Social ability of dogs is influenced by genes that also seems to affect human behavior, reveals a new study from Linköping University in Sweden. Scientists have found the relationship between five different genes and the dogs ability to interact with humans. Four of those genes, show similarities to certain human conditions.
"Our findings are the first to reveal genes that can have caused the extreme change in social behavior, which has occurred in dogs since they were domesticated," says Per Jensen, professor of ethology, who is the leader of the research group.
Dog is the first and oldest domestic animal and their friendship lasts for thousands of years, which seem to have helped them adapt to human species. Such a long period helped them to acquire unique ways to communicate with humans. Compared to wolves they are far superior in this aspect. When facing a difficult tasks, they tend to contact the human seeking guidance or help, while wolves tend to resolve the problems on their own.
Published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports,
this study shows that the researchers studied the behavior of dogs by presenting them with an unsolvable problem, which was to open a tight lid to obtain a treat. 500 beagles who had similar experiences of human interactions were a part of this study. Scientists used the video recordings to see the tendency of dogs to seek help from the person in the room, when their task was proven unsolvable.
More than 200 of dogs also had their DNA tested. Using a method called GWAS (genome-wide association study), researchers tested a large number of genetic variants throughout the genome. GWAS can be used to find if a particular genetic variant is more common among individuals with a particular trait, such as contact seeking behavior in this case. The dogs who tried to get help had more certain genetic variants.
"If the associations we have found can be confirmed in other dog breeds it is possible that dog behavior also can help us to better understand social disorders in humans," says Per Jensen.
We found a clear association with DNA-regions containing five different interesting genes," says Mia Persson, PhD-student and main author of the paper.