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Dog Behavior Linkage

Dog Behavior Linkage

Your dog’s ability to learn new tricks may be less a product of your extensive training than their underlying genetics.

Among 101 dog breeds, scientists found that certain behavioral traits such as trainability or aggression were more likely to be shared by genetically similar breeds. While past studies have looked into the genetic underpinnings of dog behaviors for certain breeds, this research — published October 1 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B — is the first to investigate a wide swath of breed diversity and find a strong genetic signal.

“Anecdotally, everyone knows that different dogs have different behavioral traits,” says Noah Snyder-Mackler, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “But we didn’t know how much or why.” Humans and dogs have lived together for at least 15,000 years (SN: 7/6/17). But only within the last 300 years or so have breeders produced varieties such as Chihuahuas and Great Danes. 

So, Snyder-Mackler and his colleagues considered how 101 dog breeds behave while searching for genetic similarities among breeds sharing certain personality traits. Data came from two dog genotype databases and from C-BARQ, a survey that asks owners to rank their pure-bred dog’s propensity for certain behaviors, like chasing or aggressiveness toward strangers. As a result, the study didn’t have genetic and behavioral data from the same canine individuals, which could help highlight rare genetic variants that may be nonetheless important to diversity in behaviors.

“They’re not perfect sources of data,” says Clive Wynne, an animal behaviorist at Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the study. “But it allowed them to look at lots and lots of dogs.”

Using data from over 14,000 dogs described in C-BARQ, the researchers gave each breed a score for 14 different behaviors, and then searched for overall genetic similarities among breeds that had similar scores. For traits such as aggression toward strangers, trainability and chasing, the researchers found that genes contribute 60 to 70 percent of behavioral variation among breeds. Poodles and border collies, for example, had higher trainability scores, while Chihuahuas and dachshunds had higher aggression toward strangers.

Energy level and fearfulness showed a smaller genetic contribution, about 50 percent, suggesting that differences in environment or training play an equally important role in shaping those behaviors.

“Such strong correlations suggest that these were traits that people historically cared about and bred for,” says coauthor Evan MacLean, a biologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 

The researchers then sought out specific genetic variants that might contribute to behavioral differences. Against thousands of variants, 131 stuck out as significantly associated with breeds’ behavior. No single gene was overwhelmingly associated with any behavior, suggesting that breed behavioral diversity arises from the complex interplay of many genes in addition to environmental differences.

While such a study doesn’t show if or how a genetic variant causes a specific behavior, it points to certain variants that warrant further research into that question.

Most of these variants were associated with genes considered important to neurological development and function, which is “exactly what you would predict for genes you think might be involved in affecting behavior,” says Carlos Alvarez, a genomics researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Dogs are a really powerful system to investigate the genetics of many traits and diseases because generations of domestication and breeding have simplified their genomes,” Alvarez says. “This study shows that behavior is no different.”

Wynne agreed that the study marked an important development for understanding how dogs take on certain temperaments. But “dog owners shouldn’t take it to mean that their dog’s personalities are totally innate and predetermined,” he says. There’s still an enormous amount of variation among individual dogs. So “an individual is better treated as an individual, rather than as a representative of its breed.”

Dog Chases Away Bear

Dog Chases Away Bear

A New Jersey man is ready to buy his neighbor's dog a special treat after the dog rushed into his backyard to chase off a bear. 

Mark Stinziano's backyard security camera captured video of a bear that had knocked over a bird feeder and was eating its contents. The dog, Riley, then pops into the frame after coming through Stinziano's fence. He charges and collides with the bear and relentlessly chases it out of the backyard. 

Stinziano posted the video to Facebook on Tuesday and said Riley is a dog that "comes to check on the kids from time to time." The video had about 9,000 views as of Wednesday night. 

Story re-posted from USA Today. Written by Jordan Culver

Dog Attack: Webber Park

Dog Attack: Webber Park

Many dogs never bite. But, any dog can, regardless of breed.

That is what Dawn Hunt, of Minneapolis, realized after a scary encounter with a dog in Webber Park, along scenic Shingle Creek, last Thursday afternoon.

"I saw the dog, it saw me and charged me as hard and fast as it could, totally unprovoked," Hunt said.

Multiple deep gashes mark both of Hunt's legs, some deep enough to require stitches or staples.

"I just kept getting bit and bit and bit, and I was left bleeding," she said.

She got mauled, then she got mad.

"I mean, it was so fast and it was hard core."

Hunt described the dog as a Jack Russell mix, white in color with tan spots. She said it was wandering on it own with a leash attached to its collar, dragging it on the ground. Hunt said it didn't growl or bark before pouncing on her and leaving gaping wounds, teeth marks and punctures.

"This one on my left thigh, it got ahold of me and started shaking back and forth," Hunt said.

She said she struggled to stay standing and did whatever she could to pry the dog's teeth off of her, kicking and hitting it with a water bottle.

In the meantime, Hunt maintains the dog owner, a woman she didn't know, stood nearby before retrieving the leash and taking off with the dog.

"I was screaming for her stop, tell me who you are, where are you going, you can't leave me, it's a crime to leave a person like this," said Hunt.

But, the stranger kept walking toward the woods before briefly stopping and turning around to say, "my dog doesn't bite," Hunt said.

Hunt was left alone, bleeding profusely on the walking path and in a lot of pain. She said the stranger didn't apologize, which hurt as much as the multiple injuries.

"I just kind of would like to know why."

Hunt said she's aware of two other people and two dogs who claim they were also injured by a dog matching the same description in the same area. She chose to speak out Sunday with the goal of jogging someone's memory of who the woman and her dog might be.

Minneapolis Park Police along with Animal Care and Control are investigating. In Minnesota, pets are personal property and owners are liable for their dog's actions.

The city of Minneapolis keeps a map online of the dogs deemed dangerous, their owner's name and address, and about 25 dogs are currently listed.

If anyone recognizes the woman and dog in the crime alert poster, you are urged to call police.

For a map of dangerous dogs in Minneapolis curated by Minneapolis Animal Control & Care, visit their website here.

Story re-posted from Eyewitness News ABC 5. Written by Beth McDonough

Kids Build Pet Shelters

Kids Build Pet Shelters

By ALYSSA MULLIGER, Herald-Journal of Spartanburg

WOODRUFF, S.C. (AP) — Kara West, a fifth-grader at Woodruff Elementary School, loves her family pets — a cat, two dogs, two birds and a hamster.

West, 11, recently joined classmates in the school's 4-H Pet Rescue Club to build wooden dog houses and stuff plastic cat shelters with straw with the help of the Hub City Animal Project.

"The shelters are so that animals can have warm places to live, because if people do, then animals deserve to, too," West said.

The welfare of outdoor pets during extreme weather has been a popular topic of discussion during the past several weeks in Spartanburg. Several residents have voiced concern to City Council, including one who started an online petition calling for firmer rules for pets kept outside in inclement weather. Council has formed a committee to make recommendations for improving parts of the city's animal ordinance.

To help people properly shelter their outdoor pets, Hub City Animal Project has worked with R.D. Anderson Applied Technology Center students and 4-H Pet Rescue Clubs at multiple Spartanburg County schools to cut and assemble dog houses and prepare cat shelters.

Hub City Animal Project was formed in early 2014 to inspire area animal welfare organizations to collaborate in order to help keep more pets with their owners and out of the shelter system.

"Our main focus with our partner agencies is to keep animals in the home and to decrease animal overpopulation," said Ingrid Norris, outreach director with the organization.

Hub City Animal Project works with the 4-H youth development division of the Clemson Cooperative Extension to sponsor pet rescue clubs at Woodruff, Mary H. Wright, Pauline-Glenn Springs and Beech Springs elementary schools.

"Every year we all do something to help animals, and this year we picked to do shelters," said 10-year-old Sadie Burnette, a fifth-grader at Woodruff Elementary.

Supplies for the service project were purchased by Hub City Animal Project and funded through the 4-H clubs' program fees.

After students at R.D. Anderson cut and pre-drilled the dog house pieces, students with the 4-H pet rescue clubs assembled them with screws and screwdrivers.

Jentzen Fortenberry, 11, a fifth-grader at Woodruff, said it was challenging putting the club's dog house together, but he had some prior experience with building other things.

"The dog house is for dogs that stay outside and when they get off their leash," he said. "Once we build it, we'll give it away and it'll go to a house."

The clubs are building five large dog houses, and R.D. Anderson is supplying materials for three more dog houses, Norris said. The clubs also are using straw to insulate 10 new community cat shelters.

Hub City Animal Project will paint the dog houses and deliver them along with the cat shelters to agency partners. The dog houses will be distributed to city and county residents identified by those partners.

The cat shelters will be given to caregivers of community cats. These caregivers regular feed roaming cats, given them shelter and trapping them so they can be spayed or neutered and released.

Norris said she had the idea for creating the shelters a few years ago.

"We thought it was a really good project for the clubs, and we're excited," she said. "There is a need, and people are seeing all these animals out there with inadequate shelter. We want to get the shelters out there before another cold snap hits."

Information from: Herald-Journal, http://www.goupstate.com/

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