Genetics may explain why some people are self-avowed dog lovers, according to a new study. The research found that dog ownership has a heritable component, meaning a person’s genetic makeup may heavily influence whether they choose to own a dog. Uppsala University researchers behind the study describe the genetic influence as both ‘significant’ and surprising.
Humans and dogs have enjoyed companionship for thousands of years, with evidence suggesting that dogs were domesticated at least 15,000 years ago.
Many individuals describe themselves as “dog people,” citing a great fondness for their pets, while other people remain indifferent or even adverse to the idea of dog ownership. The reason for these differences, a study out of Uppsala University found, may lie in one’s genes.
The findings were published in Scientific Reports, where research utilizing data from the Swedish Twin Registry reveals that environment likely isn’t the primary factor influencing whether someone chooses to own a dog. The determination was made by studying identical twins who, due to their shared genome, can shed light on whether there’s a likely genetic, rather than environmental, basis for something.
Talking about this is the study’s senior author Patrik Magnusson, who said:
These kind 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 personality traits and other factors such as allergy.
Though past research has slowly decoded the mystery behind human and dog companionship, many details remain unknown. This latest study sheds additional light on the historical narrative between this ancient companionship, potentially opening the door for a new understanding of why dogs and humans have remained so tightly linked.