's actual science behind this too: person liking dogs too much is just a genetic mishap.

May 17, 2019
Cat people have always known Dog people are crazy down to the genome.

May 17, 2019
I think the determining factors are whether you have a yard or live where you are permitted to own a dog. Also, whether you can afford vet bills, food, etc.

I think these issues determine who gets one; not who wants one.

May 18, 2019
Hove you noticed how dog's appearance bear some resembles their owners? This may not be true in every case, but the number of situations where it is true is significant and should be included in these studied.

May 20, 2019
People used to keep dogs and cats to do real work. Having them as replacements for offspring and human companionship is a relatively new phenomenon.

The researchers ought to compare these dog lover genes with those for neuroses, antisocial behavior, and other pathologies and see if they're related.

Other cultures keep far fewer pets. Would this be genetic as well or only indications that those cultures are healthier?

May 20, 2019
I have always thought real "dog persons" as totally different kind of people. Like you can tell them by the way they talk and behave in public
Really -? And how does the typical dog person differ from normal people specifically? Or do you consider people who dont feel the need to have little pseudo-companions who are under their complete control and direction the abnormal ones?

What is normal about wanting to keep a subservient little creature that is totally dependant on you for food, shelter, affection, and life itself, unless it has a very real job to do like protecting your family, killing vermin, or herding cattle?

Perhaps your preference for 'dog-people' belies a resentment of those who dont need these little furry crutches and slaves who do tricks for you on command?

Jun 14, 2019
Dog people talk too much and want everyone to love them and viably wilt when you don't care about their existence.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more