Every dog is genetically a very good boy

Now, scientists say they have pinned down the genetic basis of this affection.The research is part of a broader study that’s trying to figure out exactly how dogs evolved from wolves, and came to be domesticated.Over the past decade, geneticists have discovered the DNA involved in key dog traits, such as size and coat variation.The study builds upon previous work by Udell’s lab that focuses on canine behavior and social cognition.To reach their conclusions, the team of researchers led by Bridgett vonHoldt, of Princeton University, investigated the sociability of a group of domestic dogs and human-socialised grey wolves using a combination of DNA analysis and behavioural data.In another study by the same team, the researchers also included free-ranging domestic dogs living on the streets of India in the problem-solving tasks, along with wolves and pet dogs.’Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today’.Dogs are genetically predisposed to be man’s best friend. The same genes mentioned above are also associated with Williams-Beuren syndrome, a developmental disorder in humans. The syndrome results from the loss of part of chromosome 7.VonHoldt’s findings suggest that only a few transposons on this region likely govern a complex set of social behaviors. We find that hypersociability, a central feature of WBS, is also a core element of domestication that distinguishes dogs from wolves.However, there are still external factors that can shape a dog’s personality and interaction with humans, such as whether or not they were raised in a loving or abusive home.The same seems true in the wolves and dogs. In short, the scientists report that genetic mutations leave dogs in a state of childlike social and cognitive development where they seek out contact and attention. To be fair, the details vary; most humans don’t sniff each other’s butts upon first meeting. A relative lack of changes in that gene seems to lead to aloof, wolflike behavior, VonHoldt says. Then, they also sequenced their genes.”We’re not saying we have found the mutation that controls sociability”, vonHoldt says. In ancient wolves with these gene disruptions “fear was replaced by friendliness and a new social partner [was] created”.This research “may be one of the first studies to ever identify the specific genetic variants that were important for turning wolves into dogs”, Cornell University biologist Adam Boyko tells The New York Times. Humans too have high sociability relative to other primates. Even when the person in question was a stranger, dogs interacted with humans much longer than wolves did, and they were more likely to look to humans for help solving puzzles.Further studies will have to be carried out to determine if or how important these changes were to the domestication process and behavioral changes in dogs.